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Nuakhai - The Genesis

Dilip Kumar Padhi
 Sambalpur - 768001

Nuakhai is a mass festival of great importance in a major part of Orissa. The festival is observed welcoming the new rice-paddy of the season. In one way, one can say that this is a festival with our agricultural heritage.

No one for sure, can tell since how long this tradition is continuing. It is rather difficult to ascertain any age, as ‘Anna’ – rice paddy, is offered to the Gods since long. Hindu philosophy and pantheism believes Anna to be Brahma. Again Anna is attributed to Goddesses Laxmi, hence on the day of Nuakhai Laxmi Puja is observes as well.

If we focus deeply to our ancient culture (including tribal ones) and its belief one can still know how ancient this tradition of Nuakhai is. Amongst the many other tradition and festivals observed by the people residing in central and eastern India , Nuakhai is the oldest one and has been observed since time immemorial.

Manifestation of Nuakhai in other Cultures

Nuakhai has been observed by different tribes in different names, as the Dud Khadia and Pahadi Khadia called it as Jeth Nowakhiaa the Oram called it NowaKhani, the Munda called Jam-nowa, the Santhali called it Janthar and Baihar Horo Nawabai,  the Birjia called it Nawaba and Jam-nowa, the Parajas of Bastar and Orissa called as Nowa-aani, Bihara called it Nowa-jam. In Chotta Nagapur area the Ashur tribe, which a sub-clan of the Birjhia, called it as Nowaa. In Tripura the tribes called it Mikatal, Mi – paddy and Katal means new. In East Bengal it is known as Nabanna. Besides this, Nuakhai or its equivalent form is observed in several other names.

This indicates beside major parts of Orissa Nua-Khai is observed in various part of India . However, the people of Orissa observe this in much elegance and splendour. First, the new rice paddy is offered to the Istha Devi of the family and the Village Devi then it is used for day toady affair. May it be the darkness of sorrow – or may it be the bed of happiness people of this area believes that the village deity has a major role to play. This faith in the deity gives them immense strength to face the problems or the world with ease. They believe that if Nua-khai is observed then all the sorrows – unhappiness- diseases- and loss of crop is avoided. Whatever may be the faith every moment of the innocent aborigines is engrossed with the blessing of this unseen power.

Nua-Kahi can be attributed to the festival of the aborigines. During the 2 nd Century BC Ptolemy described Sambalpur as the kingdom of the Mundas and Sabars. Gand, Binjhal, Sabara, Munda were staying in this area.

Nua-kahi is a festival and celebration of happiness, different types of local sweets and foods are cooked. All the family members are assembled together, after offering the new rice to the deity they all sit together and take the new rice, along with different types of Manda-Pitha – Khiri-Puri etc., after devouring the food they take the blessing of the Istha-Devi and from other elders of the family. In the evening it is habitual and obligatory to have meat, as it is believes that one who does not eat meat on the Nua-Kahi day, shall be born as a heron in his future birth. Whatever may be the fact it is a celebration of the mass. People forget their personal differences and greet each other – in this point of view – Nua-Khai is not just welcoming the new rice-paddy it is a festival which welcomes general happiness and mass development of the society. People may stay in far of lands, for their livelihood, but in the Nua-Kahi they must come to celebrate this festival with other members of the family with pageantry.

In earlier days Nua-khai was celebrated on different dates, however, all the people of Western Orissa decided to have Nun-Khai on a day common to all, which is the Bhadrav Suklapakhya Panchami.Trivia Historically, the present day Western part of Orissa (particularly larger Sambalpur area) was known as Southern Koshal or Hirakhanda. Dalkhai and related Folk Songs of Western Orissa


The Tradition of Folk Songs

Dr. Dwarikanath Nayak
Dhanupali, Sambalpur

Some of the traditional folk songs of Western Orissa require accompaniment of dance for presentation where as many other are sung without any. Most of the songs sung during festive occasions, marriage ceremony, and some specific occasion need the accompaniment of dance for its execution. Other songs like attributed to game, work, crying songs and songs to allure children or for recreation do not need any dance. Some songs where the interlude tunes are rhythmic also at times do not require any dance.

