The city of Puri is the cultural heart-throb of India. That it is the religious hub of the country is an undeniable fact from the days of yore when religious sentiments of the people of Hindu community were at large. That the mythological interpretation finds its manifestation in Puri is reflective of its deep and intense cultural root strongly implanted from time immemorial. All erstwhile kings of Puri known as Gajapati Maharajas had their active patronage in the embellished work of art, the people of Puri are adept in. They are as much religious as they are sentimental; but they are heroic in their actions and functions and, needless to add, folk festivals like Sai Jata is its translucent testimony.
Sai Jata or Sai Jatra dates back to a few hundred years of putting mythological overtones of the holy Ramayana in practice in its most sensible, dilatory and tangible form, ever imagined and performed perforce by any religious and cultural organization anywhere in India with so much aplomb, fanfare and festivity.
Going by the literal denotation of the term, Sai Jata may mean area festival performed by a few very important jagas and akhadas of the city of Puri situated in the vicinity of the encircling holy temple of Lord Jagannath. Lord Jagannath is the nucleus wherearound all the religious and cultural activities of the city move with mythological insight, reminding the modern men and women of the events leading to the growth and evolution of human civilization by getting better of the evil represented by Ravana and co. of Lanka and establishing Rama Raja with Lord Rama as its axis. And Lord Jagannath is no other than the incarnation of Lord Rama, the Creator and the Saviour of mankind from the shackles of the deadly demons and ghastly nature.
Of all the groups of Sahi Jatas, those of the Haracandi Sahi and Bali Sahi, with all their traditional rivalry, stand out. The delirious extravaganza and chivalrous martial arts performed during the Jatas are better to be seen than described as the concert overtones the ancient techniques of sword fight, stick fight and fire fight with horrifying speed and demonic warfare, reminiscent of the prehistoric saga of mankind when “ might was right ”, of course, religious ascendancy raining supreme every now and then.
The Medha Dance is as colorful as it is graceful. The Parsuram, Nagas and the Ravana represent warriors at their best, reminiscent of their rule over mankind for myriads of ages. The rest of the members of the Sai Jaata team exhibit martial art with their uncanny ability and courage, representing the soldiers of the age we are talking of. All said and done, Sai Jata is a platform for rehearsal of ancient warfare, showing to the world the great civilization we have left behind and the terrible struggle for freedom our fore-fathers undertook to put us in the position now available.