Sambalpuri Dance - An Enriched Folk Culture | Dalkhai Ghumra Krushnaguru

Sambalpuri dance forms of western odisha. Folk culture dances od odisha.

Culture is an inseparable part of the identity of the people of any civilisation but the culture of Sambalpur has its own unique identity that has made the common Sambalpuri person stand out in terms of several traits of the culture like Sambalpuri language, dance, songs or sarees. It has also created a national identity and it is now being admired by the people outside this region. Festivals of Sambalpur also help to illustrate the vibrant culture of the place like Sital Sasti, Nuakhai, Puspuni, Bhaijuntia etc. The feeling of being a Sambalpuri itself is a matter of pride.

A cultural manifestation of the hidden age-old traditional performing art of this area is reflected in its rich dance culture.

Extremely talented Sambalpuri (Dalkhai) dancer, Gurubari Mirdha the tribal woman from Bargarh's non-descript Gandpali village, is an example who made Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was spellbound with her dance performance at the Republic Day parade in 1968. The movement and rhythmic beats of Sambalpuri dance made the late Prime Minister moved who finally joined with her on the stage and surprised everyone including the dancing 'star' herself. For Gurubari, it was brief footwork on the streets of New Delhi 43 years ago. But for the Sambalpuri dance, it was a giant leap forward. If the dance has gained global recognition today, much credit goes to Gurubari Mirdha.

Sambalpuri Dance

The various types of exotic Sambalpuri folk dances have a number of forms with different lyrics and rhythms that have originated from different castes/tribes and are based on different religious festivals, rituals and deities. It gives ample evidence of its speciality and originality.


It is a ritual folk dance. Dalkhai is the name of a goddess. Dusserah is the occasion of Dalkhai, Young girls of binjals, mirdha and soura tribes perform this dance as worship to Goddess Durga. They wear "saptaapar saree" with Sonepuri "ganga jamuna gamccha" on their shoulders and their ends are hanging down on both sides. They are bedecked with two types of ornaments on the lower arm i.e Katria and Bandria and on the upper arm, they wear Taada bahasuta.

Men also join the female dancers as drummers and musicians. The dance is accompanied by a rich orchestra of folk music played by a number of instruments i.e. dhol, nishan, tasa and muhuri. Dhol player called "dhulia" controls the tempo while dancing in front of the girls. The songs are of special variety with additive 'dalkhai re' i.e. an address to a girl friend.

Its performance is also very common on all other festivals like Bhaljuntia, Phagun Puni, Nuakhai etc. 


"Dancing with the feet is one thing, but dancing with the heart is another." It is a tribal dance in which a branch of Sal tree (karma dal) is worshipped and the dance is performed in honour of "Karam Sani", the deity who grants children and good crops that is the belief of the people. It literally means 'Queen of Fate'.

It is believed to be performed in between shukla ekadasi of the month of Bhadraba (September) up to Aswin purnima(October). Madal and Gini are accompanied by the dance. The performance is full of vigour and energy combined with the charm of the youth with colourful costumes and skilfully designed ornaments of conch shells. The subject matter of dance constitutes the invocation to Karamsani for the fulfilment of the desires and aspirations of the people.

It reflects that in this modern era people are still attached to their traditional rituals. Their belief that infertility can be cured by performing rituals itself proves that the modern age is the discontinuous of past is merely an illusion.


This dance type is named after the accompanying Jhumer songs that are common among the oram,sahanra, kandha and munda communities. Madal is the main instrument in the performance. The dancers hold each other's hands and intricate footsteps, movement of the body are the main attraction. Young girls called "Dhangiri" of these tribal communities enjoy this dance the most. 


It is a typical drum and it is known as Vira-Badya of the Koshal region as it was used during war times in the past to encourage soldiers. It is just like a big pitcher and the mouth is covered by the skin of a reptile called "godhi". It is a popular dance form of the Kalahandi district. In this performance, young men fix a Ghumra on the chest with a string tied to their body and they simultaneously dance and play. Nishan and Jhanj played a significant role in this dance performance.


These two dances are performed by unmarried young girls in which they express their feelings, culture, tradition and social values through dance. It is a type of traditional game in which the girls divide themselves into two parties. The stepping and movements are very slow. The drummers and singers accompany them with rhythmic steps. The starting verse is "Humo nu no nu no dusha, na khaun na piyun gua panasha, na jaun tumara desha, bauli re".


