The culture of India changes at every two steps and Bengal is the perfect place to witness such unique diversity. Though the overall culture of Bengal is more or less uniform, various subcultures form important parts of the states’s culture. Chhau is such an ancient culture which is still carrying its legacy to survive in this urban chaos.
Since ancient times, religion has formed a crucial role in shaping those cultures and became an integral part of our society. It adopted story-telling as a way to impart code of ethics and morality among the village folks. The society has always been divided into different hierarchies which has denoted a particular section of people belonging to a particular vocation. The brahmins or the pandits were the learned men who would study the various religious scriptures and impart its meaning to the fellow members of the society. But they felt an easier medium to spread those teachings and hence communicative dance forms like Chhau had evolved.
Although Chhau is a dying form of art and struggling hard to survive in this modernized word, yet it’s relevance can be still found along the dirt roads of the countryside. This has been one of the many ways which has been in use to educate people about various folklore and mythologies of this region. In this dance, the performers wear ornate clay masks which denote a particular character or deity. Men play both male and female version of the characters and this dance form involves many martial maneuvers. On studying a bit more about this art form, I came to know that there are around three kinds of chhau dance forms, each belonging to different regions of the eastern India. During these open air performances, they use various kinds of musical instruments along with conch shells and flutes, which give out a loud noise. While I was lucky to witness this UNESCO recognized form of art in the heart of the city, I will share some of its glimpses for you all as well.
Two men dressed as the lions seems to be sharing their tales of victory over the evil Asuras
I also came upon a dance video on YouTube, check it out: