Chaiti Ghoda Nata

The fishermen community of Orissa, especially in the district of Ganjam, perform Chaiti Ghoda nata in a festival that lasts for about nine days beginning from the full moon day of the lunar month of Chaitra (April). It is a dummy horse dance. Similar dances are performed in other parts of the country, especially in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Rajasthan. The dummy-horse dance in Orissa is performed traditionally when the spring season is departing leading to the on set of summer. The fishermen community in Orissa is known as Keuta, derived from the Sanskrit word Kaivarta. The dance and the festival is closely associated and inspired by an Oriya puranic literature named Kaivarta Purana which tells the story behind the fishermen’s killing fish. The puranic story in brief is : The Supreme God slept on the leaf of a banyan tree that floated on the ocean of milk. To keep the leaf-bed steady someone is required to hold the rudder firmly. Therefore, he took some dirt from his ear and shaped a man. He breathed life into the man and asked him to hold the rudder firmly. Once while he was dozing, a gigantic fish came and swallowed up the man. When he did not find the man, the all-knowing God could realize the reason behind the disappearance of the man. He was angry. He caught the fish and pulled out the man from the stomach of the fish. The man was re-engaged in his duty. From that day man became one of the most vindictive enemy of fish. As ordained by God the first Kaivarta (fisherman) and his descendants earn their livelihood by catching fish. A part of the banyan leaf was transformed into a horse. The God ordered Vishwakarma, the celestial craftsman, to build a boat. Relieving the man from his duty of holding the rudder of the leaf-bed, he asked the man to cross the ocean in the boat with the horse. The divine horse died on the eighth day of the lunar month of Vaishakha. God consoled the man saying that the horse was the goddess named Basuli and her worship will bring him salvation. From that day the Kaivarta (Keuta in colloquial Oriya) community hold the festival in which goddess Basuli is worshipped and the dummy-horse dance is performed.

The festival in honor of goddess Basuli and the Chaiti Ghoda dance ends on the eighth day of Vaishakha. At times, a female dancer joins the man with the dummy horse. The accompanying music is provided by Dhol, the drum, and Mahuri, the reeded wind instrument like Shehnai.

In Rajasthan, several dances, such as, Gher, Gait Geedad, Duff Nach, Chang Nach, Dandia Gair, etc are performed to celebrate the spring season, particularly at the time of Holi festival.

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