For the whole month of Chaitra the village streets in
Orissa reverberate with the sound
of 'Ghanta' (brass gong) played by "Ghanta Patuas" in
accompaniment to their peculiar dance on the stilts which is very similar
to the 'Karaga' dance of Mysore. In Orissa, it is closely associated with
the worship of Mother Goddess who has various names as 'Sarala',
'Hingula', 'Charchika', 'Bhagavati', 'Chandi' etc.
The Unique Dace of Ghanta Patuas
Ghanta Patuas are the non-Brahmin 'Sevaks' or servants of the deities. With the blessings of the respective deities attached to the shrines, they set out in two to four in a group. One of them dresses himself as a female with a black colour is tied on the head like a round cap while the flowing two ends are held by him in both the hands separately. He places to 'Ghata' (sacred pitcher) on his head, which is profusely decorated with flowers, vermilion, sandal paste and coloured threads.
With the Ghata on the head he displays a variety of Yogic postures. Then he dances a while with bare-feet with the ropes. Without any support for the hands the dancer displays rare skill, with dance movements. 'Dhol' and 'Ghanta' are the accompanying instruments and their players, while working out uncanny rhythms control the tempo of the dance.
After the performance the performers distribute the holy vermilion paste to the villager sand collect money and cereals. Like this they keep on moving for the whole month and return to their respective shrines for their annual celebration on the first day of the Hindu New Year, "Visuva Sankranti". Such celebrations are marked by small fairs and ornate rituals connected with the worship of Goddesses together with performances of dance and music.