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Bardo Chham, the popular folk dance of Arunachal Pradesh

Bardo Chham is a folk dance of Arunachal Pradesh and a crucial ritual among the ethno-various group of north-east people. Folk dances are performed during festivals and likewise as leisure routine. These primitive tribal communities living at the Himalayan skirt for centuries were able to retain their targeted tradition of thousand years. Their zests for existence and nature have enabled these rough working tribes of north east Himalayas choreograph some superb folk dances. One of the most widespread folks dance of Arunachal Pradesh incorporating the struggles of Adi tribe, Igu dance of Mishmi clergymen, ritualistic performances of Buddhist tribe.

Diorama of Shardukpen tribe of Arunachal Pradesh - Mythical India

A few tribes have descended from Tibeto-Burman origin and Sherdukpens, a relatively minor tribal community is one of them. Bardo chham is a folk dance belonging to Sherdukpens community. The crux or the theme of this folk dance is the triumph of good over evil. Sherdukpens are one of the major Buddhist fraternities in Arunachal Pradesh. In principal, these communities follow Mahayana path of Buddhism.

Shardukpens Arunachal Pradesh - Mythical India

History of Bardo Chham- Folk dance of Arunachal Pradesh

Bardo Chham, originated in the north-eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh and is still practiced by the natives with enthusiasm.

Originated in the north-eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, Bardo Chham is one of the ancient dances still enthusiastically practiced among its natives. As various tribal settlers flocked the district of Arunachal Pradesh, the dance and culture essentially is a manifestation of their lifestyle celebrated in traditional festivals and rituals alike.

Traditional Bardo Chham folk dance of Arunachal Pradesh - Mythical India

The historical past of folk dance of Arunachal Pradesh relies extensively on the folklore derived from the natives’ close association with Mother Nature and her normal habitats. Their pagan belief that everything in nature has some inherent implication leads them to apply dance dramas and performances infused with animal memories and simplistic form of expression. In keeping with the general belief, there are twelve evil animals that show up each and every year and the Sherdukpens disguised as animals, dance to combat the evil forces that these animals represent. The tribal men and women gown up as distinctive animals and dance in the middle of beating drums and percussion instruments like cymbals.

Music, Movement and Style

Practiced by men and women, the Sherdukpens dance at the beat of drums to eradicate the evil forces that gather each month. The tribal people still follow the sun and moon gods and their ceremonial practices are very much linked to the primeval forces of nature. The traditional form of worship is also closely associated with the seasonal cycle and agro-activities.

Literal translation of bardo chham means ‘dance of the zodiac’ and the performers wear colorful masks and enact the fight between good and bad with a background music playing to enhance the performance. The dancers bring peace and joy in the community through the dramatic fight performed by the Sherdukpens tribal dancers and it is quite fascinating to watch.

The ethnic wear of the Shardukpens, Arunachal Pradesh - Mythical India
The ethnic wear of the Shardukpens

The ancient folktales, uninhibited dance moves and dramatic flow of this ancient dance form is unparalleled and one of a kind in the entire country. The isolation of the state is actually responsible for preserving this extraordinarily primitive art form interwoven with its pagan way of culture and lifestyle. Usually performed in troupes, the dance is also popular in Buddhist monasteries not only in Arunachal Pradesh but in Bhutan and few other north-eastern states. Through the exotic dance of bardo chham, we get a flavor of the diverse cultural background of the natives of Arunachal Pradesh.