Bidesia – Folk Dance Drama from Bihar slipping into oblivion

Bidesia art reflects the system of various ideas on which the Contemporary society was organised. Sometimes it conforms to the societal values and norms of the feudal, patriarchal Society. Besides of social norms and practices This art form acted on the stage, showing all the colours of social norms.Culture is defined as a set of values, beliefs, symbols, Ideas, forms of behaviour and style of art and craft which the Members of a group have evolved to streamline their social life, And thereby distinguished themselves from other groups. The Term culture, however, does not have a confined, defined and Refined meaning. Learning is a dynamic concept which has Multiple and multidimensional implications. According to Thomas Wolfe culture is the arts elevated to a set of beliefs. 

Historical background of Bidesia dance form

In modern Indian theatre, Bhikari Thakur (1887-1971), referred to as the ‘Shakespeare of Bhojpuri’ by Dr. Manoranjan Prasad Sinha for his immense popularity amongst his folk, is a major playwright and artist. He has to his credit twenty-nine books, consisting of famous plays like Bidesia, Beti-Viyog, Vidhva-Vilap, Ganga-Snan, Gabarghichor and Kaliyug- Prem, and songs and kirtans like Shiv-Vivah, Ramlila-Gaan, Budhshala ke Beyan, Shanka Samadhan etc. Thakur was born in Kutubpur in Saran district in Bihar to Shivakali Devi and Dalsingar Thakur. Belonging to a low caste (nayi or barber) and having lived his life in very poor conditions, Bhikari Thakur was illiterate but taught himself to read and memorize Ramcharitmanas by Tulsidas whom he considered his literary guru. His theatrical style known as ‘Bidesia’, after his most famous play of the same title, uses folk idioms, music, and elements from folk forms like tamasha and nautanki. Bhikari Thakur, in his travels across Assam and Bengal, had been exposed to jatra, which, along with Ramlila and Raslila influence his dramatic form. In his plays, female parts were played by male actors, who wore false long hair and ornamented them. It has also been noted that Thakur was familiar with the popular Parsi theatre of that time. The stage in his theatre was always an improvised raised platform, with the audience sitting on all three sides. The lighting used consisted of locally available options like lalten and dhibri.

To a certain extent, his theatre also imbibes some principles of classical Sanskrit drama. For instance, every play begins with mangalacharan, which is considered essential to the beginning of anything auspicious. In the nandi, which comes at the opening of a Sanskrit play, prayers are dedicated to Ganpati and Saraswati, asking for blessings for the performance. In Sanskrit drama, the space of performance of natak is considered sacred and therefore prayers, elaborate gestures and the formal beginning of the drama. There is also the sutradhar, the narrator, a part that was often played by Thakur himself in many of his plays. In Bidesia, in the Prastavana or Prologue, there is a reference to the play as possessing a mixed form that is of folk and classical. In the nandi, which is replaced by the mangalacharan, prayers are offered, first in Sanskrit, then in bhajans and songs by the sutradhar. After the prayers, the play is introduced in its theme, drawing examples and parallels from Hindu mythology, the story of Ram being the most popular.

Famous plays of Bidesia dance form

Bhikari Thakur’s theatre spans the period from pre-independence, when he travelled to Bengal and was influenced by the intellectual currents there, to post-independence Nehruvian India, which was still dealing with issues of caste, social ills and communal prejudices. His theatre is important for his vision of a progressive and peaceful society, where every individual has the right to live with self-respect, his depiction of the problems of his folk, and for the mass appeal and reach of his plays, kirtans and songs.

Bhikhari Thakur’s plays left some memorable marks on a large number of audiences not only for its simplicity but also for giving the right place for bhojpuri language and culture. His noteworthy works are Bidesiya, Gabarghichor, Beti Bechwa and Bhai Birodh, Gabarghichor is often compared with Bertolt Brecht’s play The Caucasian Chalk Circle.He is also known as the father of the Bidesiya folk theatre tradition.

Bhikhari thakur leaved a landmark for all the artists and actors and he impressed people all over Bihar, JharkhandUttar Pradesh and Bengal by his performances. He used to visit place to place with the artists of his theatre company to perform at marriages and other events and used to charge a lump sum. A humongous number of people would gather to watch his plays, especially for Bidesiya, whenever and wherever Bidesiya was staged and played, there used to be an uncontrollable crowd.

Social impact 

The themes of Bidesia emphasise not only on hard-hitting but also delicate matters and emotional battles. The emotions of birha or pangs of separation find expression in the Bidesia, thus the women who are left alone behind by their men who are away from home, sing through these songs. The train sometimes represented as the other woman, the weather, and the in-laws are all criticized in these songs.

The overall form of Bidesia has been made so effective through the medium of vibrant dances and evoking music and heart touching stories that it paints a realistic picture of olden days. In the earlier days, Bidesia was famous as it gave voice to many social concerned topics like the cause of poor labourers and tried to create awareness about the poor status of women in the Bhojpuri society. Casteism and communalism are also handled with due care in the same cultural tunes. Sometimes, the tone of Bidesia is sarcastic in nature. Bidesia plays and styles of theatre are very popular for their rhythmic language, sweet songs and appealing music. These plays are the true reflection of Bhojpuri culture.

Performance and Costume

Bidesia dance, the female roles are enacted by the male actor-dancers. Usually, they wear dhoti or shirt trousers and for the appearance in case of female roles, they use artificial long hair for the same. Though many new means of communication and entertainment have developed recently, Bidesia remains the most popular and refreshing relaxation for the Bhojpuris.

Conclusion

As per my view Folk art forms are  powerful media! These forms are used for conveying message to the people as most of the people are living in the village in our country Bhikhari Thakur Heart touching on various problems of the rural society related to migration,flood, drought, religious malpractices, alcoholism, feminine crave for ornaments and caste system, reflected through his folk theatre and dance.

Electronic media and the onslaught of the Western culture had impeded the growth of the theatre, the theatre too should be blamed for its fate because it tried in vain to modernise itself instead of sticking to its traditional style.The electronic media also posed a threat to the folk culture and theatre as people prefer watching television than going out to watch plays

Malda Aam

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