Folk Dance, Songs & Performing Arts of Bihar
Palika Dance is a dance of martial character. The Paika dance is performed by employing shield and sword. In this dance performance, skills & ability of the dancers in handling sword and shield is displayed. The dance reach its climax with the fast beats produced by `Mandal`.
It is belived that, the word `paika` is derived from the Sanskrit word `Padatika` which means the infantry. Therefore, the name of the dance is Paika (battle) dance. In olden days, the powerful Ganga and Gajapati rulers of Orissa extended their territory borders from the river Ganges in the north to Godavari in the south with the help of a vast army of valiant Paikas. Actually, they were not in the regular pay-role of the army, but still received huge land grants from the kings.
They formed the rank of a peasant-militia. Though agriculture was their main earning source, they often keep themselves ready with regular practice and training in war techniques. With this power, several village-groups were under the command of a Dala Behera or group-commander.
Most of the Paika villages of State have maintained the older tradition of Paika Akhada. Paika Akhada is the village gymnasium where young people get assembled in the evening after completing the work of the day. Along with performing the traditional physical exercises at Paika Akhada, they also dance with sword and shield with the accompaniment of the country-drum.
The basic objective of the dance performance was the development of physical excitement and consequently increases the courageous activities in the dancing warriors. In ancient times, unconsciously this became a rehearsal of battle. During the festival of Dussera, all the Akhadas were celebrating their annual festivals. Even in many prosperous villages for displaying a traditional gymnastics, acrobatics by various village-groups competitive performances are arranged. Each group used to participate with great enthusiasm in such occasions.
For all such special occasion, grounds are purposely prepared with soft earth sprinkled with oil and water. The tradition of this dance is carried throughout the huge area of tribal belt of Mayurbhanj. Men as warriors appear for the performance, in their colorful turbans and tight dhoties. They stand in two rows. With holding the wooden swords and shields in their hands, warriors engage in a fierce mock-combat. They come forward slowly towards each other, but the tempo of the performance increases suddenly. This indicates the beginning of the battle and with it they whirl their swords and attack on each other.