Lord Skanda-Murugan

Legends of Kārttikeya in Puruliya Chau

Prof. (Smt.) Malati Agniswaran

Lord Kārttikeya
Lord Kārttikeya

Murugan giving upadesam to Agastya Muni
Bharata Natyam artist Dr. Malati Agniswaran depicting Murukan standing in Brahma sthanam (erect) with left hand in katyavalmpita mudra and right hand showing prayoga mudra for a sword (khadga)
Kushan period (ca. 1-2nd cent AD) statue of Kārttikeya (14197 bytes)
Murukan with sakti-vel in the right hand with left hand showing varada mudra. The sakti-vel is shown as prayoga mudra with space between the fingers for the insertion of the vel. The hasta is kartarimukha. The deity is seated as indicated by the bent left leg as on an asana.

1.1 Introduction

Acts of worship in the different traditions of Hinduism are processes of diverse sets of rituals in different regions and communities of India. Since the ancient, dance and music have played important roles in religious worship in India. Ample evidence for this is available in the Cankam period of Dravidian civilisation. In the Tamil epic Cilappatikāram, details are given of such modes of worship known as Vēttuvavari, Āycciyar Kuravai, Kunrak Kuravai, etc.

Thus a painting on the wall, a drawing on the floor, a song or a dramatic enactment - any of these may be an act of worship. In some cases, the art expression is itself a part of the ritual - as in the case of the drawing of the image of Bhagavati in the drama form of Mudiyettu, or the songs of the devadāsī-s in the temples, or the song and dance in Vēttuvavari. In other words, the art expression is a eulogy of a deity and seeks to create a religious feeling in the artistes and the spectators, all of whom are devotees. Whichever may be the case, the art expression serves to recreate through the audio or visual mode, the varied legends of the deity, which are a part of the rich and variegated oral traditions of the country and therefore have not been available always in written texts. In the past, at some point of time, some of these narratives have been written as religious texts known today as the purāna-s.

A purāna is not a unilateral account of the legends of a specific deity, but is itself a composite narrative combining a number of tales or folklores of a particular region and community. Thus, there maybe more than one purāna pertaining to a deity and each of these purāna-s may differ from the others in varying degrees.

In the instance of Skanda Purāna (Sanskrit tradition) and Kanta Purānam (Tamil tradition), there are major differences in the narratives. Sanskrit had become the language of the scholars at a time when it had gained great ascendancy. Even texts derived from Tamil traditions were written in Sanskrit language. Thus we find a version of Şrī Skanda Mahāpurāna written in Sanskrit, wherein the narrative follows the Tamil legend and account of the deity. Conversely, there is a Tamil text from the Cankam period of Tamil civilisation, namely, Pattup Pāttu, where the account given of the legend of Skanda is that of the Sanskrit tradition of the North.

One of the important differences in the legends of the North and the South of the country is that, in the northern tradition, Kārttikēya is born to kill the demon Tārakāsura and his brothers. In the Tamil legend, Kārttikēyar is born to kill the two demons Cūran and Patuman, who are conjoined into one form and are known as Cūrapatuman. In the Tamil legend, there is Tārakāsuran, but he is one of the younger brothers of Cūrapatuman.

A second difference is that in several of the North Indian traditions, Skanda is the elder brother and Ganēsa is the younger one, whereas, in the Tamil legend, Ganēsa is the elder brother and Skanda is the younger one. The third major variation is that, in most of the northern legends, Skanda is a bachelor and Ganēsa is married, while in the Tamil legend, Skanda has two wives and Ganēsa is a bachelor.

Even if we refer to the legend of Skanda as prevalent in the northern Sanskrit tradition, the narrative may be seen to vary from one region to another, as the local legends of the different communities of the region bind themselves to the main narrative. The more popular name of Skanda, prevalent in most regions, is that of Kārttikēya, because the common element seen in all the accounts of the birth, is the subsequent nurture of the god by the Krttikā-s, from whose association the name is derived.

The present paper analytically describes the legend of Kārttikēya as is prevalent in the Purulia district of West Bengal, and specifically as the legend is presented in the Chāu dance performances of the region.

1. 2 - Purulia - The region and the artistes

Purulia is a triangle of upland along the western border of West Bengal. The language of the people is Bengali. From Tatanagar in Bihar, one road goes to Ranchi and another to Purulia. The border between Bihar and West Bengal, has to be crossed to enter the Purulia diistrict.

Purulia originally belonged to the district of Manbhum in West Bengal. The name Manbhum has been derived from Vardhamana, the former name of Mahāvīra, who is the most prominent among the initiators of Jainism. Mahāvīra lies in rest at the Pārsavanātha Hill adjoining the district of Manbhum. Purulia was the name of the district-headquarters and a subdivision of Manbhum during the formation of the district of Manbhum. At various times during the rule of the British and then in independent India, this district belonged to West Bengal or to Bihar. It was in the year 1956, that the district of Purulia was formed. It is the youngest district in West Bengal so far.

The district of Purulia is economically backward. The common people are generally poor but they are very vigorous and hard-working even without adequate food.

Guru Gambhir Sinh Munda
Guru Gambhir Sinh Munda

Guru Gambhir Sinh Munda holds a venerated position as a guru among the artistes of Puruliyā Chāu today. Guru Gambhir Sinhji has been honoured with the title of Padma Şri by the Government of India. According to Guruji and others, their community is known as Bhumij and their family name is Munda.

Many of them are landowners. They have been Chāu artistes for several generations. Some of them are chiefs of their community. The Mundas hail from the Bhumij community, but are today Bengali speaking Hindus. The only religion they know is Hinduism.

The Bhumij or Munda who are performers of Puruliyā Chāu also known as Chāu Nāca, are those who live in Manbhum region. The Bhumij, were in the distant past, warriors. Dance arising out of body kinetics cannot lie. The muscle set initiated by one's lifestyle and origin, lasts for several generations in the community. The martial background can be seen to exhibit itself in the very fundamentals of the technique of Puruliyā Chāu.

1.3 - Performance of Puruliyā Chāu

Puruliyā Chāu is danced in a very small geographic region. The Chāu is a belt - a dance belt that girdles part of the eastern region of India. It comprises three contiguous states. each of which has a small sequestered pocket that cloisters the art and after which the tradition in the region is named - Seraikellā Chāu in Bihar, Mayūrabhañja Chāu in Orissa, and Puruliyā Chāu in West Bengal. All three Chāu forms are danced by men only. The Seraikellā and Mayūrabhañja versions seem to have common roots. The Puruliyā form, as a dance, seems to belong to a different realm altogether.

When Purulia was part of Bihar, no research was done on the people or their art forms because the region belonged to Bengal; West Bengal did not do anything for the region because it belonged to Bihar. The Chāu artistes say that, it was only from the seventies onwards that their dance form gained recognition outside Purulia. The dance form, as it exists to this day, has not been supported by the patronage of any individual, but is the product of the community as a whole. It is not known whether Puruliyā Chāu had enjoyed the patronage of any rājā or feudal chief. The participants do not recall the names of any of their patrons in the past and they do not have any even now. Yet they have been continuing the practice for generations. The participants know their immediate ustāda-s only and beyond them nobody else. The ustāda-s or the trainers are in most cases, hereditary. Therefore, it is extremely difficult to know how, when and where, this form of dance originated.

The intricate āngikābhinaya suggests that at one time they may have been bare-bodied. In recent times, several of the costumes have been modelled on the costumes of the traditional theatre form of Bengal, namely, yātra, which itself had been influenced by the professional theatre of Calcutta. This was facilitated by the fact that at one time mythological plays were popular in urban professional theatre of Bengal.

The dancers of Puruliyā Chāu use masks for most of the characters. The masks, made of paper mache, are decorated with tinsel decorations to keep them light to facilitate the dancers' movements. In the case Kārttikēya's mask, a number of them in differerent sizes are required, to show Kārttikēya as a child, a young boy, and then a youth. Kārttikēya was a youth when he killed Tārakāsura. The colour of Kārttikēya's mask is yellowish orange and fair, for he is a benign deity. The colours red and black are generally used for asura-s. Indeed, as masks are costly, the mask of one asura is used for representing other asura-s as well. The same mask used for Şankacūra is also used for Tārakāsura, although the legends pertaining to the two demons are quite different.

