Dances of India: Chhau

ChhauThe etymological root of the word 'Chhau' is traced to the Sanskrit 'Chhaya' or shade, referring to the mask used by the dancers.

Others aver, it is derived from the word 'Chhauni' where the pharikhanda (shield & sword) soldiers stayed.

The technique of the dance, in fact, draws on steps and gait which have stemmed from the 'Pharikhanda System'.

It is basically a martial dance where the mask holds the dominant Rasa while the body creates, projects, and develops the moods.

Chhau has three schools as such, coming from Seraikella in Bihar, Mayurbhanj in Orissa and Purulia in West Bengal.

While all the three Chhau forms are danced by men, Mayurbhanj uses no masks but the others do.

The themes are based on mythology, everyday life, aspects of nature or just a mood or emotion.

Purulia Chhau, however, has a single focus - good triumphs over evil. The music is based on Hindusthani Ragas and the accompaniment is with a Nagra, a huge kettle drum, Dhol, a cylindrical drum, and Shehiiais or reed pipes.

The strenuous nature of the dance restricts performances to brief periods, but in Purulia Chhau a single item could be for forty minutes and a performance, night-long.

Classical Dances » Bharatnatyam . Kuchipudi . Mohniattam . Kathkali . Odissi . Manipuri . Kathak . Chhau

Classical Music » Hindustani Classic Vocal Music . Carnatic Vocal Music
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