The Demon King
|[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note|
|Chhau dances represent an interesting blend of folk, tribal and classical elements. Like classical dance, there is a certain amount of codification but the dances retain great spontaneity, their movements painting vivid images from everyday life. |
Chhau dances are performed as part of the rituals associated with the great Spring Festival, Chaitra Parva, celebrated over the adjoining districts of the states bordering West Bengal.
Of the three styles of Chhau, Purulia is the most robust and virile and it retains its vigorous folk character. With great gusto the dancers plant their feet forcefully on the ground and freeze in postures of encounter and challenge, bent knee foot stamping, short vertical jumps and full circle spins characterise this style as does the violent juggling of shoulders and shivering of the upper torso.
Purulia dancers wear elaborate costumes – the embroidered velvet jacket and striped baggy trousers are a mixture of the Jatra folk theatre and 19th century theatrical costumes.
The performances take place in the open ground platform. It begins in the late evening and may continue whole night. The audiences sit on the ground encircling the performers in separate groups of men and women.
Lord Ganesh (The Hindu God with elephant’s head and four arms) is evoked before. He actually appears in the opening dance recitals. He is followed by epic heroes, other Gods and Goddesses with multi-coloured masks gleaming with tinsel, equipped with extra arms or heads (as required) made of wood or indigenous materials.
The mask is an integral part of Purulia Chhau Dance. It liberates the dancer from the limiting influence of the face and puts a greater burden on the movements of the body. The body moves it bring the mask alive. Purulia masks are rustic; their wide-open eyes give a sense of speed and gusto. In both cases a headdress complements the mask.
The masks are made of pulp and indigenous colours and decorated with peacock feathers, jaris and hairs. The masks are fascinating products of superb craftsmanship.
Most Chhau themes are drawn from the two great Indian epics – the Ramayana and the Mahabharata as well as the mythology of the Puranas.
This is the Buffalo Demon who will be vanquishd by Durga at the end of an epic battle.
In Purulia, I saw this performance by the members of the Royal Chhau Academy.
Cropped and contrast raised. The dust is real and the motes are lit up in the light. Did not reduce noise deliberately.
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