Madhyapur youths revive traditional mask dance

By Binu Shrestha

jatraKathmandu, Aug. 17: At a time when several Nepali youths have been flying overseas as migrant workers and students the youths of Madhyapur Thimi have taken initiative to revive the traditional dances that had stopped being performed due mainly to financial crunches. 

The revival of traditional dances will be an opportunity to watch mask dances in one city on a single day. To mark the festival, several masked dancers will perform their dance from Saturday to Tuesday at Madhyapur, Thimi.
The youths and others of Thimi have now united and established a fund by collecting donations in 2015, 2016, and 2017 through dance performances.
All the dances will be staged from August 17 to 20 after Gai Jatra. Among the popular dances are Neel Barahi Dance of Bode, Mahakali Dance and Pulu Kishi of Nagadesh.
The horse dance of Pobu and the Raj Kumar Dance of Maru are known as Indra-Apsara. Apart from these, Mahakali, Astamatrika and Layaku Bhaila dances will also be staged from Saturday.
The live music and dances are the real identity of Madhyapur and it has made Madhyapur a living museum.
Nil Barahi Dance started at Bode during the reign of King Subarna Malla in 631 Nepal Sambat. The dance is observed for three days and four nights. The tantric Nil Barahi mask dance moves slowly through the narrow streets of Bode.
The festival is enlivened by the godly dancing forms of Bhairav, Nil Barahi, Kumari, Singha, Dwarpal and Ganesh, in total 19 divine dancers.
The role of Bhairav is significant in the mask dance. In historical Nil Barahi Dance, Bhairav is the main god of other Devgans (gods).
The dancers need to follow some strict rules. Each day, once the dance procession begins, they are not allowed to eat, drink, sit, and talk for 12 hours.
All dancers agree that it is a divine intervention from the gods that allow them to take up this superhuman challenge. Of the 19 dancers, nine are now in their late 70s, but have been performing the role every year for the last 60 years.
Akha, the holy spot in Lachhi near the Bode’s Narayan Temple, is the starting and ending point of the dance procession every day.
Prem Chandra Shrestha, 61, will do the lead role in Nil Barahi Dance. He has been involved in this role when he was 7 or 8 years old.
Another mask dance, Layaku Bhaila, which is celebrated at Thimi has been continuing after the earthquake of 2015. The dance was not performed around four and half decades due to financial reason.
According to the Layaku Bhaila Operation Committee, it required Rs. 1, 75,000 to operate 12 days regular worship, Rs. 2, 25,000 as remuneration for dancers and other people who support to manage the dance, Rs. 1, 40,000 to pay for musicians and Rs. 1, 35,000 is required for other expenses. The total expenses amount to Rs. 645, 000.
Five Devgans perform the Layaku Bhaila. Of them, two represent Bhairav and two Kumari. The dance is performed following the tantric and classic method.
The traditional Mahakali Dance, which was not performed at Nagadesh of Madhyapur Thimi for the past seven years, has been performed from the last year. The traditional dance has been brought into life after the local youths took initiative to revive them.
The dance will be performed at different places of Nagadesh during four evenings continuously following the Gaijatra Day. It is the Malla-era’s popular cultural dance.

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