Bagha Nacha: A folk dance of Odisha holding pride and beliefs

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People paint and adorn themselves to replicate a tiger and dance to the tune of Dhampa as part of offering thanks and tribute to Goddess Budhi Thakurani

By Pabitra Narayana

Bagha Nacha (Tiger Dance) is a folk dance of Odisha which is popularly practiced in Brahmapur and is enjoyed by many. According to folklore, Bagha Nacha was performed by tribals and villagers to impress Maa Budhi Thakurani of Mahurigada jungle, who was very fond of tigers, so as to get their dire wishes fulfilled. The wish makers are called Manasikadhari and they perform this dance as a gesture of gratitude to Maa Budhi Thakurani.

Running through the biennial Thakurani Jatra, this folk dance is still alive and celebrated in Brahmapur. The family members of the dancer undergo some rituals. Following which, the dancer’s whole body is shaved and coloured with enamel paint. The headgear and tail to be used by the dancer are taken to Jatra mandap for ritualistic worship, and by the evening, the dancer painted like a tiger walks to the Jatra site dancing along with the drum players.

There are two types of Bagha (tiger)– the first is an instrumental tiger (Kala Bagha) and the second being the painted tiger (Chitri Bagha). While Kala Bagha is the projection of a life-size four-footed tiger within a painted frame for performance, Chitri Bagha is an individual performer, wearing tiger mask, painted as a tiger with a group dressed as different characters to project the encounters of a tiger with a hunter or other wild animals. With amazing synchronisation, the dancers move artistically as per rhythm played. Instruments like Dhola and Mahuri are used to create the essence.

Bagha Nacha has also been used as a key element of the critically acclaimed movie Bagh Bahadur by Buddhadev Bhattacharya, which won the National Film Award for the best feature film in 1989.

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