Festival of Colors has also a deep dark background

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Orissa is celebrating Dola festival, the festival of colors matching the scintillating arrival of the Spring Season. Radiant new leafs and glowing flowers of deep red, yellow and pink colors – quite seasonal to Spring – prepares this splendid soil for withstanding the scorching Summer.
















With the entire population enjoying the ecstasy of Spring Season, the Dola Purnima – the full moon day of Oriya month Faguna, so named after Fagu (the vibrant colors), becomes the day of liberty for Orissa’s Gopal caste people, who, on annual ‘Bartan’ (economic bondage), tend the cattle of villagers for a period of one year from Pahili Dola (the day following the Full Moon Day of Faguna) till the eve of the next year’s Dola Purnima.

But the day of liberty for them ends in a day. Their bondage begins the day following the Dola Purnima as the cattle owning villagers offer to them ‘Luna’ (salt) and ‘Chana’ (Oriya gram, otherwise known as Khesari) as a mark of their re-employment on ‘Bartan’.

In my childhood days I had seen in Tigiria how they were venting out their inner agony over unending bondage in song and dance to the rhythm of their wooden sticks (‘Panchana’) that they use to keep the cattle herds under control.

In their songs, they invariably recall their lost collective valor by use of which their community hero Sri Krushna had exterminated the tyrannic king Kansa of Mathura. They recall in their songs Sri Krushna’s stay in Gopapura – the land of the Gopala (cattle grazers) till his departure for Mathura and how Radha’s love had made him strong enough to vanquish the enemy of the people.

Behind every traditional folk dance, there is a class history. Dola Dance of the cattle grazers has such a class history that needs a deep study.


This small video, recorded yesterday near Athgarh while I was returning to Bhubaneswar from Tigiria, is a contribution in this regard. It carries the pride of the Gopal people over their valorous past. They use their ‘Panchana’ for tuning their anger against the bondage while recalling of their lost class victory over the demonic Kansa.

As a community, on ‘Bartan’ in villages, they are finding Kansa in upper caste masters whose cattle herds they tend on enforced acceptance of salt and gram. Accurate use of ‘Panchana’, in guise of tuning their songs and dance breaths their suppressed wrath against the exploitive system, though plutocracy has given this a mask of culture.

Time coms and time goes, but agony of the cattle grazers against a Bartan neither ends nor is noticed.


