Berhampur: People dressed like tigers are on prowl in the streets of this south Odisha city of Berhampur as the famous biennial ‘Thakurani Yatra’ begins.
The festival, which commenced on March 28, will continue for 20 days.
Being an integral part of the festival, in the ‘Tiger dance’ several people have painted themselves to look like tigers and are performing in obeisance to the goddess.
Surrounded by ‘Changu’ players, the dancers are prancing to the tune of the musical instrument. At some places, trainers are also accompanying the dancers.
Earlier one individual was performing tiger dance, but in past several years, groups of people are seen taking to the dance.
The dancers said they are performing the Act to appease the goddess as they have manshika (taken a vow).
Painting the entire body with yellow varnish with black stripes and snake painted on stomach, the dancers are putting on tiger masks.
They are seen adorning ornaments to look furious.
According to tradition, before one paints his body, he performs rituals before the goddess.
“We don’t know why the tiger dance is a part of the Thakurani Yatra, but we have seen increase in number of dancers over the years,” said Shankar Rao, a senior citizen.
To perform the dance is not easy. “A professional tiger dancer has to maintain discipline and lead a yogic life,” said Appa Rao, a tiger dance master.
Professional tiger dancers also perform in other cultural functions, he said adding some of the tiger dancers have also performed in foreign countries and Bhagaban Sahu is one among them.
The dancers practise for months before they stage performances. “I trained for over two months,” said Anand Rao, a dancer.