• Chhau Classical dance is a semi classical Indian dance with martial and folk traditions. 
  • Etymologically the word Chhau is derived from Sanskrit “Chhaya” meaning shadow, image or mask.
  • It is found in three styles named after the location where they are performed, i.e. the Purulia Chhau of West Bengal, the Seraikella Chhau of Jharkhand and the Mayurbhanj Chhau of Odisha.
  • 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.
  • Natural themes such as Sarpa Nritya (serpent dance) or Mayur Nritya (peacock dance) are also performed.
Chhau Classical dance
Chhau Classical dance

Features of Chhau Classical dance

  • The Chhau dance is mainly performed during festivals in the region of Jharkhand, West Bengal and Odisha, especially the spring festival of Chaitra Parva and in which the whole community participates. The Purulia Chhau dance is celebrated during the Sun festival.
  • Masks form an integral part of Chhau dance in Purulia and Seraikella styles.
  • The knowledge of dance, music and mask-making is transmitted orally.
  • The dance is performed by male dancers, at night in an open space, called akhada or asar. The dance is rhythmic and set to traditional folk music, played on the reed pipes mohuri and shehnai
  • A variety of drums accompany the music ensemble including the dhol (a cylindrical drum), dhumsa (a large kettle drum) and kharka or chad-chadi. The themes for these dances include local legends, folklore and episodes from the Ramayana and Mahabharata and other abstract themes.
  • The female dance elements in Chhau introduced the aspects of Lasya Bhava from the Natya Shastra that brought elegance, sensuality, and beauty in the dance form, whereas, the virile male dance movement is attributed to the Shiva’s tandava style of dance. 

Chhau Classical dance Recognition

  • The popular Hindi film Barfi  has several scenes that features the Purulia Chhau in it.
  • In 2010 the Chhau dance was inscribed in the UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

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