Deodhani Dance of Assam
4th May 2011
Deodhani dance is a ritual dance performed in honour of the serpent goddess Manasa. It is actually based on a mythological reference, where a wife (Behula) had to dance before the goddess Manasa to get her husband’s (Lakhindar) life back.
According to Dr. Maheswar Neog the word ‘Deodhani’ is originated from "Deva" which means god and "Dhani" means woman. However, most commonly it is believed that the term ‘Deodhani’ is derived from the Sanskrit word "Deva" which means god or deity and "Dhani" mean sound, i.e. echo. Hence, the term "Deodhini" literally means the sound or uttering of a god or deity. There are actually two types of Deodhani. One is a semi classic dance and the other is a trance (not dance).
The dance is for appeasing many deities beginning with Lord Shiva and ending with Lakshmi. During the time of dancing, the Deodhani wears a special type of cleaned dress. Her girdle is of black or red colour. There is a yellow or red coloured "Gamosa" around her waist. Moreover, she wears different kinds of traditional ornaments. Of them mention may be made of nose-rings, earrings, different kinds of necklaces, bracelets and small drum like talismans.
While dancing the dancers leave their hair open and they dance to the tune of Jaidhol (a cylindrical percussion instrument) and Khutitaal (palm sized Cymbal) and Chiphung (flute). Dancers’ rotating their head in rapid circular motion with open stresses is a striking moment of this dance. It is performed solo or in a group of three or four females.
The dance begins when a young woman drinks the raw blood of a pigeon and goes into a trance and starts the dance with slow movements. During the Puja the Deodhani shows three stages of activities. Being charmed by the Oja she falls into a trance and goes on dancing appeasing many gods or deities beginning with the Bathou or Siva and ending with Lakshmi. She goes on dancing, accompanied by Kham (drum) and Chiphung (flute). She at one stage dances a virile war dance taking a sword and a shield. Her movement in each stage means for a different deity. So the tune of the Chiphung and the beat of the will be different according to which she changes her body-movements. As the tempo of the music increases, the dance became faster and the dancer spins the whole body like a top and twists the neck, imitating a snake. This goes on till the dancer falls exhausted into a swoon. After the ending of the dance, the Deodhani predicts the fortune of the people and their other matters when the people ask her participation in the Puja.