The main theme in most of the dance items in the repertoire of Puruliyā Chāu, is that of battle. There is no emphasis on shrngāra, except in the Rādhā Krsna dance. The sole message in Puruliyā Chāu is: good triumphs over evil. In all the items there are two opposing forces, involved in mortal combat - Rāma against Rāvana, Indra against Şibi Rāja, Abhimanyu against Duryodhana, Dusāsana, Drona and others, Nārāyana Gayālura, Kārttikēya against Tārakāsura, Arjuna against Şiva disguised as a hunter, Durgā against Mahisāsura, Cikurāsura,

Şumbha-Nisumbha and a host of other demons - such are the themes, drawn from the epics and the purāna-s, that contribute to the repertoire of this art form. Except for a few narratives where Durgā is the protagonist, most of the characters are male. Durgā too is seen here in her fierce aspect only and her dancing is agressive, martial in spirit, for she is in a battlefield.

As fighting dominates there is little opportunity for individual artistry. The performance cannot portray any movements that are sensitive or subtle. All movements are forceful and masculine. All through the performance tension is heightened, and there is hardly a movement of peace or calmness. The power of endurance of the dancers deserves appreciation, as dancing with masks makes breathing difficult and also vision is limited. Consequently the dance items are of relatively short duration. A night's performance may offer twenty-five or more items, which may or may not be related in their narrative aspect.

A presentation of Puruliyā Chāu lasts all night long. The opening item is always in honour of Ganēsa. . The performance takes place generally in the open, with audiences on all four sides. A corridor is provided through the seating arrangement, which apart from helping dramatic entries and exits, also serves occasionally as a subsidiary performing area. The musicians stand on one side with dhāmsā-s or huge kettle-drums, dholaka-s which are smaller drums, and sēhnāī like pipes and provide music which enhances the impact of the dance. A sūtradhāra makes his appearance between items, and in verses, offers a narrative to introduce or link the episodes. Most of the dances are performed by two dancers or are group compositions. Often the finale is a tableau with imaginative poses and formations.

1. 4 - Derivations from Classical Dance Modes

The technique of dance in Puruliyā Chāu Nāca reveals a rich grammar of body movements which have been mentioned in the texts of classical dramaturgy and dance. The basic stances of Ksipta with the knees turned out and bent at right angles, is maintained in the dance movements. The various leaps, circular movements, walks etc. are similar to those which are described in texts such as Bharata's Nātya Şāstra (NS) and Nandikeshvara's Abhinaya Darpana (AD).

The form of Chāu Nāca appears to have lost its status in the hierarchy of classical dances in present times. But it certainly reveals that in the past this dance tradition must have had a high standing in this region. Art forms such as Puruliyā Chāu have had a close association with the religious traditions of the region and preserve such traditions within the community through their performances.

Indeed, greater research is called for to find out in detail the common features shared by Chāu Nāca and other classical dance forms whose dance techniques are also in accordance with the principles of dance movements described in the same traditional texts. A brief analysis of some of the body movements prevalent in Chāu Nāca and their corresponding movements (and their names) as stated in the classical texts named above are given to elucidate this point. The dancers of Puruliyā Chāu themselves are not aware of the connection between their body stances and movments and the descriptions of the same that are given in the texts.

The names of body movements have been identified from the definitions given in the traditional texts of NS and AD. (The quotations from the texts are restricted to those that are relevant to the movements prevalent in Chāu Nāca)

This section of the paper will be demonstrated.
See Appendix I and Appendix II.

As has been mentioned already above, some of the technique evolved in Puruliyā Chāu, is that which has been mentioned in the classical texts. In addition to this, the following dance techniques are also prevalent.
Cāla-s-Modes of walking and body movements according to the character. In all the cāla-s, the artiste first comes dramatically to the upstage centre area in view of the audience and strikes a static posture. Then to the beating of of drums, the movement begins, starting with the head movement, followed by the torso, body and then the feet. The torso is held erect, with the body maintaining the catusra and saustava position of NS. The head is jerked to the two sides in dhuta sira (NS and AD). The basic position is in the mandala sthānaka (NS). The positions most commonly assumed are those of ālīdha sthānaka (NS), pratyālīdha sthānaka (NS) and mandala sthānaka (NS). There are different kinds of bhramarī-s and kicking movements of the lifted kuñcita feet. There are many movements in āsana where the dancer sits flat on the floor with the knees facing the same side together, or sits with the knees touching the floor as in samasūci mandala (AD) or as in pārsvasūci mandala (AD). The walking is done mainly with the two knees in ksipta, and the legs lifted alternatively as in atikrānta cārī (NS). Even when the feet move fast to the rhythm, the body maintains its saustava posture.

There are cāla-s for various main characters of the narratives or themes of the dances. A cāla does not mean merely the walk of the character to a definite pattern of rhythm but also includes the concept of the costume, hand property carried by the character and so on. The cāla may include the description of a sequence of movements too. A cāla, basically, gives an identity of the character in whatever manner possible. Some of the main characters, for whom the cāla is well defined are as follows:

  1. Cāla-s for gods:
    1. Şivaji cāla.

    2. Durgā cāla - Durgā holds a talvāra as a hand property.

    3. Ganēsa cāla - Ganēsa holds dhanusa, bāna and gadā.

    4. Sītā cāla - It starts with Rāma. He strings the dhanusa. Sītā enters with a varamālā in her hands. her movements are in lāsya. She takes small walking steps with the feet in samapāda.

    5. Kārttika cāla - He is a much loved hero. One of the artistes says," It is the desire of all young boys to do this role. The desire should be very strong, for the role requires a lot of strength and stamina".

  2. Cāla for heroes:
    1. Abhimanyu cāla. He enters with a dhanusa and bāna. Abhimanyu is in the centre with warriors running, leaping, and circling around him. Each time Abhimanyu is attacked, he falls down and gets up again. He falls down sideways, backwards etc.

    2. Pāndava cāla.

  3. Cāla for animals:
    1. Jāmbavān cāla - The two hands are held relaxed in dolā hasta (AD) in the vaksasthāna. The feet move in the vicyavā cārī (NS), and then the knees go down till the dancer acquires the squatting-like position and walks around, and finally even crawls on all fours.

    2. Hanumān cāla - The body is very relaxed unlike the tense vigour of the gods and heroes. The knees touch each other with the feet turned out as in āvartana jānubhēda (NS). There are forward jumping movements, like a monkey.

  4. Cāla-s for rāksasa-s:
    1. Tārakāsura cāla - He has the talavāra. His knees go down with one leg stretched out either to the side or back as in garuda sthāna (AD). Various āsana movements; somersaulting backward and forward, and also turning cartwheels.

    2. Mahisāsura cāla - Identical to the one of tārakāsura.

  5. Cāla for humans: These include characters like the hunter, farmer, merchant etc., imitating movements like tilling, ploughing the field etc.

The important aspects of the technique

These include:

  1. Jerk of the head - The movement is done particularly when the body is static and erect, in either the standing or the sitting posture. The head is jerked violently from side to side as in dhuta sira (NS and AD). Often the head turns in the direction opposite to the direction the body takes.

  2. Shake of the shoulder: This is done especially when the body is static. These tremors follow the rhythm of the dhola and the dhumsā. The shoulder is either moved as an accentuated jerk, or the movement which is initiated by the shoulders, culminates in a quick series of quivers of the shoulders and the chest. It is called moving the bhuja or bhukha hilānā in the Purulia dialect of Bengali. It is done mainly by valorous characters and for fights.

  3. jhāmb. These are bhramarī-s: These are done with the feet in samapāda and the knees straight, or with the knees in ksipta, bent halfway or with the knees completely bent towards the ground, or from a completely sitting position on the floor, with either the knees touching each other face to face or knees facing the same direction.

  4. ulphā. Somersaults - These are done backwards and forwards. it is done by boys playing young characters like Kārttikēya. All these difficult, violent and strenuous movements are possible only through intense physical training from a young age, says Guru Kirod Sinh Munda.

The details of technique that have been described in the preceding paragraphs, demonstrate the fact that in Puruliyā Chāu, nrtta and nrtya are inseparable aspects of the dance style. Since each artiste portrays a definite character, the nrtta and the āngikābhinaya are related to each other. Thus the concept of cāla can be understood in relation to basic movements of the torso, the limbs, the neck and the ensuing characterisation. Each cāla demarcates the basic set of movements and postures to be used by that character.

