By Srikanta Mohanty: The amazing stunts performed on stilts by the troupes from Ganjam make people hold their breath as this dance form is familiar everywhere as ‘Ranapa’. The coastal areas in Ganjam district of Odisha are famous as youths grace the occasion with the movements of this dance. Enjoying a rich form in the cowherd communities in these areas, the accomplished young artistes dance to the tunes of ‘Dhol’ and “Mahuri’. The effect of the dance accompanied by music holds audience spell-bound. But the songs on the occasions are captivating as those narrate the childhood exploits of Lord Krishna.
“As Krishna is the favorite of cowherd communities, the spirit in the youths literally spring up at the thought of this dance. Anyway the stunts performed are thrilling that bring joy but increase in heart-beats. The young dancers stand on the bamboo stilts and dance to the accompaniment of music and song without losing balance”- exults Krushna Chandra Gouda, who hails from the same community.
The dance form cogently expresses the skills of martial art. The history is replete with examples of wars that the heroic sons of the soil fought valiantly. The “Kalinga war’ was the case of exemplary bravery that people of Odisha fought against the mighty army of Ashok in 3rd B.C. Emperor Kharavela established his suzerainty by defeating and establishing his kingdom in large parts of India. As military expeditions were common in Odisha, the dance forms still showcase the spirit of the people.
‘Ranapa takes different things in one folder. Divinity in the praise of Lord Krishna, spirit in adventurism, and heroic exploits are remnants of a rich cultural heritage that once this state had in the ancient times. The acts are reminiscent of the indefatigable spirit in the nature of people, who set exemplary records of courage, boldness, and action’-says Niharkanta Pattnaik- a retired teacher from the government school.