Bhuwa Naach: The war dance from the FarwestThe locals in Doti district are working towards preserving the dance and rituals observed during Bhuwo Parwa, a festival they believe is centuries old.
The atmosphere of Lekthanta village in Dipayal Silgadhi Municipality in Doti district is filled with excitement. Men adorned in traditional white costumes, called ‘jhakulo’ in the native tongue, approach Kaladunga Bhagwati temple. Behind them are groups of women clad in red and young boys and girls, all dressed up for the festivities.
In the temple premises, the white costumed men with swords and shields on their hands, start the procession of Bhuwa Naach, a traditional dance form. Facing the deity inside the temple, the men take choreographed steps as they wave their swords in the air. For the next few hours, the group perform various steps in order to appease the goddess. The crowd gathered around them watch in awe.
“Bhuwo Parwa is native to the hilly areas of far-western region,” says Deepak Bhandari, a local of Lekthanta. “But the festivities and rituals differ from one village to another.”
Tikha, Gholtada, Bagthanta, Lekthanta, Daud, Sanagaun, Kalena, Khirsain areas of Doti district celebrate Bhuwa Naach. Ward chair of Silgadhi Municipality Madan Bhandari shares that there is a general belief that if the dance does not take place, the locals will have to face negative consequences.
Although the festival’s provenance is unknown, it takes place after the harvest season, the time when the villagers are free from their agricultural chores. The preparations for the processions begin a month ahead.
“Bhuwa Naach is believed to be associated with war,” says historian Badri Sharma Binadi. “It is believed to be some sort of a war dance.”
Many also believe that the dance form replicates the military exercise from the time of the Baise-Chaubisey Rajya, when Nepal was divided into many princely states.
Bhuwa Naach is also taken as a celebration to spread goodwill among different ethnic groups residing in the region. People from Aauji community play instruments, to which, the members of the Chettri community, clad in traditional wear, dance to the procession.
“Originally 16 instruments were played for Bhuwa Naach but now we have only been using five,” says Tike Aauji, who has been part of the instrumental group for a decade.
The locals, who once feared that the dance would be extinct in a few years, have now found hope, as even young boys and girls have started to take part and enjoy the festival.
“Earlier, only the older people were aware of the history and culture of Doti,” says Narendra Khadka, a local from Purwa Chauki Rural Municipality. “Now, the younger generation is also interested to learn about their culture and heritage.”
Apart from Bhuwa Naach, there are other rituals observed during the festival. The festivities, which can last from a week to a month, depending on different villages, ends after the wood, chopped on the first day of the festival, is burnt.
During the time of the festivities, men and women play Deuda, another popular traditional dance native to the far-western region.
"Some villagers have also started hiring professional Deuda dancers for the Bhuwo Parwa," says Ramesh Bhandari, another local of Lekthanta.
Lekthanta villagers have been paying up to Rs40,000 to Deuda performers from Achham.
"They add a lot of colour to the festival,” says Bhandari.
To ensure that the festival survives for long, the villagers of Lekthanta have also started inviting locals from nearby villages to take part in the festivities.