Nepal Chandra Sutradhar

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Article

Chhau dancer and mask maker

Traditional arts of West Bengal

Nepal Chandra Sutradhar comes from a traditional family of Sutradhars, involved in the performing arts of West Bengal in North East India. He makes masks for Chhau, the ritual harvest dance of Purulia, West Bengal. Unusually, he is also a dancer. He has participated in many workshops and given dance performances in the UK and USA.
Nepal Chandra Sutradhar is in the fourth generation of a traditional family of Sutradhars, from West Bengal, India. The Sutradhars are one of the higher artisan castes in the region (see background information article).

Nepal Chandra Sutradhar´s rare quality is that not only does he make Chhau masks using traditional material but is also a dancer in chhau style, a skill passed down through the family. He was ´discovered´ by the Crafts Council of West Bengal during a visit to a village during festival time. Since then, they have promoted him as both a mask maker and Chhau dancer.

Born in 1939, from the age of twelve, Nepal Chandra Sutradhar trained under Guru Gambhir Singh Mura learning the techniques of Chhau dance. He formed a dance group and regularly presents shows.

Chhau is a traditional ritual dance of Purulia, West Bengal. This was originally performed during the Bengali New Year (February/March) to celebrate the new harvests. Chhau is performed solo or in groups through the Bengali villages by dancers in elaborate masks and headgear.

Nepal Chandra Sutradhar has participated in many workshops for mask making and presented magnificent shows, either solo or with his troupe, in various programmes. He has travelled to the USA, performing at the North American Bengali Conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and running a workshop at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1997.

In 2001 he came to Edinburgh, Scotland for the Dusshera festival project, invited by the Scottish Indian Arts Forum. He participated in the Edinburgh Festival as a Chhau mask-maker and performer. The spectacular ten-headed mask he made during the workshop was bought by the National Museums of Scotland for their collection.

The Edinburgh project involved a group of traditional artists and craftspeople from West Bengal. Rani Chitrakar (scroll painter and singer), Madan Mangal Malaker (sculptor and mask maker), Dolon Kundo (potter and jeweller) and Madan Mohan Nandi (carving) worked with Nepal Chandra Sutradhar on the Dusshera project.
Author: Judith Staines

Bio

Nepal Chandra Sutradhar comes from a traditional family of Sutradhars, involved in the performing arts of West Bengal in North East India. Born in 1939, he makes masks for Chhau dance, the ritual dance of Purulia, West Bengal, and is also a dancer. He has participated in many workshops and presented dance performances in the UK and USA.

Works

Dusshera 2001

Exhibition / Installation,
2001
Arts and education project in Edinburgh museums with traditional artists and craftspeople from West Bengal, India

Chhau dance project

Production / Performance,
1997
17th North American Bengali Conference, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. Workshop at Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Performances and workshops

Production / Performance
Performance at Taj Bengal, Kolkata for inaugural ceremony of British Airways. Artist with troupe of 16 dancers and accompanists. Workshop sponsored by Crafts Council of West Bengal to make fashion accessories using mask-making techniques. 1993: invited to participate in workshop at National Institute of Fashion Technology, New Delhi to create fashion accessories.

Www

Crafts Council of West Bengal

Best point of contact for reaching traditional artists and craftspeople in the region
images
Nepal Chandra Sutradhar
Dusshera Project
extra

Sutradhars - background information

Background information text on Sutradhar caste and Chhau dance.
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