Famous Santhali Dance
A Treat For Eyes, A Medicine For Soul
Different types of dances have always played an important part in the entertainment life of people. Earlier, like in other states of India, Dancing was not considered a respectable profession and was practiced only by devdasis (temple girls). However with time, dances were accepted as a respected part of society and was taken up as profession by girls form higher class families as well. The dances became an inseparable part of any joyous occasion that took place. The great Rabindranath Tagore did a huge service to society by making the dances an integral part of education system for youngsters. With this, number of institutes that rendered professional training in dances came up in many parts of the state. They teach various classical dances and famous folk dances of India with some also giving ballet lessons. In West Bengal, you will see that dances are more a part of tribal lifestyle. The most famous dance of West Bengal too is a tribal dance called Chhau Dance. Theater has become a strong medium in West Bengal and it is here that one can see dances and dramas on different themes based on society and and its problem.
Chhau Dance is most widely practiced in the Purulia district. Chhau over the years has emerged purely as a mask dance. Earlier, face paint and body paint were used to describe the characters of the dance. The dance is performed mainly by men and has come to be associated with vigor, strength and fast movements. The dance themes are generally taken from mythologies like Mahabharata and Ramayana and revolve around heroics. Chhau is predominantly a night dance. The performances generally start late in the night and continue till early hours of the day. The dance is accompanied by songs and drums. The beating of drums is so prominent in the performance that it single handedly creates an atmosphere of energy. The dance is performed by different groups residing in different parts of the state. You will find subtle differences in their dances. The most famous are the Baghmundi group whose performances are based on themes that are chosen very carefully.
Tusu Parab is th main attraction of Makar Sakranti festival which is an important festival of Bengal. Tusu Purab is a very seasonal dance and is performed only in the month of Pousa which according to Gregorian calendar falls in December-January. Every day during this month young women gather and dance to songs which are called Tusu songs. On the day of Makar Sakranti, people gather around a pond or a river, mostly out of the village. After offering their prayers to Goddess Tusu, people sing and dance on the banks of the river or pond. The dance consists of simple group movements that are accompanied by Tusu songs. There are no instruments used for the songs.
The performances of Jhumar depend a lot on the occasion on which it is being performed. In Chaitra, Jhumar is performed only by men where as during the the time of transplanting paddy, only women perform this dance. The Jhumar performed during this agricultural occasion is called Ashriya Jhumar. The songs sung with Ashriya Jhumar are mainly based on agricultural themes but are sometimes mixed with love songs dedicated to the divine union of Lord Krishna and Radha. During some occasions, men and women perform together though it is not seen very often.
Raibense Dance in one of those dances that are based on martial arts. The dancers for Raibense are trained for long periods before letting them practice it alone. The dance requires strict codes and discipline to be followed to become a successful Raibense dancers. The movements are quite fast and precise. Dancers execute hoping and jumping steps while holding shields, spears, and Trishul in their hands. Sophisticated moves with these weapons are also performed simultaneously. Dancers start in a single file and then disperse into a circular formation.