Young boys dressed in yellow were lined up for the show. The cool breeze was making the audience shiver with the chill. I was feeling sorry for the boys who had kept long hair-dos and looked like girls. They had been invited to perform the famous Gotipua dance at the inaugural of the Knowledge Conclave. In Oriya language, "Goti" means "single" and "pua" means "boy". The master of ceremony announced that the dance is performed by the boys dressed up as girls to praise Lord Jagannath. In old times, female dancers called "Devadasi (Mahari in Odisha)" used to devote their lives to Lord Jagannath. With the decline of Mahari dancers, the boy dancers took their places to continue the tradition.
As the boys started dancing to the tunes of harmonium and drumbeats, we were left aghast at the acrobatic manoeuvrings of the boys. They demonstrated the life and times of Krishna. Especially, when they climbed above each other to form a human pyramid, the spectators were kept gaping at the show. The elasticity of their bodies suggested that they might have started learning the dance from an early age.
Sambalpuri dance and mobile magic
The second day we were amazed by the performance of equally talented troupe of Sambalpuri dancers from Sambalpur, a place more than 500 kilometres from Bhubaneswar. They danced and made all of us dance to their thrilling beats. The dance and songs were as colourful as the saris worn by the female dancers. The male drummer was beating the drum and screaming with all his might to enthuse the fellow dancers.
Sambalpuri, the festive group dance tracks its origins to the Kosal region of Eastern India. The dance is performed by the rural people and is thought to relieve them from the day's hard work.
The dancers danced in groups and also performed solo dances. When one dancer was to perform, the music arranger played a track different than that of her choice. She then took the music instrument which was apparently a cellular phone. She was dancing to the tunes of a mobile!
The Sun Temple in scaffoldings
In Konark, the Sun Temple also known as Black Pagoda, is a mystery in itself. As you enter the premises, the grandiose structure demeans you down to earth. We were guided inside the premises by an old man in his late sixties. His English was humorous and he didn't leave a chance to break the limbs of English.
As per his explanation, the Sun Temple is a wonder and an object of happiness to all – children, young and old. Children can enjoy looking at the bottom slabs having monuments of animals like horses and elephants. Young can get pleasures by beholding the statues depicting different Kamasutra aasanas (positions). The top slab comprises idols of gods and goddesses that are objects of obeisance for old people. According the old guide all enjoy coming to Konark and get full "satisfaction" at the temple.
The Sun Temple was built in the 13th century by King Narasimhadev I of Ganga dynasty. The temple was carved as Sun God Surya's chariot with seven horses and 24 wheels. The old man said, "The seven horses depict seven days in a week and the 24 wheels the 24 hours in a day."
Poor Olive Ridley on the shore
After visiting the Black Pagoda, we went to the beach near the confluence of Kushbhadra River and sea (Bay of Bengal) at Chandrabhaga. The cool sea breeze was adding to the fun. Some of us jumped into the white waves. I was clicking the pictures.
While I was busy clicking the white froths, I spotted a small dark object floating against the waves. As it neared the beach the waves overturned it. I could then sense, it was a giant Olive Ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea). It might have come to the shore to lay eggs.
Every year hundred thousands of Olive Ridleys come to shores of Odisha for the mass nesting and hatching. The mass nesting is called "arribada". I had just seen the vulnerable turtles and their hatchlings making for the seas in Discovery and National Geographic channels. It was a rare sight.
However, my excitement was meant only for few seconds. The poor turtle had wounds on its neck and it breathed its last on my laps. The casting nets might have wounded the poor thing. The only thing I could do was to caress its shell and take a parting snap.