The Best Folk Dance of India Is Great Chhau

Chhou Nach or Chho Nach or Chha Nach is an Indian tribal war dance. This dance is popular in the Indian states of West Bengal, Jharkhand and Odisha. The origin of Chhou dance is Purulia district of West Bengal. There are three subcategories of Chhou dance according to the place of origin and development. Namely – Purulia Chhow, Saraikella Chhow and Mayurbhanj Chhow.

Dance :

Saraikella Chow originates from Saraikella, the headquarters of Saraikella Kharswa district in the present state of Jharkhand. Purulia Chow originates from Purulia district of West Bengal and Mayurbhanj Chow originates from Mayurbhanj district of Odisha.

The main difference between these three subclasses is seen in the use of masks. While masks are used in Saraikella and Purulia chows, Mayurbhanj chows do not.

Naming controversy: The Best Folk Dance of India Is Great Chhau

Chou dance event in Purulia

Different people have different opinions about the naming of Chou dance. According to Dr. Pashupati Prasad Mahato and Dr. Sudhir Karan the name of this dance is Cho, and according to Vibhutibhushan Dasgupta and Dr. Bankimchandra Mahato the name of this dance is Ch.

Dr. Ashutosh Bhattacharya, Rabindra Professor of Calcutta University, first called it Chhau dance instead of Chha or Chho dance, and after arranging for the dance to be exhibited abroad, the dance became popular as Chhau dance.


According to Rajeshwar Mitra, the Chhou dance originated from the Cham dance of Tibetan culture. According to Dr. Sukumar Sen, the dance was named Chhou from the Shauvik or mask.

Many believe that the dance got its name from chhua or boy in Kurmali, as chhua is mainly a boy’s dance. According to Dr. Sudhir Karan, the word चु-उ means deception and association.

Some modern researchers think that the word चु is derived from the Sanskrit चाय. But Sitakantha Mahapatra thinks that the word comes from the word chawni.

Purulia Chhow : The Best Folk Dance of India Is Great Chhau

Purulia Chhow is a form of Chow dance practiced in West Bengal’s Purulia district and Jhargram sub-division of West Medinipur district. This genre has some distinctive features.

The beauty and grandeur of Purulia Chhow has brought it international fame. Chhow dance was the theme of the West Bengal state tableau in the Republic Day parade held in New Delhi in 1995.

Chhou is basically a festival dance. Two distinct styles of Bandoan and Baghmundi can be observed in Chhow dance of Purulia. In Bandoan dances the palas are solemn and in Bagmundi dances the palas are heroic.

The main patrons of Chhow dance in the district were Kurmi and Bhumij Mundas. Later in this dance people from Kumhar, Sahis, Rajwar and other communities participated as dancers and people from Dom community as musicians.

Evolution : The Best Folk Dance of India Is Great Chhau

Since there is no mention of Chou dance in Coupland’s District Gazetteer Manbhum in 1911 AD, many believe that Chou dance originated after 1911.

According to Manbhoom researcher Dilip Kumar Goswami, Shiva’s dance with ink on his face or face or mask is considered to be the original form of Chou dance. Then came the single chou or ‘Ae Koida Cho’ dance with a simple mask.

This Koira Cho dance was followed by the ‘Alap Cho’ or ‘Mel Cho’ dance, where two or four dancers danced without masks. Apart from this, the dancers of the noble houses wear stylish costumes and perform a type of dance called ‘Babu Cho’. In this dance a small jhumor song called Dhua is sung. In the 1930s, ‘Pala Cho’ dance was created.

Dance time : The Best Folk Dance of India Is Great Chhau

Chou artists practice throughout the Chaitra month. Chou Nach is danced from the day of Chaitra Sankranti till the Rahin Utsav held on the thirteenth day of Baisakh month and Jaishtha month. Chou dance is held in Purulia district on the occasion of Lord Shiva’s Gajan.


Chou dance is thematically epic. This dance depicts various epics from Ramayana and Mahabharata. Sometimes other mythological stories are also enacted.

The main essence of Chou dance is Vir and Rudra. At the end of the dance, the suppression of evil and the triumph of religion are shown. In rural areas this dance is not performed on a stage; Asar sits in the open field, people gather around to watch the dance.

However, in urban areas, Chou dance is usually performed on stage. The dance begins with the music of Dhaka. A singer then offers Ganesh’s salutations. When the song ends, the musicians create a dance atmosphere by playing the instruments.

First the graceful dancer of Ganesha started dancing. Then other gods, demons, animal and bird-dressed dancers enter the dance hall. At the beginning of each scene, Jhumur explains the content of the turn through songs.

In Chow dance, the mask does not reflect the facial expression, so the artist expresses the character through the vibration and contraction-expansion of the limbs.

