Danced their way to the UNESCO’s Cultural Heritage List.
Some traditions come and go, but a few stay forever. Chhau dance is one among them.
Centuries old, it’s a tradition, passed down from one generation to another, that brings to life the stories from our epics – the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.
Derived from the Sanskrit word ‘chaya’, meaning shade, Chhau dance involves cloaking the dancers’ faces. Intricately detailed masks and headgear are an integral part of the dance. Despite the faces being masked, emotions like joy, sadness, fear, love, anger, betrayal, vengeance – all are conveyed just through the dancer’s eyes, steps and movements. A testimony of the amazing skills of the dancer.
Along with the fierce martial art movements, the panache with which the dancers move in their elaborate heavy costumes is something to be seen to be believed. The gorgeously vibrant and expressive Chhau masks created by the artisans, the dancers along with the musicians bring the characters to life. It’s only fitting to say that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
The striking thing about Chhau is that it makes the viewer feel a part of the story. You celebrate when the heroes triumph. You shiver when the villains approach.There’s so much energy and vitality in every performance that the person behind the mask is forgotten, it’s the character that takes over and reigns.
There have been hundreds of thousands who have been moved by the Chhau dance, including people across the world. In fact, an Italian, Ileana Citaristi settled in India just to become a Chhau and Odissi dancer.
Chhau dance’s acclaim and fame resulted in it being included in the prestigious Cultural Heritage list of UNESCO.
The vigour, the charisma and the flamboyance of Chhau is one you must experience to truly know and understand the beauty of.
Watch the Chhau dancers perform and be mesmerised.