Thursday 28 January 2021

Bajasal Dance Of Kalahandi At Republic Day Parade 2021

Republic Day parade showcases India's heritage, diversity and military might. This is a glorious chance to learn more about our incredible India. Lakhs of Indians tune in to watch this event live.

Earning a chance to perform in this august event is a matter of great pride and emotional moment for the artists and the states. 

This year 2021, Odisha was the only state from Eastern India to showcase one of its tribal folk dance. 

In 2020, Odisha had won the second prize for its Tableaux.

However, unlike last year, this year Odisha did not have a Tableaux. 

The selection of Odisha's 'Bajasal' dance performance by Kalahandi folk artists made everyone happy. 

Bajasal is a graceful folk dance of Kalahandi, Odisha, that is usually performed during weddings. 

'Baja' refers to the instrument- a drum played in the dance and 'Sal' means the place where those instruments are played. 

Before the marriage function, many ceremonies are held as per their traditional rites and rituals. Young boys and girls sing songs alternatively, dance to music and tease each other as part of the performance. 

Did you know that this folk dance is also called 'Bihasal'?


80 dancers - 52 men and 28 women belong to Pratibha Anusthan, Bhawanipatna, an organisation run by Guru Dhyanananda Panda. 
Bhawanipatna is a city and district headquarters of the Kalahandi district in Odisha. 

Earlier in the 1999 Republic Day, 100 dancers from Bhawanipatna's Mahavira Sanskrutika Anusthan had performed Ghumura dance.
Bhawanipatna's Pratibha Anusthan's performance was like a gift after a waiting period of 21 years.

As per this TOI report:

“Usually we perform for 15 to 20 minutes. On January 26, we will only dance to music. No songs will be sung. We have been given three minutes to put up our performance," said Panda, who said the art of the dance is passed from generation to generation."

This experienced troupe has performances in New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and abroad. 

As per this OTV report :

“We have already performed at national and international events many times. However, it is certainly a matter of immense happiness and pride to perform during the Republic Day. We had given an audition for the event in Kolkata and were selected to perform at Rajpath. I thank my guru for the opportunity,” said Mandakini Banua, an artiste.
Many must have been unaware of the terms- 'Habaspuri' and 'Bajasal'. 
Because of the selection of the dance performance, information was shared in the media. 
Page-5, Sunday Times of India, 24 January, 2021 
Page-2, The Samaja, Ravibar, 24 January, 2021

We had been reading about the upcoming event in the local newspapers and were excitedly awaiting to watch the telecast of the LIVE programme on TV.

It was a treat to watch as they danced to the traditional music.

However, it was disheartening to see that the 'FLASH' and commentary was about- 
"Performance by Eastern Zonal Cultural Centre, Kolkata."

Note- The official YouTube video of the Republic Day Parade does not have the extra commentary that was available on TV during the LIVE telecast- where Kolkata was mentioned during the start and the end.

Why didn't the 'FLASH' on TV show the following? 
"Performance by Pratibha Anusthan, Bhawanipatna, Kalahandi"
"Bajasal Dance by Pratibha Anusthan, Kalahandi, Odisha"

The names of the organization, city, district and state could have got their due credit.

In the past, Kalahandi district of Odisha has been in the news (in)famous for its abject malnutrition and poverty.
This was a glorious chance to highlight its rich culture and share about this district's positive news. 
Proper highlighting would have encouraged more people to look up the map and locate Kalahandi.

Information had been shared by the Ministry of Defence via a Press Release.

"Eastern Zonal Cultural Centre, Kolkata showcasing Bajasal - one of the most beautiful folk dances of Kalahandi, Odisha."

News media publish the information that is shared with them.

This is from the news report in The Hindu-

"Eastern Zone of Cultural Centre, Kolkata, perform Bajasal, a folk dance of Odisha which is usually performed during weddings." 
Such news reports make it appear as though the performance was by - Eastern Zone of Cultural Centre, Kolkata, while actually it was by the Pratibha Anusthan, Bhawanipatna, Kalahandi, Odisha.
This is what the national media coverage looks like-

The said info in the above news reports is technically incorrect.
However, once such wrong info is published, they continue to remain (Our past experience with "Rasagola"/Rasgulla/Rasogolla/Rosogolla and other such topics shows that no one edits the news info once the event has passed)
Why allow such misinformation a permanent space in cyberspace? 

