OOP Digital Desk: Purulia chhau masks, an integral part of the chhau dance form that dates back centuries, is under the threat of survival. Fake masks, mostly used for home decoration, are more in demand. The dance itself has a dearth of true-bred professionals with the present generation not showing much interest to pursue it.
Charida, a quaint village at the foothills of Ayodhya in Purulia, has been a hub for chhau masks for many decades. But with sales dwindling every year, many artisans have shifted to more economically viable trades, like making home decoration masks and clay models. There are now only seven shops in Charida that sell original Purulia chhau masks, compared to 35 selling the fake version.
Charida artisan Bijoy Sutradhar said that making an original chhau mask is an intricate process. It requires more number of workers who make various parts of the mask. Making a home decoration mask is easier and cheaper, and it’s more affordable to the buyers, he added.
Setting up and running a chhau dance group involves huge expenses, said Charida resident Binoy Ray, who has been associated with the folk art form for several years. The number of shows have come down over the years. Many groups were disbanded, because of lack of patrons, he added.
Business for the fake masks is booming, with tourists making a beeline for Ayodhya this year. While normalcy is still a far cry in the Darjeeling hills following the recent large-scale violence, Purulia has turned out to be tourist hotspot.
Rajen Sutradhar, another Charida artisan, admitted that there has been a surge in demand for the dummy masks.