- Ajaya Kumar Saha
Loknaach (folk dance) that carries folklore of the Tarai-Madhes including Mithilanchal is on the verge of disappearance, with modern means of entertainment lately increasing its presence in the communities as one of the factors.
The ancient folk dances that date back to the 7th and 8th centuries facing threats of disappearance include Allah Rudal, Raja Salahesh, Shitbasanta, Runajhuna, Badshah, Gopichand, Kunwar Brijman, Sundar Ful of Sundar Ban, Gugalighat, Sama Chakewa, Kamala Maiya, Jayabishahara, Dulaha Dayalsingh, Bideshiya, Dinabhadri, Lorik, Rajanal, Raja Harishchandra, Sati Bihula, Karik, Marai Shokhamahajan, Maharai Karik Maharaj, Aalha Rudal and Jhagadu Mal. Following this, artists relating to folk dances have gradually vanished.
According to Punit Ram of Mithila Municipality-10 in Dhanusha district, a folk dance instructor, 20 of his students disappeared as of now following the closure of the institutions they were associated with. He has also got his folk-dance music company shut.
He blamed easily availability of videos relating to folk dances about ancient stories on the internet for the survival risks of folk dances. So far, more than 100 companies related to folk dance have closed in the district, he said.
The ancient folk dances were affected during the decade-long Maoist insurgency, observed Jogindar Mahara of Shantipur at Wateshwor Rural Municipality-5. Unlike in the past, such dances at wedding ceremonies and local fairs have become rare these days, he added.
The state should protect them, he was of the view. Ram Prasad Paswan of Pokharbhinda in Mahottari district has now switched his profession as a daily wager following the closure of his own company that organized folk dances in villages.
Unlike his previous profession, he is now finding it hard to support himself and his family with low incomes as a daily wager. The artists associated with the dance company have migrated to the Gulf countries and the neighboring country India after its closure. Jibachha Paswan, 62, of Hariharpur, Dhanusha had been playing the role of ‘King Salahesh’, a 14th-century king related to the historical and cultural legend of the Madhesh area.
Paswan was one such actor who was hugely popular with the audience. The audience used to welcome him with applause whenever he appeared on the stage for a performance. The Mithila Dance Party with 25 artists including Paswan has presented the story of the historic king Salahesh in the form of a play in Dhanusha, Mahottari, Siraha, Saptari, and Bihar of India.
Paswan shared that his troupe used to earn Rs 40 thousand to Rs 60 thousand for presenting the drama for one night. Jibachha, who has spent 35 years acting in such folk drama and ballads, said that the audience has lost interest in the folk dance. “There is no demand in the villages for dances related to the folklore of the Mithila culture. So many artists have gone for foreign employment due to this reason,” narrated Paswan.
He complained that the artists have to look for other means of living as the government has not taken any initiatives for preserving and promoting such dances. Before, folk dances used to be staged in rural areas by investing large amounts of money even for prestige’s sake. In recent days, such programs have been stopped especially due to the lockdown in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The dance companies are closing down one after the other due to this. “We used to make more than Rs 600 thousand annually from the dance companies until some years back. At that time, the folk dance was famous in the Mithila region, but these indigenous folk dances are on the verge of disappearance,” Bharoshi Mahara of Haraiya, Dhanusha said.
Dilip Mahara of Hariharpur, Dhanusha said he along with his other friends is heading towards Punjab and Ludhiana in India in search of seasonal work since it has become difficult for them to support their families following the closure of the dance company they used to work for.
Ram Lochan Paswan of Kisanpur, Dhanusha, who has the experience of running a dance company, lamented that the companies staging the folk dances and ballads are being displaced due to the increasing use of CDs and mobile. “More than 100 dance companies in Dhanusha district have closed as the people have lost interest in the historic folk dances and got drawn towards the modern gadgets for entertainment,” he said.
Over around 5,000 artists have become unemployed after the dance companies which had earned names and fame in the past closed, and they have gone abroad in search of work.
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