01 August, 2021

The martial dance of the Bhumij still survives in a little outback

The martial dance of the Bhumij still survives in a little outback
When compared to Kalaripayattu, the much-celebrated martial art form of Kerala, Firkal seems a poor cousin. The art is still practiced but is disappearing fast, now restricted to just the Bhumij tribes of Chhotanagpur area of Jharkhand. Much older than Kalaripayattu and other indigenous martial art forms like that of Manipur and even those of China and Japan, Firkal is still alive thanks a great deal to the efforts of Kalamandir—The Celluloid Chapter Art Foundation (TCCAF), a Jamshedpur-based NGO. For many years now, the organisation has been tirelessly working for the revival and promotion of Firkal.

Today, Firkal survives in just one obscure village, Janumdih, of Potka block in East Singhbhum district of Jharkhand. A group of about 25 Bhumij tribal families here still hang on to the traditions of the discipline. Experts say Firkal is, in fact, a variation of Kirpan Susun (Kirpan means sword and susun dance), a traditional dance form among the Bhumij tribes of Chhotanagpur. The dance portrayals are mostly enactments of hunting scenes and self-defence.


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