Babu Kushwaha is a former wrestler and a rice mill worker whose main passion is Diwari Pai Danda. He manages his group in Banda, Uttar Pradesh, where he trains boys and men of all ages in this martial arts-based folk form native to the Bundelkhand region.
Diwari refers to the one-minute introduction sung at the beginning of the performance, after which Pai Danda, a dance involving club sticks and fighting, is performed. Pai Danda is considered a form of Yoga, where sadhana (practice) and correct form is fundamental. Practising Pai Danda is believed to give the same benefits as Yoga, such as improved immunity and fitness. The art form displays strength, courage, excellence and brotherhood. Rigorous and consistent training is essential, and they practice in the mornings every day of the week throughout the year.
Traditionally and historically, training would begin on the fifth day of Bhado (Bhadrapad) month in the Hindu calendar, and they would practice all night every day till Diwali. After that, from Diwali to Makar Sankranti in January, Diwari would be performed during the day. It wouldn’t be achieved otherwise, but now, as the government has started promoting this art, it is performed throughout the year.
The group comprises about 20 performers who have performed in Delhi, Kanpur, Lucknow and even in the North-East of Guwahati.