Assam, along with the other northeastern states of India, has a population representing diverse ethnic and religious communities which have rich cultural heritage and social customs. Among them, Assam has many traditional and cultural dance forms like Satriya dance and Bihu dance which are popular among all. But one among such traditional dance forms is Deodhani which has not gained equal popularity among the masses. It is commonly known among the masses as a ritualistic dance performed in the honour of Serpent Goddess Manasa. The awareness about this dance form is comparatively very less in our society.
Limited written literature
It has a limited concrete written literature. When it comes to dance forms of Assam, people mostly talk about Satriya dance, Bihu, Jhumur; a very small section of the population is aware about Deodhani.
Deodhani is a worship, a homage that creates divinity. It is pure and has various colours, meaning and flavours. It is an exceptional effort to please the supreme power. This dance form traces its origin of emergence in Darrang district of Assam. It is a belief that Deodhani is a dance form that can please gods, a dance form that recalls the glorious story of Behula and Lakhinder. Legends say that Behula (a character in Padma Purana) had to dance before the goddess Manasa to get back her husband’s (Lakhindar’s) life. It must also be noted that Deodhani and Ojhapali are closely related; Deodhani can be considered a part of Ojhapali.
Earlier Deodhani was performed in Manasa Puja to please the goddess of Manasa. There was a misconception related to this dance form because it is considered as a dance of trance. Deodhani depicts the dance of a woman in deep trance. The dancers keep their hair open during the performance. Many people are also scared of this dance form. It is said that earlier this dance form was only for the purpose of Manasa Puja, there were women who danced without any worldly desires. People used to doubted the dancers’ purity as they used to dance with male counterparts. There was also a time when nobody wanted to marry the dancers. Hence the Deodhani dancers had to remain unmarried their entire life. Different people have different thoughts; some say it is a religious dance, some say it is a ritual whereas some says it is just a dance skill.
The belief that girls would never get married if they practice Deodhani dance has now changed. The present scenario is something different. Now lots of young girls can be seen coming up to perform Deodhani. Once only performed by unmarried women in pujas is presently celebrated as a stage performance too.
In Kadamtali, a small village in Mangoldoi, exists the Darrang Center for Ojhapali and Traditional Performing Art which has been established by Droona Bhuyan. He trains young people free of cost. Many young learners have also performed Deodhani in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Sikkim among other places. People also invite him from various place to perform Deodhani and also train students. It is his effort along with the people of Mangoldoi that the waves of time have brought transformation into this dance form. Earlier Deodhani was only meant for Manasa Puja but now it has become a stage art and India is welcoming it. It has now gained fame in the national level. Dancers have went to different cities of the country to perform and promote Deodhani, and bring glory to the state.
(Write up by Puja Sarkar)