Oja-Pali is an ancient performing art form of Assam, performed by a group of chorus singers and dancers. It is performed only by men and combines narrative singing with dancing and dramatic interludes. Usually performed by a group of 4 or 5 men of whom the chief performer is the ‘Oja’, who is accompanied by 3 to 4 ‘Palis’; hence the name Oja-Pali.
Oja-Pali focuses on the stories from the epics and
Puranas. It is associated with the Manasa (serpent goddess in Assam) worship. The story is divided into three parts - Deva Khanda, Baniya Khanda and Bhatiyali Khanda.
Oja-Pali is divided into 2 forms based on the occasion and style: Byah and Sukananni. Byah Oja-Pali focuses on the epics - Ramayana and Mahabharata. Most noteworthy feature of this form is the different Mudras (gestures of hands and fingers). Dance is another key part of the performance and humorous dialogues are preformed in between, to make the presentation interesting.
Sukananni Oja-Pali aims at presenting the tragic story of Behulaa-Lakhindar from
Padma Purana among the masses. This art, performed normally during Manasa Puja (worship of goddess of serpents), is accompanied by pleasant rhythm, tune and dance.
The only instrument played by Oja-Pali is Khutitaal (palm sized Cymbal). The performers wear long sleeved white gowns and silver jewelry.
The songs are rendered by Ojas in Sanskrit. They also sing a kind of mixed song called Patsha Geet. The music of Oja Pali has a raga system of clear classical orientation and the Neo-Vaishnava heritage.