Dr. Ashutosh Bhattacharya Chhau divides the body movements in dance into five parts: head movement, skandha movement, chest movement, leaps and steps. Movement of hands and feet to the rhythm of music is called movement.

Chhou dance has different types of moves like devachal, birchal, rakshaschal, pashuchal etc. Rice is divided into Dega, Fandi, Udamalat, Ulfa, Banhi Malka, Mati Dalkha etc.

The mask : The Best Folk Dance of India Is Great Chhau

Masks and musical instruments used in Chou dance

Forty Sutradhar families of Charida village of Baghmundi police station in Purulia district and five families of Dumurdi village of Jaipur police station make chou dance masks.

Besides, these masks are also made in Gengara, Dimdiha and Kalidasdihi villages of Purulia Mofswal police station, Jambad village of Puncha police station and Konapara village of Kenda police station.

To make the mask, first make a mold on a piece of wood with river clay and leave it in the sun for 15 to 20 minutes.Mold nose, mouth, eyes are made. The cloth is then covered with ashes and the ashes are sprinkled over the mask, making it easier to separate the mask from the mold later.

After that, flour and mulberry are mixed with water to make a paste and three to four layers of paper are applied to the mask mold. After a day, when the layers of paper are dry, apply eight to ten layers of paper.

Clay soil is moistened with water and left for eight to ten days, which is called kabij. Then eight to ten layers of cotton cloth are applied to the kabij and dried in the sun.

The nose, face, eyes, ears of the mask are polished and left in the sun and after two days the mask shape and the clay mold are separated. After that, cut the paper and cloth of the edge of the mask and wrap it inside and dry the mask upside down for two to two and a half hours in the sun.

After that tamarind seeds are boiled and peeled and soaked overnight to make a paste and clay is mixed with it and applied repeatedly on the mask to whiten the color of the mask. After that different colors are applied to different figures and different parts of the mask are painted and finally the eyeballs are finished.

Then the work on the structure of the mask is started. First, the outer structure is made with wire and the decoration of the structure is completed by applying beads, garlands, kanpasha, kalga, feathers etc.

When the mask is made, an iron rod is heated to make the eyeholes and two holes are made next to the ears and ropes are tied to them, with which the dancer can fasten the mask to the face. The mask is then polished with a mixture of soap, dried in the sun and varnished.

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↑ Jump up to: a b Claus, Peter J. (2003). South Asian folklore: an encyclopedia. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 0415939194. Unknown parameter |coauthors= is ignored (using |author= is recommended) (help)

↑ “Famous Folk Dances: “Chau””. Purulia district official website. Collection date 2009-03-15.

↑ Dr. Pashupati Prasad Mahato, Land System of Jangalmahal-Radhabhum and Jharikhand, Priya Shilpa Prakash, January 2002

↑ Jump up to: a b Sudhir Kumar Karan, Folklore of Frontier Bengal, First Akashdeep Edition, 2013

↑ Dr. Bankimchandra Mahato, Folklore of Jharkhand, First Vanishilp Shobhan Edition, January, 2000

↑ Rajesvara Mitra, Chatraka, ninth year, fourth issue

↑ Jump up to:a b c Tarundev Bhattacharya, Purulia, Pharma KL Private Limited, 257-B, Bipin Bihari Ganguly Street, Kolkata-12, 2009

↑ “The Chhau”. Seraikela-Kharsawan district official website. Archived from the original on 2009-04-10. Collection date 2009-03-15.

↑ Jump up to: a b c “West Bengal Chhau”. India Line Expeditions. Archived from the original on 2008-02-28. Collection date 2008-03-02.

^ Bhatt, S. C. (2006). Land and people of Indian states and union territories. Gyan Publishing House. ISBN 8178353563. Unknown parameter |coauthors= is ignored (using |author= is recommended) (help)

↑ Barba, Eugenio (1991). A dictionary of theater anthropology: the secret art of the performer. Routledge. ISBN 0415053080. Unknown parameter |coauthors= is ignored (using |author= is recommended) (help)

↑ Mahata, Bankimchandra (1960). Jharkhandar Lokasahitya.

↑ Jump up to:a b c d Dilip Kumar Goswami, Folk Culture of the Frontier, Publisher- Parijat Publications, Vidyasagar Palli, Purulia-723101, First Published – 24th December, 2014

By kalpataru

I'm Dr. Sushil Rudra, residing in Durgapur City West Bengal, India . Studied in The University of Calcutta and did M.A , Ph.D . Also another M.A from Sridhar University. Taught in College and University ( RTU) . Love to write, traveling, singing Rabindrasangeet and social work. Have some books authored by me. Vivekananda and Rabibdranath both are my favourite subject. I have written more than 150 articles in my blog( and now I'm writing in my new " blog.

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