Stories from Tripura

On a Wintery night the tiger is burning bright

Tiger-like-Bahurupi
Tiger-like-Bahurupi

Bahurupi, man clad in tiger costumes, is a forgotten form. It was Immortalized in Sarat Chandra Chattopadhaya’s Srikanta, in Bagh Bahadur film.

*Manik Debnath

Agartala, February 12, 2020: When the night is cool and the silvery moon creates a hypnotic spell, the ‘tiger’ comes to visit the rural households—burning bright. But, there is nothing to fear. This tiger has its own charm and it is not allured of blood.

In the past, villages remained mostly quiet and desolate, especially at winter nights. At that time, wave of modernization was yet to rock the society and people would rely on folk arts of different types for entertainment.

Decades ago, clad in tiger costumes, folk artists would jump into country yards suddenly from behind the darkness. Sudden Tiger act – Bahurupi as they were called, was source of immense pleasure for kids and adults as well. This traditional art form had been immortalized in “Sharat Chandra Chattopadhaya’s Mejda” and Buddha Deb Basu’s iconic flick “Bagh Bahadur”.

In the rural villages, also often in subdivisional towns of this ancient art form, was once widely performed during the deep winter night. When the area is quiet and ambience is suggestive with dark shadows with moonlight playing hide and seek some locals would then arrive at the village home–one of them attired in rag tag tiger dress and a mask—and dance to the tune that some of them was ‘singing’, it was not a song actually but some sort of rural half finished ballad. The elders would then wake up the children who with their sleepy eyes would come to the open space only to get a scare from the ‘tiger’ dancing and jumping only a few feet away. The village man and woman then would give the men accompanying tiger some money or rice or vegetable—whatever available. The team would then leave the house– only if anybody would have a look, they would, perhaps, have found that the ‘tiger’ was happily smoking his ‘biri’ before getting ready to visit another home.

Over the years, with the advent of modern life, rat race and vanishing pastoral ambience of the semi urban or village life- the art form of Bagh dance had been vanishing fast.

Many a scholar says, while describing the Tiger dance that this practice was directly linked to the human-tiger conflict—of the past.

“In the past when, honey collectors used to go deep into the forest to collect honey they used to dress up like a tiger in order to outwit the original tiger. Then again, the tigers were not less than a god to the honey collectors. In the winter season, the months of Pousha and Magha, this ritual was practiced. The tiger was also worshipped formally at the end of the season.

“The Dugla community people clad in tiger’s attire used to knock every door in the nights to collect subscription for the worship’ said Sadhan Das, one of the members of Dogla community who are still practicing the ritual in Ambassa.

Speaking to this reporter, Das along with his companions—Maran Namasudra, Dipendra Namasudra, Balai Biswas et al were fighting it hard to revive this traditional folk form

“In this age of internet, people have not that much of time to recall the practices of their ancestors”, rued Das and then added: We started this practice to remind people of our culture and the traditional rituals..

However, their attempts assumed huge appreciation in Ambassa as people of the subdivision, after almost few decades once again felt a string of connect with the ancient folk form once largely practiced here. (Courtesy: Tripura Times)

*Manik Debnath can be contacted at tripuratimes@gmail.com



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