Folk Dance, Songs & Performing Arts of Bihar
Jatra is a folk dance of the tribe called Oraons. The Oraons have three important dances – Jatra, karma and Jadur. Of these, the Jatra is the most famous, as this brings to light the battle and war that goes on in lives. These dancers are hunters and therefore well versed in these dances that have hunting actions.
The tribes that live in Bihar have their origin in Nepal. It is considered they were asked to leave their country and when it happened, they found shelter in Nepal. These tribals look very different from the other locals of Bihar – they look more like Mongolic folks and the Jatra dance is performed by this group of people.
The Jatra dance is a dance that features two groups of people, who pretend to be fighting with each other. These two groups of people have poles in their hands, and the dance steps look like they are confronting each other. So, these dancers keep waving these sticks and keep moving forward and backward, as the dance progresses.
While we look at this dance, we realize that these tribals still hold their past very close to their hearts – they still hold it against the group who chased them away from their villages and the comfort of their homes and recall the agonizing thoughts of settling down with their families and finding a new home for themselves.
The other view is that everyone goes through this internal anger and fighting with oneself – there are lots of instances in life, when our mind and brain talk two different languages. These are times when there is internal conflict within us – there is no right or wrong, just the conflict and the after effect of the conflict. This is also supposed to be depicted by the Jatra dance. The two groups that perform Jatra can also be taken as the person and his internal self too.
These tribes are also good hunters – they chase and hunt a lot of wild animals and hunting is more their livelihood than their passion. The Jatra dance has many steps where the actors enact the hunting of animals, and since the tribals are experts at hunting, these steps come naturally to them, and they dance as though they are really hunting and there is an animal in front of them, waiting to become a prey and finally their food. The Jatra dance has many such hunting steps in it and can also be rightfully called the hunting dance of the tribals.
When the tribals perform the Jatra dance, there is a musician who stands in the center and keeps singing the war songs. He does not participate in the dancing and his sole responsibility is singing and setting the tone for the dancers. The song is also sung in Nepalese, confirming the olden day stories. There are a lot of music instruments that are used in this dance, the most important one being the dholak. Since this is a war like dance, the steps are pretty fast and rigorous and produce high energy. The dancers are experts and do a great job in performing this Jatra.