The Gurukul Chhau Dance Sangam from New Delhi was in Hyderabad to perform Mayurbhanj Chhau at the Rangbagh Dance and Music Festival recently. The festival lays emphasis on bringing into prominence the forgotten rituals of temple dance, inviting artistes from all over India to perform classical and folk art forms.
Says Rajesh Sai Babu about the Mayurbhanj Chhau tradition in his family: “My father, Guru Janmejoy Sai Babu, was trained by my grandfather, Sangeet Natak Akademi awardee late Guru Anantcharan Sai Babu from Mayurbhanj. This form of dance has folk, tribal, martial, traditional and classical art based on the Ramayana, Mahabharata and other folklores. The kings of Mayurbhanj, Maharaja Shriram Chandra Bhanjdeo and Pratap Chandra Bhanjdeo had composed a “war-dance” and presented the same in 1912 before King George V. The grammar of Mayurbhanj Chhau comprises six ‘chalis’ or basic steps which include ‘salami’ and 36 ‘uflis’ based on rural household activities mainly by women and the behaviour of animals and birds.”
Ravija Verma is the only female artiste of the team. Ravija had earlier been exposed to Western dance, but she is now a leading exponent of Mayurbhanj Chhau.
“As time goes by, we had to make slight modifications and ensure proper costumes and jewellery for our performances to bring it close to a classical art form.
“This art form helps to have control over mind and body. It can also act as an alternative to a workout session and can help reduce one’s weight by at least five kg,” says Rajesh Sai Babu.
— The writer is a musician, creator of the ‘Jaywant Guitar’ and a freelance photographer