The word paika is derived from the Sanskrit word Padatika meaning the infantry, and hence the name of the dance battle  (paika) dance (nrutya). In olden days the powerful Ganga and Gajapati rulers of Odisha extended their territory from the river Ganges in the north to Godavari in the south with the help of a vast army of valiant Paikas. They were not in the regular pay-role of the army, but received huge land grants from the kings and the chieftains. They formed the rank of a peasant-militia. Though agriculture was their main occupation they used to keep themselves prepared by regular practice and training in war techniques. Several village-groups were under the command of a Dala Behera or group-commander. Most of the Paika villages of Odisha, spread all over the state have maintained the older tradition of Paika Akhada – the village gymnasium where young people assemble in the evening after the day’s work. Alongwith traditional physical exercises, they dance with sword and shield in hand to the accompaniment of the country-drum.

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