The feature of āngikābhinaya as prevalent in Puruliyā Chāu is a rare example of this element as seen or presented in classical dances, of which there are several forms in different parts of the country. It is for this reason that the aspect of dance technique of Puruliyā Chāu needs to be understood through detailed analysis.

In Puruliyā Chāu, as the characters wear masks, they have no opportunity to convey any emotion through the face. This in a way, aids their āngikābhinaya which involves the entire body, the flexing of the muscles and so on, so that even the static face of the mask seems to show emotions of anger, valour, pride, fear and so on. Indeed, the āngikābhinaya, is seen at its best through the movements of the torso and the limbs of the masked chāu dance styles, as is not seen in other genres of classical dance.

The technique of the dance is integrated in the conception of the masks, or in other words, the Chāu Nāca has developed on the basis of the masks which are worn, as far as its technique is concerned. Due to this reason, there is less movement in the upper part of the body and the movements are concentrated on the lower part in general and on the foot steps in particular. The facial expressions on the masks are absolutely static and only by means of the footsteps they are animated.

The erect posture of the torso, the neat lines of the arms as they move away from the body - all these techniques understood by the terms caturasra and sausthava (NS), which are the hallmarks of classical dance styles are prevalent in Puruliyā Chāu. The Chāu dancers undergo a rigorous period of training with their dance masters. There are specific patterns of movements that are learnt and taught by the dancers as in any classical dance form. Puruliyā Chāu has developed a classical character with its codification and systematization.

1. 5 - Religion and Puruliyā Chāu

For the performers of Puruliyā Chāu, their dance is a sacrifice, an annual offering they believe to be necessary for the well being of the community. The Puruliyā Chāu presents only incidents and episodes from mythology. That is so because in Purulia, the dance is performed primarily as a ritual and only secondarily for audience. Indeed, Puruliyā Chāu is presented only for six weeks in the year, beginning mid-April, in Purulia itself. This period which precedes the sowing season, is associated with the worship of the sun god, who is vaguely identified here with Şiva, and the Chāu is peformed only as a part of the ceremonies observed on this occasion.

On the day of Caitra Sahkrāntī which come in April, there is the worship of Şiva. Chāu Nāca starts on that day. The dancers fast throughout the day. Then they go to the Şiva temple and worship the deity. Thereafter, they dance Chāu. On that day, they would not accept programmes of Chāu outside, even if they were offered a lakh of rupees, according to Guru Gambhirsinhji. They worship Şiva at the temple in Bagmundi on Caitra Sankrāntī, the

day after Caitra parva. The artistes believe that if they do not go to worship in the temple on that day, then they would be cursed. On Caitra parva too, they dance the Chāu. The entire month is devoted to Chāu performances throughout the region. But otherwise, no ritual is connected to the dance, which can be performed at any time. This attitude has changed with the times. The significance of Chāu Nāca as a ritual has faded from the memory of the dancers and their teachers.

The artistes offer prayers before the Chāu Nāca performance. They believe that as they wear a mask, they represent that deity. Prior to the performance, they bow to their Guru and offer incense to the mask and then wear it. This prayer is not offered to an asura's mask, as in the case of Tārakāsura.

There are four main centres for Chāu Nāca: Bandyoyan, Bagmundi, Arsa and Jhalda. Only Jhalda performances have become urbanised and this is apparent in their productions, costumes, music and even the themes. Traditional costumes have been given up and they have been replaced by costly nylon costumes. Even where the episodes from the ancient myths are presented, the narratives are highly distorted. Mechanical devices such as water falling from Şiva's hair or an electrical bulb twinkling like a jewel on the hood of the snake worn by Şiva, are innovations introduced in Jhalda, to the detriment of the dance style. Even masks are changed by artistes in front of the audience, which is not prevalent in the tradition. Women dance without masks in these performances and Hindi film music has been introduced in the Chāu performances. Such changes are of special significance because they also lead to destruction of age-old traditions of legends which have formed the basis for the religious beliefs of people within a community.

1. 6 - Legends of Kārttikēya in Puruliyā Chāu

As the emphasis of the present paper is on the puranic deity of Skanda, the items which are performed on themes pertaining to this deity only shall be described hereafter. Kārttikēya is worshipped as a war-god in the region north of the Vindhya ranges. In the region of Purulia, Kārttikēya is known as Kārttika or Kārttika Bhagavāna. There are two sets of legends that are narrated in this context. The first set are the legends that are prevalent in the region and not only in the Munda community but also in other communities in that area. The other set of legends are those that are presented in the Chāu Nāca performances. As has been stated already, Purulia is on the border of Bihar and West Bengal. Hence the legends of both these states adjoining the border will be narrated.

The legends of Kārttikēya prevalent in the communities of these regions can been seen to combine the legends of Şiva and also those of Sūrya. Goddess Sasthī is also a dominant deity in many of the Kārttikēya legends.

  1. Kārttika Bhagavāna is Şiva's son. Once Şiva and Paravatī were in svargaloka. At that time, certain rāksasa-s were created. So all the three worlds were staggering under the sins of the asura-s. All the dēva-s went to Şiva and Pārvatī. They complained about the troubles that they were undergoing due to Tāraka's rule. The dēva-s had gone to the Lord's abode at a time when Şiva and Pārvatī were embracing. The hindrance of the dēva-s makes Pārvatī angry. She curses the dēva-s saying, "Since you have come at this improper time, all your wombs will become barren." All the 33 crores of dēva-s suffered from this fate. In this there is no question of man or woman.

    After this the dēva-s were worried. They prayed to Şivaji and worshipped him. Şivaji was pleased and told them to sprinkle Gangā water on themselves, and after that, whoever sees them, male or female, would be with child. They did as they were told, and were praying on the banks of Gangā. They were seen by the 360 maidens who used to come to Gangā to get water and all of them got impregnated. But they could not bear the heat. Şiva told them to start a fire on the banks of the river Gangā and warm their bodies by the fire. The seed would then enter the fire. The maidens did as they were told. Even Agni could not bear the heat of the garbha, that is, the semen virile. They prayed to Şiva again. He said that the person who would come then would take the semen virile.

    The maidens came to fill water. It was cold. So they went to Agni to warm themselves and got impregnated. When they returned to their villages, the villagers insulted them. The maidens decided to put an end to their lives. So they went to Gangā. A divine voice said,"Instead of drowning yourselves in Gangā, go and have a bath. you will be blessed". Siva's seed which was in them entered the Gangā. Gangā could not bear it. But the seed did not

    stay there long. It was a day in Kārttika month, suklapaksa sasthī tithī. Kārttika Bhagavāna was born on that day. There Pārvatī's breasts started overflowing with milk. With her yoga sakti she realised that her child was born. The rsi muni-s came to see the infant and the naming ceremony was performed. He was named Kārttika after the month,.

    Sūrya's strong rays were on the child. The child had the tēja of Sūrya. So even Sūryabhagavāna is worshipped on that day. In Bihar, sataparaba sasthī means the sixth day. The process of worship on that day is to observe complete fasting without consuming even water. In the evening, on the river Gangā or any nearby river, facing west, perform avāhana of Sūrya and do dhyāna. It is an important day because a vīra boy is born on that day, from Gangā's womb. So taking Gangājala, thinking of Kārttika, an argya is offered to Sūrya. The next day, in the morning, during sunrise, argya is given in Gangā, facing east. Only then food is eaten.

    In families, all members, including women and children, participate in this ritual. It is a thanksgiving for fulfillment of a particular desire or manokāmanā. So Chata Mātā is Gangā Mātā. Chatabhagavāna is Sūryabhagavāna. This is known as Sūrya Sasthīvrata. The tejas (power) of Gangā and of Sūrya are the same. If this ritual is not performed with full concentration, then misfortune will befall. Any desire, for marriage, a child, etc. would be fulfilled if this ritual is performed with devotion.

    The entire Kārttika month is for the worship of Kārttika because it is his birth month. As Kārttika was born on sasthī, the chathī or sixth day is celebrated for any new born child. Kārttika Sankrāntī is the sixth or chathī day for the infant Kārttika.

