Ramchandra Manjhi, Bihar’s legendary Naach artist received Sangeet Natak Akademi Award

In the blind pursuit of western culture and their lifestyle, we Indians are losing our own identity. Following them has become a trend. Those who follow it are considered to be refined and classy. No one is concerned about the declining status of our own culture. Be it our folk music, literature, ethnicity, local languages or heritage sites, unfortunately Bihar is a no exception to that. Our focus towards our culture is lacking. Many of us even don’t know much about the different folk art forms of Bihar. Battling with such state of affairs, people like Ramchandra Manjhi are trying to save our heritage and keeps it going.

Ramchandra Manjhi is a folk theatre artist, who has also shared the stage with the renowned Naach artists Bhikhari Thakur (The most known and well-loved Naach artists who wrote a dozen plays and hundreds of songs in Bhojpuri).

For his contribution and inputs to the folk theater of Bihar, Ramchandra Manjhi was awarded the Sangeet Natak Academi award of 2017. Whereas his facilitation happened on 6th February 2019 by the President of India, Ramnath Kovind in New Delhi.

Naach — which is often confused with simply “dance” is a form of folk theater of Bihar. It is traditionally performed by members of the scheduled caste communities with all-male performers. It is commonly known as “Launda Naach.

Ramchandra Manjhi bade, as he is fondly known, belongs to a small village Tujapur of Chhapra district. Born in a Dalit family, he started training and working with Bhikhari Thakur’s Naach troupe when he was a mere 12 years old. And the journey went on for more than 80 years. In this long, incredible journey, his performances have been attended by Moti Lal Nehru, Jawaharlal Nehru, Indra Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Jagjivan Ram, Jaiprakash Narayan, as well as matinee idols like Suraiya, Helen, Waheeda Rahman, Meena Kumari and Naushad.

Some of his famous plays are Bidesiya, Beti Bechawa and Gabarghichor, all of them written by Bhikhari Thakur. In which he was accompanied by Ramchandra Majhi chhote, Shivlal Baari, and Lakhi Chand Manjhi (the other three of the last four surviving Naach artists to have worked with Bhikhari Thakur). Ramchandra Manjhi bade is the oldest among all the four. A documentary named as has also been made by Jainendra Dost, depicting the life and plight of Naach artist.

The move has been welcomed by many artists, academicians, and social and political activists; congratulations have been pouring in from across the country. Many see this as akin to honouring Bhikhari Thakur and his legacy. Artists like Ramchandra Manjhi is an inspiration to the young folk artists and a hope that our cultural symbols will be intact and continue to hold a valuable status in our society.

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Quote of the day:“A loving heart is the truest wisdom.” 
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