SALEPUR: Come the month of Chaitra, it is Ram Navami and time for Rama and Ravana to hog the limelight. It is a 11-day festival at Mallipur village near Asureswar, about 20 km from here. It begins with Ram Navami and ends with Ram Abhishek. Offering a plethora of cultural activities, Mallipur became the pilgrimage for people of nearby villages and towns during the celebration. The shows performed are from the episodes of the Ramayan in the form of a yatra. Sita Bibaha, Banabasa, Sita Harana, Bali-Badha, Nagafasa Bandhan and Ravan Maran are the most interesting and important among the episodes performed.
The yatra here is famous for its strict adherence to the tradition unlike in other places where Ram Leela is diluted with commercial elements. The special feature is that all the performers, called ‘Suangis’, who have been hereditary participants, remain pious in manner of food and conduct during the 11 days of performance. Again, unlike the celebration of Ram Leela in other places, here none of the participants deliver any dialogues. They only act out the roles physically.
The story of the Ramayan is recited in the form of poetry by a person from the corner of the stage, which is called ‘Bachanika’. The accompanying music is simple and aided by only pakhawaja and gini. However, dhola and mahuri are used during the dance of Ravan. All the artistes have to wear traditional dresses and are painted with water colour. Particular forms of dances follow along family lines. The day of Chaitra Purnami is the most auspicious. The famous ‘Danda Yatra’ is celebrated along with exquisite fireworks.
On the Chaitra Purnima night, Lord Raghunath - the presiding deity of Mallipur - comes in a grand procession to Dadhibamanjew temple at Koilo. On the occasion, Lord Dadhibamana takes the form of Dhanurdhar Sri Ram and wait for Lord Raghunath without taking his ‘Niti Bhoga’. After Raghunath’s arrival both exchange their ‘Niti Bhoga’ and other gifts. This is one of the most interesting facets of the religious history of the State, which reflects the Oriya tradition of treating a guest well. After getting permission from Lord Dadhibamana to perform Yatra, Lord Raghunath returns to his temple via Kochalai Thakurani.
Another attraction of Asureswar Sri Ram Navami Mahotsava and Danda Yatra are the dance forms of Kalika and Yogni. The dancers of Kalika and Yogni sway wildly to the tunes of raga Malashree played with dhola and mahuri.