Dances from Bihar can be divided into tribal such as ‘Munda’, ‘Santhal’, ‘Oraon’, ‘Kharia’ and ‘Ho’ and non-tribal like ‘Bhojpuri’, ‘Majhi’ and ‘Maithili’. The themes of these dances generally centre on agricultural or hunting occupations or religious subjects. The most important dances are ‘Chhau’, ‘Karma’, ‘Jatra’ and ‘Paika’.
The Chhau dance is indigenous to the eastern part of India, especially Bihar. It originated in the 18th and 19th centuries as a martial art form incorporating certain basic steps of the ‘Pharikhanda’ system of exercise. Chhau is generally performed with the onset of the month of ‘Chaitra Parva’. It got its name from ‘chhau’ or mask, which is an essential feature of this dance form. The depiction of birds and animals is a distinctive feature of Chhau. This has given rise to several sub-forms such as ‘Mayura Nritya’ (Peacock dance), ‘Sagara Nritya’ (Ocean dance) and ‘Sarpa Nritya’ (serpent dance). There are three main recognized styles of Chhau: ‘Seraikella’, ‘Purulia’ and ‘Mayurbhanj’. In the contemporary times, the Mayurbhanj Chhau is increasingly being choreographed to modern dance.
Jadur is performed by the ‘Oraon’ tribe.
Jata Jatin is performed in moonlight by the ‘Mithila’ women.
Karama is performed by the ‘Kol’ tribe during rainy seasons.
The ‘Paika’ is a stylized presentation of war dance performed by the ‘Munda’ and ‘Oraon’ tribes. It is also performed as a festive dance during festive occasions.
Sarbul or Sarhul is a summer dance of the ‘Oraon’ tribe.