Thursday, July 4, 2013

Dance forms of Bengal

Classical

classical dance is a relatively new umbrella term for various codified art forms rooted in Natya, the sacred Hindu musical theatre styles, whose theory can be traced back to the Natya Shastra of Bharata Muni (400 BC).

Among them one of the form is Goudiya Mirtya which is by an large the source of other Eastern Indian Classical Dance form

Gaudiya Nritya


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Gaudiya Nritya is a classical Bengali school of Indian classicaldance Originating in Gaur, West Bengal, the ancient capital of the region, it is an all-pervasive form which eventually gave rise to present-day OdissiManipuri and Kuchipudi and contributed to the development of many classical dance forms.

The classic text on Indian dramaturgy, the Natyashastra of Bharata, mentions the names of no classical dance form recognized today, but in its fourteenth chapter are the four PravrittisDakshinatyaAudramagadhi, Avanti, and Punchali. During British colonial rule, all these traditional forms declined. It was only around the middle of the 20th century that attention came to be drawn to these dance forms, and they were then gradually revived and re-established on the foundation of their traditional heritage.
BharatanatyamKuchipudi and Mohiniattam were evolved from the Pravritti named Dakshinatya. The Audramagadhi represents the dance of Audramagadha: Anga, Banga, North part of Kalinga and Vatsa (Sloka is angabangautkalingavatsachaiva audramagadha). This was then a form that was extended over the eastern region. From this Odissi in OrissaSatriya in Assam and Gaudiya in Bengal. From the Gaudiya Vaishnava school of thought again, has evolved the classical Manipuri i.e. Sankirtana & Raas form of dance. About the two other forms Avanti and Panchali, little is known. The age old Gaudiya Nritya again established with the help of not only the Natyashastra but also the Srihastamuktavali and the Sangeet Damodara by Pandit Shubhankara. It has also found strong references to this dance form in Matanga’s Brihaddeshi, Sangeet Ratnakar of Sarangadeva and regional text material like the Abhinayachandrika by Mahesvara Mahapatra. It has also strong evidences in the temple sculptures as early as the 4th century B.C. right down to as late as the18th century.Many references supporting the existence of dance forms in ancient Bengal are to be found also in literature. In the story on Behula, given in the Manasa Mangal Kavya, we come across an instance of a housewife of the soil of Bengal dancing in the court of Lord Indra, the king of the Gods. In Vijaya Gupta's Manasa Mangal there is a description of Ananda-Tandava dance of Shiva. And the Devadasi tradition existed in Bengal from ancient time in temples, till now as the relic of the past we could see Vaishnavite Sevadasis and Nachnis of western part of Bengal.
During the time of the Pala dynasty we could know from Ramcharita Kavya about the devadasi dancers of Gauda Banga. Padmavati, the wife of poetJayadeva, (12th century A.D.) is also said to have been a classical dancer.[citation needed]

The visual grandeur, which could not be captured in words, was immortalized by sculptures in metal, stone, wood and clay. The unabashed beauty of this glorious dance tradition is conveyed through several sculptural representations found in many of the temples and preserved in the museums of Bengal. However, the temple sculptures and literature have remained a mute, yet irrefutable proof of dance in this part of India, though clay and mud do not stand a test of time usually.



Gaudiya Nritya (or Gauriya Nritya) is one of the classical dances of India.  It originated in the Western Indian state of Bengal.  The word “Gaudiya” itself means old Bengal.  The dance form can trace its roots back to the Natyashatra, in which four Pravrittis are mentioned: Dakshinatya, Audramagadhi, Avanti, and Punchali.  The ancient traditions declined in the centuries leading up to the British Raj in India.
In the 20th century the traditions were revived and Gaudiya Nritya developed from the Audramagadhi tradition.
Traces of the dance form can also be noted in temple sculptures as early as the 4th century B.C.  Similar to other Indian classical dances, Gaudiya Nritya was passed down through the Devadasi system of Gauda Banga, the Vaishnavite Sevadasis, and Nachnis of Western Bengal.
The dance is a unique combination of history, literature, poetry, drama, music, and rhythm.  Gaudiya Nritya has elements of Chhau (heroic dance),Nachni (aspects of Shringara Rasa),Kushan (depicting stories of Lav and Kush from the Ramayana), and Kirtan (devotional aspect).

