The Artists Behind the Scenes of Chhau Dance [Day: 03]
My childhood memories in the beautiful town of Puruliya have always attracted me to visit it time and again. This was my first experience when I left the town and headed to explore its beautiful countryside. This trip has recreated my perception of the place and helped me to bond further with its culture and tradition. This post is to adore the incredible people who are trying to endeavour their lost tradition and art.
The wonderful performance of Chhau dance by the native Santhal tribe is the prime attraction of Puruliya as well as the anecdote from my childhood. I have skipped a few of the destinations known to the people in this belt and stretched myself to the offbeat places. My trip would have remained incomplete without exploring one of the inspiring and patronage villages of Baghmundi which gives an insight into Puruliya’s Chhau masks.
Next day, early in the morning I left for Balrampur from Puruliya town. The excitement and the challenges of trekking always rejuvenate me with new energy. This unusual place is very little known even among the locals. Jharnakocha is a small tribal village at a distance of 15km from Balrampur. The village is surrounded by lush green hills followed by a muddy road.
The first challenge I faced was to locate the place but with the help of locals’ guidance, I was able to reach the destination. The dense forest of Sal trees surrounding the area is not easy to trek as you have to make your way from the bushes. After an hour of adventurous trek, I reached the top of the hill. The beautiful panoramic view from the hill will leave behind the exhaustion of trekking.
After spending a few peaceful moments at the top, I moved for the second challenge- in search of the trail to the cave. Though I was not able to get the glimpse of the cave but trekking in the forest and climbing up the hill was real excitement. If you are looking for the cave then I suggest hiring a local villager as your guide would be better.
After a thrilling experience at Jharnakocha and a delicious lunch at the foothills of Ayodha, it was time to move for my last destination in Puruliya which was a small beautiful village name Chorida. Its most important ensemble for the performers brings spectacular Chhau dance to its glory. The large Chhau masks represent the specific mythological characters that are played during the performance.
The charisma and allurement of the dance massively depend on the dramatic detail of the mask. The handwork of the artists of Chorida has been listed in Geographical Identification tag in India. The art of mask making is facing gradual oblivion due to economic pressure and decreasing participation from the grassroots level. But the active zeal of the villagers has kept the tradition still alive.
When I reached here, I was amazed by the radiant and distinguished coloured masks that were hanging on the walls of the houses. I was dazzled by the Chhau dance and its agile and energetic performances. The part of the costume that always grasped my attention was the large masks of the dancers that narrate the story behind its artists’ handiwork. This led me to include this interesting destination on my list.
It is the home for the artists of Chhau mask that devised me with the appreciation of their hard work. More than 200 families of the village are involved in the creation of the masterpiece. Strolling in the streets with the encompassing workshops can comprehend the intricate process of mask making. You can also purchase these masks for decoration.