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Danda Nata Ritual In Odisha – 21-day Meru Yatra Associated with Danda Natca Ritual

Danda Nata ritual, als known as Danda Natcha, is observed for 21 days and concludes on Maha Vishubha Sankranti day – April 14/15. The ritual observed in Danda Kali temples in Berhampur in Odisha is also known as Meru Yatra. The ritual is observed mainly at Danda Kali temples at Panigrahi Pentha, Diamond Tank Road, Bijipur, Ambapua and Ananda Sarani in Berhampur.

Danda Nata is an unusual ritual.

New Indian Express reports 
The ‘Pata Bhaktas’, who lead the ‘Danda Nata’ troupes, offer their blood as ultimate penance to the Goddess during the ritual. 
The Danduas, who led a life of extreme austerity for three weeks and became members of ‘Danda Nata’ troupes, ended their penance on the day. 
The rituals that mark the final performance began with a ritualistic bath by the ‘Pata Bhaktas’. Then they were taken in procession to the Danda Kali temples by other ‘Danduas’. The ‘Pata Bhaktas’ were blind-folded and smeared with a paste made of turmeric and herbs. In the blind-folded state they were hung above a pit of fire upside down. They continued to remain in the position till three drops of blood fell from their noses into the fire. Thousands of devotees had gathered at the penance sites to witness the last offering of the yatra. 
After the Meru Yatra, the ‘Pata Bhaktas’ would return to their homes and lead a normal life.