Pala is now almost extinct. Since everything is dynamic, so is pala. The pala has now transformed itself into a more gorgeous dynamism, less in content and more to catch the eyes. The yearly badi pala in my village draws no more than a handful of people who are organizers only. Gone are the days when you had to struggle for a seat and enjoy the variety of snacks your gudia brought you. It will survive in some other forms, for sure.
About a month ago, I discovered my eureka moment and my real passion. A dear friend of mine had posted an obituary on the death of a Pala artist. I wanted to see more of it, which led to the discovery of Badipala Mancha, neatly serialized on YouTube by the Prarthana channel. Revered Rajat Kar, never withered by age, displays his erudition to play the perfect host. Nautanki, Ram Leela, Raas Leela, etc. are some other variants of mass entertainment, but Pala has a unique distinction. In Pala, the classical content is subtly fused with legend and fiction.
The performers take all latitude with their own interpretation of the story line and transposition of contexts. They are a libertarian lot who twist facts, customize scenes, and freely weave the web of imagination. What sets it apart is the endless spinning of moral education. Literature of all ages comes out in full glitter with a positive vibration. It underlines beyond a modicum of doubt that Odisha was the hub of classical Sanskrit literature, with Puri as its epicentre. Geeta Govinda, created by the twelfth-century iconic poet Jayadev, is proof enough. We have probably lost many classy creations in the black hole of time. The revival of Pala has the potential to bring about a cultural renaissance for the Odia race.
The folk culture of Odisha has been greatly enriched by several folk art traditions. Pala is one of the unique traditions of Odisha's folk art and culture. Due to its presentation style, Pala has still obtained a special position in Odisha folk dance and music. Though several research scholars of Odia literature have studied and analyzed the various angles of Odia poetry, drama, folksongs, and folk literature and have written their well-thought-out views and analyses, the 'Pala' culture of Odisha has not caught the attention of anyone. The history of its origins is yet to be unfolded. In case one fails to find out evidential facts regarding the origin and development of a country's culture, then on the basis of several series of events surrounded by that notion, one can originally reach a conclusion. Pala performances also inspire people to have an inclination towards God and religion.
Like mercury, passion shifts with changing times, across persons, and across stages in the same person. We are still living in difficult times. Occasional shocking news disturbs us, creating remorse, but the shocks are almost commoditized because of the haplessness humankind is facing. Passion suffers a loss of intensity in these trying times.