    Kārttika kills Tāraka showing thereby that if you do adharma, then you will fail. It symbolises victory of good over evil.

  2. The marriages of Kārttika and Ganēsa were to be performed with Siddhī and Buddhī. Kārttika had decided that he wanted to spread dharma, and be in the company of rsi-muni-s, to know more about Şivabhagavāna, give knowledge, and to go on the path set by Şiva. The parents of Siddhī and Buddhī, came to meet Şiva and Pārvatī, to request that their daughters be given in marriage to Kārttika and Ganēsa, and to make plans for the marriage. Şiva agreed to the proposal. But Kārttika said that he had decided already what he wanted to do, and would prefer not to get married. Even Ganēsa said that he would not wish to get married right then, if his brother would not get married. Kārttika was the elder brother and Ganēsa, the younger. Pārvatī disagreed and felt that the marriages should take place.

    So it was decided that whoever goes round the world five times would be the one to get married. Kārttika got on his mayūra vāhana and started circumambualting the world and also spreading dharma as that was his aim. Ganēsa realised that, if Kārttika refused, then his father would be in difficulty. So he decided to participate in the competition. He got on to his mūsika vāhana. It was not possible to circumambulate the world. Ganēsa knew that he would never be able to go round the world fast, and that Kārttika would have to get married. He went round his parents five times, considering them to be triloka.

    A little later Kārttika returned. Ganēsa was already engaged to be married to Siddhī and Buddhī. Kārttika said that any way he had not wanted to get married. He was happy that Ganēsa was getting married. Amidst pomp and splendour, Ganēsa was married to Siddhī and Buddhī. Kārttika remained a brahmacārī.

  3. In this region, in several traditions, Kārttikēya is considered to be the elder brother of Ganēsa. Although he is considered to be a bachelor in Bihar, in the Bengal community, in some instances, Sasthī is worshipped as his wife. Sasthī is Dēvī's name, and she is regarded as the wife of Şiva. Hence she is considered to be the mother of Kārttikēya. Sasthī is the sixth day occuring twice every month. The sasthī in the waxing phase of the moon known as suklapaksa sasthī, is related to the worship of Kārttikēya and also to the worship of goddess Sasthī. When a child is born, then Sasthī is worshipped on the 6th, 21st and 30th day after the birth.

    Sasthī is a benevolent goddess whose happy vocation it is to take care of children and protect them from danger and trouble, to which they are so constantly exposed on account of their helplessness. The goddess is called Sasthī or sixth becausee she is believed to be the sixth part of the divine essence of Pradhāna-Prakrti, the male and female creative principles, by whose influence, the universe has been generated.

  4. Priyavrata, son of Svayambhu-Manu, who had spent several years in enthusiastic and solitary devotion, was at last persuaded by Brahmā to contract the bonds of matrimony. But as his wife did not present him with an offspring for a long time, he desired the divine sage Kasyapa to perform the putrēsthī yāga, on the completion of which, the sage gave her to eat the sacrificial charu (rice cooked in clarified butter), on swallowing which, she became enciente.

    In due course of time, she brought into the world a son 'as bright as gold', but unfortunately, still-born. The king (Priyavrata) with a sad heart, took the dead child and laid it on the funeral pyre with a view to cremation. All of a sudden, however, there appeared, overhead in the sky, a goddess of surpassing beauty, radiant as the summer sun. The king, entranced with her heavenly grace, asked her who she was. The goddess said, "I am the wife of Kārttikēya, the Chief of Mothers; and as I am the sixth part of Prakrti, men call me Sasthī". So saying, the bright goddess took hold of the child, gave it breath and life, and made a gesture, as if she was going to take it away to the realm of glory.

    The king, petrified with fear, addressed many a fervent prayer, beseeching her to restore the infant to him. The goddess, pleased with the incense of praise said, " O thou son of Svayambhu-Manu, thou art the Lord of three worlds. If you promise to celebrate my praise as long as thou livest, I will give the child to thee". The king readily agreed to the condition, embraced the child and returned home with a joyful heart. As a grateful return for her favour, he celebrated the worship of Sasthī with the utmost pomp.

    From that time, the worship of Sasthī became one of the most popular institutions in the land of Bharata. She is worshipped every month, on the sixth day of the waxing moon, by every Hindu wife who has been blessed with an offspring, on the sixth and the twenty-first day after the birth of the child, and at annaprāsana.

    Moreover, Kārttikēya was nurtured by the six Krttikā-s, and hence the number six became prominent in his legend. Kārttika sasthī is significant as the day of Kārttika's birth. The day when the god defeated Tāraka has no significance.

    Kārttikēya is worshipped in this region of Bengal in a varied manner. Worship of Durgā is the primary ritual in Bengal. Kārttikēya is worshipped as he is the son of Şiva. Şiva is worshipped during Caitra Sankrāntī and Caitra parva. It is during this period that the Chāu Nāca is performed everywhere.

    There is no special pūjā for Kārttikēya in the context of Chāu Nāca. There is a fear that if Şiva Pūjā is not performed in Caitra parva, then a person would be cursed. There is no such fear pertaining to Kārttikēya. The deity is known by the name of Kārttika mainly. Another name by which he is known is Sadānana. All other names such as Skanda, are not prevalent in this region.

    There are no rituals performed for Kārttika in the houses. There are rituals for Durgā, Şiva, Mānasā et al. in homes. There is no animal sacrifice or balī for Kārttika pūjā whereas, for Durgā pūjā there is sacrifice. In Kārttika pūjā, in some instances, during Kārttika Sankrāntī, an image is made of the deity and worshipped. But after the ritual, the image is immersed in water and visarjana is done.

    Kārttika a bachelor god. If women performed rituals and touch his image, then his bachelorhood would be tarnished.

    The legends of the region of Purulia pertaining to Kārttikēya are seen in the themes of Chāu Nāca. These legends are derived mainly from the puranic legends of Skanda. It must be noted that as Chāu Nāca is performed as a ritual during the worship of Şiva, and as Durgā is the main deity for the Bengalis, Kārttikēya does not emerge as the main protoganist in the narratives.

    The first item in Puruliyā Chāu is on Ganēsa, called Ganēsa Vandanā. It is in this item generally that Kārttika also makes an appearance.

    Two narratives of Ganēsa Vandanā are performed in the Bagmundi area.

  5. Parasurāma, the great devotee of Şiva, appears with his usual weapon of axe in his hand, and demands an interview immediately with Şiva. Ganēsa intervenes. Parasurāma challenges him. Both of them are engaged in a fierce fight. Ganēsa is ultimately defeated. Parasurāma's father Jamadagni sends for him. But Parasurāma wants to learn more astra-s from Mahādēva and refuses to leave. Now, just that day, Mahādēva had instructed Ganēsa not to let anyone enter the inner apartment, as he was with Durgā.

    Kārttika comes in and gets angry with Parasurāma for behaving rudely with his brother. He tells Parasurāma that, if his brother did not let him in then even he is helpless. Again a fight ensues, this time with Kārttika, and he

    is defeated by Parasurāma. Hearing the sound, Şiva and Durgā come out. Parasurāma tells Şiva that he had come to see the Lord, but that these two did not allow him entry. Şiva and Durgā bring them all together, and in the end they all dance together.

  6. Ganēsa enters and after he dances a few steps, Kārttika enters. Both dance together happily. Just then Mahisāsura enters. He fights with Ganēsa and Kārttika. Both brothers are defeated. Durgā enters on her lion. A fight ensues between Durgā and Mahisāsura and he is killed. Finally there is a happy freeze with Durgā in the centre and the lion below her, and Ganēsa and Kārttika on either side.

    As the main theme of Puruliyā Chāu is war, Kārttika is a character invariably portrayed in the episode of his battle with Tārakāsura.

    The Jhalda group presents an item depicting the birth of Tārakāsura, and the burning of Manmatha by Şiva. The appearance of Kārttikēya is not shown in the dance. Arsha follows mainly the items which are presented by Bagmundi. These are, the fight between Kārttikēya and Şankacūda, and yet another of the killing of Tāraka by Kārttikēya.

