Friday, February 27, 2009

OJHA dance, a religious dance form of Barak Valley, Assam

'Ojha', the term usually means the name given to the profession of an exorcist. Ojha can also be a healer, or a teacher, such as of a religious dance. But, Ojha dance is a total different idea. It is a religious dance form performed mainly in the Barak valley of North-Eastern state of Assam.

Ojha dance is performed by a single male performer. He wears a long skirt and a kurta. He performs taking a 'chamar' (a broom kind of thing) in his hands. This dance form is usually performed at the time of 'Bishari' ( a goddess) puja mainly in the fourth Bengali month 'Shravan' (July-August) in Panchami tithi. The dancer also recites mythological story realted to 'Behula', 'Lakhindar' and 'Chand saudagar', a trader.

The story goes like this. Chand saudagar', the trader is a great devotee of Lord Shiva and respected person. The goddess 'Bishari' wants to Chand to worship her so that all the people in the earth start worshipping her follwing him. But Chand is adament and he denies to worship any other god apart from Lord Shiva. At this, the goddess becomes furious and one by one she kills all the six sons of Chand.

Lakhindar is the seventh son of Chand, who gets married to a noble lady called Behula. On their marriage day, the goddess sends her snake to kill Lakhinder. Assuming that Chand already build a strong protective house for the newly wed by Lord Viswakarma. But, the god also had left a hole for the snake as the goddess ordered to him. On, the wedding night, the snake enters their room and bites Lakhinder. On finding this, Behula, the noble wife took him to Lord Shiva crossing lots of barriers and troubles. She performed a very attractive and dedicated dance. At this, Lord Shiva was impressed and he ordered the goddess to return life of Lakhinder. The goddess agreed on a condition that Chand must worship her. Behula agrees and promises that her father-in-law will surely perform the puja. Lakhinder gets back his life and they return to their home.

Then, Behula requests Chand to perform the worship of goddess 'Bishari', also known as 'Manasa'. Chand agrees for tha sake of saving the life of his son but on a condition that he will perform the puja with his left hand as he worships Lord Shiva with the right one. After he performs puja, all his sons get back their life.

In Ojha dance, the performer elaborates this "Manasa mangal" story in poetical and musical form. Some other people sit around with 'karatal' and perform in chorus. This age old dance form is now becoming extinct as the young generation is hardly interested to perform this. But, we need to revamp this dance so that the next generation can get an idea of their traditional dance form.


shweta babanagare said...

Well... I saw a version of a group of females performing the same. Is that authentic?

shweta babanagare said...

Well... I saw a version of a group of females performing the same. Is that authentic?

Rituporna Nath said...

Well, Now-a-days, many females perform on this. I cannot assure authenticity but at least they are trying to keep it alive! Can you please share where have you seen?