A Tour to Orissa is rewarding in ways more than one. Known for its many natural resources and wildlife sanctuaries, Orissa is equally famous all over India as a hotbed of cultural activities. The Arts and Crafts of Orissa are held in high esteem throughout the country and have also carved a niche in the world platform. The Performing Arts of Orissa are more than mere dances in the sense they reflect the cultural heritage of the whole state. Each dance has a significance of its own. Some dances are also ritualistic and performed in front of the ruling deity of Orissa that is Jagannath. For instance the Paika Nrutya dance of Orissa is a form of battle dance that has a long history behind it.
Background and Performance of Paika Nrutya
Paika is derivative of the Sanskrit word Padatika which literally means infantry. The very origin of the dance is engraved in the fiery battle spirit of the army. The powerful Gajapati rulers of Orissa were after land acquisition and to that end they started conquering lands from Ganges in the North to the Godavari in the South.
Paika Nrutya is practiced even today in Orissa in the many Paika villages. Most of the people gather at a common pulpit after a hard day's work. The Paika Akhada is a place where they practice physical exercises along with other activities like fighting with sword and shields. They dance a fiery battle dance while the drums play on. It is more like a clarion call urging the dancers to get ready for a fiery battle ahead. The vigor and physical excitement of the dancers are worth regarding. Paika Nrutya is practiced with great enthusiasm by different groups in the villages during Dussera.