Gaudiya Nritya is a Bengali school of Indian classical dance. Originating in Gaur, West Bengal, the ancient capital of the region, it is an all-pervasive form which eventually gave rise to present-day Odissi, Manipuri and Kuchipudi and contributed to the development of many classical dance forms.
During the time of the Pala dynasty we could know from Ramcharita Kavya about the devadasi dancers of Gauda Banga. Padmavati, the wife of poet Jayadeva, (12th century A.D.) is also said to have been a classical dancer.
The visual grandeur, which could not be captured in words, was immortalized by sculptures in metal, stone, wood and clay. The unabashed beauty of this glorious dance tradition is conveyed through several sculptural representations found in many of the temples and preserved in the museums of Bengal. However, the temple sculptures and literature have remained a mute, yet irrefutable proof of dance in this part of India, though clay and mud do not stand a test of time usually.
From above substances this dance form has been revived by Prof. Mahua Mukherjee, Head, and Department of dance Rabindra Bharati University. One can study centre of this dance form under Rabindra Bharati University.

Semi Classical Dances


Rabindra Nritya 

The 1920s and 1930s witnessed many dramatic changes in the world of Indian arts and culture, including the birth of an entirely new genre of Indian dance. Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), Asia's first Nobel Laureate, was instrumental in this. The resulting dance form, which was first taught at the liberal arts university that Tagore founded in Santiniketan, is widely acknowledged to be the first 'modern' dance of India. The people of Bengal (the eastern state of India which was Tagore's home state) still refer to the style as 'Rabindra-nritya'.
Tagore encouraged the addition of movements from the numerous folk dances of India where the music was appropriate. While lacking the precision and sophistication of the classical styles, folk dance styles can bring elements of liveliness and communal joy to dance that the classical styles cannot provide. And thus, the new concept of a 'fusion dance' combining the different Indian dance styles was born.
This concept of Indian fusion dance was taken up and carried forward by other maestros of dance such as the Uday Shankar, Manjushree Chaki-Sircar, Shanti Bose, and one of its most recent proponents, Sukalyan Bhattacharya. In keeping with the philosophy based on which the style was initiated, its major proponents have continued to experiment with it, pushing boundaries not only in terms of mixing the different dance-styles, but also in terms of costuming, music and themes.


Folk Dances


The culture of West Bengal is renowned, worldwide, for its richness and variety. The cuisines, music, costumes, language and wonderful dances of the state are important constituents of its rich and varied culture. The folk dance forms of West Bengal are known for their beauty and fervor. The dance encyclopedia of this rich culture includes a wide variety within itself. Each region of the state has something different to exhibit. Altogether, it forms a wonderful combination of varied dance forms. Here, we will provide you information on the six most popular dance forms of West Bengal.



The folk dance/theater of Gambhira originated among the Hindu community of Maldah in West Bengal. After Partition of IndiaChapai Nawabganj in Rajshahi became the main center of Gambhira. With time, Gambhira has undergone many changes in terms of theme and style of its presentation. Muslims also became the custodian of the dance, and thereby it became an integral part of their culture. May be for that reason the dancer now wears the Lungi. Gambhira comprises a few characters with dialogues in an atmosphere of music, its themes now being contemporary social problems, fakeness and selfishness of people and so on.
ambhira Dance is a special type of folk dance that is popular in North Bengal, especially in Malda district. It is a solo performance with wearing a mask. At times, it is also performed in duet or in-group, depending upon the number of participants. The characters of the dance represent Puranic deities like Shiva, Parvati, Kali, etc. A big drum known as `dhak` serves as a supporting instrument for music. 

