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Rasa aesthetics of the Purulia Chhau Dance Masks - A conference presentation by Vikrant & Dhvani!

Dr Vikrant Kishore and Dr Dhvani Joshi's presented this paper in the International Conference - Storytelling through Masks on 16th October 2020:

Abstract: Purulia Chhau is a martial dance drama, mainly based on stories derived from Hindu mythological texts like the Ramayana, Mahabharata and Puranas. Also known as the “dance drama of the gods,” it is performed by artists who impersonate mythological characters by wearing elaborate masks and enacting the story in a performance tradition that melds dance, acrobatic routines and martial arts. The masks are specifically designed keeping in mind the rasa (mood/emotion) of the character/s in the story. Utilising the Rasa theory as propounded by Bharata (in Natyashastra), which is deeply embedded in the Hindu/Indian performing art forms, this article explores how Navarasas (the nine aesthetics, emotions, essence or sentiments) in context of the dance have been applied to the design and style of the Chhau masks (Dutta, 2013). Most of the stories in Chhau revolve around war/combat therefore, Vira, Raudra and Bibhatsa rasas dominates the dance form (though the other rasas are also very important part of the Chhau repertoire). Utilising the following dance pieces from the Purulia Chhau repertoire as case studies – 1. Mahisasur Mardini (The Killing of Demon Mahisasur), 2. Kirat Arjuna (The fight between the Tribal Man and the warrior Arjuna) and 3. Parasuramer Matri Hatya (The killing of Parshuram’s mother), we will analyse the predominant rasas present in each of the dance forms, especially in relation to the design and representation of the various masks.

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