    There is yet another episode of fight between Krsna and Kārttikēya. The legend goes thus:

  7. Due to a previous cur8se, Sudāmā was born as a dānava and was named Şankacūda. Şankacūda receives a boon of invincibility from Brahmā. He was given Şrī Krsna's divine amulet and asked to marry Tulasī. After his marriage with Tulasī, Şankacūda lives in marital bliss. He became the emperor of the asura-s and the overlord of the three worlds.

    Now the distressed dēva-s go to Visnu for help. Visnu knowing the truth, sends them to Şiva. Şiva hears the pleas of the dēva-s and promises to slay Şankacūda. Kārttikēya and Ganēsa, who are the overall generals of the army, went to Şiva, fully equipped with weapons, ready for war. Then ensued the great war. Kārttikēya, the slayer of Tāraka, and Kālī, create great havoc. But Kārttikēya falls down defeated and Kālī takes him to Şiva. Then Kālī fights, but is sent back by a celestial voice.

    When Şiva goes to battle, the dānava-s bow to him. The battle lasts for 100 years. Şiva could not kill him, for as long as Şankacūda wears Visnu's amulet, and Tulasī maintains marital fidelity, he has neither death nor old age. Visnu, in the guise of an old man, begs away Şankacūda's amulet, and in the guise of Şankacūda, has sexual relations with Tulasī. Now Şiva slays Şankacūda. That is why it is said that, except for Şiva, the holy water from the conch is sacred for all gods. As in the themes of Ganēsa Vandana, here too, Kārttikēya fights with the demon, gets defeated, and it is Şiva who brings back peace.

    In Chāu Nāca, the story of Kārttikēya is presented thus:

    The performance opens with dhola and dhumsā players standing in the centre of the arena and playing. Thereafter, they move to the side. These drummers are very mobile. Each time that a character has to enter, they go to the entry point upstage centre, play there and then return. Even in between the performance, they get up and play. On the other hand, the singer and the sahnāī player remain in their place.

  8. The first item in the repertoire is Ganēsa Vandanā. Ganēsa enters and dances. The dance is in tāndava style. The dancer takes the position of the legs as in kuñcita karana (NS) and moves ahead in that position. He dances, goes round and exits at the back. He takes an entry again and performs in the same sequence. But every time there is a variation in the steps.

    Though Ganēsa is a benevolent god, the artiste performs a great deal of tāndava. There are different jumps and spins:

    1. the body jumps from the position of āyata mandala (AD), in ākāsa bhramarī (AD);
    2. from āyata mandala (AD) position, one leg is lifted, takes the body in a circle and then sits flat on the floor with the knees touching each other; and
    3. circle is taken, and then sitting on the floor with two knees touching each other and facing opposite directions.

    Shadanana seated on a peacock.
    Şadanana seated on a peacock. The devas gift him astras.

    Then comes the entry of Kārttikēya. The narrative song on his entry is:

    "Kārttika mahāvīra krodhē kampē thara thara
    Kārttika brave one in anger trembles
    asicēn mayūra vāhana.
    coming on the peacock vehicle."

    Kārttika takes the position of pārsva sūcī mandala (AD) and looks around. Then standing straight with the two feet apart, looks violently from side to side. He lifts his leg in atikrāntā cārī. Then the legs assume the ālīdha and pratyālīdha sthānaka (NS), and move in that position. Then the dancer sits flat, takes the position of samasūcī mandala (AD) with the knees raised and takes leaps. He performs ulphā movements. Then he sits in vajrāsana (yoga). He looks around violently, takes a circle and sits back in vajrāsana.

    Ganēsa enters, both dance together. Kārttika moves in kuñcitapāda (NS) with knees in ksipta. In his left hand he has the dhanusa and in the hand musti hasta is held in sausthava. Both players perform tāndava movements alternatively, face each other and hold hands.

    Now Mahisāsura enters. His mask is green and he has a horn on his head. He fights with Ganēsa who is defeated. Durgā enters with a lion. She holds a trisūla and talavāra. A face to face fight between Mahisāsura and Durgā ensues. Durgā kills Mahisāsura. Then Kārttika enters. Then there is a final freeze. Durgā is in the centre with the lion behind her. Kārttika and Ganēsa are on either side of her. They take a circle in the same form and exit. This is the beloved story of all Bengalis, that of Durgā and her vadha of Mahisāsura. Kārttika being Durgā's son, plays a minor role, and he cannot vanquish the demon.

    Kārttika janam - The main item.

    The complete narrative cannot be shown through the performance. Much of the narrative is presented through traditional songs, which are sung in the beginning or between episodes. The narrative which is the background to the main legend and part of which is not shown through the performance is as follows:

  9. The story starts with the episode of Daksa yajña. Şiva was not invited by Daksa for the sacrifice. Sati goes to the place of sacrifice. Unable to bear the insult meted out by Daksa she jumps into the fire. Şiva hears of the dēha tyāga or self-immolation of Sati. He destroys the yajña and carries the dead body of his wife after killing Daksa. Sati's body is fragmented. Şiva comes to know that the dēva-s have done this. He gets angry and creates from his hair a powerful being and tells him to destroy the dēva-s. This being is Tāraka, who under the orders from Şiva, begins to destroy the dēva-s.

    The dēva-s, suffering under the torture of Tāraka, go to Visnu for protection. Visnu realises through his jñāna sakti that the daitya can be killed only by the son created by Şiva. No one other than Şiva's son can kill Tāraka. Visnu also tells the dēva-s that as the daughter of the mountain, Ādi Mātā has taken an incarnation. Şiva and Durgā should get married. The dēva-s are told that Kārttikēya will be born of this union and he should be made the dēvasēnāpati. The asura can be killed only by Kārttikēya.

    Hara and Gaurī get married. In the course of their play, the Mother could not bear the seed of Şiva and it is thrown into Gangā. Gangā also could not bear the seed and deposits it in the sara vana on the banks of the river. Thus Kārttikēya was born.

    The six damsels of the moon were playing in the water. They see the child and are surprised. Of them, Krttikā first lifted the child and from her the child was given the name Kārttikēya. Each woman wanted to nurse the child and so he became six-faced, the Sadānana. The women knew through dhyāna or inner perception, that the child belonged to Şiva and Durgā. So they take the child to Durgā.

    The gods made Kārttikēya the dēvasēnāpati. In the meantime, Tāraka's atrocities increased. With all the astra-s given by the dēva-s, Kārttikēya goes to the battle and slays Tāraka. Tāraka, in this legend, is the brother of Kārttikēya, born of Şiva's hair. On Kārttika Sankrāntī, Kārttikēya is worshipped.

The legend is presented in Chāu Nāca thus:

The dhola and dhumsā players are in the centre. The story as it is to be presented is sung in narration, during which time, there is no action on the stage.

  1. "suno suno sabhājanahear oh hear people of the audience
    Kārttikēr janma vivarana
    details of Kārttika-s birth
    āvatīrna sikha bar āsan
    came he seated on the peacock
    sāgara tīrē sara bāganē
    by the seaside in the forest of reeds
    prakata holēn hrsta manē
    appeared he with a heart of joy
    sethāy krīdā rata candrēr ramani gāna
    there were playing the maidens of moon
    suno suno.
    hear o hear."

    Six Krittika maidens
    Six Krittika maidens.
  2. "sundara sisurē hērē harasita antarē
    seeing the child of beauty they felt happiness within
    cumbana karēn sisura badanē
    they showered kisses on the body of the infant
    ēka sangē chai jana sthana dēna sisurē badana
    together six women gave their breasts to the infant
    ai kāranē hoilēn Sadānana
    this was why he was called six-faced one
    suno suno.
    hear o hear."

  3. "dhyānē tē janilēn vārtā
    with concentration hear this tale
    Harē Gaurī mātā pitā
    father Hara and mother was Gaurī
    loi gēlē Kailāsa bhuvana
    they took him to their home at Kailāsa
    vārtā jānī dēvaganē Tārakāsura vidhanē
    knowing this came the celestial beings, for the destruction of Tārakāsura
    tārē sēnāpati karēn baran
    you shall be accepted as the Lord of the army
    suno suno.
    hear o hear."

  4. "Tārakāsura mahavīra digvijayī tīnapura
    great warrior was he, Tāraka demon, victorious over three worlds
    dēvaganē karilo dalan
    vanquished he the celestial divinities
    sunī vīra cūdāmani divya astra sandhānē
    hearing of this the Brave Jewel took his divine weapons of war
    ranachētrē jāna Sadānana
    went to the battlefield, Sadānana
    suno suno.
    hear o hear."

