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Danda Nacha

Danda Nacha is an unusual ritual performed by devotees in the Ganjam District of Orissa to appease Goddess Kali. Danda Nacha means ‘Punishment Dance’ and in the ritual devotees inflicts pain on themselves.

Dancing for hours in hostile surfaces praising Goddess Kali is the most important part of the ritual. Apart from dancing, devotees find other ways to inflict pain like rolling on hot-tarred road, spending several sleepless nights and barefoot walking for long distances.

"Prior to 13-14 days of "Bisuv Sankranti" we move from village to village worshipping the Goddess Kali and Lord Shiva. We don't stay at one place. We fast the entire day and take some food, fruits or vegetables at night only. We are not even allowed to sleep at night. These are punishments that we give ourselves," said Kana Gauda, a dancer.
"I am doing this for the last 26 years. All my wishes have been fulfilled because of this. We used to feel the pain earlier while doing this, but now, everything is alright," said Danda Mishra, another dancer.
In early days, Kings of Orissa used ‘Danda Nacha’ as a means to punish those who failed to pay tax. The practice was stopped after independence but the locals now use it as a ritual to appease Goddess Kali.

The Hindu sees Danda Nacha in an entirely different light and terms it as a perfect mixture of religion and drama. According to the The Hindu, the Danda Nacha is performed by a particular group people who are invited to perform by a family in the village.
It is simple theatre by simple folk. The simple theme is liberally spiced with humour. With humour and acrobatics they try to rivet the attention of spectators. Actors lie down to create the impression of rice field hedges, for hours together on hot sands - known as Dhuli Danda--penance on the sands.