Vikash Sharma

All eyes are now on Khandagiri mela and jatra which will be held after two years of Covid-19 hiatus. However, a major controversy erupted after the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC) warned jatra troupes not to showcase any vulgar dance performances during the event.

Though the jatra organisers and committees have welcomed such a move, jatra artiste Rani Priyadarshini has raised questions over the logic behind such restrictions by stating that if Bollywood actress Disha Patani’s dance performance can be ‘accepted,’ why not theirs.

It is pertinent to mention here that alleged vulgar dance performances by various jatra troupes during the Khandagiri jatra have triggered controversies in the past.

Alleging partiality, actress Rani Priyadarshini said that Bollywood actress Disha Patani was allowed to perform before thousands of spectators during the recently concluded inaugural ceremony of the FIH Men’s Hockey World Cup. Rani questioned, “Why restrictions are being clamped on the performance of Odisha artistes. There are a lot of artistes who eke out a living by staging dance performances and due to such bias; attempts are being made to rob their livelihoods.”

“I don’t know why our item dance is being treated as vulgar when crores of rupees were spent and a Bollywood artiste performed a similar item dance before thousands of spectators during an international event at a stadium,” said Rani.

Not only Khandagiri jatra, the jatra committee members have demanded for immediate stoppage of vulgar dance performances across the state.

“Be it orchestra or any other jatra, such restrictions and guidelines should be applicable for all programmes across Odisha,” said actor Bapi Panda.

The BMC has categorically asked the organisers and troupes to ensure that no performance or dance is allowed which might hurt religious sentiments. The civic body has asked jatra committees to submit a written consent to abide by the norms.

Besides, the existing Covid protocols will be strictly implemented during the Khandagiri mela and jatra including installation of sanitizer dispensers and other regular measures to maintain all-round sanitation near the jatra venue.

Apart from this, the committee has been asked to ensure that all the necessary documents and clearances from fire services, electricity department have been obtained and norms pertaining to decibel limits are strictly followed.

“As the event is going to be organised in the Twin City, the civic body has come up with certain restrictions. We have given an undertaking that we will not promote any vulgarity,” said Satya Jena, a jatra troupe owner.

Chaturbhuja Majhi, president of Sanatan Seva Samiti (Ghatikia) said, “As Khandagiri jatra has earned some bad repute, we will try to bring some changes. We have assured the administration to abide by the restrictions and the licence of the pandals will be cancelled if there are any violations.”

(Reported by Niranjan Reddy and Bibartan Panda)