  5. "dhanura bāna loyē hāthē
    holding the weapon of bow and arrow in his hand
    jujhēna asura sāthē
    fought he with the weapon
    rana dēkhī kāmpē tribhuvana
    the three worlds trembled seeing the war
    astraghātē jara jara
    got injured by the showers of the weapons
    hoilēn Tārakāsura
    the demon Tāraka
    Kārttikēr hātē hoi nidhana
    vanquished was he at the hands of Kārttika
    suno suno.
    hear o hear."

  6. "niskanthaka dēvagana hoyē ānandita mana
    freed of worry, the celestial beings became full of joy
    gēlo jathā mayūra vāhana
    went off the One on the peacock
    Kārttika Şankrāntī tithī pūjilēn sudha bhakti
    on the day of Kārttika Sankrāntī is worshipped with pure devotion
    modēra nartya nātyēr ēi vivarana.
    this be the detail of our dance drama."
    Şiva and Durgā are in Kailāsa. They dance. A traditional song known as jhumura is sung in the background.
    "Kailāsētē Hara Gaurī karē navonamana
    in Kailāsa Şiva and Gaurī are worshipped together
    sarva dēva āsēna tathāy tapasya karana."
    all celestial beings come there to do penance."

The dance:

The dēva-s come to the deities. Many dēva-s come and while dancing move around. The dēva-s are harassed by Tārakāsura. The dance movements are violent though they have come to speak of their troubles. Gods are harassed by Tārakāsura.

Brahmā, Visnu, and Indra come on their respective vāhana-s. Kārttikēya comes on elephant. (The 'elephant' is made with two dancers inside a sack covering) All exit. The narration is sung in the background.

"chala karē prāna harē nilo kālā cha jani rē
āmārē lāgē ēkala pata bosota kadam tāla
kotha ranga karē nilā kālā cha jana."

The dance:

The six stars (women) enter and they go in a circle and dance. They see a child under the saravana (reed thicket made with branches and leaves). The Krttikā-s pick up the child. They pass the child to each other. Then they exit with the child.

Kārttika enters the stage now as a boy of eight of age. Then he exits. Next enters Kārttika as a fifteen year old boy. He wears a mask of Sadānana with six faces. He dances and exits. These multiple entries of Kārttika establish his growing up.

Tarakasura with red mask, takes his entry
Tarakasura with red mask, takes his entry

All the dēva-s come to Kārttika with folded hands. Brahmā gives him mayūra vāhana. The peacock comes on the stage (played by two dancers). Kārttika sits on the peacock. Each of the dēva-s gives him his astra. Kārttika gets a bow, arrow and sword. He exits sitting on the peacock.

Now comes Tārakāsura's entry. He comes rushing forward. Then he somersaults, falls down on each side, and gets up. He has a sword in hand. The asura wears a red mask. He sits in the position of grdhrāvalīnaka karana (NS), circles and changes to the other leg. Sits alternatively on floor. Then he turns cartwheels. He performs ulphā-s. All the dēva-s fight with Tārakāsura. Tārākāsura is after Saci whom he captures. Now Kārttika enters and frees Saci and her friend.

An older Kārttika enters. He wears a mask with a single face. The asura and Kārttika fight with swords. Both fall and get up. Then they hit each other, fall and rise. Then they fight with gadā-s. Tāraka falls but rises immediately. Then, hands on each other's shoulders, they do mallayuddha. Again Tāraka falls but rises. Then fighting, both fall and get up. They pick up dhanusa and bāna. tāraka is hit by an arrow and dies.

All the dēva-s come to Kārttika and bow to him. Then Kārttika is worshipped. Kārttika is seated on mayūra vāhana and all exit. The performance concludes with a virtuosic solo dance by the ustāda Kirod Sinh Munda. It is a nrtta piece.

In the performance, it can be seen that even the benevolent dēva-s, even deities Ganēsa and Kārttikēya in their benevolent forms, move their necks, etc. in a jerky manner to extremities, that are appropriate for violent or aggressive characters, in other styles of dance. Probably, this indicates their characters as warriors. Actually, as Puruliyā Chāu essentially depicts wars, there are practically no movements which are soft, indicating a benign mood.

10. Yet another performance is that of Kārttika Krsna Yuddha. The text is as follows:

Krsna Kārttikēr Juddha . . .

  1. "sonita isvara bānērduhita
    Usā nāmē dhonira sakhī Citralēkhā
    marma alāpana karē
    syāmala kisora rūpa manohara
    sapanē bolilāma tārēgo
    bolo bolo sakhī upāyana dēkhī
    kērmonē pāyibo tārēgo."

  2. "Citralēkhā sakhī dēkhē khodi pati
    sē kisora hoy Şrī Krsnēra nātī
    Aniruddha nāma dharēgo
    ghora nisākālē māyājoga bolē
    aniya milālo tārēgo
    bolo bolo."

  3. "harasita Usā nagarē bhētilo
    Şyāmērē bāmē jano Rādhikā sajilo
    Citralēkhāra mana horēgo
    oti gopanētē gandharva mātē
    bibāha dilo dhoni tārēgo."

  4. "vārtā pēya Bāna rājāra gharonī
    Bāna pratī kahē ati mrdubānī
    harilo mor kanyārē
    vārtā pēya Bāna krodha kāmpomana
    sondhana karē kumārē."

  5. "Aniruddhē dhorī bandī karē tārē
    silā cāpa dilo bakhēr porē
    dēva rsi asi dhēkhēgo
    rsi Dvārakāya giyā Krsnē sambhodiyā
    pracārilo sēi kothāgo."

  6. "vārtā pēyē tavē yadukula muni
    Pradyumna ādi joddhā āra holopānī Balarāma
    uttarilo bāna purēgo
    binatānandanē Gangābāri ēnē
    Agni nirvāpana karēgo."

  7. "Krsna sanyo dēkhi Bāna
    daityēsvara sajo sājo rānē
    bolē sabhākārē sajilo Kārttika bīra
    juddha vārtā pēya Şiva Durgā dhēyē
    ranasthē āgu sarēgo."

  8. "astraghātē Bāna asthira hoilo
    cakra liyē prabhu bāhu kāti nilo
    abasista dui rāhēgo
    Şrī Krsno Kārttikērē dēkhī juddha tē nibārilēn Gaurī Harēgo."

    The narrative is as follows: (In the dance performance, the narrative begins with Aniruddha harana. )

    The daitya is the king of Şonitanagara, and a great devotee of Şiva and Pārvatī. Their jamātā was Agni, who had given a boon to Bāna that he would always protect the asura's gadā and that no one will be able to conquer him.

    Bāna's daughter Usā was of marriageable age. With her is her companion Citralēkhā. Usā in a dream, sees a man and gives her heart to him. She tells her friend about her dream and wonders when she will meet him. Citralēkhā could make portraits of everything in the three worlds. She does so and she tells her friend Usā to identify the person whom she had seen in her dream. Usā sees the portrait of Aniruddha and feels shy. Citralēkhā understands that this was the man Usā had fallen in love with. She takes the help of māyā and abducts Aniruddha to Şonitapura. By Gāndharva rites, Usā and Aniruddha are married. Bāna's wife comes to know of this.

    Bāna gets angry and imprisons Aniruddha and places a stone on his chest. Nārada comes to know of this. He goes and informs Krsna, who is looking for his grandson.

    Nārada sees the plight of Aniruddha. Bāna asks Nārada who the boy was and Nārada tells him that the prisoner is Krsna's grandson.

    On being informed by Nārada, Krsna with Balarāma and Pradyumna, flies on the Garuda to Bāna's kingdom. On reaching the kingdom, Krsna sees the fire burning around the fort. . Garuda brings water from the Gangā in his mouth, which puts out the fire. Then they are able to enter the fort.