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  1. Holī-This indicates all the meanings of similar words in English-(a) Holy = pious, (b) Whole = completion of year, (c) Hollow = Year is vacant of its fire, (d) Hole = gap, almost similar to hollow. As it is completion of year, it is festival of śūdras who unite the society. Śūdra is a word of praise, it means āśu-dravati= works quickly or efficiently. All technicians are śūdras and they are needed by all in society. Hulhulī = Holī-This is remembering Śiva on auspicious occasions. There are 5 stages of world in space-Universe, Galaxy, Solar system, Sphere of Moon orbit, & Earth. Effect of last 3 are felt, which are called eyes of Shiva. 5 stages of world are indicated by 5 root vowels of Sanskrit. Last 3 are repeated on any pious moment-U + Ṛ + Ḷ = hulahulī (in repeated utterance)
    This has become Holi. Since Śiva means auspicious, it has become ‘holy’ in English.
    माहेश्वर-सूत्र-अइउण्। ऋलृक्। …… हयवरट्। लण्।…..
    The last 3 stages of space are jointly felt by man and are called 3 eyes of Śiva-
    अग्निर्मूर्धा चक्षुषी चन्द्र सूर्यौ दिशः श्रोत्रे वाग्विवृताश्च वेदाः। (मुण्डक उपनिषद्, २/१/४)
    चन्द्रार्क वैश्वानर लोचनाय, तस्मै वकाराय नमः शिवाय (शिव पञ्चाक्षर स्तोत्र)
    This sound has been used in Vedas as greeting sound for victory-
    उद्धर्षतां मघवन् वाजिनान्युद वीराणां जयतामेतु घोषः।
    पृथग् घोषा उलुलयः एतुमन्त उदीरताम्। (अथर्व ३/१९/६)
    Agni of samvatsara (year) is exhausted at its end, so it is re-kindled.
    अग्निर्जागार तमृचः कामयन्ते, अग्निर्जागार तमु सामानि यन्ति।
    अग्निर्जागार तमयं सोम आह-तवाहमस्मि सख्ये न्योकाः। (ऋक् ५/४४/१५)
    = Agni has awaken-Ṛchās (verse, objects) desire that and Sāma (psalm or song, field of an object) also follows it. Soma (dispersed matter) prays it to become its junior ally.
    फाल्गुनीष्वग्नीऽआदधीत। एता वा इन्द्रनक्षत्रं यत् फाल्गुन्यः।
    अप्यस्य प्रतिनाम्न्यः। (शतपथ ब्राह्मण २/१/२/१२)
    = In Phālgunī stars (2 parts-pūrva and uttara), agni is set up. These are stars of Indra. These are synonyms of Indra.
    मुखं वा एतत् सम्वत्सररूपयत् फाल्गुनी पौर्णमासी। (शतपथ ब्राह्मण ६/२/२/१८)
    = Phālgunī paurṇamāsī (full moon of Phālguna) is mouth (start) of samvatsara.
    सम्वत्सरः-एषोऽग्निः। स ऋतव्याभिः संहितः। सम्वत्सरमेवैतत्-ऋतुभिः-सन्तनोति, सन्दधाति। ता वै नाना समानोदर्काः। ऋतवो वाऽअसृज्यन्त। ते सृष्टा नानैवासन्। तेऽब्रुवन्-न वाऽइत्थं सन्तः शक्ष्यामः प्रजनयितुम्। रूपैः समायामेति। ते एकैकमृतुं रूपैः समायन्। तस्मादेकैकस्मिन्-ऋतौ सर्वेषां ऋतूनां रूपम्। (शतपथ ब्राह्मण ८/७/१/३,४)
    = Samvatsara is agni. That is filled with ṛta. Samvatsara is formed by ṛtus (seasons). Ṛtus are periods of same water/sunlight. They created variety of forms. They told-single ṛtu cannot create all forms, each ṛtu has specific form. Each ṛtu has some quality of other ṛtus.
    यस्मिन् काले अग्निकणाः पार्थिवपदार्थेषु निवसन्तो भवन्ति, स कालः वसन्तः।
    यस्मिन् काले अग्निः पदार्थान् प्रचण्डवेगेन गृह्णाति, स कालो ग्रीष्मः।
    = The period in which particles of agni reside in earthly bodies, is called Vasanta (spring). When agni catches bodies with ferocity, that period is Grīṣma (summer).
    Phalgu = vacant, samvatsara (year) is vacant of its agni (fire), so it is re-kindled on Phālguna-pūrṇimā = full moon of the month. When, soul leaves the body, if also becomes vacant, so the river near Gaya where śrāddha (last rites) is done is called Falgu. Soul comes again and again (= punah-punah), so the river is also called Punpun. Mahāna-ātmā, image of galaxy goes step by step each month to moon’s orbit, for which monthly śrāddha is done. After reaching outer face of moon, it revolves round sun each year, for which annual śrāddha is done. Vijñāna-ātmā, or buddhi (intellect) is part of solar system and it goes to outer boundary of solar system by pressure of its rays, called Go (tail of cow). The part escaping solar system is called ‘gaya’ and for that is done at hottest place on Tropic of cancer, which has been named Gaya. After agni is re-burnt, variety (Chitra) of creation starts, so the first month of year is called Chitrā, which is name of star associated with moon on full moon day of that month. On Holi day, fire cycle is complete, so whole means complete. It is auspicious, which is indicated by word Holy in English. Holi is vacant of agni, so holiday means day without work. Cycle of samvatsara is created by motion of sun and moon like 2 children floating in ocean of space with radiant boats. Cyclic motion is called Dolana (oscillation), so this day is also called Dola- Pūrṇimā.
    यास्ते पूषन् नावो अन्तः समुद्रे हिरण्मयीरन्तरिक्षे चरन्ति।
    ताभिर्यासि दूत्यां सूर्य्यस्य कामेन कृतश्रव इच्छमानः॥ (ऋक् ६/५८/३)
    = Pūṣā ! Your boats of hiraṇya (gold, rays) are moving within the ocean (galactic space). By them, you act as messenger of Sun who does selfless work for fame.
    पूर्वापरं चरतो माययैतै शिशू क्रीडन्तौ परि यन्तो अध्वरम् (सम्वत्सरम्) ।
    विश्वान्यन्यो भुवनाभिचष्ट ऋतूरन्यो विदधज्जायते पुनः॥ (ऋक् १०/८५/१८)
    = These two children (sun, moon) are playing east to west by their māyā (appearance) and move in circular path (samvatsara). One (sun) sees whole world, the other (moon) is born repeatedly in seasons (2 new moons in each).
    आकृष्णेन रजसा वर्तमानो निवेशयन्नमृतं मर्त्यं च।
    हिरण्ययेन सविता रथेना देवो याति भुवनानि पश्यन्। (ऋक् १/३५/२, यजु ३३/४३)
    Rajasa (moving word) is exists around Kṛṣṇa (black, attractor) and by it (each galaxy is formed around a massive central black hole). Savitā (creator, sun) is part of that eternal (amṛta) body and itself supports the decaying (martya) world (on earth). It moves by ratha (vehicle, body) of hiraṇya (light, radiation); oversees the whole world.

    • Scriptural jargon does not help history and study of social evolution. Yet, Mr. Upadhyaya’s comment is published if therefrom any scholar could derive any scientific thread to study the social evolution of Dola dance discussed in the article original.

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