Sahi jata regales audience in Puri

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By NAMITA PANDA
  • Published 9.12.11
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(Top) Artistes perform mallakhamb and (above) Naga dance at the Sreekhetra Mahotsav in Puri. Pictures by Sarat Patra

Bhubaneswar, Dec. 8: Colourful attires and thumping folk music are coming alive every evening at the Sarada Bali open-air auditorium in Puri as local residents celebrate the Sreekhetra Mahotsav.

Traditional folk dances, popularly known as sahi jata, are being performed by artistes from different sahis (lanes) of the city.

Believed to be a tradition since the days of the first Ganga king Ananta Verma Chodaganga Deb in the 11th century, sahi jata is a combination of martial and folk dance forms. People visiting akhadas (traditional gyms) in each sahi of the city, set up centuries ago, practised these folk dances as a part of their physical fitness routine.

“Those who practised at the akhada used to be in charge of maintaining peace and order in their sahi. During the Ram Navami festival, a series of processions from each sahi, with artistes performing the sahi jata dance, was performed in the city for five days,” said Purnachandra Mohapatra, president of the Sreekhetra Mahotsav, the committee organising the event.

Even now, the artistes bring out processions during Ram Navami. The Sreekhetra Mahotsav organised by local residents, with the support of the state tourism and culture department, however, gives them a platform to perform it for connoisseurs of art and also for tourists. People from the seven sahis of the city take part in the cultural extravaganza.

“Each sahi performs an episode from the Ramayana during the festival. This event has helped us receive attention from art lovers,” said Krushna Chandra Panda, the chief of Bali Sahi Akhada.

Inaugurated yesterday evening, the event saw glimpses of folk dance performed by each troupe. Thursday saw a vibrant performance by artistes from Kalikadebi Sahi and Harchandi Sahi.

Members of Markandeswar Sahi and Kundheibanta Sahi will perform tomorrow evening.

The 11th edition of this festival, which is on till December 11, also includes performances by Dolamandap Sahi, Bali Sahi and Gowdabada Sahi.

Apart from the dance recitals, a number of other folk arts such as conch blowing, akhada music, Gotipua, sword fight, lathi acts and stunts, Medha Nrutya and mask dance are also attracting visitors.

Sahi jata is a vital part of the rich culture of Puri. The festival therefore has become a much awaited event for us since we are able to see our friends perform in front of a large audience,” said local resident Suresh Pratihari.