The themes behind the Chhau dances have very strong political ties. "Formerly there were 26 (twenty six) Feudatory states in Orissa Province, Sareikala a former 'A' class legendary princely State was one of them, now a District named Sareikala-Kharswan of Jharkhand state is situated to the north of Orissa on the bank of river Kharkai and surrounded by the big hills and rivers have given as much more protection to the former state barely 45 KM from the Iron and Steel city of Jamshedpur." (Chhaudance, 2004)
Singhbhumi, known as the land of the Lion was unconquered and therefore as close to a free state for many centuries. This is most likely the true origin for the principles of the classical style of tribal folk dances. "The Chhau Dance has been nurtured under an atmosphere of independence, undisturbed by outside influences. It represented a ' School ' and the manner in which the Dance forms and the tradition have been preserved, developed and extended is quite unique." (Chhaudance, 2004) Historians believe that the ancient Indian dance was preserved by the Royal family of Seraikella because the dances reflected the soul of their people
The dances are often performed during religious and cultural events. The performances are very often accompanied by other dances that have the sole intention of pleasing God. The worship of Shiva and Shakti (Parvati) is a developed tradition among the Hindus. The people of Seraikela celebrate their annual "Chaitra Parva" or Spring Festival. Worship Ardhanariswara a composite form of God Shiva and Goddess Shakti (half male and half female). (Chhaudance, 2004) the popular Spring Festival lasts approximately four days of Chaitra.
The Chhau Dance is an essential element of the associated rejoining called 'Chhau Festival.' "The whole technique of Chhau Dance has developed and taken shape around the special feature of the mask. The dance will certainly loose its effectiveness, beauty and originality without masks. The mask mirrors the mood of a dance, the body qualifies it." (Chhaudance, 2004)
The basis of Chhau dances in the martial art 'parikhanda' (pari=shield, khanda=sword) is of special interest. In two other regions of the country, namely Manipur in the northeast and Kerala down south, several traditional and classical forms have their basis in the martial art traditions. In spite of high degree of stylization, the movements and body postures in Chhau retain strong martial Character.
The link with parikhanda is so close that all the dance terminology, which in the local Oriya language and not in Sanskrit, is common with the terminology of parikhanda. "The Choreography of dance composition is such that one has to express all the moods of different human sentiments without any opulence of the mudras through limbs alone. The dancers are very particulars about ' Tala ' over which they have full control and mastery. A false step of betal will at once bring forth the ridicule and jeering perhaps of the audience. The importance of the feet in Chhau can therefore be judged. In the traditional form of Chhau Dance the instruments like Mridanga, Flute (Banshi), Mahuri, Sehnai, Changu, Kartal, Jhangal, Dambaru, Dhak, Dhole, Mardal, Gini, Ranveri, Madanveri, Dhumsa, Charchari, Sinha, and Nagra etc. are in use and actually they form a musical choir to lend support to the dancer, who wear tingling bells 80 (Eighty) nos each foot on both the legs to keep the time measure (Tala)." (Chhaudance, 2004)
In conclusion, this paper was a quick information-based report on the Indian culture's Mask Dance. The nation of India has had a long history of dance as a form of communication and expression. It was often the case that dances were more than a fusion of choreographic movements. The dances represented ways for telling tales of historical events, passion, romance as well as treachery and woe. Chhau has become a popular form Indian dance performed by both men and women throughout modern day India. Dance in Indian culture represents more than just a fusion of detailed and non-meaningful movements; it is a system for delivering aspects of the culture to the masses.
Chhaudance. (n.d.). History of Chhau Dance. Retrieved on November 30, 2004, at http://www.chhau.com/homehistory.htm
Kamat. (n.d.). Masked Chhau Folk Dancer from West Bengal. Retrieved on November 30, 2004, at http://www.kamat.com/kalranga/dances/4595.htm