    They ask Bāna to send Usā and Aniruddha with them. But Bāna gets angry at this and then the battle starts. Bāna is angry that his daughter has been seduced and that it was Krsna's grandson who caused all this trouble, and now they were asking for bidāī. So he sends his army for the battle. Krsna fiights with Bāna's sēnā, but they could not face Krsna for long. Then Şiva comes to Bāna's side and fights. For the purpose of the battle, Şiva creates sivajvara, a fever which fights with Krsna and surrounds him. Krsna now creates visnujvara, and there is a confrontation beween the two jvara-s. Visnujvara is more powerful, and seeing this, Şiva himself comes to the battle. Kārttika comes on his mayūra. When Krsna lifts his sudarsana to kill Kārttika, Durgā appears there. She stops the battle and brings peace.

    The religious or ritual context helps to continue art traditions and sustain them in several instances. The changes that modern lifestyles have brought in, have also affected Chāu Nāca form. There is less of an acquaintance with the myths and legends in the artistes and the audiences of contemporary society.

    The traditional artistes preserved the folklore and legends of the deities prevalent in their communities and regions. When the traditional arts begin to die owing to social neglect, this also leads to distortion of the traditional legends.

    The following legends are being presented in modern performances of Puruliyā Chāu.

  9. A variation in the invocatory item portraying Ganēsa, Kārttika and Parasurāma - Parasurāma wishes to go for gurudarsana. But he is stopped by the gate keepers, Ganēsa and Kārttika, who enter dancing. Then they and Nandī fight with Parasurāma. In this version, Kārttika defeats Parasurama. In the same item of Ganēsa Vandanā, Mahisāsura also comes in and is killed. Then Durgā intervenes and pacifies them all.

    Parasurāma and Mahisāsura are brought into the same battle and both are defeated. Durgā is not shown as the slayer of Mahisāsura. Even knowledge of Tārakāsura and the tale of the battle between Kārttika and Tārakāsura is not known to some of the modern teachers of Chāu Nāca. All these errors are due to lack of knowledge of traditional legends.

    In the performances of the Chāu Nāca group in Jhalda, can be seen themes that are contrived, and have not been derived from any of the legends of the region, or even from the mainstream of the traditional legends.

  10. Ganēsa enters with his usual Bengali costume and dances after the usual introductory song in praise of the elephant-headed god. Then Nandī enters with a pair of bullocks, with the intention of cultivating land. Immediately Rāvana enters, followed by a hunter, and they engage themselves in a combat. Nandī joins the fight against Rāvana. Şiva enters and pacifies them all. Rāvana surrenders to Şiva. All of them exit. Immediately about half a dozen ghosts enter, followed by Kārttikēya and Durgā. The latter fight against the ghosts. Visnu with a cakra in his hand enters and pacifies them all. The fighting ends and thus the scene ends.

  11. After the invocation to Ganēsa, he enters. Ganēsa dances for some time, and after an introductory song on Kārttikēya, he also enters and joins the dance with Ganēsa. This continues for some time and another two

    lines of lyrics are sung describing the killing of Indrajīta by Laksmana. Almost immediately, enter Rāma and Laksmana. After a short dance they all sit down, and Pramilā, wife of Indrajīta enters without a mask. She gives an exhibition of dance of a very vulgar type in the style of khēmtī or dance of the 'dancing girls' of the area. Hanumān and Rāvana enter and they immediately begin to fight. Those who were sitting till then, stand up and engage themselves in a fierce fight against Rāvana. By this time, about eighteen characters are in the acting area. Lastly enter Şiva and Durgā and a number of rāksasa-s and a fierce battle starts between the two parties - the celestials and the demons. The scene ends in great excitement and confusion.

1. 7 - Conclusion

  1. The concept of Kārttikēya in Purulia and the adjoining regions follows in the main, the legend of Skanda as prevalent in the purāna-s of the Sanskrit tradition.

  2. Therefore, Kārttikēya is a war-god and is not worshipped generally by householders; nor are there any temples dedicated to Kārttikēya in this region.

  3. As traditional Puruliyā Chāu Nāca form presents the concept of Kārttikēya as derived from the puranic tradition, the performances are restricted to the legends of Kārttikēya, Ganēsa, Şiva, Pārvatī (mainly in the form of Durgā), Gangā, the Krttikā-s, and Kārttikēya's fight with Tārakāsura. The legend pertaining to the marriage of Kārttikēya with Dēvasēnā has been mentioned in some texts of Sanskrit tradition, but briefly, and has not entered the themes of Puruliyā Chāu Nāca.

  4. The legend of Kārttikēya and his battle with Tārakāsura is accepted as the main narrative of the deity and great importance is given to this narrative of Kārttikēya in Chāu Nāca, to the extent that there are multiple entries of Kārttikēya in different stages of his growth from childhood to youth, a feature not prevalent in any of the other dances in the repertoire. To play the role of Kārttakēya is the ambition of every young Chāu dancer.

  5. It is only in the battle with Tārakāsura, that Kārttikēya wins the battle. In all other battles he is defeated.

  6. The importance of Kārttikēya in Puruliyā Chāu is only due to the fact that the dance tradition is offered as a ritual to Şiva, and Kārttikēya belongs to the Şiva pantheon. Also, Durgā is the chief deity in the region of Bengal, and therefore, Kārttikēya accompanies her. But the battles are won by Şiva or Durgā and not by either of their sons.

  7. A variation in the Skanda legend in Chāu Nāca is that, Tārakāsura is also said to be a son of Şiva.

  8. There are a number of tales associating Sasthī with Kārttikēya in this region. But none of them are depicted in Chāu Nāca.

  9. The association of Kārttikēya with Sūrya and therefore with Sankrāntī is also given great importance in this region, but there is no mention of this aspect in Chāu Nāca.

  10. The significance of the paper does not lie only in the narration of the legends of Kārttikēya in the Purulia region, and in Puruliyā Chāu Nāca. What is more significant is the emphatic acceptance that the traditional kinetic art forms have played a highly significant role in the preservation of the legends and folklore of the various communities of the country through the oral traditions.

  11. In the case of those art forms that are performed before audiences as part of rituals, their aura of sanctity has given them an opportunity to communicate to their audiences the tales from the epics and the purāna-s and the ethical messages contained therein.

  12. In the changing social fabric of the present times, these arts have lost their places and are slipping into oblivion.

  13. Artistic freedom, innovation and experimentation must lead to new concepts, new themes. If such changes are directly related to traditional themes, then artistes may be led or be tempted to present distortions of ancient legends. In several instances of innovative art expressions, there is a deliberate attempt to 'use' the traditional legends because they lend an Indian flavour to a presentation, and yet mutilate them solely with the intention to create sensationalism.

  14. It is in cognisance of the role of the traditional artistes and the art forms, in the preservation of the religious and cultural traditions of the country that, it has become necessary to record the traditional artistes and their communication of their oral traditions in every part of the country. This paper is such an attempt.


  1. Mohan Khokar, Traditions of Indian Classical Dance (New Delhi: Clarion Books, 1984).

  2. Ashutosh Bhattacharya, Chhau Dance of Purulia (Calcutta: Rabindra Bharati University).

  3. S. C. Bose, Geography of West Bengal (New Delhi: National Book Trust, 1968).

  4. Kapila Vatsyayan, Traditional Indian Theatre: Multiple Streams (New Delhi: National Book Trust,1980).

  5. Nātyasāstra, trans. and ed., Manomohan Ghosh (Calcutta: Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal, 1951).

  6. Abhinaya Darpana, trans., Manomohan Ghosh (Calcutta: Manisha, 1989)

    (It must be clarified that the identification of these features of technique as being similar to those mentioned in the classical texts, follows from the understanding of the technical terms, as they have been studied and analysed at Nalanda Nritya Kala Mahavidyalaya. This point of clarification is necessitated by the fact that, any text on prayoga needs to be interpreted by the artiste of that discipline of art. In such cases, the interpretation of the textual import with reference to prayoga may differ in the different schools of practice and research. )

  7. H. H. Risley,The Tribes and Castes of Bengal, Vol. II (Calcutta: Firma Mukhopadhyay,1981).

  8. Srimad Devi Bhagavatam, trans. Swami Vijnanda (Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal - 1992).

  9. Şiva Purāna, Rudra Samhitā, Yuddhakhanda Section V. trans. A Board of Scholars, ed. J. L. Shastri, Ancient Indian Tradition and Mythology, 2. (Motilal Banarasidas 1973).

