from Bihar can be divided into tribal (‘Munda’,
and non-tribal (‘Bhojpuri’,
themes of these dances generally centre on agricultural or
hunting occupations or religious subjects. The most
important dances are ‘Chhau’,
‘Jatra’ and ‘Paika’.
The Chhau dance is indigenous to the eastern part of
India, especially Bihar and originated in the 18th
and 19th centuries as a martial art form. Chhau
is generally performed with the onset of the month of ‘Chaitra
which comes about the middle of April every year. The Chhau
dance got its name from ‘chhau’ or mask, which is an essential feature of this dance form. The
techniques of Chhau dance incorporated certain basic steps,
which seem to have stemmed from the ‘Pharikhanda’
system of exercise, which has been an important part of the
training of the ‘Sipahis’
or ‘Pharikhanda’. The
depiction of birds and animals is a distinctive feature of
Chhau. This has given rise to several sub-forms such as ‘Mayura
(Peacock dance), ‘Sagara
Nritya’ (Ocean dance) and ‘Sarpa
(serpent dance). There are also heroic dances using swords,
bows or shields, with which the dancers demonstrate their
dexterity. The drums,
nagra and dhol, and shehnai provide the main musical
accompaniment to the Chhau dance. The tunes are based mainly
on the ragas of the Hindustani music. There are three main
recognized styles of Chhau: ‘Seraikella’, ‘Purulia’
Masks are not worn in
the Mayurbhanj Chhau. In the contemporary times, the
Mayurbhanj Chhau is increasingly being choreographed to
It is performed by the ‘Oraon’ tribe.
It is performed in moonlight by the ‘Mithila’ women.
It is performed by the boys and girls of the ‘Kol’
tribe during rainy seasons.
‘Paika’ is a stylized presentation of war dance performed by
the ‘Munda’ and ‘Oraon’ communities of Bihar (and
Jharkhand). It is also performed as a festive dance during
weddings and the Dussehra days. This dance is performed by the males along with traditional weapons like
the shield and the sword.