The Decadence of Tradition

The City Of Joy has many hidden treasures which are rarely explored in the fever of modernism which has broken over the entire world. These traditional art forms are  famous only in rural Bengal. In fact this is the only method of survival and occupation , these families have been involved in for generations and thus till today their daily bread is earned through such art forms.Though many are found all over Bengal, I would be highlighting only five such decaying folk forms.

5# Chau Dance is a popular folk dance in Orissa , Jharkhand and West Bengal . Mostly seen in Purulia it is performed by the tribal communities of Munda, Bhol, Sahoo to name a few. This folk art has three different components – music provided by the Mukhis, Kalindis etc; masks made by ace artisans of the Sutradhar,Maharanas or the Mohapatra clan and the dancers. Chau dance itself has variations depending on its origin- Purulia chau, Mayurbhanj chau and Seraikella Chau. Interestingly Mayurbhanj chau is the only folk form which does not make use of any masks. The dance itself is a blend of martial arts and traditional dance steps.In 2010 Chau dance was honoured by UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible cultural Heritage of Humanity. Special measures have been taken by the Government of Orissa to look into the preservation of this art form. But sadly in Bengal, it is a dying art.

4#  Bhawaiya is a traditional music form popular in Jalpaiguri, Cooch Behar, Darjeeling and North Bangladesh. These places came under the state of Kamtapur in older days . Hence, the Kamptapuri language is also used while singing the songs. The biggest performers of this art were those associated with the Rajbari of Kamtapur. However , today, these songs have spread to all communities living in the area. In fact many Bhawaiya songs have been adapted in Bengali cinema. The music in this folk form reflects a typical tone of natural, environmental, ethnic phonetic and topographical influence.

3#  Alkap is one of the primitive ways of mass communication. It was originally used to raise awareness regarding social issues and taboos. But today the original form of Alkap which included men dressing up as women, musicians singing songs and sexual connotations , is becoming extinct. It is replaced by Bengali film songs and women taking part in this form of performing art. The participants are divided to put forward arguments in support and against the social cause to communicate it to the people. However due to lack of interest and finance this art is rarely seen today.
2#  Gombhira which originated in the Nawabganj region is a another folk form of increasing social awareness through music and songs. It is distinct as it is performed by two males playing the role of a son and his maternal grandfather . Sometimes this art is also accompanied by masked dancers who enact the verses in the song.
1#  Bhatiali are traditional boat songs which fishermen and boatmen sing while they are on their journey in the river. Bhatiali mostly deals with descriptions of Nature from those who are living in close harmony with nature. Influence of this form of music is found on the ghats of Brahmaputra in West Bengal and Bangladesh.

These forms of art are becoming rare and extinct in contemporary times . Probably the instruments and technologies of modernism is to be blamed for this. With people remaining glued to television and cell phones, they neither have the time nor the interest to spare a thought about traditional art. There are a few heritage fairs in the city where performers from all parts of the State come in to showcase their talents; however, they have less audience and also the number of traditional groups that come in are decreasing year after year.The good news is many theatre groups, NGOs and private organisations are trying to revive these traditional art forms. It is a venture which I personally support and encourage everyone to support for tradition is a guide for a better future.
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