Blog / Negotiating Roots

NR 16 | The Messenger Sail Art form and Socio-Cultural History of Ravan Chaya

Ravana Chhaya is a form of shadow puppetry known to be practiced in Odisha. It is considered to be the most ancient form. The puppets and their manipulation, being very basic, are devoid of any complex stylization. Today it is performed in area around Odash village in the Pal lahara subdivision in Angul District, in central Odisha. In Ravana Chhaya performance, a part of the tropue sit hiding from the audience behind a screen made of white cloth and manipulate the shadows cast by the puppets from a lamp lit above their head. The other part of the troupe of artists provides musical support with traditional instruments –Khanjani, Cymbals and Daskathi. The musicians sit in front corner of the screen facing the audience side-wise. The puppets are made locally by the artists themselves using various animal skins for translucence, longevity and ritualistic needs. The skins are usually procured from the Juang tribe living in nearby Malayagiri hills.

The main narrative in Ravana Chhaya is borrowed from the famous literary work ‘Bichitra Ramayana’ by medieval Odiya poet Vishwanath Khuntia.  The lyrics and musical style is also borrowed from the performance that is practiced at the “Bhagabata Tungi”(i.e. a community hut in the village where  scriptures narrating Ramayana and other stories are recited every evening).