Some local media did publish the correct news-
But, the point is this correct information should have been published uniformly in ALL the reports including the more-followed national media.

Selection Process 

The selection process started in October 2020. Troupes were asked to send videos for review by an expert committee of the Ministry of Defence. 

“The dance form was selected because it is lively, colourful and belongs to a backward region of Odisha. We are very happy that the Bajasal group from Kalahandi was selected,” said Gouri Basu, director of the Eastern Zonal Cultural Centre (EZCC), Kolkata.

Though Ministry of Defence had reviewed and selected all the dances and performances, the Ministry's name was not shown that they are "presenting" or "showcasing". Then, why EZCC Kolkata was shown and mentioned?

Just because the audition was organized in Kolkata, does not justify removal of the correct name- Pratibha Anusthan, Kalahandi and ensure replacement with EZCC, Kolkata.

Why the commentary introduction did not start with Odisha and the dancers?

Why was Odisha's name shown in the bracket?

Performance Was Not Simply About Bajasal Dance

Apart from their graceful Bajasal dance-moves, the talented group of 80 dancers also showcased Odisha’s traditional handloom clothes, handcrafted jewellery and traditional musical instruments.


Traditional Habaspuri handloom and masks were on display during the performance.

Habaspuri Saree and Fabrics is a Geographical Indication (GI) of Odisha.

It is woven in Habaspur village of Kalahandi. It earned the GI tag on July 17, 2012. Weavers of Chichaiguda Weavers' Co-operative Society of Chichaiguda and nearby places weave Habaspuri.

The girls wore green Habaspuri sarees with maroon borders and motifs woven in white paired with red blouse with white motifs. The boys wore mustard yellow shirts, red dhotis with borders and blue pagdis. The musicians wore orange shirts, pink dhotis and pink pagdis. The colour combination was provided by the expert committee of the Ministry of Defence. They picked the material from the weaver cooperative societies.

The Habaspuri handloom blouses and masks were stitched by Madhusmita Barik, while Lalit Panda stitched the boys shirts. 

Jewellery & Accessories

The girls wore beaded necklaces and the "khagla", "kataria" on their wrists, "bangria" on upper arms, "anta bicha" at the waist, and "pan patri" on their buns. The boys also wore ornaments around their neck, wrist and upper-arm. The ornaments were procured from Barakhama village in Mohangiri area on the Kalahandi-Kandhamal border. Colourful hen feathers from the Chitralayas in Junagarh adorned the head-gear of the dancers.

Musical Instruments-
Some performers played the ‘panchabadya’- a set of five musical instruments comprising Nishan, Dhol, Tasa, Mahuri and Jhanj. 

Hard Work and Dedicated Preparation
Guru Dhyanananda Panda composed the dance, Chintu Prasad Naik choreographed it and also led the troupe along with Janmejay Naik. 
There were practice sessions for two weeks in Lal Bahadur Shastri Stadium, Bhawanipatna
After reaching Delhi, from 7th January 2021 onwards, the group practised on Rajpath everyday from 8 AM to 11.30 AM and then again from 4 PM to 7 PM. 
Despite Delhi’s winter, the troupe was up by 4 AM to reach Rajpath for practice at 8 AM. 

Our heartiest congratulations to the talented and hard-working team. 
May they get to showcase all this and more in more places. 

While we are delighted to have witnessed such an enthralling performance and are grateful to the Ministry of Defence for shortlisting and including Odisha's Bajasal dance, we feel such hard work, dedication and passion should have been duly credited by highlighting the name and place of origin better.

This is not an isolated case.

When Dutee Chand earned the Arjuna Award in August last year, she was called to Kolkata to take part in the video-conferencing! This is what the award ceremony looked like. 
Which place name can you see on screen?

Were you aware about Bajasal and Habaspuri before? 
Do you feel performances and artists should be introduced with the name of their correct institution and place?

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