Gambhira songs are assumed to have originated from the worship of the god Shiva. God Shiva is also known as `Gambhir` so the dance is termed according to that. In ancient times, Gambhira used to be celebrated as Puja, a form of worship only. But in the medieval period, most Hindu communities started celebrating the Puja of `Dharma thakur` (a popular god of the Hindus) on the last three days of the Bengali year. This came to be known as the `gajan of Shiva` later on. In the past, Shiva was imagined to be present at the time of actual performance. 

Scholars believe that Gambhira was of two kinds: the primary Gambhira and the narrative Gambhira. The primary Gambhira would throws light on gods and goddesses and describes human joys and sorrows. And sometimes, important events of the year also. In the narrative Gambhira, every character would represent a social problem through their acting. 

At present, the main characters in the Gambhira are a maternal grandfather and his grandson. The performance is usually structured as a dialogue between them, interspersed with songs for fluent flow. Both prose and verse kinds of dialogues are used. The Gambhira reflects contemporary social problems through witty dialogues, songs, dances and jokes. Sometimes it also reflects a generation contradiction in opinions & choices. 

The costumes for this performance are very simple. Both of performers wear lungi. The gray-bearded grandfather wears a mathal i.e.straw hat on his head and holds a stick in his hand. Whereas, the grandson wears a torn jersey and has a gamchha, a local checked towel that is tied round his waist. 

It takes place during Chadak festival in the month of March-April. The big drum Dhak is primarily used as the principal accompanying instrument and the song, sung in eulogy of Lord Shiva, produces an effect of heavenly atmosphere. Tunes are loud and coarse having no variations gives an added glory to its form. 

The main story of this Bengali dance form is 'how Shiva calms down angry Kali after killing Asura. It is more prevalent in Howrah. Before the coronation of Shiva on Neelpuja Day (Chaitra Sankranti), the performance of this dance is a must. The green leaves of water hyacinth is used to make the hair of Kali and the black ash of Ganja to decorate the body. Clay mask is used forMahadeva. Palm leaves reddened with Alta is used as the tongue of Kali. Participants go on fast for the whole day. The dance is being performed for nearly five-hundred years.

Female performers who sing and dance professionally in rural areas, accompanied by male ḍhulkī and nagarā drummers.

Alkap is a rural performance, popular in many places of Bengal, especially in RajshahiMaldah and Murshidabad districts, and the Rajmahal Hills in the state of Jharkhand. This is associated with the Gajan Festival of Shiva around the middle of April. The beginning of this form was in the late nineteenth century. It has no written script, but scenarios based on popular love stories, which the actors elaborate with extreme dialogues, breaking up for songs, dances and comic or satirical sketches called Kap. It is a composite performance comprising acting, dancing, singing and recitation. Each Alkap group consists of ten to twelve dancers, under the leadership of a 'Sorkar' or 'Guru'. The group includes two or three 'Chhokras', one or two lead singers called 'Gayen' or 'Gayok'. Also, there remain 'Dohars', the chorus called 'Gayokdol' and instrumentalists called 'Bajnadars'. Alkap performances take place at night on an open stage.

Domni belongs to Maldah in West Bengal. A Domni performance starts with a Vandana dedicated to God. Then the 'Mool Gayen' (Lead Character/Protagonist) and 'Chhokras' (Supporting Characters) offer devotional prayers. The dance performances of the Chhokras are called 'Nachari' or 'Lachari'. The main characters are the roles of husbands, wives, mothers, greedy moneylenders, peasant- girls and so on. The plays are composed taking extracts from small events of everyday life and are presented in a satirical manner. The musical instruments areHarmoniumDholakKartalFlute and so on. Domni groups are found in Maldah. With change on social life and popular taste/culture, this folk form is becoming extinct.


Brita Dance
The land of West Bengal is famous for its festive culture and adorable art. Music and beats run in the veins of Bengali people. There are several kinds of folk music and dances prevalent in various parts of the state. Amongst the chosen few, the Brita Dance, also known as Vrita Dance, is considered to be very special.


Brita dance is one of the most important traditional kinds of folk dance. Brita is basically an invocation dance performed by women of Bengal, who are unable to give birth to children. Through this dance they are offering worship in thankfulness after their wishes are fulfilled. 

