- It is a semi classical Indian dance with martial, tribal and folk traditions, with origins in eastern India.
- It is found in three styles named after the location where they are performed, i.e. the Purulia Chau of Bengal, the Seraikella Chau of Jharkhand, and the Mayurbhanj Chau of Odisha.
- The stories enacted by Chhau dancers include those from the Hindu epics the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, the Puranas and other Indian literature
The dancer impersonates a god, animal, bird, hunter, rainbow, night, or flower. He acts out a short theme and performs a series of vignettes at the annual Chaitra Parva festival in April.
In another form of Chhau, practiced in the Mayurbhanj district of Orissa, the actors do not wear masks, but through deliberately stiff and immobile faces they give the illusion of a mask. The style of their dance is vigorous and acrobatic.
Salient features associated with this dance form:
- There are three types of Chhau dance forms: Saraikela, Mayurbhanj and Purulia (West Bengal)
- Chhau is taught to male dancers from families of traditional artists or from local communities
- Its vocabulary of movement includes mock combat techniques, stylized gaits of birds and animals and movements modelled on the chores of village housewives.
- The dancer’s face being expressionless, the chhau dancer’s body communicates the total emotional and psychological tensions of a character.
- The dancer is mute; no song is sung. Only instrumental music accompanies him
- The dance is rhythmic and is set to traditional folk music, played on the reed pipes mohuri and shehnai.
- Chhau dance was inscribed in the UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2010