A dying art form that tells the Santhal story

Chadar Badar, an ancient form of puppetry, tells stories of the Santhal way of life, and migration

March 20, 2015 10:29 pm | Updated 10:29 pm IST - Kolkata:

Daman Murmu, a 57-year-old artist who practises Chadar Badar. The artist from West Bengal’s Uttar Dinajpur district says he wants to pass on this artto as many people as he can, but has so far got only one student.

Daman Murmu, a 57-year-old artist who practises Chadar Badar. The artist from West Bengal’s Uttar Dinajpur district says he wants to pass on this artto as many people as he can, but has so far got only one student.

Daman Murmu, one of the few surviving artists who perform Chadar Badar, an ancient form of Santhal puppetry, wants to pass on this art to as many people as he can. However, so far he has got only one student, one of his sons-in-law Tanti Soren.

Carrying a wooden box with puppets hanging in them, the artist tells different stories through movements of the puppets accompanied by songs and hand-made crude musical instruments.

“I have been performing Chadar Badar since 2002. Every morning I carry this box on my bicycle as far as I can in areas surrounding my home and tell different stories,” Mr. Murmu told The Hindu on his recent visit to Kolkata earlier this month.

A resident of Uttar Dinajpur district in north Bengal he got his first taste of Chadar Badar, as a child, from a visitor who came from Dumka in Jharkhand. He learnt more about this from his uncle with whom he stayed for a number of years in Uttar Dinajpur district.

In the next few years Mr. Murmu carved out his own wooden dolls and performed in the adjoining villages. He has been at it for over a decade now, eking out a living from the rice and other food grains which he gets from people after his performances.

Anthropologists say that Chadar Badar reflects the Santhal way of life which has an element of their culture and stories of migration.

“The stories and the songs which accompany the performance keep changing. A close analysis suggests that the stories reflect what they imbibe from societies other than their own,” Kakuli Chakraborty, head of office, Eastern Regional Centre of the Anthropological Survey of India (AnSI) told The Hindu .

The AnSI along with an NGO Sambhav recently felicitated Mr. Murmu at an event in the city.

Sourav Sinha, a representative of Sambhav said that Chadar Badar is a dying form of Santhal puppetry and felicitation of Mr. Murmu is an attempt to give some recognition to it.

Documentary

Meanwhile, filmmaker Palash Das has come up with a documentary on Chadar Badar titled ‘Saga of a Puppet Show.’ The documentary will be screened at AnSI in the next few weeks.

Mr. Das told The Hindu that along with different aspects of the tribal art he has highlighted the life of another artist, Sukan Mardi of Birbhum who has been practising it for the past 18 years. “Chadar Badar, besides being a tribal art form is also an important tool in the tribal community to spread social messages,” he added.

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