An astounding folk art performance by Purulia Chauu troupe from West Bengal enthrals students at a Madurai college.

Tireless beating up of the Dhol (drum) by a diminutive drummer, Dinesh Bhaokar, and Niranjan Sahashish’s breathtaking performance playing the Shenai and acrobatic body movements wearing colourful masks and flamboyant costumes held the audience spellbound at Thiagarajar College of Engineering Auditorium here on Thursday evening.

It was indeed an event that gave one a taste of India’s own ‘multiculturalism’ when the 16-member-team from Purulia district in West Bengal gave a splendid performance of its traditional folk art of Purulia Chauu, a blend of dance and martial arts, a dance patronised by the landed gentry and royals of the eastern region.

Group head Tarapada Rajak said that Chhau was a dance form mostly associated with the members of Mahato, Kurmi, Bhumija, Deowa, Bhuama, and Dom communities who have sustained this dance form over the years taking it to many parts of the country and thus keeping a long folk tradition alive.

The dance formed an essential part of the Shivarathiri and Durga Puja festivals in West Bengal, but now the dance was no longer restricted to one particular season but had become a regular feature. In the villages, the performance usually started between 9 and 10 at night. “As the night grows and the dance gains momentum, there is an air of excitement all around,” he said.

One of the most popular presentations of the Purulia Chhau Dance is the Mahisasura Mardini. The dance commenced with an invocation to Lord Vinayaka and slowly saw his brother Lord Karthikeya and Lord Shiva join him to give the audience some of the most acrobatic movements which included somersaults at lightning speed.

The synchronisation of dance movements with drum beats was the best part of the performance; the vivid costumes had its deliberate overtures in the colours as one could see the demons attired in dark colours (green and black) and the Gods in saffron (Vinayaka), white (Karthikeya) and Durga (Red). The intricately-designed masks and costumes depicting particular Gods and Goddesses, demons and monsters reminded one about the idols adoring the Pandals during the Durga Puja.

The Mahisasura myth

Mahisasura, the demon with his inherited powers from Lord Brahma, reigns supreme and unleashes terror in earth and heaven and was invincible because of his supreme powers and even gods were not able to kill him.

Oppressed by his tyranny, the Gods pray to Goddess Durga who takes the form of Mahadevi, riding a huge lion ( Simhavauhini) fights a fierce battle with the Asura (who rides a buffalo) before slaying him to death. All these were depicted with a breathtaking performance full of energy by the dancers.

The audience indeed had a visual treat watching the giant lion (actually performed by two men) sway around the stage, the animal oneseis is worth mentioning as both the small lion and giant lion were awe-inspiring.

The mannerisms of lions, like its yawn, and scratching of its hind legs brought applause immediately from the audience. Lord Karthikeya who was dancing separately with his vehicle, the peacock just all of a sudden rode his peacock and both did a combined mid-air twirl and was so delightful to watch the peacock feathers fly in the air.

The event was organised by SPIC MACAY in collaboration with the Thiagarajar College of Engineering. R.M. Keerthana, III year B.Tech. ( IT) student said that it was a visual treat on a very pleasant evening. Her classmate Srinidhi Venkat said that the folk performance depicted the rich and varied cultural heritage of India.

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