In the entire Western part of Orissa during any family, social or religious rituals, specific occasion young boys and girls sing traditional songs. Accompanied by dance although these songs are meant for entitlement during functions like marriage, Devi Puja these songs are performed as the situation demands. Teenage girls perform in choir while they play. However, songs like Halia, Sagadiaa, Dalkhai, and Rasarkeli usually are performed solo. The drummers play a very important role in songs where dance is a must. During specific festival Karma, Dhap, Dalkhai, Raserkeli, Ghumura and Danda are performed whereas Humo-Bauli, Chhilolai, Sajani, Halia, Sagadia, Kandana, Bangari, Boria are performed for recreations.Enriched with natural recourses people of this region lead a very simple life which can be clearly seen from their day today social behaviour and independent creative genre. The geographical location of this area can be attributed for their simple and unique culture. Deeply netted local cultural, local belief, religious ways have greatly influenced the people of this area which can be visualised in the folk songs of Sambalpur.Musical value is greatly displayed than literary value in the traditional songs of Western Orissa . This can be divided into two groups as regards to its melodious tune and rhythm. First with rhythm and the other without it. Dalkhai, Raserkeli. Karma, Mailajada where accompaniment of musical instrument is a must can be grouped as Rhythmic and beside this - Sajani, Bouli, Bangri, Dula, where musical instrument are not very essential also are rhythmic songs hence they can be also grouped as rhythmic songs. Halia, Sagadia, songs attributed to crying are recitations type, they may not require any accompaniment of musical instruments.Dalkhai is a ritual based folk dance, which is also rendered as a folk song accompanied by several musical instrument. During the Mahaastami day of Durga Puja the entire Western Part of Orissa celebrates Bhai Juntia. A total fasting is observed by women for the entire day and night to seek the blessing of Goddess Durga for amelioration and long life of their brothers. In villages young girls usually dance in small groups during this celebration which is known as Dalkhai dance. Dalkhai is basically a folk deity. Her abode is known as Dalkhai kuthi. The name dalkhai derives from the name of the deity as the dance is performed in her name. In later time this deity became synonym with Durga by the people of high society. Usually through this dance they pray for the general happiness in the family, house and the village as a whole. Till date this ritual is performed in the districts of Balangir, Sambalpur and inerter villages of western Orissa. The priest of this village deity is called Dehuri. Dhunkel a typical musical instrument is played to invoke the sixteen different God and Goddess to the Dalkhai kuthi. Musician who played the Dhunkel are known as Gouni or Gayan. Durga is the premier deity amongst all. Besides Durga, Saraswati, Ganesh, Iswar & Parvati, Brahma, Laxmi, Hanuman, Kartik, Kubera, Matsya, Baruna are amongst the others. Dhunkel is a combination of different instruments like a flat shaped thing made of bamboo rattan called Kula (winnow), two bamboo sticks like bow and one round shaped clay pot. Few selected women are appointed to sing the dalkhai song; the theme of the song is moistly praise of the Devi During this celebration of Dalkhai all the young women of the villages assembles in front of the Dalkhai Kuthi along with their Puja materials. After the Puja dalkhai is performed in front of the kuthi. Young girls dance along with the musical accompaniment of Dhol, Nisan, Tasa and Jhanj. Till the end of the tenth day of Dasahara they are engrossed in dalkhai dance. The entire village plunge into an energetic mood by the intoxicating effect of the melodious song and dance. Although dalkhai is performed as a ritual, dance and song remains its principal interest. The dancers stand in a semi-circular formation during the dance. One after another they sing a couplet and at the end of it they dance in a particular way by bending at the waist level and move their feet rhythmically accompanied by musical instruments. During the song only dhol is played and later the ambience fills with the vibrant rhythm of musical instruments like Dhol, Nishan, Tasha, Jhanj and Muhari at the end of the songs The songs are composed from couplets to sixteen lines. The singer begins the song uttering “Dalkahi Re, Dalkahi Re” (twice) and finishes the lines with another pronouncement of “Dalkahi Re”. Mostly the songs are of romantic themes. At times one can find the description of nature, seasons, gods and goddesses sometimes satire and teasing as well. The singers have to depend entirely on their memory while rendering the songs at times presence of mind comes handy while depicting the songs

Dalkahi: Dalkhai Re

Ahare tiki chahani

Shukhigala nanir muhura pani

Telahaladi rakhitha ghini Dalkahi re

During rendering Dalkhai usually Rasarkeli, Mailajada, Jaiphul are also usually rendered, they can be grouped as Dalkhai. The lyrical depiction of Rasarkeli, MaelaJada and Jaiphula may look similar with Dalkahi; however the song and rhythm of drums has different beats and style.

Rasarkeli: Rasarkeli has a separate style of drum beats; the songs too have a different compositional element and are very pleasant. Like the Dalkhai, this also begins with the utterance of “Rasarkeli Bo” and it finishes with another pronouncement of it or “Ja Chali Ja Re”. The drummer has to play an important role during the dance. He can increase the tempo of the rhythm and able to infuse intoxicating elements of air among the young dancers and participants. The musical instruments played are Dhol, Nisan, Tasa and Muhuri. The songs depicted are sweet relation between a lover and beloved with a tinge of enhanced romanticism.

Rasarkeli re

Bate bate jauthili bheteli khulia

Dhuti khande ghinidebu bhulia

Mandara phulia rasa jhad paisaire

Jhad paisa, ghin khirsa, mancha tale basa

Rasa jhad paisa re

Maelajada: To kill the monotony of life and to infuse a craving for romanticism these songs are depicted with a tinge of satire in it. Maelajada is bit slow in depiction compared to Dalkhai and Rasarkeli

Jadara katha lada bada re maelajada

Jada kea netin baragada re maelajada

Jada ra bhanjiba lada re maelajada

Tor suna mora suna sagdhua chatana

Tor mor palaejima kuanri patna

Kuanri patina galea jere kana khaema

Hathe acche hira mudi bhanjai khaema

Khande acche lal gamchha dasai suima

Puo jhi hele jere naa kana dema

Asana basana mor name jati budaema kaen

Helere gele

Jaiphula : Jaiphula again like the other songs begins and ends with pronouncement of Jaiphula. Young male singer to allure the young belle sings this song. Jaiphula is in fact a flower with a very intoxicating fragrance. Having the closeness of the lover is like inhaling the intoxicating fragrance of the flowers - the young singers render Jaiphula. Young girls often name their best friend as Jaiphula.

Jaiphula re

Lia lia lia lia

Akalea karuchhu jhia ra biha

Jaiphula re talu shuki gala hia

Since time immemorial these songs grouped as Dalkhai are rendered by folk artist at different occasion in the Western part of Orissa. Lately it is being performed and rendered by several folk artists by All India Radio and Doordarshan as well. The depiction styles, different rhythmic beats of the drums are its uniqueness.

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