Home > General, Purulia, Wiki Explores Purulia > Chhau Dance Mask, Charida, Purulia District

Chhau Dance Mask, Charida, Purulia District

Chhau Dance Mask

Charida, Purulia District

See also: Wiki Explores Purulia

Chhau Dance (also spelt as Chou or Chau) is a semi classical dance from Eastern India combining martial, tribal and folk tradition. The dance ranges from celebrating martial arts, acrobatics and athletics performed in festive themes of a folk dance, to a structured dance with religious themes found in Shaivism, Shaktism and Vaishnavism.

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Chhau Dance Msk, Charida, Purulia District

Chhau dance enacts episodes from epics including the Mahabharata and Ramayana, local folklore and abstract themes. Chhau dance is intimately connected to regional festivals, notably the spring festival, which happens in the mid of April.

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An artist works on the Chhau Dance Mask, Charida, Purulia District

Its origin is traceable to indigenous forms of dance and martial practices. Its vocabulary of movement includes mock combat techniques, stylized gaits of birds and animals and movements modelled on the chores of village housewives.

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Chhau Mask preparation, Charida

The dance is traditionally an all males troupe, and dance is performed at night in an open space to traditional and folk melodies, played on the reed pipes mohuri and shehnai.

The reverberating drumbeats of a variety of drums dominate the accompanying music and the dancers enacts episodes from epics including the Mahabharata and Ramayana, local folklore and abstract themes.

Regarding the orgin of the name Chhau, the most accepted theory is that it originated from the word chaya (shadow) other opine it originate from the word Chadma (disguise). While the third option suggest the origin to the word Chhauni (military camp).

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Chhau Mask making, the art passes from generation to generation

In 2010 the Chhau dance was inscribed in the UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity and have also obtained the Geographical  Identification (GI) tag.

Although a eastern Indian dance style, Chhau is confined in only three pockets of eastern India. Purulia (West Bengal), Seraikella  (Jharkhand) and Mayurbhanj (Odisha).

Among these the first two uses the decorative Chhau Mask. While Mayurbhanj does not have the mask, thereby combining facial expression with body movement and gesture.

Masks form an integral part of Chhau dance in both the Purulia and Seraikella styles of Chhau Dance. The mask has feathers and other ornaments that surround the face, which can be extended 2 feet from the mask itself.

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Chhau Mask, the creator and creation, Charida, Purulia District

The two styles of Chhau dance that use masks, blend within it forms of both dance and martial practices employing mock combat techniques (called khel), stylized gaits of birds and animals (called chalis and topkas) and movements based on the chores of village housewives (called uflis). Chhau dance has no ritual or ceremonial meaning, it is a form of community celebration and entertainment.

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Chhau Mask, Charida, Purulia District

Charida, located in Bagmundi block of Purulia District is the home of Chhau Dance Mask making.

More than 500 families in the village are involved in the art of mask making and one is likely to get angry glances from the demon mask that hangs on the outer walls of the shop cum workshop.

The chhau masks are made by the artists from the Sutradhar community. The making of a mask goes through various stages. 8-10 layers of soft paper, immersed in diluted glue, are pasted one after another on the mould before the mud mould is dusted with fine ash powder. The facial features are made of clay. A special layer of mud and cloth is applied and the mask is then sun-dried.

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Chhau Mask, for decoration, Charida

Finally Colours are then applied and the masks decorated with beads, ribbons, artificial flowers and leaves. After finishing and drilling of holes for the nose and eyes.

To portary Gods and Goddess like Devi Durga, Lakshmi and Kartik are colored dark yellow or bright orange.

The white color is often used for lord Shiva, Ganesh and Devi Saraswati. Black or dark blue is used for Maa Kali.

The good news about the Chhau Dance mask is that, unlike other tradition arts, the art is growing lot of other members outside the community are taking of the art as profession.

The sales soar during the spring season, when dancers buy them. Sales take a peak during the winter again with tourist contributing to the revenue. Not all the mask produced in Charida are for Chhau Dance only, tourist do buy the traditional dance dance mask to be placed as prized souvenirs on walls of homes,

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Chhau Dance, stage performance

Most prefer the smaller ones which comes minus the decorations. They are a ideal fit for the walls of the small flats and do come with a pocket friendly price.

Note: This tour was part of Wiki Explores Purulia and was funded by Wikipedia West Bengal User Group

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