Gaijatra and Nil Barahi dance
We all know pretty much about the Gai jatra, Right?
Yes, the Gai Jatra, a festival of dance, satire, music, and belief that people honoured as one of the most entertaining and satiric festivals of the era. Moderately, it is more than just a festival, it is fascinating. The way it connects the strangers with each other shows, the adaptability of this festival, the passions and devotions, and that imitation of the traditions, these all things simply heightens ups the people with joy.
Moreover, we also know that people from all over Nepal celebrate this jatra, where the Newa people reside, foremost. Yet, most of us consider it as a one-day long jatra. Even in Bhaktapur, most people consider only the first day of jatra as jatra, which is customarily held in Bhaktapur Nagara.
But, following them, more things happen during Gai Jatra’s festive season. Examples, are the Bhairav Dance in Madhyapur Thimi, Peacock dance, Kawanacha Dance, traditional street performances at midnight, Nil Barahi Dance in Bode and many more.
Nil Barahi’s dance of Bode
It is said that the Nil Barahi dance was there since ancient times, as early as the city, Bode was formed. As per the legends, the Nil Barahi herself appeared in front of the local denizens of the Bode and taught them the current dance style which symbolizes peace after war with demons.
But, she also bound them with some rules. Rules like, not having food or water during the dance performance. Plus, not allowed to talk with anyone during the whole performance which was approximately held for 12-15 hours a day for three consecutive days. Likewise, having a lifetime commitment.
It is said that once chosen the dancers should dance for their life no matter what happens in their life. Even losing parents is not an exception in this case.
There must be an influential belief and power within them, the Dancers, that they could dance for such a long hour and that with the same devotion and energy. Whenever they start their dance, a kind of energy rose up in the air.
Though it simply is a dance, it appears more spiritual because of the mask and outfit. Plus, the dancing moves of hands and feet look so flawless and smooth that anyone would get attracted to them. To become such a flawless performer, they must have practised it a lot.
Moreover, all the 19 characterized dancers as well as the musicians who participate in this dance, all belong to the Shrestha community of the Bode. Except for the two people who play Sahanai. Alike as the Nava Durga dance, this dance is also bound with some tantric rituals and some mysterious stories.
Nil Barahi Dance, even being such a historical and cultural dance, still is not getting acknowledged by other people besides the residences of Bode. Furthermore, it seems people have even started to avoid dancing because of the expenses of the dance which dancers themselves have to bear.
Plus, they have to follow the rules after being the deity. There seems no investments or donations, or financial support for the dancing community. I am afraid to think about if this dance form could survive until the next generation or not.
Despite that, the auditions truly love this dance. Sometimes, because of the crowd, even the musicians get disappear in the crowd of devotees. The Nil Barahi dance starts the day after the Gai Jatra for three consecutive days. Like other dance ceremonies, it is also completed with the cavalcade in the narrow streets of the Bode.
More about the characters of the Nil Barahi Dance
Representing a deity is not an easy task to bear. With the legacy and exaltation come to a bunch of responsibilities. Not only the dancers but also their families are bound by certain rules and restrictions.
However, there would be more than a hundred people involved in it including the dancers, musicians, and Jokhale. But only the dancers and their families come under restrictions and discipline.
In between the dancers too, there are characters divided into Devganas and other ganas.
Bhairava is considered the most fearsome incarnation of Lord Shiva. Also, the main dancing character in the crew. He starts the dancing procession as well as before him, no one could leave the stage. He shows up as the lead dancer over here.
Whoever wears that dark-faded mask of Bhairav, then would not be allowed to stay outside for a night stay. Neither he can go to the catacombs. Even his own body, after his death, is not allowed to cremate on ordinary ghats.
As related to the mask, he wears a black Jama with a red edge. And ornaments like Katiima: ( a kind of neck jewellery), Shinkhwa: bangles, Chansayu, and Chuela.
Barahi is one of the most powerful deities of Nepalmandal. Also, she is meant to be the consort of Lord Barah, who is well known for saving the earth.
There are four numbers of Barahi in this dance procession that represents the four Barahi of the Kathmandu Valley. Including Nil Barahi, Dhumra Barahi, Bajra Barahi, and Sweta Barahi. For the dance, they wear maroon coloured masks and red-coloured Jama with a green edged border. Similarly, they have had red-coloured hair.
However, they also wear jewellery like Lord Bhairav.
Kumari is also a part of the 19 dancers of the Nil Barahi dance. There are four kumaris in this dance the Barahi, Ganesha, and Simha. Kumari also has had the same kind of ornaments as other Deva Gana does. And wears the red Jama with a green edge on it. Her mask is maroon-red.
Here, almost all of the masked dance of Nepalmandal relates to the Shiva family. That’s why the role of Ganesha could also be seen over here. There are four Ganesha in this dance procession whose names are as follows:
- Surya Binayak
- Jal Binayak
- Ashok Binayak
- Karya Binayak
The dancers wear a red-bordered black jama. They also wear a white mask, which seems pleasant as well. Along with it, they wear Katiima: ( a kind of neck jewellery), and Shinkhwa: bangles, chansayu, chuela, and silver rings. Plus, a belt over the Jama.
The four more numbers of Simha simply make the dance more attractive. They are generally imaged as the guardian animal of the Devi. In this dance too, they represent the appearance of four Mahalaxmi of the valley. The Mahalaxmi of Khokana, Lagankhel, Lubu, and Bode.
Since the presence of Mahalaxmi is quite furious, she is not directly engaged in the dance. Instead of her, the Simha took part in it. Furthermore, they wear a white mask and Jama as well. Plus, they have white-blonde hair. However, they also deteriorate the same sort of ornament as other Devagana do.
In this dance, there are only 2 gatekeepers, who are also called the Dwarpal. Dwarpal means gatekeepers. There is a temple of dwarpal, on the way to the Nil Barahi Temple. They don’t wear Jama like other characters. Instead, they wear trousers that of red colour. They also have had a pair of Ghalanga on their foot.
Plus, a small moustache on their red-painted, slightly smiling masks. That people call the face of a great man. They even don’t wear the upper wears. But yes, in substitution, they wear a scarf like red cloth, with the sign of two crossed triangles.
Jokhale is not the dancer who gets applause after the performance. But, surely is the backbone of those dancers. Behind each dancer, a Jokkhale stands and supports them. However, they have no restrictions on eating, sitting, and talking like the dancers do.
And anyone willing to give a contribution to the dance can participate as Jokhale. It is more likely volunteering work.