A tribal martial art valued for helping actors and patients to “make connections between the body and mind”: Seraikela Chhau – West Bengal, Odisha, Jharkhand & Manipur

  • Prevalent in the tribal belt of the bordering areas of the provinces of Orissa, Jharkhand and West- Bengal in eastern India | Video >>
  • Chhau is mainly categorized into three styles – Mayurbhanj, Saraikella and Purulia | Photo essay >>

Photo Essay | Behind the mask
Prachi Jawadekar Wagh, Livemint.com, 23 August 2013

Though popular in Orissa, West Bengal and Jharkhand, Chhau is yet to be embraced and acknowledged in the rest of the country | To view more photos and read the full article, click here >>

[…] The elaborate, stylized and often vigorous movements of this dance form, originating in the eastern states of Orissa, West Bengal and Jharkhand, transport the viewer to the forests, recreating scenes of tribal warfare and tales from the animal kingdom. Identified mostly by the masks and costumes worn by the artistes, Chhau is yet to gain popularity and take its rightful place among the celebrated classical dances of India. […]

The nomenclature has many versions, though most people agree that the masks, called chhaya, give the form its name. The other accepted theory is that traditionally the dance was performed by and for soldiers in camps or chhaunis, hence the name and the warrior-like moves and battle themes.Chhau is mainly categorized into three styles – Mayurbhanj, Saraikella and Purulia. Mayurbhanj Chhau does not use masks, giving the dancers more scope to use their body and explore movement, often in ballet style. […]

Source: Photo Essay | Behind the mask – Livemint
Address: https://www.livemint.com/Leisure/B9NnJes9d1bz0FQ4agdQIN/Photo-Essay–Behind-the-mask.html
Date Visited: 29 September 2021

The energy and excitement envelop everyone present in the swanky new lab theatre of the Department of Indian Theatre, Panjab University. […]

The doors of the lab theatre were formally opened this week with a Chhau workshop by Bhumikeshwar, a renowned Chhau practitioner and facilitator, who has been teaching the dance and martial art form at theatre departments across the country as well as directing and choreographing classical plays, including Sanskrit dramas, which extensively use the form, “the music and body movements create so many possibilities for the interpretation of the text as well as help actors make connections between the body and mind, and also get them closer to this traditional form, which is now a dying art,’’ explains Bhumikeshwar, who comes from a family of pehlwans, and began learning martial arts, before focusing on theatre.

According to Bhumikeshwar, both masks and military combat techniques form the two most important elements of this tribal art form.

“There’s no written history on Chhau dance; most of it has been passed on orally for generations, so, it’s difficult to validate anything. Research indicates its origins to Seraikela in Jharkhand, from where it moved to other states, with the major difference being in the use of mask designs,” says the dancer, who learnt the form for years at Seraikela. […]

Bhumikeshwar says that Chhau dance owes most of its glory to a Seraikela king Aditya Pratap Singhdev, who created the first rules of the Seraikela Chhau dance, and also wrote most of the 200-300 stories that exist today in this dance form.[…]

Source: “Folk flavour: Panjab University’s lab theatre opens with workshop on dance from Jharkhand ” by Parul (Indian Express, 30 September 2015)
Address: https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/chandigarh/folk-flavour-panjab-universitys-lab-theatre-opens-with-workshop-on-dance-from-jharkhand/
Date Visited: 29 September 2021

Neha Malude, Hindustan Times, New Delhi, Feb 20, 2015

Mann dole, mera tan dole, mere dil ka gaya karaar…” Chances are you will find yourself dancing to this song if you enroll in Satyanarayana’s dance therapy class for treating obesity. […]

India’s first dancer to get a doctorate in dance therapy, [AV] Satyanarayana’s interest in the medium was stoked while at a dance program in the US 15 years ago.

“Indian dance forms are so beautiful – they integrate emotion, beauty and physicality – then why not create a therapy based on them?” he wondered.

And therein lies the twist – using the curative properties of dance with forms like bharatnatyam, kathak and even snake dance. The director of Shristi Center of Performing Arts and Institute of Dance Therapy in Bangalore, Satyanarayana even uses Chhau dance (an Indian tribal martial dance) and Manipuri martial arts in his classes. […]

Our scriptures prove that they work,” says Satyanarayana, who has now opened a Delhi centre and is now seeking government aid for it.

In fact, you might even say that he ‘prescribes’ movements. […]

Source: Want to treat ailments? Say cheers to dance therapy! | art and culture | Hindustan Times
Address: https://www.hindustantimes.com/art-and-culture/want-to-treat-ailments-say-cheers-to-dance-therapy/story-Siau4w90neIUPmauCZrpVJ.html
Date Visited: 29 September 2021

[…] “It’s as if a revolution is going on here,” says Rudra Narayan Das, the girls’ guru. The streets of an otherwise nondescript Baripada seem different today. Another male bastion is falling, and the women walk with a spring in their steps.

It hasn’t been an easy turnaround. The stigma apart, there was the caste factor to overcome. In the past, it was only the lower classes which danced the chhau. So the battle was that much more difficult for girls from middle-class families. Moreover, as chhau exponent Manas Rath points out, “Girls were seen as too delicate for the rough and tumble of chhau.” […]

For centuries, it flourished under the patronage of the maharajas of Mayurbhanj.

With royalty gone and concepts of entertainment changing, chhau dancers are receiving little support today. Offers for public performances are few and far between, and exponents like Srihari Nayak are a frustrated lot.

The girls are undeterred though. Having overcome many hurdles in their path, they are determined to find themselves patrons and restore to chhau its lost glory. In fact, they feel the martial dance has already been enriched by their presence. For the foot soldiers of feminism, the real battle starts now.

Source: “Male bastion falls as women take to Mayurbhanj Chhau war dance in Orissa” by Ruben Banerjee (India Today, 11 May 1998, updated 19 March 2013)
URL: https://www.indiatoday.in/magazine/society-the-arts/story/19980511-male-bastion-falls-as-women-take-to-mayurbhanj-chhau-war-dance-in-orissa-826362-1998-05-11
Date Visited: 29 September 2021

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