"Karam" or "Karma" literally means
'fate'. This pastoral dance is performed during the worship of the God or
Goddess of fate ("Karam Devta" or "Karamsani Devi"),
whom the people consider the cause of good and bad fortune. It begins from
'Bhadra Shukla Ekadasi' (eleventh day of the bright moon of the month of
'Bhadra') and lasts for several days.
A Famous Tribal Dance Festivity
This is popular among the scheduled class tribes e.g., the 'Binjhal', 'Kharia', 'Kisan' and 'Kol' tribes) in the districts of Mayurbhanj, Sundargarh, Sambalpur and Dhenkanal. In Dhenkanal and Sambalpur the dance is in honour of Karamsani, the deity who bestows children and good crops. However, the rituals connected with the dance remain the same everywhere.
In the afternoon of the auspicious day two young unmarried girls cut and bring two branches of the 'Karam' tree from a nearby jungle. Drummers and musicians accompany them. The two branches are then ceremonially planted on the altar of worship and symbolise the God. Germinated grains, grass flowers and country liquor are offered to the deity.
After completing the ritual the village-priest tells the story or legend connected with it. This is followed by singing and dancing in accompaniment of drum ('Madal'), cymbal etc. The dance performance full of vigour and energy combined with charm of the youth decked with colourful costumes in exuberance of red cloth, set in peacock feathers skillfully designed ornaments made of small conch shells, brings the onlookers as well as the performers to a mood of trance and ecstasy.
Traditional Pattern Of Lovemaking
In this dance both men and women take part and continue to engross themselves for the whole night. The skillful movement of the young boys with mirror in hand indicates the traditional pattern of lovemaking in course of dancing and singing. The dance is performed sometimes by boys in-group, sometimes by girls in-group and sometimes both the sexes together. The subject matter of songs constitutes the description of nature, invocation to Karmasani, desires, aspiration of people, love and humour.
The Karam dance continues from dusk to dawn. Group after
group drawn from nearby villages dance alternately throughout the night.
In the early morning they carry the Karam branches singing and dancing and
then immerse them ceremonially in a river or tank and then disperse.
The technique of the Karma dance varies a little from tribe to tribe. The 'Kharias', 'Kisans' and 'Oraons' dance in a circular pattern, where men and women dance together. A leader always heads it and generally the men are at the head of the line. Only the best of dancers join in right next to or near him.
Very young girls and children join in at the tail end to learn the steps. When the dancing grows fast the dancers of the tail end drop out to let the true dancers show their skill. The dancers hold hands in different ways in different dances. Sometimes they simply hold hands and sometimes hands are placed on the neighbor's waistband or are crossed. It is the legs and the feet, which play the principal part in the dance.
The dance begins lightly with simple steps forward and backward, left and right, then gradually the steps grow smaller and faster, growing more and more complicated, until that dance reaches its height. Then it goes gradually to the first steps as the music leads to give dancers rest. The dancers have no special costume for the occasion. They dance with their usual attires, which they wear daily.
Courtyard - The Stage of Performance
The dance is usually held in the courtyard of a village where performance is arranged. In the center of the courtyard a bamboo is fixed and it is split into four upto a certain height and then bent to form the arches. Each split is fixed with a pole on the outer side to form the arch. Then it is decorated with festoons of mango leaves and water lilies giving it a festive look. The ground is neatly plastered with cow-dung. Men and women dance winding in an out beneath the arches.