Ramesh Pal is a full-time Diwari Pai Danda instructor based in Banda, UP, where he manages his group, trains them and arranges shows. Diwari Pai Danda is a traditional martial arts-based dance performed in Bundelkhand. 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.
People in the group come from all walks of life – it includes students, milkmen, construction workers, labourers, and farmers – and they all go about their daily duties after practice every morning. Children start training as young as six, and men as old as ninety are said to have performed it. 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 has performed in 28 states around India, and each member earns about 10-15 thousand a month by this. Ramesh recounted his most memorable experience in Gujarat when they performed in the presence of Narendra Modi, the state’s chief minister.