Deogarh, the distinguished “waterfall town‟ of Odisha, the capital of the former feudatory state of Bamanda is known for its salubrious clime and serene atmosphere. The town in historical references is described in Sanskrit as “Debadurg”, roughly meaning “Fortress of Gods” or “Haven of Gods”. Surrounded by high mountains which provide natural fortification, the state remained almost impregnable and secure from external aggression, alien infiltration and other influences and earned the epithet of “Akhoj Bamanda”. In course of time the capital of Bamanda was shifted from Purunagarh to Suguda and finally to Deogarh. The picturesque Pradhanpat waterfall is surrounded by captivating scenic sight of lofty cliffs and lush green forests. This waterfall alone has been a picnickers‟ paradise and attracts visitors to this place in all seasons. Among the three hundred and forty six places identified and designated as places of tourist interest in Odisha by the state government two are located in Deogarh district.

From mid-nineteenth century Bamanda came to the fore as a place of refined artistic and literary taste with the sincere indulgence and patronage of the royalty and the scholarly citizenry. These events were contemporaneous with the phase of revivalism of Odia language, literature and culture and the Bengal renaissance. Bamanda, more so the capital town Deogarh, earned the eulogia of „budha hamasa kelisara‟, in rough English translation the pristine lake where erudite swans frolicked.

Literary and Theatre Tradition in the Past

The tradition of lore and legends of Odisha including that of Deogarh is quite ancient and very rich. Folk and oral literature of the primitive tribes of Deogarh is highly imaginative, fascinating and down-to-earth. They narrate through simple songs and tale various natural phenomena, their divine pantheon and flora and fauna around them. Way back in 1923 Mr. U.N.Dutta-Gupta, the second Principal of Radhanath Training College, Cuttack (now known as Radhanath Institute of Advanced Studies in Education) collected, paraphrased and translated into English these age-old oral tales and presented the manuscript to Mr. H.L. Mauser, a member of the Executive Council of Bihar-Orissa Province. After going through it Mr. Mauser commented, “They are interesting and suggest a striking likeness to many of the German folktales on which British children were brought up in my childhood”. This collection of Mr. Dutta-Gupta included several tribal tales and folklore of Bamanda region as Mr. Dutta-Gupta had been a guest of the King of Bamnda and had suoervised the education system in the State.

In the days of the Raj, various cultural programmes were being organized in Bamanda. Popular among the visual performing arts were Rama Leela, Rasha Leela, Bandibotol, Suanga, Jatra, Geetabhinaya, Gotipua nach, Chaitighoda, Danda, Dashakathia, and Pala, etc. While some of these performances were rustic in content and flavour, most were derivations from puranic episodes and medieval classics.

In later years, influenced by contemporary theatre of Bengal and Odisha short-plays, musical narratives, geetinatya (dance drama), and full-fledged dramas were staged on different occasions. A dramatic club in the name Raja Dibya Shankar Deb was constituted with its own stage which was named “Dibya Shankar Rangamancha”. There were also village level dramatic clubs set up by theatre enthusiasts in certain places in rural areas like Kalla, Tinkbir, Naikul, Gogua and Barkote. Neelachala Theatre Party constituted by a group of amateur artists of village Jadagola used to perform during festive occasions like Dola Yatra on commission. People of different villages especially old Bhatsingh, Gogua, Jadagola, Para, Jarachhat and others formed Jatra parties which were generally managed out of village funds. These Jatra parties on requisition used to move from place to place to perform rustic theatre on various themes.

The Rama Leela party of Dhoba Sahi of Deogarh town had been displaying Rama Leela in the folk jatra format for nine days during Rama Navami celebrations in the forecourt the Palace and other places too.

During the reign of Sir Basudeb Sudhal Deb, efforts were taken for dramatization of epics under royal patronage. The court poet of the Darbar, Brajabandhu Mishra adopted into dramatic form two lyrical creations „Mayashabari‟ and „Bhisma‟ of Crown Prince Satchidananda Tribhuban Deb which were enacted to appreciation of the audience. Duryodhan Naik, another veteran playwright gave dramatic form to Chandrabhaga, the famous epical poetic narrative of Radhanath Roy. In the year 1902 these were staged at different places. Being impressed by the histrionic skill and performance of the Deogarh dramatic troupes, groups of artists from Talcher, Mahanga and Balianta frequently visited Deogarh for training in the art of theatre.

Balai Banerjee, one of the famous theatre directors of Calcutta was invited to Deogarh for training the theatre performers in acting, stagecraft, presentation and direction. Many artists and thatre performers namely Narayan Chandra Dash, Surendranath Sharma, Kshymanidhi Khadiratna, Haren Dutta, Purusottam Nanda, Satyananda Pati, Banshidhar Dash, Rankanidhi Dash, Prafulla Chandra Deb, Pratap Gangadeb, Nabeen Chandra Deb, Shashi Bhusan Mahapatra, Netrananda Padhi, Brajamohan Dash, Sitakanta Deb, Keshari Gangadeb, Sadashiv Mohaptra, Rudranarayan Deb, Bhagirathi Mahapatra, Sitakanta Kapardar, Brundaban Mishra, Atulya Charn Dash, Laxmidhar Behera an many others were trained by Balai Banerjee. These trained artist performed in plays like “Karta Birya”, “Karnarjuna” , “Karagara”, “Chakradhari”, “Bana Haran”, “Khara”, “Mudra Raksyas” with deftness equal to that of professional performers of Calcutta. The lively performances of Bijaya Chandra Debata, Subash Mohapatra and Tripurari Behera are recollected by old timers with nostalgia.

