The heavy elaborated costumes, masks and multicolored props with drum beats and wind instrument’s captivating music threw a spell over the audience at The IIS University as artistes from West Bengal performed Purulia Chhau Dance under the banner SPIC MACAY on Tuesday.
Accompanied by 15 artistes, the team was led by Sri Tarapad Rajak enacted the mythological tale of Mahishasura Badh (murder of demon king Mahishasur) in Purulia Chhau, the mask dance.
The dance-drama was centred on the popular myth of Mahishasura Mardini where Goddess Kali slays Mahishasura, the demon king, symbolising the victory of good over evil. The play began with hymns in praise of Lord Ganesha. Few artistes were accompanied by the dhol (drum), Shehnai - wind instrument and the dhamsa (a gigantic kettle drum). The dancers stamped their feet with their knees bent, in typical Chhau style, and subsequently invoked the other deities. The vertical jumps, mid-air twirls and graceful landings, peculiar to Chhau, grabbed audience attention.
The dancers wore elaborate masks and portrayed characters from mythology. Made of peacock feathers and hair, these masks are painted in vibrant blues, oranges and reds. The Chhau dancers do not give much importance to facial expressions. Instead, they emote through exaggerated body movements.
The dancers wore elaborate costumes consisting embroidered velvet jackets and striped baggy trousers. The animal props, Lord Muruga’s peacock, Goddess Kali’s giant lion and Mahishasura’s buffalo were realistic. The music set the mood of the narrative. The dhamsa and the dhol introduced the characters.
It was a visual delight for the audience as Lord Muruga, mounted on the peacock, entered the stage. The excitement shot up, as both the deity and the bird began to perform a combined twirl mid-air. However, the giant lion was the star of the evening. The two men, who wore the costume, coordinated the movements expertly — the lion even yawned, twitched its muscles and scratched its sides. It was delightful and fearsome to watch the lion prance across the stage.
It was soon time for the battle between good and evil. Goddess Kali warred with the buffalo of Mahishasura and the lion raged against the cruel demon king.
The performance culminated with Goddess Kali sinking her trident into Mahishasura’s chest.
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