Chau dance originated among the primeval tribes, and is prevalent in Purulia District
of Bengal. The dance is also popular in certain parts of the Seraikela District
of Jharkhand and Mayurbhanj District
of Orissa. The name has come from the word 'Chauni,' which means camp for soldiers. Some trace the origins of the dance to martial art and believe that the dance originated among soldiers in their resting period. The dance is believed to be 100 years old and forms an essential part of the ritual of the festival of Lord Shiva
The Chau is a unique form of masked dance. Eyes, brows and lips are drawn with large thin lines. Each character has a specific mask of its own. The dancer imitates the movements of animals, clouds, night, birds, hunter, and flowers. While dancing, they also act a little story which makes it a drama. Movements of Chau dancers are very quick, strong and lively. The lower part of the body is most important for this dance. The upper part does not move too much and the head of the dancer remains in a slightly slanting position.
The Chau dancer is mute. Some lines of the songs are sung by singers of the orchestra. But musical instruments are more important than songs. The drum, flute, gong and other traditional instruments are used in accompaniment.
Chau dance is performed at Chaitra Sankranti (the middle of April). Sometimes it continues till Jaishtha (the middle of July). Dances are usually held at night.