The ‘Chhow’, ‘Chho’ or ‘Chhau’ is a type of dance form performed by the people living in a contiguous area of Seraikala, (Jharkhand), Mayurbhanj (Orissa) and Purulia (West Bengal). In Orissa, the evolution and growth of the Chhau dance of Mayurbhanj has gone through a lot of ups and downs. The different kings of Bhanja dynasty were great patrons of art and culture. The Chhau dance was flourished into a better form under the sponsorship of the Bhanja rulers of Mayurbhanj state. Prior to the rule of Maharaja Jadunath Bhanja (1823-1863) the Chhau dance in Mayurbhanj was not popular as it is today. At the time of Maharaja Jadunath Bhanja, the Rama Leela dance was performed for the first time during the Rama Navami festival in the month of Chaitra. After few years later Madan Singh Babu came to Baripada from Dhalbhum who added Chhau music in this Rama Leela dance. In this way the Mayurbhanj Chhau Dance started growing under the Royal Patronage. The musical instruments of Chhau dance came into existence accordingly. Most probably in this way the Rama Leela dance was changed into the Chhau dance during that period. At that time the performers of Rama Leela dance were covering their faces with various types of masks related to the character. Although now a days the artists of Mayurbhanj Chhau dance are giving much more emphasis on the facial expression but initially the masks were used for various characters.
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