Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

Holi, the festival of colours is around the corner. The grand festival is celebrated with fervour and pomp across the country. This year the colourful festival will be celebrated in Odisha on March 26. However, the grand festival is currently being celebrated in a unique way in a village in Odisha four days ahead of the scheduled date.

Residents of Bhandaripokhari in Bhadrak district celebrate the grand festival ahead of its normal date as per a unique tradition. In this village, people celebrate Holi with the local police. Unlike the Holi festival where people celebrate it with their loved ones, people in this village celebrate it with the police officials.

The two-day-long festival is celebrated in a grand manner as common people and the police here bask in festivities with colours, food, fun and merrymaking. This popular tradition is known as the ‘Munsi Melana’ and continues to be celebrated in the village for more than 80 years.

This year is the 82nd year of the historic festival and celebrations have already started. The historical Melana is being organised inside the premises of the Bhandaripokhari Police Station.

As per reports, local people in the area endured inhumane torture by ‘Munsi (police)’ during the British rule. The torture became so severe that one day on August 17, 1942, people set the local police station on fire. This created enmity between the police and the local people. In a bid to revive the relationship, and spread brotherhood and friendship between the local people and police, the then Bhandaripokhari IIC, Babu Lal Munsi had started this ‘Melana’. Over the years, the Melana has turned into a festival and is celebrated with pomp and gaiety every year. 

The time has changed. The ‘Munsi’ during British-era are now called police. People were afraid of ‘Munsi’ in those days. However, police are called friends of the public these days.

Every year, hundreds of people march towards Bhandaripokhari Police Station with decorated ‘Bimanas’ of Lord Krishna-Radha. After reaching the Bhandaripokhari Police Station, people first smear colours on the faces of all police personnel and then begin the two-day celebration. Dance programmes, music and sweet distribution are organised near the police station with the participation of thousands of local people.

“Munsi Melana is a historical festival and we enjoy it up to the hilt. Many kinds of cultural programmes are organised during the festival. Police and common people participate in the function,” said Mamuni Jena, a resident of Bhandaripokhari.

“The Melana is a unique festival to remove the distance between the police and the public. In most cases, common people fear coming to the police stations and seeking help. So, this unique festival is a step towards breaking that fear and creating a bond between the common people and policemen,” said Ajay Sudarshan Bage, IIC, Bhandaripokhari Police Station.

Durjyodhan Lenka, a local resident said, “People set the local police station on fire on August 17, 1942. Subsequently, the festival was organised to revive the relationship and spread brotherhood and friendship between the local people and police. On this day, common people and the police engage in playful activities and have a good time by playing Holi together. It has come a long way and become a grand festival since.”