West Bengal is the state that has given us many of our renowned poets, thinkers, artists & has a rich tradition of folk art performance. Brita dance or Vrita dance is one of the most important traditional folk dances of Bengal. Quite often, this dance is performed after a recovery from a contagious disease like small pox, etc. So, the basic purpose of this dance is of thanks giving. 

Only, women members can participate in this dance. The belief is that the children are god`s gift. As one receives His blessings through birth of Child, one must bowed to him. 

Chhau Dance
Chhau Dance is one of the most renowned tribal martial dances of India. The dance is known as Seraikella Chau in Jharkhand, Mayurbhanj Chau in Orissa and Purulia Chhau in West Bengal. Since the dance is supposed to have originated in the Purulia district of Bengal, it is known as such in the state. Purulia Chhau dance differs quite a lot from its counterparts.


Chhau dance is a genre of Indian tribal martial dance which is popular in the states of Orissa, Jharkhand and West Bengal. There are three subgenres of the dance, based on its places of origin and development, Seraikella Chhau, Mayurbhanj Chhau and Purulia Chhau
The subgenre of Chhau performed in Purulia district and Jhargram subdivision of Paschim Medinipur District in West Bengal state, is referred to as the Purulia Chhau. It has a distinctive character of its own. It has received international acclaim and scaled rare heights of beauty and perfection. Essentially a festival dance, Chhau was originally performed on the occasion of the Sun Festival towards the end of the month of Chaitra (March–April). The situation has changed with time, as Chhau is now performed during some other festivals and at other times of year as well.
The Chhau dance is epical in content, and is based on various episodes of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Sometimes certain episodes of the Puranas are also used. The dominant rasas are Vira and Rudra. In the end, generally, forces of evil are vanquished and the righteous triumphs. In the villages, no dais or raised platform is used; the dance takes place on the ground around which, the spectators sit in a circle. When performing outside their villages the dancers often use the stage. The dance, opens with the beating of drums followed by an invocation to Ganesha. by a singer. As soon as the singer finishes the song, host of drummers and musicians step in creates an in inexplicably wonderful environ prior to the dance. Ganesha appears followed in quick succession by other characters —gods, demons, animals and birds

The Chhau dance of West Bengal is originated from Purulia district. It is included in the sophisticated dance performances of Bengal. The Chhau dance is a mask dance in which only male dancers can participate. In the performance of the Chhau, some of the characteristics of primitive ritualistic dance performance are noted. This can be also seen through its vigour, style and musical accompaniment mainly with the drum.

In the early period, various shaped symbols were used as facial painting or body painting by dancers. Thus, they are recognized as personifying the characters they are playing in the performance. And later on, the masks appeared in the dance performances. It is said that, the best Chhau dancers are from Baghmundi P.S. Many groups or parties are located from here for the best performance because of their traditional vigorous and heroic style of performance.

Many other groups like Domordi-group, Birgram-group, Madla-group etc. are also famous for the performance but they are more sophisticated and refined in terms of the themes and dancing styles. The Chorda-group is popular for the best performance is based on the heroic Pauranic themes. Chhau mask dance is predominantly a Bhumij art.

Basically, it is a festival dance, performed on the occasion of the sun festival observed towards the end of the month of Chaitra as per Bengali Calendar. The festival is celebrated for about one-and-a-half months till before the starting of sowing season. This indicates its linkage with the social and economic life of the Bengal farmer & common man. With passing of time, the situation has changed drastically. Chhau is not only performed on this sun festival but also during many other festivals at other times of year.

The artistes from rural areas like Midnapur and Purulia districts have kept alive this traditional dance against every heavy odd. So, the dance has its own identity, making it distinctively different from the Chhau dances that are performed in parts of Serai KelIa of Bizarre and Mayurbnanj of Orissa.

