chauu nritya

Chhau Nritya & The Chaitra Parva

Although it is unknown how the word Chhau came to existence. Some say sanskrit word “chaya” ( means stealth or shadow ), is the mother of this word – some say it was “chadma” (disguise).

Equipped with many forms of dances and telling various stories from Ramayana, Mahabharata to traditional folk stories, this dance form has made a mark in the history and present of the world. Mentioned in UNESCO’s List of “Intangible Cultural Heritage“, this dance has already established itself as one the most important gem in the treasures of art & culture of humanity.

Types of Chhau

Although there are 3 types of Chhau, Mayurbhanj Chhau is different from its siblings (SeraiKella and Purulia Chhau). Unlike other forms of Chhau, Mayurbhanj Chhau dancers do not wear a mask, thereby exposing their vigor to the audience. Also it can be easily noted that this form has much more advanced movements and chiseled vocabulary, making it more frightening at the same time “captivating” to watch.

Chhau nritya
A still from 2017 Chhau Dance

In the early years, Chhau was completely martial and used to show different form of War. In fact – Maharaja Shriram Chandra and Pratap Chandra Bhanjdeo, the builders of modern Orissa composed the famous “War-Dance” and presented it in 1912 at Kolkata in honor of George V – the British emperor, who got amazed by the beauty and splendor of Mayurbhanj Chhau and appreciated it. Presses and elites also showed their love and it became famous.

The stories of Ramayana and Mahabharata were adopted later to the original form which till then used to cover mostly local folklores. The music accompanying the dance has its own style which invigorates the soul.

Some of the dance numbers are Kirat-Arjun, Makhanchor, Keuta-Keutuni, Abhimanyu Badh, Natraj, Mayashabar etc.

Chaitra Parva

Chaitra Parva is a chhau dance festival observed annually by Chhau Nrutya Pratisthan, Mayurbhanj at Chhau Padia, Baripada. It’s a 3-day festival starting from 11th April to 13th April every year.

There are two main association of dancers participate in this festival namely Uttarsahi Sahi and Dakhsin Sahi.

Shiva & Shakti

Apart from these 2 groups, different selected rural dance group (around 15-20 dance group) across the district also participate in this event. 1st-day rural dance groups dances, later other groups performed dance day by day on 12th and 13th April.

Chaitra Parva is not just a festival. It is an emotional bond as it focuses on the artistic culture of Chhau dance. The dance form is acclaimed for its composition of various elements which have enriched the tradition of Mayurbhanj. This dance form follows the basic principles of Natya Sastra or Bharat Muni and Abhinaya Darpna. Organized by the two associations and Chhau lovers, the festival also aims at promoting tourism and tribal art and dance forms. The festival is dedicated to Shiva and Shakti.

Project Chhauni

In the year 2016, the District Administration Mayurbhanj headed by Sri Rajesh Prabhakar Patil (IAS), Collector, Mayurbhanj considered to initiate a movement to reestablish the lost glory of Mayurbhanj Chhau, bring it back to its pinnacle performing stage and provide the artistes their proper due, so that Mayurbhanj Chhau will not go
into extinction in its own land and the people involved in it will regain their interest to take up this art form professionally.
Coincidentally, A workshop presentation in the same line was delivered by a Mayurbhanj Chhau Artiste Subhasree Mukherjee, on the eve of Chaitra Parba, 2016, the annual Chhau festival of Mayurbhanj. And simultaneously a project was developed by
her named “Project Chhauni” for the development of the art and artistes of Mayurbhanj Chhau.
Project Chhauni was launched on 19th May 2016, at DRDA Conference Hall Baripada

Because of efforts of Project Chhauni, Chhau dance has got international attention and many dancers from outside India, continue to come and learn it. Many notable modern dances where aggressive movements are needed, are often inspired by various form of this dance.

A leading professional female dancer of the tradition today, Carolina Prada performed in the famed Uttar Sahi Chhau troupe of Mayurbhyanj in the 135-year-old prestigious Chaitra Parva hosted in Baripada.

Stills from Chaitra Parva 2021

Picture credits : Bijendra Kumar Giri via UNFORGETTABLE BARIPADA