Dalkhai is the most popular folk dance of western Orissa
. The festival occasions of Dussehra
, Bhaijauntia, Phangun Puni, and Nuakhai are the times when young women of Binjhal, Kuda, Mirdha, and Sama tribes engage in this performance. A rich orchestra of folk music played by drummers and musicians accompany the dance. While Tamki, Tasa, and Mahuri add to the rhythm, it is the dhol player who controls the tempo while dancing in front of the girls.
The dance came to be known as ‘Dalkhai’ because in the beginning and end of every stanza the word is used as an address to a girl friend. Episodes from the Mahabharata and Ramayana and the love story of Radha and Krishna are generally depicted in this dance form. The dancing women dress themselves in colorful Sambalpuri sari and wear a scarf on the shoulders, holding the ends below in both the hands. Several adjunctive forms of it like Mayalajada, Jamudali, Banki, Rasarkeli, Jhulki, Gunji kuta, and Sainladi are also prevalent. Though performed during Hindu festivals, on account of its style and performance, Dalkhai is considered to be a secular dance form.