The costumes of the Chhau performers used at the time of its early year performance, over two hundred years ago are not known. But the costumes used in modern period are of various colours and designs. It mainly comprises of pyjamas in deep green or yellow or red shade that is worn by the artistes playing the role of gods, while those, who play the role of demons (asuras) have on loose trousers of a deep black shade. Sometimes, stripes of contrasting colours are used to make the costumes more attractive & different. The costumes for the upper part of the body are full of various designs. A character of Goddess Kali is considered as a popular character in Chhau dance. The costumes for the Kali are made up of cloth of unrelieved black. To express the separate & distinct identity, the characters of animals and birds use suitable type of masks and costumes.

The masks generally used for Chhau of West Bengal are made in a village called Charida in Baghmundi area of Purulia district. These masks are made up from the clay and paper. The groups of people, who make masks, have been engaged in this business from generations. Generally, these artisans are familiar with the details about the Indian epics so that they bear an ability to produce the high artistic skill.

The Chhau dance is mythological, as it is mainly based on various episodes of the epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. Sometimes certain episodes of the Puranas are also used. Two rasas are dominant in the performance are Vira and Rudra. At the end, forces of evil are punished and the righteous triumphs.

No proper dais or raised platform is constructed for its performance. Usually, the dance takes place on the ground where, the spectators can sit in a circle around it. The Chhau dance shows usually start in the night and continues till after daybreak.

The use of the drum is an important part of Chhau performance. With the beating of drums an invocation to God Ganesha is given and the dance begins. As the singer complete the invocation song, host of drummers and musicians starts beating with the Dhol and the Dhamsa. Dhamsa is a two-faced percussion instrument and gigantic kettledrum played with sticks and fingers respectively. These two traditional musical instruments are used by the rural population in various parts of the country for providing music.

As it is compulsory for all the characters in the Chhau dance to wear masks, it is impossible for the artistes to show variations in mood through facial expressions. Therefore, various body movements, including movements of the peaks of the masks are used to illustrate different moods. The mask movements show anger, while shoulder and chest movements indicate joy, melancholy and courage etc. Jumping in the air is another movement, which serves as a gesture of attack during the enactment of a war scene. This kind of jumping known as ulfa is a high hallmark of acrobatic skill and physical prowess of the performers of the dance.

Chhau is considered as the most popular Indian folk dance and said to have originated from some primitive war-hoops. Many experts & scholars feel Chhau had its roots in sympathetic magic, as tribal people performed it in an effort to appease and influence the Sun God.

Though about its origin there exist confusion, it forms an important part of the rich legacy of the folk culture of West Bengal and still it has gained international popularity. The Purulia-school has got a huge popularity today not only because of its gorgeous masks and dresses, but also for its touching themes and dignified gaits as well. Many artistes coming from the rural working class traditionally regard this dance as a part of their rituals. Several teams of Purulia Chhau dancers have performed not only in different parts of India and but also in abroad. 

Santhal Dance/ Santhali Tribal Dance 
Santhal is one of the most abundantly found tribes in India. A major chunk of this tribe can be found in West Bengal and Jharkhand. Santhal tribe has a rich cultural lineage and immense solidarity. Its members are basically the devotees of 'Thakurji', the deity they believe created this world. They move to the beats of music, to celebrate the glory of nature, raise a message and offer prayers.

Santhal is a very popular folk dance performed in the districts of Bankura and Birbhum. It is a group dance performed by Santhal tribes originally from Jharkhand. This dance is performed by the Santhal tribes during all special festivals and occasions. It not only reveals the culture or traditions of the local tribes but also showcases the strength of unity.
The main attraction of the Santhal dance are the colorful costumes worn by the tribal people. The typical garments worn by men during the Santhal are dhoti and a turban but the main attraction is their body decoration with various species of flora. Since the Santhals are believed to be close to nature, they use natural things such as leaves, branches and flowers to do their make-up and design their clothes.


Tusu Dance
West Bengal is a land of rich culture and lots of festivity. Almost every region in the state has a specific folk dance and music attached to it. These folk traditions are basically related to some specific season of festival. The Tusu Dance of Birbhum district is one of them. It is basically performed in the month of Pausa, during the Gregorian months of December and January.


