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Rediff.com  » News » In PIX: Possessed by gods, men perform Deodhani

In PIX: Possessed by gods, men perform Deodhani

Last updated on: August 20, 2011 18:03 IST

Image: 'Deodhas' (temple dancers) dance like men possessed by a spirit
K Anurag in Guwahati

The annual Deodhani dance festival that dates back centuries is held for three days every year at Kamakhya temple in Guwahati where 'Deodhas' (temple dancers) dance like men possessed by a spirit. K Anurag reports.

The atmosphere in the famous and ancient 'Shakti' shrine, Kamakhya temple atop Nilachal Hills in Guwahati reverberates with the sound of drum beats and chanting of hymns by priests, as devotees celebrate the three-day annual Devaddhvani or Deohdani dance festival. The festival forms the core of rituals related to worship of Ma Manasa (Serpentine Goddess).

Secretary of Kamakhya temple committee N K Sharma informed that the annual ritual of Deodhani dance festival that dates back centuries is held for three days during the end of the Assamese month of 'Shaon' and at the beginning of 'Bhada' month (during August) every year where 'Deodhas' (temple dancers) dance like men possessed by a spirit.

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In PIX: Possessed by gods, men perform Deodhani

Image: Sixteen temple dancers participated in this year's festival

A large number of devotees, numbering several thousand people, have converged at the temple premises from different parts of the state and the country to attend the Deodhani dance festival, which is seeped in ancient religious culture of this part of the country.

This year, sixteen 'Deodhas' or temple dancers are participating in the festival.

These 'Deodhas' or temple dancers who perform the inspired dance called 'Deodhani' are a class by themselves, drawn from the laity. They are not included among the Kamakhya temple priesthood, nor do they enjoy any special privileges. Inspiration come to them a month before the festival.

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In PIX: Possessed by gods, men perform Deodhani

Image: For a month these men live a life of piety and purity

It is believed, they and they alone are visited by the gods or goddesses. Each god or goddess has his or her own 'Deodha', who are also called as 'Janki' or 'ghora'. The Assamese work 'Janki' means spiritual inspiration or a state of being possessed by a spirit. So 'Janki' may mean one who is possessed by a god or goddess.

For a month, a 'Janki' lives the life of piety and purity, eats very little, prefers to stay at lonely places. As soon as he hears the sounds of drums and 'Kali' (a kind of pipe) he rushes out of his place to dance his divine dance.

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In PIX: Possessed by gods, men perform Deodhani

Image: The possessed Deodhas even dance over upturned choppers and drink the blood of pigeons or goats

On the first day of 'Manasa puja' (worship of Serpentine goddess), all 'Deodhas' dance in the temple of Lord Shiva in the Kamakhya temple premises. The 'Janki' of Lord Shiva (Mahadeva) leads the dance. If roused properly by the drums, 'Deodhas' dance on the temple yard for a long time.

Drawn by the sounds of drum and 'Kali' and after dancing like men possessed by some spirit, the 'Deodhads' (temple dancers) dress themselves like their respective deities, wear garlands similar to those of the deities and pay obeisance to the respective shrines while temple priests guide and help them in carrying out all these rituals.

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In PIX: Possessed by gods, men perform Deodhani

Image: Deodhas dance all through the night during these three days of the festival

It is firmly believed that 'Deodhas' at these hours acquire the capacity of predicting the future of people, the society and the country. Devotees who gather for the occasion offer pigeons, goats, cloths etc. to get their future read by 'Deodhas'.

The possessed 'Deodhas' even dance over upturned choppers and drink the blood of pigeons or goats. They eat whatever is offered by devotees. When they dance, these temple dancers hold swords, sticks or shields in their hands. They dance all through the night during these three days of the festival.

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In PIX: Possessed by gods, men perform Deodhani

Image: The temple dancers hold swords, sticks or shields in their hands

After the festival is over, 'Deodhas' remain in possessed state till the end of Assamese Bhada month (that ends on September 16).

'Deodhani' or 'Devadhhvani' dance festival is held to offer prayer to goddess Manasa to appreciate her strength and seek blessings.