The Indian Folk dance- Chhau

The Chhau dance is indigenous to the eastern part of India. It originated as a martial art and contains vigorous movements and leaps. Though Chhau is famous not only in India but World over the origin of word Chhau is yet in mystery. Chhau is believed to have found its origin from "Chhaya" the shadow. But the Chhau performers of Purulia use Mask while dancing and that mask is told as "Chhau". Perhaps Chhau Dance might have derived its name from that mask,the Chhau. Some chhau pundits opine the Chhau has got its name from "Chhaushree". Inarguably, the word chhau has been derived from the word 'CHHAUNI' the camp camped at the time of military operation. The folks say that chhau was performed to entertain the Oriya warriors inside the camp and has spread now knowing no boundaries.
Some Chhau dances use large stylized masks. The depiction of birds and animals is a distinctive feature. There are also heroic dances with sword, bow or shield, with which dancers demonstrate their dexterity. In keeping with the martial origins of Chhau, some of the themes include the depiction of mythological heroes, such as Parashurama, Mahadev, Indrajit and others, from the Mahabharata and Ramayana epics. Over the course of time, female characters and more diverse themes were added.
There are three recognized schools or styles of Chhau. These are the Seraikella, Purulia and Mayurbhanj varieties. Mayurbhanj Chhau dancers do not wear masks. In recent times, Mayurbhanj Chhau has become popular as a medium of choreography, with its wide range of postures and movements that adapt well to modern as well as traditional treatment.

   Teachers of chhau on Meetkalakar
   Chhau artists
   Costumes of chhau

The costumes of the Chhau performers are of various colours and designs. It mainly comprises of Pyjamas in deep green or yellow or red shade that is worn by the artistes playing the role of gods; whereas those playing the role of demons have on loose trousers of a deep black shade. Sometimes, stripes of contrasting colours are also used to make the costumes more attractive and different. The costumes for the upper part of the body are full of various designs. The costumes for the character of Goddess Kali are made up of cloth of unrelieved black, and to express the separate and distinct identity, the characters of animals and birds use suitable type of masks and costumes. 

   Instruments used

Unlike other Indian Classical dance forms, vocal music in Chhau hardly exists! Instrumental music and a variety of drums like the Dhol, Dhumba, Nagara, Dhansa and Chadchadi provide the accompaniment. 


The beginning of Chhau dances is lost in hoary past and the rulers have been intimately associated with religious festivals known as "Chaitra Parva" celebrated every year for several centuries. Not only have they been actively associated with religious festivals, they have nurtured the art of dance. They have nurtured the art of dance that blossomed underthe royal patronage. Invariably every year the Chhau dances are performed during the spring and members of the royal family and commoners dance together without distinction of rank and creed. The prince and pauper join each other freely and express their feelings through dance. In early days the dancers used masks of bamboos and gourds and these dances were related with mythological tales of Mahabharata, Ramayana and the life and nature of human beings. Later on masks made of paper mache were used.
The present style of dance is given to its shape by the untiring efforts of Kunwar Bijay Pratap Singhdeo in 1920s. Hence after he is said to be the Father of Modern Saraikela Chhau. Since 1938, Seraikella Chhau dance has added to it's glory by exhibiting the dance to corners of far and near till this date.
The Govt. has given new dimension to the art and culture by establishing state Chhau Dance Centre. The in exhaustive effort of the dancers of Chhau; Seraikela keeps a special position in global world of art.
Our country is predominantly based on religion. People worship different Gods and Goddesses to invoke their blessings to ward off evils. To please the Gods, there was necessity of rejoicing through music and dance in harmony with rituals.
As such the Chhau dance in general and that of Searikela in particular relates this dance with the worship of Lord Shiva in the month of "Chaitra" (Mid April) ushering spring when the hearts of the people are filled with cosmic joy in tune with the "Basant Ritu" the spring.



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