Chhau Nach – A Traditional Folk Dance in Eastern India

Chhau Nach or Chhau Dance is an old traditional folk dance, prevalent in the eastern part of India. I had the privilege of witnessing the dance multiple times in my life. My childhood was spent in a small town yet it rightly upheld the customary spirit and historical heritage of ancient India. Watching the folk songs and dances with my parents are memories I can never forget. Chhau Nach was inevitably one of them. Before the lockdown and pandemic had set in, I was fortunate to witness the dance again with my son and hubby. My son as astonished to watch the dance, filled with vibrant energy and acrobatic moves.

The Essence of Chhau Nach

Chhau Nach is majorly popular in the states of West Bengal, Jharkhand and Odisha; all being in the eastern part of the country. It is termed differently in the 3 regions; In West Bengal, the dance form is known as Purulia, in Jharkhand it is Seraikella Chhau and in Odisha, the name is Mayurbhanj Chhau. The dances are performed by the male folks who enact both the roles of a man, woman and even animals and birds. Tales from Hindu mythology form an integral part of the Chhau dance. It is mostly performed in rural areas but now increasingly popular in the urban and metro cities too. In the earlier days, the dance was performed only on a particular month in the Hindu calendar; Chaitra equivalent to the confluence of the months of March and April as per the English Calendar.

The Outfits

The dancers wear brightly coloured dresses and headgears or masks resembling the characters portrayed through their acts. If you want to learn more about mask making and the village in the Purulia district of West Bengal; then you must read my earlier article on Charida Village. It is amazing to watch the masks being carved to show resemblance to the Gods, Goddesses, kings, queens, animals and birds. In Odisha, the mask is not very popular as that of Jharkhand and West Bengal. The colours of the outfits attract the audience, the jewellery and the ornaments are a treat to the eyes. The masks showcase the immense talent of the craftsmen, curating them with intricate designs.

The Performance

The dancers move at a fast pace, demonstrating rapid movements and acrobatic skills. Somersaults, jumps, agile moves are a part of the dance form. The entire duration of the dance is filled with vibrant energy and loud music. Different types of drums, reed pipes and shehnai or the clarinet are the traditional folk musical instruments that accompany the dancers. Few narrations are made in between to describe the act in tune with the music.

Interesting Facts about Chhau Nach

Chhau Nach is included in UNESCO’s Representative List for the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in the year 2010. The recognition has helped to revive the dying tradition of the dance form and the artists. Nowadays special events are organized in the towns and cities for performing Chhau Nach in front of a huge audience. Events have been organized outside India too; thus spreading its popularity internationally. The amazing part is the vigour and intensity of the dancers performing rhythmically throughout the entire duration of the program. The objective and theme of the dance form are to bring harmony, unity and peace among people with varying social and cultural backgrounds. The tales that are enacted have a moral inbuilt in them, learning for the people watching the shows.

Next time when you visit India, do plan to watch a Chhau dance performance. I bet you will not repent.

Admin and Author

Kuntala

A blogger interested in travelling and exploring new places and sharing ideas with all. Curious about the unique features of a place and its ethereal beauty.

Kuntala

A blogger interested in travelling and exploring new places and sharing ideas with all. Curious about the unique features of a place and its ethereal beauty.

15 thoughts on “Chhau Nach – A Traditional Folk Dance in Eastern India

  • February 23, 2021 at 1:12 am
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    This is great to see and read about. I like it when cultures continue to practice ancient, historic traditions!

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  • February 23, 2021 at 2:37 am
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    That is absolutely amazing! I would love the opportunity to see the Chhau Nach performed in person one day.

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  • February 23, 2021 at 2:43 am
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    Wow that’s so facinating! I’ve never heard of this cultural dance before. The colors and costumes are amazing. Thanks for sharing!

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  • February 23, 2021 at 3:46 am
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    Wow this was so fascinating! I love learning about different cultures and their art forms. Looks so vibrant and colourful. Interesting that there are only male dancers, as like many other cultures. And even more satisfying knowing that they are on the UNESCO Representative List. Very cool!

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  • February 23, 2021 at 9:28 am
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    This is fascinating. I would love to watch the traditional fold dance in person!

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  • February 23, 2021 at 6:00 pm
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    That is such an interesting dance. I always love finding out new things about different cultures. Thanks for sharing the video so we could all see it in action!

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  • February 23, 2021 at 11:44 pm
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    They are looking amazing and quite colorful as well. That is a wonderful traditional folk dance.

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  • February 23, 2021 at 11:58 pm
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    I love watching traditional folk dances! They’re so lovely and interesting to see.

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  • February 24, 2021 at 1:02 am
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    Thanks for this presentation and interesting facts about Chhau Nach, a traditional folk dance. I love the colorful folk costumes, and the video was also interesting to watch.
    Friendly greeting,
    Nina

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  • February 24, 2021 at 4:56 am
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    It is such an interesting dance. I want to see it live and maybe join the fun? Thanks for the photos and video.

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  • February 24, 2021 at 9:30 am
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    This is so beautiful! I loved learning about Chhau Nach ♡. Thank you for sharing photos and videos and such an in depth description ♡

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  • February 24, 2021 at 11:46 am
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    All these outfits and that performance! All of it looks just amazing, I wish to witness it myself someday.

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  • February 25, 2021 at 1:05 am
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    Fantastic read here. I’d definitely love to one day see this dance in person.
    I guess there’s a YouTube version as well? Will check now!

    Reply

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