Tusu is a folk dance performed mostly in-group. It is performed by both men and women. This is tribal dance performed during the harvest festival to celebrate the coming Crop. It is popular in Purulia and Medinipur. 

`Makara Sankranti` is an important festival in all parts of Bengal that comes in the month of January. `Makara Sankranti` is celebrated in vigor. The Tusu Parab is held in Birbhum on this occasion. In its performance groups of young girls gather every evening throughout the month of Pousa (December-January) and sings songs. These songs are termed by the generic term Tusu. 

On the day of Makara Sankranti, the groups gather at one place & go to the village to a nearby tank or river with the goddess Tusu symbolized in small clay figurines or sometimes merely as cow-dung balls. After taking a sacred bath, all return to their worship. And make offerings of rice to the deity as a token of respect & love. Different groups meet, sing songs near the riverbank or the pond and compete with each other. This creates an environment of happiness. Simple group movements accompany the songs but there is no other accompaniment for it. 

The men also have their particular songs and dances for the occasion. These are known as the Bhaduriya Saila. The dance is performed in a traditional way. The performance of the dance is more predominant in nature. For example men dance in circles clock-wise and anti-clockwise direction. 

In some parts, it is performed by & for the unmarried girls. For them, Tusu is very excellent with graceful movements and elegance that may fulfil their desire of performance. There is no history behind this festival but there are some ritual customs that are primarily responsible for its performance. It has its tremendous store of songs, which are also full of life and taste. 

The stories and the experiences of livelihood are reflected through these songs. These songs gives spirits for living. Songs are deeply related with nature that one can feel its simple impression in the innocent people of this land.

Lathi Dance
Dance is a unique art of expression. Be it celebration, remorse, anger, love or pain, dance moves can clearly define every expression. Talking about the Lathi dance of West Bengal, performed on Muharram, it confines within itself the feeling of remorse and anger, associated with this Muslim festival. During the first ten days of Muharram, the Lathi players display their art at several places.

Jhumur Dance
The Jhumur dance is one of the liveliest folk dances of Bengal. The dance is performed by girls while the boys play the dhol and madol.
Only Jhumur has a main attraction of music and folk dance. Jhumur has earned a place in the king’s palace. Mainly West Bengal and South-eastern Kings of Purulia, kings of Chilkigarh has placed Jhumur in high esteem. Because of this Jhumur has earned a special Gharana. 

Nepali Folk Dance
The Nepalese in Darjeeling are rich in folk culture. The hills and dales are the treasure house of songs and dances of the hill folk. There is not a moment in their lives, possessed as they are of a lyrical mind and heart that does not turn into singing and dancing.
The panorama of the Majestic Himalayan mountains, its lush green hills and forests seem to have played a significant role in influencing the religion and culture including the folk songs and dances of the Nepalese people, inhabiting in and around the Himalayan regions with its serene, romantic and poetic shades of different hues. Even the two major religions. viz., Hinduism and Buddhism seem to have influenced the Nepali culture full of its rich folk songs and dances, co-existing side by side.
The earlier cave paintings, religious rites and temple songs and dances have also played another significant role in influencing Nepalese Folks songs and dances. The earlier form of dances and folk songs attributed to the Gods and goddesses of both the Hindu and Buddhist pantheon, are also inspirational in creating Nepalese folk songs and dances, impressions of religious dances performed either to appease Gods and goddesses or ward-off the evil spirits can also be seen distinctly in performing arts of the Nepalese people.
The following are some of the most popular and worth mentioning forms of Nepali folk dances.
1. Maruni Nach. 2. Dhan Naach. 3. Jhankri Naach. 4. Jatra Naach. 5. Damphu Naach. 6. Khukuri Naach. 7. Deora Naach. 8. Panchay Naach. 9. Dhimay Naach. 10. Sanginy Naach. 11. Balan Naach. 12. Jhyauray Naach. 13. Paschimay Chutki. 14. Rodhighar Naach. 15. Baton Naach. 16. Jhumara Naach. 17. Sakhia Naach.





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