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Interview in Conversation with Dr. Samaru Meher

Unearthing Sambalpuri dance among Odia diaspora in New Delhi


Dr. Samaru Meher, is an Odissi dancer and the founder of Nrityanjali. Nrityanjali is an Odissi and Sambalpuri dance school in Hauz Khas, New Delhi established and run under the aegis of Guru Samaru Meher since 2005. A premier cultural institution, Nrityanjali focuses on popularizing and showcasing both the art forms and imparting intensive training of the same to budding artists. It organizes many festivals, cultural evenings, and annual festivals every year. They perform within and outside India.

Dr. Samaru Meher with Guru Kelucharan Mahapatra


Source: Nrityanjali LinkedIn

Question 1. What was the inspiration behind starting a school that teaches folk dance as compared to classical dance schools?


Answer: The main aim of this establishment was and continues to promote Odia culture among the non-Odia diaspora and take Odia people living away from their families and state back to their roots. To teach Sambalpuri, folk dance was although a challenge, but the vigor was to become a representative of the same art form that I have grown up seeing and performing. I wanted to bring my own hometown here, in Delhi.



Question 2. How is the legacy being carried forward?

 Answer: Sambalpuri music and dance has now become popular, thanks to songs like Rangabati being used in pop culture. So some sections are already aware of the beats and traditions attached to this folk art. I bring my culture to a new state, train more people to do so and then provide them opportunities to spread it large and wide. The music is going to live forever, and my effort is to keep these beats alive in the hearts of people.



Question 3. What were the challenges while establishing a folk art school? And why was it important to choose a folk art?


Answer: Sambalpuri dance beats have a similarity with Bhangra beats, which is very popular in Delhi-so it was easier for people to connect to the beats. But what was difficult to overcome was the lack of awareness among the masses about Odia culture. Often they are amused viewers but very few learners.


Question 4. Who is learning in this school- are these only Odia students or people from other states also learning?


Answer: Students come from all states- both Odia and non-Odia diasporic members. We also have international students from countries like France, Sri Lanka, and others.


Question 5. Where are the performances held? Who gives opportunities to perform?


Answer: In Delhi, we have performed for student organizations in Jawaharlal Nehru University and Delhi University. We have also performed for institutions outside Delhi, like the LBSNAA in Mussoorie. Workshops and performances are held all across the country. We also participate in Officer’s cultural events and events held by organizations that celebrate Odia culture. We have also performed in government-hosted festivals and cultural events such as the Tribal dance festival.



Question 6. How do non-Odias respond with respect to the interest to learn and watch the art form?


Answer: Since the beats are enjoyable, people seem to like the music and dance. They definitely do not understand the lyrics of the songs and yet follow the steps through the beats while learning. So I teach with counts to such people. Non-Odia diaspora has gained significant interest in the dance form in the recent past.

Question 7.What are the modes of promotion used by the school?

Answer: Apart from using physical means and word of mouth, we rely a lot on the Social Media pages that we run- Youtube, Facebook, and LinkedIn. We regularly post videos of our performances and endorse our students via these pages.

Question 8. What kind of queries regarding the art comes to you?

Answer: Queries are generally related to classes and training programs. More than often we have queries to conduct workshops. A lot of foreigners also want to learn the art form and hence enquire about the means to do so.

Question 9. Is there any kind of support financial and non-financial from any authorities or members of the Odia community?

Answer: The Odia community and organizations in Delhi are very supportive of our work. We do not ask for any kind of monetary support for them and even perform in their events for free of cost. The aim here is to promote Odia culture and not profit- making. Organizations like Odia Samaj, Utkalini, and others have been ardent cheerleaders for us since we began as an organization.


The major threat to any folk art form, including Sambalpuri is that of modernization and westernization. Along with the looming fear of assimilation in a metropolitan leading to loss of integrity, Sambalpuri as a performing art form faces the challenge of lack of artists and majorly that of resources. To ensure that the traditions don’t die out, not just for the benefit of the communities and the identities that they belong to but also to retain the identity of Delhi as a melting pot of cultures, folk traditions like these need to be safeguarded. While individuals and non-profit community groups are doing their part in ensuring a system of continuity, the state, and central governments should be equipped to be the providers of financial as well as non-financial resources that act as catalysts for these traditions to flourish and sustain.


As Dr. Meher rightly puts it- “One should safeguard one’s own culture before learning the other, and it is this diversity that India as a nation thrives on”.

Recognizing and identifying with one’s culture in a city full of state migrants such as Delhi, has been an opportunity that most people hold onto dearly, and it is this love for Odisha that drives people from the state, all across the world to popularize and safeguard Sambalpuri dance.