The old dramatic trend and tradition continued even after royal patronage dried up after independence. However, advent of electronic media and new means of popular entertainment like film and television affected the live theatrical and traditional performances. Deogarh became a destination of Odia film makers for location shooting in the captivating and scenic surroundings. First such film „Sadhana‟was shot at the Padhanpat waterfalls and near hill streams way back 1964 bringing Deogarh into the world of celluloid. Other acclaimed films like “Aranyaka”, based on the story by the celebrated Odia author Manoj Das too have been filmed at the Kailash palace near Deogarh.

Among the current prominent theatre groups are Gopikishore Association, Jagarana Art International, Kalika and Naba Natya Niketan engaged in amateur theatre work. They have adopted current themes and technique in their presentations and join competitive theatre inside and outside the state. Mention may be made of the play „Garra‟, (the Ram) by Jagarana Art International which got several laurels and critical review theatre completion in Allahabad and Assam. Artists like Jogesh Chandra Dalbehera, Dinabandhu Naik, Arjun Mohan Sahoo, Bishnu Charan Behera, Markandeswar Satpathy, Hemanta Kumar Mahapatra, Manoj Kumar Padhi, Atulya Kumar Pujari, Dillip Kumar Guru, Shishir Kumar Ratha, Prakash Kumar Debta are playwrights and drama artist. Other talents indulgent in and conversance with theatre and stage craft are Abani Kanta Mishra, Chittaranjan Das, Upendra Bhanja, Romeo Mahapatra, Sujit Patra, Kumudabandhu Satpathy just to name a few.

Specific mention may be made of Pranab Kumar Panda for having brought laurel to the district by winning the Best Child Artist Award at the All India Multi Lingual Drama Competition held at Allahabad in 2010. He is also the recipient of Rajiv Gandhi Pratibha Puraskar for the year 2013 for his histrionic talent.

Jagarana Art International, Natyakala Parisad, Nabanatya Niketanand Kalika organise competitive programmes in their own way. The Jagaran Art International has been organising All India Short-Play competition at Deogarh. Reputed troupes from Kolkata, Assam, and Manipur participate in this competition along with troupes from within the state. Some film and video enthusiasts of the district have attempted film production, though not with professional skill and commercial scale. One such venture is a short video production „Sabuja Sakala‟, prodiced with the involvement of amateur talents and technicians. The documentary Film „Search‟ dealing with the issues of development of Paudi Bhuyan tribe of Debgad district was made by Atulya Kumar Pujari of Deogarh and was an entry inthe documentary section of the International Film Festivals held at Kanya Kumari in Tamil Nadu.

Another such attempt is the film „Adi Bhumi‟ (Primordial Land) made Sri Satyabrata Dwibedy. Another video film and music casstte enthusiast is Premananda Majhi who is credited with some video programmes and devotiona music caddttes and compact discs.

Several theatre artists are enrolled as graded drama voices in All India Radio, Sambalpur; among them are Sri Arjun Mohan Sahu and Hemanta Kumar Mahapatra who participate in radio plays when assigned.

Further, in spite of emergence of modern Devices of of electronic media, traditional performers comtiue to keep the old traditions alive to some extent. Dashakathia, ga traditional duet-performance is almost extinct, but a few Pala troupes do exist in the district. The contributions of old Palla Gayak Bidyadhara Khadiratna of Kulsura and Bimbadhara Sahu of Purunapani are praised worthy. Palla Gayakas are striving hard to keep this form of traditional performing art still alive. Rabinarayan Panda, a veteran Pala performer of old Jandadihi village (now staying at Tentalabahal) is actively involved in Pala Gayaki despite his advanced age and dwindling audienec.

Another form of street performance was the Kendra Geet. Performed by the mendicants of the Nath cult, popularly known in villages as Nath Jogis the narratives were based on folklores like “Tika Govinda Chandra” and other mythical compositions.. The Nath Jogis sang in sonorous voice to the accompaniment of a string and bow instrument called Kendara like the Bauls of Bengal and were most popular among the rural women folk. Some Brahmins priests called Chakulia Pandas too used to move from door to door like the Nath Jogis musically narrating tales and stories from purans. Such traditions are almost extinct due to lack of reception and the performers seeking other prudent vovcations for economic reasons. Currently, however, folk dance forms like Dalkhai accompanied by lilting Sambalpuri lyrics, bith traditional and modern are gaining popularity, so is the vlassical Odishi dance.

There are various committees in the district and also at the village level which are formed by general concensus of the people of the defined locality and community to orhanise fairs and festivals. Karama, Among the community celebrations are Rath Jatra, Dushehara (Durga Pooja), Lakshmi Puja, Kali Puja, Deepavali, Ganesh Pooja, Viswakarma, Maha, Shivaratri, Dola Utsava are obeserved in in almost all parts of the district. In addition, in Karma (Karamsani Puja), Chaitra Parba, Debi Mangla, Hingula and Maa Vairabi puja are performed by the ethnic tribes in their traditional fervour..

The District Cultural Committee (D.C.C.) under the Chaimanship of the Collector and District Magistrate of Deogarh draws up plans for the most important annual cultural event – the “Utsav Padhanpat”. The celebration of Utsdab Pradhanpat assums the proportion of a gala fair and is held under the foothill of the padhanpat mountain in the vivinity of the scewnic waterfall.accompanied cultural Teams of cultural performers from various parts of the State and out of the tates are invited to this spectacular event held for three days in the evening.