The culture of Utkal (Orissa) is great and spiritually rich. The Almighty Deity Lord Jagannath has adorned this holy land and is being worshipped
in the form of wooden image (Daru Bigraha) at Puri-Purusottam region or Shree Kshetra, the religious hub of the Oriyas. The socio-cultural
consciousness of the people of Orissa has been tinged with spiritual feelings for their deep love and devotion to Lord Jagannath. At the base of this consciousness lies a perfect blending of religion and ethics which is the epitome of socio-cultural values of the great India. Oriya folk dance Pala is
the harbinger of that ethical consciousness - its crusader and carrier.
Even if lot of difference of opinions ariseto accept Pala as a popular folk dance yet it has garnered much support in its favour to be considered as a widely acclaimed popular folk art. Pala is directly concerned with the life of common man. Being crowned with the indigenous and special traits of Oriya life, it not only entertains the common man but also inspires him to religious,moral, truthful and spiritual way of life. It is an excellent common art with high intellectual and literary values
Pala has attained a special position as an indigenous art of Utkal. It possesses two merits -both entertainment and religious upliftment. It has achieved immense popularity for bringing progress to Orissa in fields like religion, culture, literature and social values. It's role in inculcating idealism in human character can never be denied. It is needless to say that Pala, which has so widely influenced the social life of Utkal, is a spiritual and culural awakening. Before the arrival of printing press in Orissa, it used to help in social, cultural, literary and religious progress. Both the literate and the illiterate were able to achieve the four universal attainments - religion, wealth, desire and salvation (Dharma, Artha, Kama and Mokshya) through Pala. The common man was able to get the spiritual and literary pleasure from Pala easily even without reading the great Hindu epics and mythologies
This Satyanarayan Puja or Satyapeera Puja is performed only by the Brahmins. This puja is accompanied with song, music and dance. The patriach of the family along with other members and the neighbours get entertained and spiritually uplifted through this Pala. In certain spheres religious books and mythologies are referred and explained in sweet melodious tone. The chief of the singers is called "Gayaka" and his assistants are called "Palias" or "Co-singers". "It consists of five or six persons. The drummer plays on the 'mridanga', other play on the cymbals, dance and
help of chief singer 'Gayak' to sing and explain the meaning to the audience. The depth of knowledges, sharpness of intelligence, oratory and
keen memory power are put to a severe test when two well - matched groups challenge each other in a Pala competition. Nothing but unreserved admiration is due to the singers for their inexhaustible energy continue the competition every night stretching over a month.