Sambalpur has been at the centre of the custom, tradition, language and culture of western Orissa. Several traits of the Sambalpur culture – Sambalpuri language, Sambalpuri dance, Sambalpuri songs or Sambalpuri sarees have held a national identity.
Sambalpur Lok Mahotsav
A cultural manifestation of the hidden age-old traditional performing art of a vast geographical area is possible through this annual celebration of the festival in the name of” Lok Mahotsav”. This festival is by the people, for the people, of the people & a reflection of the socio- anthropological evolution of the people of an area. Here “Lok” means “People” only. The architecture in the district attracts the people of all over world because of its unique designs. The important historical relics in the district of Sambalpur are the temples built by the Chauhan rulers. The splendour of Orissa Art and Architecture had reached its climax in 13th century much before the advent of the Chauhan into Sambalpur region.
The Pataneswari temple of Sambalpur was built by Balaram Dev, the first Chauhan ruler of Sambalpur in the last part of 16th century. It consists of a sanctum with an enclosed circular count. The Pataneswari Deity is the temple of Goddess Kali.
The Samalai Temple in the town represents the finest Chauhan style of circumvallation round the sanctum. The image of Samalai is a unique sculpture and appears to be a primitive deity worshipped by the local people. However, Samalei or Samaleswari is the tutelary deity of Chauhan dynasty of this area (Pasayat, 1998, 2003, 2007, 2008).
In the district of Sambalpur a large numbers of Shiva temples were built during the Chauhan period. The most important amongst them were the Asta Sambhus in the un-divided Sambalpur district as detailed below:-
Bimaleswar of Huma (Now in Sambalpur District), Kedarnath of Ambabhona (Now in Bargarh District), Biswanath of Deogaon (Now in Bargarh District), Balunkeswar of Gaisama (Now in Bargarh District), Balunkeswar of Maneswar (Now in Sambalpur District), Swapneswar of Sorna (Now in Bargarh District), Bisweswar of Soranda (Now in Bargarh District), Neelakntheswar of Niliee (Now in Bargarh District). An interesting feature of Saiva shrines found in Sambalpur area is “Non-Brahmin Priest” called Thanapati of Mali caste of these shrines (Pasayat, 1998, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2008).
The Folk instruments which are in vogue in Sambalpur Region are Dhole, Madal, Nishan, Tasa, Pakhoj, Bansi, Bir-Kahali, Gini, Ektara, Muhuri, Ghulgula, Ghunguru, Jhanj etc.
Dhole:It is an age old instrument of Indian Folk Music. The Dhole of Sambalpur is slightly different in its making and use. It is made of trunk of a tree. Both the side of the Dhole are of same size. Sambalpur dhole can be used for any type of Sambalpuri Folk Song.
Madal:The Sambalpuri Madal is different from that of all other parts of India. The Madal is made out of fired clay and is like a cylinder. Madal is a drum which is used in slower rhythms. Most of the danceless songs are accomplished with the Madal.
Nishan:It is made out of iron sheets. The sound emitted by the Nishan is heart-throbbing. This is mostly used in worship of Kali or Durga and in the battle field.
Tasha:It is played by two thin bamboo sticks. The sound of Tasha creates an atmosphere of horror, fear and excitement.
The chief communicative language of the Sambalpur region in particualar and western orissa in general is Sambalpuri Language. Not much research has been done on the accent and phonetics of this language, and it is generally considered to be a dialect of Oriya however, recent research done at Sambalpur University claimed Sambalpuri as a distinct language and the University has subsequently introduced a One year Diploma course in Sambalpuri Studies.Some linguist consider the spoken language of Sambalpur is the anicient form of modern Oriya language.
Most of the community dances are connected with a function or the worship of a deity. Colourful Folk-Dances are enjoyed by the people.
Dalkhai is a ritual folk dance. Songs sung on this occasion are known as Dalkhai songs. Young girls of Binjhals, Soura and Mirdha tribes performed this dance during Dusserah, Bhaijuntia and other festive occasions. However, non-tribal people also participate in this ritual dance and songs without hesitation which indicates tribal – non-tribal interaction in this part of Orissa. The young girls stand in a line or in a semicircular pattern with song (Pasayat, 1998, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2009).
Karma is the most colourful dance of the district. It is mainly a tribal dance in honour of “Karam Sani”, the deity who grants children, as they believe. Non-tribal people also participate in this ritual dance and songs. It is a clear indication of tribal – non-tribal interaction and peaceful co-existence in this part of Orissa for centuries (Pasayat, 1998, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2009) . In the beginning the dancers enter the dancing arena in two rows. The dramers and the singers accompany with rhythmic steps.
Humo and Bauli
These are two playful dances performed generally by young and un-married girls on special occasions who sing and dance in groups. The stepping and movements of the dance are very slow. However, the old and aged women of the villages also play the guiding role during performance of this songs (Pasayat, 2008).
This dance is prevalent among the Gond and the Bhuyan tribes. Male dancers take part, holding a two feet long stick. The songs are mainly based on the immortal love story of Radha and Krishana.