Bhairab Naach ("Bhairava's Dance") is an ancient masked dance performed by Newar community in the Pokhara Valley of Nepal as part of the Indra Jatra festival and named after Bhairab (Bhairava, an aspect of Shiva).
It was originated in Bhaktapur and brought to Pokhara while migrating. Although it was performed every 12 years in Bhaktapur, it is performed every 6 years in Pokhara valley to better fulfill its cultural role.
It was brought more than 236 years ago by Jitaram from Bhaktapur according to the guru Mr. Sarbagyaman Pradhananga (94 years old). The rag (song) sung in this dance indicates that it was started at the time of last Malla King of Bhaktapur, Ranajit Malla.
There are 12 bhairabs in this dance, namely Dagini (Dakini), Kwancha, Bhuccha, Bhairab, Kali Bhairab (Budi Bhairab), Indrayani, Barah, Kumari, Bishnuvi (Vaishnavi), Bramhayani (Brahmani), Ganga and Ganesh (Ganesha). Bhairab leads and conducts the dance. Before the dance all performers bathe and wear ceremonial clothes and mask (Khawpa). After wearing the mask no performer can speak until it is taken out.
The dance is started at the Bhairab Temple in the evening and after a couple of rounds and puja it is taken to the hosting place where it is performed for around six hours including puja.
At first all 12 gods dance. After the puja is complete then individual dance starts. First is Bhairab with Kwancha and Bhuccha which is like a child and adult play. It is called a Jyoti Naach. After that Bhairab, Kali, Indrayani and Barah come. It lasts almost one hour and called a Char Bhairab. It is an energetic dance and most people love to watch this part of the dance. Then come Kumari, Bishnuvi, Bramhayani and Ganga. Then Ganesh dances solo. Then come Kwancha and Bhuchha, again with their like childlike playing. At the end comes Dagini. In the closing act all 12 Bhairabs participate. Then the ending puja is performed and they return to the Bhairab Temple.
Other similar dances
- Bhairab Naach Videos in Youtube
- Shaphalya Amatya, Some aspects of cultural policy in Nepal, UNESCO, p. 13
- Pokhareli Festival Bhairab Naach