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A folk-song is a spontaneous outflow of the life of the people that live in a more or less primitive condition outside the sphere of sophisticated influences. Folk song is the earliest poetry of any people, unpremeditated and unwritten, fresh and simple, genuine and natural. It is popular because it alludes to incidents connected with people’s lives. It carries the voice and vocabulary of the masses. Folk music comes straight from the heart of the people and its idioms reveal their daily habits of speech. A folk-song is orally transmitted from person to person, from generation to generation as an inherited property. It is like a Vedic hymn orally transmitted from age to age.

Life in the village is, indeed, dull and dry in the modern sense, but to the villagers it is not so. They have a busy life; they plough fields, harvest crops, water plants, drive carts, row boats and sing on ceremonial occasions, in religious festivals and sing when they feel like singing. It is just a natural process (rather than a diversion) although they sometimes resort to singing to break the tedium of a long journey and drudgery of hard work. Civilizations come and go. But life in the village goes on undisturbed without being influenced by the progressive movements of the city life. They believe in ghosts and spirits, with-craft and sorcery and approach the fetish gods and goddesses for solution of their problems for no use. Old customs bind them like chains and check their progress. Their age-long superstitions make them prey to virulent disease, stifle any development of scientific or rational outlook. They do not understand this and retain most of the savage customs and superstitions, coarse and repulsive to the civilized, in their religious rites and ceremonies. In Orissa these customs and beliefs recorded in a folk-song or folk-tale.

In delineation of the character of a folk-song, the village society must be taken into account. It is to a great extent responsible for moulding the character of the people and their songs. The society we find in the village is one of the old types mainly dominated by landlord’s maqdams and moneylenders who were used even till recently to exploit be ignorance, illiteracy and disunity of the people of the core. The voice of the mass is totally neglected. The rich and influential are pardoned for committing any offence repugnant to the society. But the poor have to pay a heavy penalty for the same. Social justice is not equally extended to all classes of people. Sometimes a villager is excommunicated from the society for some fault. The washer man is not to wash his clothes, the barber is not to shave him, and all are forbidden to talk or deal with him. It is a non-cooperation movement carried on under the leadership of the cunning mamlatkars, self-seeking touts, bigoted priests and other parasites. The unsophisticated mass is guided by its nose, for it never thinks and is swayed by others’ emotions. The villager is brought down to his knees by the popular pressure, pays a fine to the presiding deity or society of the village and s excused.

The narrow-minded village priest is a parasite who in the name of religion misguides the mass. He is responsible for continuity of many of the superstitions. If a vulture sits on the roof of the house or an old ox dies with a rope on the neck, the householder is to make penance for that. One of his main functions is to respect the caste-system, which divides men into hundreds of groups and classes quarrelling among themselves on the slightest occasion and thus unable to maintain a united front against the common enemy. This division created by the landlord and the priest encourages exploitation and proves a stumbling block to any co-operative action for general welfare. Brahmins and other higher classes dominate over the untouchables and the aborigines and turn them into a class of labourer to their own advantage.

Life of a woman is a curse in this society. Boys and girls do not received equal treatment from their parents. A woman has no freedom outside the domain of her own house. A man may marry in old age. Nobody will come forward to oppose the proposal if the young girl’s father is satisfied with a purse offered to his by his old son-in-law. But a girl widowed before attaining maturity is forced to a life of celibacy. Who can take account of the poor and helpless widows committing suicide for a little digression from the whimsical dictation of the rich and powerful village mamlatkars who hold the reins of the society ?

The social revolution of the present day has granted freedom to all classes irrespective of caste and creed. Domination of Brahmins and priests over other castes is no longer tolerated. A woman never meekly submits to the whims of man and rebels when and where necessary. The low class people are gaining ground every day. People’s voice is predominant everywhere. Oppression from whichever quarter it comes is resisted tooth and nail. Under the circumstances folk-songs portraying the ancient as well as the present character of the society are sung by the people.

Over and above the social problems, the village people have many serious domestic problems also. The joint family system proves a disadvantage to many. Some member’s work and others do not. A quarrel ensues and it brings in a division among the members of the family. The mother-in-law oppresses the daughter-in-law. Cruel death takes away the dearest husband who is the only earning member of the family or the beloved wife who maintains the house, or the only son of the parents. Some are diseased and others are reduced to poverty by misfortune. The heart of the affected people moved in their sufferings is melted into tearful rhythmical music sweeter than sweetness itself. H. E. Krebiel says that truest and the most intimate folk music is that produced by suffering. Really sweetest songs are these that tell of saddest thoughts.

The folk-songs show the different stages of social evolution and revolution and represent various classes of people who differ in their social status, thought and language. They are of various kinds. The songs of tears, ballads, the songs of boatmen, cartmen, snake charmers, pala, patua, Danda natua, Daskathia, songs of Brata and festival, riddles idioms and Dakbachans etc.

Puchi Khela and Children’s Songs

Puchi Khela is a sort of exercise practiced by the virgins in Orissan village. It strengthens the thigh and the muscles of the waist and abdomen and relieves them a great deal of the pain of delivery. This play or dance accompanied by the music of their own lips is entangled with their early life by some great seer who had the welfare of the women’s society at heart. Which have abandoned as a ghastly superstition.

Girls like boys of their age cannot play the country games in the open air due to natural shyness and social restriction. The conservative section of the people cannot relish the idea of their playing in front of the superior male member. So the girls gather in some neighbour’s broad courtyard and continue their puchi-play unabated till then pall of darkness descends. They perspire within a short time. Song and laughter cleanse their minds of all sorrows and suffering, make them fresh and jolly as flowers. The proper time for their play is twilight. The girls hold flowers in their hands lightly so that they may be scattered in the courtyard one by one in course of their dancing. They sit in a circle and dance throwing one leg and one hand forward alternatively. The process creates rhythms in the whole body, hands and feet move to the time of song—“Puchi lo Puchi lo, ja ja ja ghunchi lo”. 

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