Dance

Drums, masks and colours…

At the Purulia Chhau dance workshop. Photo: S. Siva Saravanan  

From a humble initiative to spread the spirit of Indian tradition and culture to an active organisation that holds at least 4,500 events all across India every year, SPIC MACAY has come a long way. One such event was the Purulia Chhau Dance Workshop held in collaboration with the Department of Music, Avinashilingam Institute for Home Science and Higher Education for Women.

Held at the Thiruchitrambalam auditorium in the college, this show was part of ‘Virasat’, the ongoing festival of folk and classical arts, literature, crafts, theatre, cinema and yoga, organised by SPIC MACAY in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry.

The dance-drama was performed by Sri Tarapada Rajak group from West Bengal. The leader of the group, Tarapada Rajak, narrated the history of the Chhau dance, which has its origins in West Bengal. Chhau is a blend of dance and martial arts.

The dance-drama was centred on the popular myth of Mahishasura Mardini where Goddess Kali slays Mahishasura, the demon king, symbolising the victory of good over evil. The play began with hymns in praise of Lord Ganesha. The singers were accompanied by the dhol (drum) and the dhamsa (a gigantic kettle drum). The dancers stamped their feet with their knees bent, in typical Chhau style, and subsequently invoked the other deities. The vertical jumps, mid-air twirls and graceful landings, peculiar to Chhau, grabbed audience attention.

The dancers wore elaborate masks and portrayed characters from mythology. Made of peacock feathers and hair, these masks are painted in vibrant blues, oranges and reds.The Chhau dancers do not give much importance to facial expressions. Instead, they emote through exaggerated body movements.

The dancers wore elaborate costumes consisting embroidered velvet jackets and striped baggy trousers. The animal props, Lord Muruga’s peacock, Goddess Kali’s giant lion and Mahishasura’s buffalo were realistic. The music set the mood of the narrative. The dhamsa and the dhol introduced the characters.

It was a visual delight for the audience as Lord Muruga, mounted on the peacock, entered the stage. The excitement shot up, as both the deity and the bird began to perform a combined twirl mid-air. However, the giant lion was the star of the evening. The two men, who wore the costume, coordinated the movements expertly — the lion even yawned, twitched its muscles and scratched its sides. It was delightful and fearsome to watch the lion prance across the stage.

It was soon time for the battle between good and evil. Goddess Kali warred with the buffalo of Mahishasura and the lion raged against the cruel demon king.

The play culminated with Goddess Kali sinking her trident into Mahishasura’s chest.

Chinmaya Arjun Raja, the state coordinator of SPIC MACAY, wanted more educational institutions to take up an active role in reviving traditional and folk forms of art. “Schools are a great place to begin. Here, you can catch children’s attention without the onslaught of television or the Internet. Also, teachers play a very important role in initiating this generation into India’s rich cultural past,” he said.

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Printable version | Feb 26, 2021 1:20:16 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/dance/drums-masks-and-colours/article3686862.ece

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