Chau dance is a vibrant, colourful and vigorous form of dance drama emerging from martial practice. Chau dance was inscribed in the UNESCO Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2010. The stories enacted by Chau dancers were mainly sourced from the epics of Ramayan and Mahabharata. The dancers wear ornate and elaborate masks made of clay and paper mache. Around 308 craftspersons in 115 families at Charida village in Purulia is engaged in making Chau masks which are also collected as home decor items. Rhythmic drum beatings, powerful acrobatic movements and somersaults are characteristics of the Purulia Chau dance. Chau performance in the villages of Purulia start at late night and goes on for hours, however, teams are nowadays staging shows of shorter duration for the urban audience. Physical twists and turns and acrobatics are essential part of Chau that attracts audience. The traditional musical instruments include Dhol, Dhamsa, Charchari, Tikra and Nagra, Mahuri, Sanai and flute. The plays are performed in open areas. Chau dance portrays triumph of good over evil. The stories are based on the mythological tales that propagates moral and ethical values. At present, there are around 450 Chau groups in Purulia where 13,000 artists are practising this folk dance. Among them, total 1973 artists from Purulia are covered under the Rural Craft and Cultural Hub initiative supported by Department of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises and Textiles (MSME&T), Government of West Bengal, in collaboration with UNESCO to develop vibrant creative sectors by safeguarding and professionalizing the traditional skills into viable enterprises and ensuring socio-economic inclusion of the poor.
Colourful and ornate masks beautifully express the characters and add grace to this traditional dance. The masks are made of clay and paper mache. Craftspersons living at Charida village in Purulia make these masks.
Traditional musical instruments include Dhol, Dhamsa, Charchari, Tikra and Nagra, Mahuri, Sanai and flute.
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