  10. Lal Behari Day, Bengal Peasant Life (New Delhi: Cosmo Publication, 1984).

Personal Interviews

These interviews were conducted during my visit to Purulia in 1998:

  1. Guru Gambhir Sinh Munda.

  2. Guru Kirod Sinh Munda, Jamdih, Singhbhum.

  3. Gandhi Mahato, Royal Chhau Academy, Balarampur.

  4. Dhol player in Kirod Sinh Munda's group.

  5. Kirod Sinh Munda Performance. Chau. Jamdih, Singbhum .

  6. Tapankumar and Others, Mask makers, Chorda, Purulia,.

  7. Umeshkumar Pandeyji, Priest, Siva Temple. Tatanagar.

  8. Pujya Guruji Brahmanandji Shastri. Kali Temple. Tatanagar.

Appendix I

Nātya Şāstra

Jānubhēdāh (shank and its uses)
X. 34-40. 194-195
āvartita (turned) The left foot turning to the right and the right one to the left.
Usage: In jester's walking.
nata The knee bent.
Usage: In assuming standing and sitting position.
ksipta (thrown out) Şank thrown out.
Usage: In exercise (of limbs) and the classical dance.
Pāñcavidha Pādabhēdāh (the feet and their uses)
X,41-50. 195-196
udghattita Standing on the fore part of the feet and then touching the ground with heels.
Usage: In practice, this follows the udghattita karana and this should be applied once or more in the high or medium speed.
sama (natural) - (feet) naturally placed on an even ground. It is related to representing a natural posture.
Usage: It should be kept still in representing the natural position of the body in connection with the various karana-s, but in the rēcaka movement of the feet it should be moved.
añcita The heels on the ground, the forepart of the feet raised and all the toes spread.
Usage: It is to be applied in representing a movement with wound at the forepart of the foot, turning round in every way, foot being struck (by something) and in various bhramarī movements.
kuñcita The heels thrown up, toes all bent down and the middle of the foot also bent.
Usage It is to be used in aristocratic (udātta) going, turning to the right and vice versa and the atikrāntā cārī.
X. 52-54. 196
Persons practising (the cārīs) should take up simultaneously the movements of the feet, the shanks and the thighs. (For) in the movement of feet are included all the movements of the shanks and the thighs.
The thighs follow the way in which the feet are moved, and those two (limbs) constitute the cārī of the feet.
XI. 1. 197
As the cārīs prescribed by rules and connected with (different) limbs relate to one another they constitute (lit. are called) a vyāyāma (system).
From the cārīs proceed dance as well as movements (in general) and release of missiles, and (the stage) fighting (in general) should be made with the cārīs.
Hence, I shall describe the rules of the cārīs which are to be used in dance, ordinary movements and fights (on the stage).
Bhaumī Cārī
XI. p. 198
vicyavā Separating the feet from the samapāda position and striking the ground with their forepart.
utsyanditā The two feet to move in and out in the manner of a rēcaka.
Ākāsikī Cārī
XI. 29. 199
atikrāntā A kuñcita foot thrown up, put forward and caused to fall on the ground.
pārsvakrāntā One foot kuñcita and another thrown up and brought down near the side.
udvrtta The (kuñcita) foot of the aviddhā cārī taken round (the thigh of the remaining leg) and thrown up and then caused to fall (on the ground).
bhramarī A foot in the atikrāntā cārī to be thrown up and the entire body turned round (lit. the trika turned round) and the second foot to be moved on its sole.
XI. 50-71. 201-203

I shall now speak of the sthānas (standing posture) to be used in the releasing of the missiles of all kinds. (X. 49. 201)
60-62. vaisākha The two feet three tālas and a half apart and the thighs without motion; (besides this) the two feet to be obliquely placed pointing sideways. Kārttikēya is its presiding deity.
62-64. Uses The sthāna should be assumed in riding horses, in exercise, exit (from any place), mimicking large birds, practice of bending the bow and in the rēcakās (of the feet).
64-65. mandala It relates to Indra (i. e. its presiding deity is Indra). In it the feet are four tālas apart and they are obliquely placed and turned sideways, the waist and the knee are in the natural position.
65-66. Uses The mandala sthāna should be assumed in the use of weapons like the bow and the thunderbolt, riding of elephants and mimicking of large birds.
66-67. ālīdha The right foot in the mandala sthāna drawn five tālas apart (from the other foot) will make the ālīdha. Rudra is its presiding deity.
67-69. Uses This sthāna should be assumed in all acts relating to the Heroic and Furious Sentiments;duel of wrestlers and in the representation of enemies, an attack (on them) and release of the missiles.
69-70. When the right foot is bent and the left foot is put forward in the ālīdha sthāna, the pratyālīdha pratyālīdha sthāna will be produced.
70-71. Uses The missiles made ready for throwing from the ālīdha sthāna are to be (actually) thrown from the pratyālīdha sthāna. The actor should use various weapons from this sthāna.
XI. 71-87. 203-204
71-72 There are four nyāyas (ways) of using weapons (lit. releasing missiles).
73-74 In these nyāyas arising out of various cārīs, the actors should walk about (on the stage) at (the time of) using weapons.
74-75 The nyāyas (ways) are so called because fights (on the stage) are nīyantē (carried on) with the angahāras relating to the nyāyas and arising out of them.
75-77 In the stage fight there should be no (actual) fighting, cutting or flow of blood and actual striking. The use of weapons (lit. release of weapons) should be done with its mimicry, or the cutting off (of anyone's limb) should be presented, according to rules, by the use of gestures and postures only.

Now the second text mentioned above is referred to, as follows:

Appendix II

Abhinaya Darpana

260-273. 107-108
sthānaka Standing with samapāda, feet in the same line and touching the hip with ardhacandra hands.
263-āyata Standing with two feet, half a cubit apart from each other in a catusra posture and at the same time bending knees a little obliquely is āyata mandala.
270-272- Rest on the earth with the forepart of the feet and touch the earth with each knee alternately
motita and make tripatāka with both hands.
272- A posture in which the earth is touched with toe and knees.
273- A posture in which the earth is touched with toes and one knee on one side.
Sthānakabhēdāh (standing posture)
274-282A. 108-110
276-ēkapāda Standing with one foot and laying the other across the knee of that foot.
277-Usage To denote motionlessness and the practice of penance.
278-279- Standing with one leg bent and the other leg and knee raised, and hands hanging naturally.
Utplavanabhēdāh (leaps)
282B-289A. 110
284-alaga Leaping with both the feet and placing sikhara hand on the hip.
286-287-asva First leap on two feet and then place them together.
Bhramarībhēdāh (moving round)
289B-298A. 110-111
292-utplūta If a person moves round his entire body from a samapāda posture after a jump, it is utpluta bhramarī.
294-garuda Extend one leg obliquely and put the knee of the other leg on the earth and then move about rapidly with outstretched arms.
295-ēkapāda Moving around alternately on one foot.
296-297- If one moves round his entire body after making his fully stretched feet wide apart in a jump.
Cārībhēdāh (leg movement)
298B-308. 111-112
301-calana Advancing a foot from its natural place (walking).
301-302- Persons well-versed in nātya say that a gait made by two feet, raised up with effort and thrown
cankramana sideways making a leap alternately.

Murugan giving upadesam to Agastya Muni (15536 bytes)
Bharata Natyam artist Dr. Malati Agniswaran depicting Murukan. The right hand shows abhaya mudra through the pataka hasta whereas the left hand show vel through the shikhara hasta.
302-303- Moving like a leech, that is, covering ground obliquely, by joining one heel with another (at each
sarana step) and holding at the same time patāka.

Prof. (Smt.) Malati Agniswaran
Qualifications: B.A. (Hons.) German, B.F.A., M.F.A. PH.D. (Dance); diplomas in Saiva Siddhanta, Comparative Mythology and Theatre Arts.

Designation: Reader & Head of Dept. of Bharatanatyam, Nalanda Nritya Kala Mahavidyalaya, Mumbai University.

Official address:
Nalanda Nritya Kala Mahavidyalaya,
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E-Mail: agnimala@hotmail.com

"Representations of Bala Murukan in Kunrutoradal Temples"
"Kinetic Art Forms in the Iconograpy of Murugan" by Malati Agniswaran
Index of articles from the First International Conference on Skanda-Murukan