Chaitra Parva Chhau Festival is celebrated every year before the Maha Visubha Sankranti Day which generally falls on the 13th or 14th of April.
The festival is observed by the descendants of Bhuiyan tribe in different parts of Orissa. This is the main festival of Baripada, headquarter of Mayurbhanj district.
It is also celebrated grandly in the Koraput, headquarter of Koraput district. The three days long festival is a package of complete entertainment that involves singing, dancing, dance dramas, hunting and splendid feasts. The main attraction of the festival is the local dance, Mayurbhanj Chhau.
Legend behind the Parva Chhau Festival
Previously, the Chhau dance was performed in the Parva Chhau festival to celebrate the successful harvest during spring time. Since its inception, the festival followed ceremonies related to Saiva (Shiva’s followers) wing of Hindu religion.
Maharaja Krushna Chandra Bhanj Deo of Mayurbhanj was a great devotee of Lord Shiva. According to the mythology, Lord Shiva used to pray for betterment of mankind during this time of the year. Maharaja Krushna, to pay tribute to Shiva, started this festival in late 19th century.
Customs and traditions of Parva Chhau Festival
The festival starts with a religious fervor, which fades away gradually as the focus shifts from the Saiva rituals to the traditional form of art that is Chhau. People of various parts of Orissa worship Lord Shiva and make sacrifices of birds and animals in the beginning of the festival.
Mayurbhanj Chhau is then performed in solo or group performances by various well-know troupes during the latter half of the day. Enthusiasts from all over the globe gather in Baripada and Koraput during the festival to get the ethnic flavor of the age old festive traditions. Tourists also take a quick trip of Orissa in the meanwhile through its exotic beaches and historical temples.
The dancers worship Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, famous for Tandava and Lasya dance forms respectively, before going for the stage show.
What is Mayurbhanj Chhau?
Chhau is a traditional folk dance form that is popular in parts of Orissa, Bihar and West Bengal for ages. Mayurbhanj Chhau (Orissa), Purulia Chhau (WB), and Seraikella Chhau (Bihar) are the three major types of Chhau which are named after their birth place.
The word Chhau in Advasi language means chhaya (shadow), thus dance form suggests playing with the shadow. This dance form is a concoction of folk dance, classical dance, martial arts and drama.
Performers wear vibrant costumes and play mythical characters or historical characters. The major difference between Mayurbhanj Chhau and the other two types of Chhau is that in the latter two the dancers wear huge masks while performing. In Mayurbhanj Chhau facial expression is an essential part of the dance form. Some of the popular shows of Mayurbhanj Chhau are satires targeting the Oriya Paikas (Warriors) of 18th-19th centuries. They also perform on segments from Ramayana and Mahabharata.
Mayurbhanj Chhau follows the basic theory of the Bharat Muni’s Natyashastra of Bharat Muni and Nandikeswara’s Abhinaya Darpana.
Cultural Importance of Parva Chhau Festival
The Chhau dance of Orissa that is mostly performed during the Chaitra Parva festival is immensely famous in other parts of India and abroad. Popularity of the Parva Chhau festival and Mayurbhanj Chhau dance has transcended the national boundaries.
Several cultural functions are organized in different communities dispersed in all corners of the world to stage the Chhau dance as a commemoration of the festival. Though the festival has a religious essence attached to it, its strong cultural significance eradicates the differences.
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