Purulia - A Blend of Rich Heritage
Purulia, a small district of West Bengal, is a wonder in many ways. Sharing the Chota Nagpur plateau with various parts of few other states, Purulia’s diverse topography with forests, hills, and long stretches of green lands, well compliments its diverse and unique culture which has a rich heritage. The blend of beautiful landscape, the rural simplicity and awe-inspiring artistry of the local tribes makes Purulia distinct from other localities.
It is most famous for its tradition of Chhau Dance. Chhau is a classical dance form, amalgamating dance with martial, tribal and folk tradition. This dance form can be found in three styles, namely: Purulia Chhau of Bengal, Seraikella Chhau of Jharkhand and Mayrbhanj Chhau of Odisha. Enacting mythical stories and excerpts from religious texts is nothing new in Indian culture; and Chhau is one such form, where stories are conveyed through dance and action and hence, the oversized masks and headgears are used. Chhau dance is not only performed in important religious ceremonies such as the gajan festival, sun festival, but also in marriages. With growing tourism business in Purulia, various villas and hotels include Chhau dance in their tourism packages. The locals train themselves in this art since very childhood. At present, with Government initiatives, there are certain schools were trainings are given. Not only the local tribes but people from various corners of the world come here to learn this art. The government is now trying to promote this art form, helping them to grow both economically and culturally.
Another art that is intrinsically associated with Chhau is the art of making masks and head gears. A village called Charida, in Baghmundi block of Purulia, popular amongst the tourists as “Mukhosh Gram” is famous for making masks of various kinds. There are artists in every little house and huts of the village, uniquely talented in making the intrinsic art of making masks and head gears. They sell their crafts in various melas all over the country and even internationally. This art form has taken the shape of a cottage industry and beautifully binds families together. What is worth mentioning is that, these people, local tribes amidst thousands of scarcities and hardships, have learnt to keep themselves happy and engaged through their own art and culture.
A very innovative and eye-catching festival of Purulia is the Tushu festival. It is a folk harvest festival, held on the last day of the Bengali month of Poush. At this time of the year, various local fairs are also organised. Tushu is considered to be a virgin goddess. The local tribes make decorative tajiya like towers which they worship. Men and women of the tribes surround these decorative Tushu and dance and sing along with madal. They have specific tushu songs, a form of tribal local songs, which are sung during the festivals. Tushus are brought in the local fairs during this time of the year and locals celebrate the ceremony and enjoy these one-day fairs in huge numbers. It is amazing to see how these people come in huge number with their family and friends, either by walking or in cycles and two wheelers to enjoy these simple fairs that closes with the setting of the sun, as there are no facilities for electricity. These people, mostly earning daily wages, find utmost joy and happiness in simple local occasions such as these. Their culture, custom and artistry reflect nothing but simplicity and the fragrance of soil.
There are several hardships starting from poverty, lack of proper drinking water, electricity and the list goes on. But the way the people of Purulia continue to live their lives in their own way with big smiles on their faces make us realise how “Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light”.