A veritable melting pot of art, tradition and religion, Orissa is a state rich in music, dance and festivals. Casaurina trees sway in the gentle breeze, the blue of the sky matches perfectly with that of the sea, and the sun plays hide and seek on Orissa’s golden beaches. Over the centuries, the state has nurtured distinctive styles of folk art forms. Music and dance is integral to the lives of the people of the state. Let us now take you on a journey through the many and varied folk dances of Orissa.

Prahalad Nataka

Prahalad Nataka, as the name implies, is the story of Prahalad, who was born in a family of demons, but was a devotee of Lord Krishna. The story of the play is taken from the Nrushingha Puran. The language used is a mixture of Oriya and Sanskrit. This highly spectacular and dramatic presentation includes loud music, vigorous dancing, dialogues and acrobatics. In this unique folk theatre form we see the combined tribal folk and classical traditions of Orissa.

Puppet Dance

The Kandhei or Sakhi Nacha, is a rare and unusual type of stylised indigenous dance drama based on mythological stories. This ancient art form is performed even today in various parts of the state. The puppets usually represent various characters of a particular story. The puppets of Orissa can be classified into three categories; hand, string and rod puppets.

Community Dances

Community dancing is spontaneous and often based on local legends or life styles of the people of different areas. The songs and dances are laced with humour, to make them more enjoyable. As all members of the community participate in these dances, it plays an important role in binding them together in bonds of brotherhood.

Sankha Badan

The Bay of Bengal that bathes the golden sands of eastern Orissa has had a beautiful impact on the lives of the people of the region. The Blowing of Conches or Sankha Badan during festivals and religious ceremonies (like Ratha Yatra and Chandan Yatra) is a very common ritual. In the olden days, conches were also used as bugles in the battle fields. The exponents of this art form can blow two conches at a time for five to six minutes without a break, simultaneously performing intricate body movements.

Harvest Dance

Folk music abounds with songs that celebrate the harvest season; so do folk dances. The Harvest Dance of Orissa is a prayer dance performed by men and women in separate groups. They pray to Mother Earth, seeking her blessings for a good harvest. The dance is accompanied by songs sung in chorus to the rhythm of drums and cymbals.

Kond Dance

The dance is performed by unmarried boys and girls of the Kond community. Dressed in special costumes, the intricate movements of the dancers resemble the movements of serpents. This dance is fittingly called the ‘Snake Dance of Orissa.’

Oraon Dances

Both boys and girls perform the dances of the Oraon tribes of Sundargarh and Bolangir districts. The dance, with its own characteristic features, is performed by artistes wearing heavy tribal jewellery of the region.
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