It is a devotional performance dedicated to Lord Krishna. It is performed by male dancers in a group. They sing bhajans of Shri Krishna and play murdung, kathia and gini. They also use a special instrument for this made of wood and ghulghulaas are attached to that. The famous Krushnaguru song is "Hai krushna Hai Krushna bali jau mo jeebana,hari pade Krushna guru diya ho sarana".


It is a ritual dance performed during the Chaitra Parva in the month of April and ends in Paana Sankranti This dance is performed to propitiate Lord Shiva and his consort Gauri, The dance derives its name from the Danda, (the pole), which symbolically represents Lord Shiva. The artists tune their 
steps to the vigorous accompaniment of drums, winning for the dance form the acclaim of being one of the best drum dances of the world. This dance performance can be expressed in three ways: 

  • Dhuli Danda or Bhumi Danda: It is the most difficult type of danda performance. People worship Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati as farmers. The main singer is called "bina karia". It starts at 12 noon and ends at 2.00 pm.
  • Paani Danda: It starts at 2.00 pm. The performers take only fruits like watermelon and cucumber. They worship to get relief from the heat. 
  • Danda: It is performed during the night taking the literary pieces from ancient poets, from Ramayana and Mahabharata. They worship "chatar bairakh".


This type of dance is generally arranged on social and festive occasions. Bhajan, janana, chhanda, chaupadi and sanskrit slokas are recited by the performer. The main performer is known as "Bahaka" and assisted by others known as "paliya bahaka". The performance is only singing and playing on the musical instrument which looks like mrudung but bigger in size, called as "rangeen khol" and jhanj locally known as kartal. The tuning of the songs, the stepping movement of feet and rhythmic playing of the musical instruments make the performance very interesting and charming.


It is also known as Gahaka-Bahaka. Gahak sing the song and accompanied by dahana paliya playing gini.. The performance includes a questionnaire session in between gahak and dahana palia including the pieces from the works from sambalpuri literature of Hema Chandra Acharya(known as Balmiki of Koshali literature for his translation of The Ramayana into Kosali), Khageswar Seth and Lokakabi Haldhar Nag. Dukhanashan Behera, Manbodh Bhata, Duimunia Barik, Chandrama Bag are some famous singers.

"Sri hari" is the starting sloka. They all danced by wearing ghongroo. It is performed on several occasions like Janmashtami, Kartik Purnima, Dushara and Rathayatra.


A dance usually performed by male artists only which is originated from the Sonepur district of Orissa. The dance is associated with the ceremony of marriage. The leader of the group of dancers is known as 'gahak' while his companions are called 'palia'. The music, which accompanies this dance, is usually restricted to drums and is played to a particular rhythm called Kaharba.


It is also a traditional folk dance. Music is an important element of this fast paced and cheerful dance form. The men use an array of musical instruments to provide accompaniment to the women dancers. Often the men too join in the dancing. The dancers wear colourful local hand-woven Sambalpuri sarees and dhotis.


It is another folk dance and in this dance too, the women are the dancers and the men provide the musical accompaniment. This dance is performed mainly during marriage ceremonies. The item begins with a musical piece called "Dulduli' or Ganda baaja or Panch Badya l.e dhol, nishan, tasa, jhanj and muhuri. The player of the Dhol during this dance is called the Dhulla. The Dhulia and the dancers spread goodwill through their movements and their smiling faces.


It is another dance form which is performed by young unmarried girls. The dancers wear a type of necklace called Khagla, made of silver. In the upper part of the ear, they wear Jhalka, in the ear lobe they wear Gathia and in the nose an ornament calld Jharguna.In their hair they wear Paan Patri and Belkhadi with janyhiphula and kuray phool, in the legs they wear Painry and Tudal.

The technique of the dance and the musical accompaniments used are similar to the Dalkhai dance. Differences exist in the movements of the hands and feet.


This dance is dedicated to Goddess Samaleswari. Based on the various ragas of the Sambalpuri folk tradition and accompanied by melodious songs, this dance form reflects the rich culture of indigenous art forms in this part of Odisha.

"Every age, every culture, every custom and tradition has its own character, its own weakness and its own strength and its own beauty"

The Sambalpuri dancers believe that their art has something to say which cannot be expressed in words or in any other way than by dancing... They assert that the simple dignity of movement can fulfil the function of a volume of words and their movements have the power to stir the senses and emotions of an individual. Sambalpuri dance culture has occupied its place firmly in the hearts of the people. That's why it is always in demand on stages as well as in albums.

A region is having all these reasons to feel proud to have such an enriched dance form in its cultural showcase. The cultural movement of the locality will march ahead through this sambalpuri dance to reach the zenith in the international arena.

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