Chau dance is a famous folk dance performed by the tribals of Purulia. It belongs to a genre of martial dance. A chau dancer wears colorful masks and these ‘Chau Masks’ are masterpieces created by the skilled artisans of Charida Village. Snuggled in a corner Charida is quaint little village and is an arty nook worth visiting in Purulia.
Purulia is culturally the richest district in West Bengal. The Chau dance still remains the main attraction of the Spring Festival also known as the Chaitra Porob held here. Though the festival lasts for about 13 days the tribal dancers practice it throughout the year. Chau dancers mostly come from the families of traditional artists and local communities. A lot of physical strength and agility is required for this form of dancing. Dancers are trained in this form from a very young age.
Chau dance is an inseparable part of the rites and rituals in this part of Bengal. Subject of Chau dance has changed with time. Earlier it used to be mythological stories from the Ramayana but today the dances are based on themes like the Santhal revolt or the Kargil war. It is generally performed at night in an open space colloquially known as ‘akhadas’. Traditional musical instruments like ‘mohuri’ and ‘shehnai’ are generally used during this performance. This folk art form enjoys a global audience.
This genre of dance is famous for colorful dress and the mask. Some of the villages in Purulia district are fully dedicated to this dance form and they earn their livelihood from doing this. Charida is a village of artisans who for generations have been engaged in the making of Chau mask. They are called sutradhars or wood carvers by caste. Surprisingly, these artisans know their Gods and Goddesses and their stories by heart. About 250 artisan families in Charida are involved in this art of mask making. It requires deft hands to create these large masks that are not only used for dance but have demand as collectibles. A full-size mask may cost something about Rs.3000-3,500.
The craft village of Charida is located in the foothills of Ayodhya it is 5 kilometers from Bagmundih and 29 kilometers from Balarampur. The nearest railway station is Balarampur which is just 16 kilometers from Charida. From Kolkata you can reach Purulia town by train, bus or car and then to Bagmundih or Balrampur from where you can plan your visit to Charida to experience and see the artisans at work.
Charida is a small village and as such has no accommodation for travelers. You have to either stay in Balarampur which has two or three decent hotels or book the government guest houses or the forest rest house in Ayodhya Hills.