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Bohurupi – the dying performing art form of Bengal

Behind Bijoy Choudhury’s lens

14 March, 2020

PHOTOGRAPHS BY Bijoy Choudhury

TEXT BY Saheli Mitra

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At times he is the dusky Kali, at times the blue faced Shiva, or even the demure Brihannala. He lives in many forms, in many hues and that’s the life of Kalipada Pal, one of the last surviving Bohurupis of Bengal. Bohurupi is a dying folk performance art that was one of the primary rural entertainments just like jatra even a few decades ago. Remember Srinath Bohurupi? That famous character of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s Srikanto? 

Over the years this performance art has gradually vanished, and very few Bohurupis still survive. Pal is one of them whose devotion to keep this entertaining art alive is praiseworthy.

A resident of Jyotsambhu village of Hooghly district, he is still an inspiration, meticulously acting and dressing up as mythological characters and as divine gods and goddesses. With the use of herbal colours and divine object cut outs, he with the help of his grand-daughter gives a magical touch of perfection to his make-up. They also dress up boys of different villages who wish to be the Bohurupi gang and the whole group fans out in different directions to earn by entertaining the rural folk. Whatever they get is a mere pittance. Yet, Pal holds on to his age-old tradition of being the Bohurupi and keeping alive this rural entertainment form. 

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