BALASORE: The art of swinging sticks to beats of drums is an integral part of Durga Puja celebration in the district. As many as 18 teams displayed the art of Akhada in front of Mahaveer Mandir here to mark the celebration of Birastami on Thursday.
The tradition of Akhada procession during Durga Puja is a hot favourite among the locals. Youths from different castes and communities prepare themselves for the Akhada a month before the Puja. The art is usually displayed by troupes on Astami and Dasami days.
Member of an Akhada group Bireswar Das said the art form continues to dominate shows during the festival. “The sport is unique as it has no age bar. Both young and old can participate in it. We have a 10-year-old to 70-year-old performer in our troupe,” he said.
Iron weapons and big lathis are used in Akhadas. It is necessary to obtain police permission prior to the shows as items like ‘lathi’, ‘bhujali’ and ‘godha’ are used by performers.
Akhada troupes from Sunahat, Patrapada, Gabagaon, Mullanagar, Aladia, Ranasahi, Dewanpatana, Sahada, Mansingh Bazaar, Mathasahi, Puruna Balasore, Congress office lane, Gopalgaon, Manikhamb, Phiringpatana and Sovarampur areas came in procession and displayed their skills. On Dasami, they will perform at Cinema square.
The art form, after dominating the cultural scenario for decades, started dwindling in late 1970s. With traditional culture witnessing a paradigm shift, Akhada is on the verge of fading into oblivion.
Culture researcher Santanu Das said, “There were as many as 120 teams in Balasore. But now around 35 troupes are performing the art form.”
According to history, the then Chief Minister Harekrushna Mahatab had introduced the art form in the district in 1925 to unite villagers against the British Army. It was initially managed and popularised by stalwarts like the late Bhairav Mohapatra, Biswanath Hota and Sardar Surendra.