Besides other attractions, what continues to hold sway over the crowd on Astami and Dasami here is the martial art form, ‘Akhada Khela’.
The five-day autumn festival began in Balasore on Sunday. The art of swinging sticks to the beat of drums and other musical instruments has been an integral part of Durga Puja celebrations in the district for ages. This year, as many as 35 ‘Akhada’ groups will perform the art form.
Earlier, twice a year, people of the district perform ‘Akhada’. While Hindus perform it during the Durga Puja, the Muslims during the Moharrum.
As per records, Harekrushna Mahatab in 1925 introduced the art form in Balasore with an aim to unite villagers against the British and other forces besides instilling a sense of competition among the youths.
Meanwhile, elaborate security arrangements have been made in this coastal district for a peaceful puja. While nearly 20 platoons of police force have been deployed in the district, SP Amrita Dash is overseeing the security arrangements.
Sources said one additional SP, six DSPs, 10 inspectors and 110 sub-inspectors and assistant sub-inspectors would also maintain strict vigil. Besides, 120 constables, 300 home guards and volunteers from NCC have been placed on duty along with two quick reaction teams (QRTs) to oversee peaceful conduct of the autumn festival.
The entire town has been divided into nine sectors and each sector is headed by an inspector. Immersion has been scheduled for October 25. This year, the town has 75 puja mandaps.