Lord Skanda-Murugan

Synopsis: "Legends of Karttikeya in Purulia Chhau"

Dr. Malati Agneswaran

See the complete article "Legends of Karttikeya in Purulia Chhau".

Worship in the context of Hindu traditions may be through religious incantations and rituals or through expressions of art forms. A painting on the wall, a drawing on the floor, a song a dance or a dramatic enactment - any of these may be an act of worship. In some cases these art forms are themselves a part of a ritual, or else the mere art expression is an eulogy of a deity and suffices to create a religious feeling in the artistes and the spectators.

Purulia - The Region and the Artistes
Purulia is a district in West Bengal near the border of Bihar. The Chhau dance is performed by the community of Mundas also known as Bhumij in this region.

Performance of Purulia Chhau
A performance of Purulia Chhau lasts the whole night long. The artistes are only men, even for the role of female characters. In Purulia Chhau the message is that good triumphs over evil. The episodes are mainly those of battles. The war is between the gods and asuras as the tales are derived from the epics and the puranas. There are no secular themes or narratives from social contexts in Purulia Chhau. Therefore the martial god Karttikeya is an important character in several of the episodes of Purulia Chhau.

Technique of the Dance
Although the dancers hail from a folk community and have no knowledge of the Natya Shatra of Bharata Muni or of any other texts of classical dances, several of the stances of the body, the movements of the torso and the limbs are representations of the same as laid down in Bharata Natya Shastra. Several of these will be described and demonstrated.

Legends of Karttikeya in Purulia Chhau
The artistes of Purulia Chhau believe in the concept of Karttikeya as has been derived from the Puranas of the Sanskrit tradition. Karttikeya is a martial god and he is born to kill the demon Tarakasura. The demon is vanquished by the six-headed god Skanda.

However, in the region of Purulia the god is known as Karttika Bhagavan. There are legends that are unique to this art form, for there are regional variations always to be found in any traditional narrative. These Karttikeya legends are episodes involving Karttika and his brother Ganesha, Karttika's battle with Mahishasura, although it is his mother Goddess Durga who fially slays the demon, and the battle between Karttika And Shankachuda. There is also a presentation of a dance that summarises the entire narrative of the Karttika legend. A rare narrative is that of Krishna Karttika Yuddha.

Karttikeya is the only deity who is presented in the different stages of his life by different artistes ranging from a small child to a man of great virility. The portrayal of Karttika is a cherished honour for the artistes.

There are no special temples for the worship of Karttikeya in this region, nor are there any major festivals for the deity. And yet, Karttika is a special character portrayed in Purulia Chhau. This illustrates the concept of worship underlying the faith of the artistes and audiences of Purulia Chhau.

See the complete article "Legends of Karttikeya in Purulia Chhau".