BERHAMPUR: The 21-day ‘Danda Nacha’, the festival of penance in Southern Odisha, concluded on Maha Bisuba Sankranti, celebrated as Odia New Year on Wednesday.
Thousands of devotees gathered at Danda Kali temples in different parts of Ganjam district to witness Meru Jatra, the final phase of ‘Danda Nacha’. In Berhampur the Jatra was celebrated at Danda Kali temples at Panigrahi Pentha, Diamond Tank Road, Bijipur, Ambapua, Anand Sarani besides other places.
A gory ritual marks the last phase of Danda Nacha. Drops of blood are offered during the ritual. It is the ultimate penance for the ‘Bhoktas’, who lead the Danda Nacha’ groups and follow extreme auterity measures. From morning, a holy fire was lit up on pedestals near Danda Kali temples.
After a ritualistic bath, the ‘Bhoktas’ were led to the Danda Kali temples by the Danduas. After prayers inside the temple, the ‘Bhoktas’ were blind-folded and their bodies smeared with holy paste prepared from turmeric and other herbs. In blindfolded state they were led to the holy fire one after the other.
They were hung above the fire upside down. A Bhokta was rocked above the burning fire till three drops of blood fell from his nostrils into the fire.
The end of the festival has also come as a respite for police and locals. A senior police officer said, during the 21 days several roads in the city were blocked in the afternoon and night causing inconvenice for the public. The organisers of ‘Danda Nacha’ allegedly did not take police permission to block roads or to use loud speakers.
The administration, respecting the peoples’ sentiments did its bit to maintain law and order.
The police personnel had a tough time with some artists performing risky stunts and some groups enacting streetplays performing vulgar dance. Many elites have urged the administration to initiate measures to check such dances from next such event.
For Danduas the time of austerity and hard penance came to an end on the day and they returned home to their families.