RBN Web Desk: Veteran nachni Posto Bala will be conferred the Lalan Puraskar by the West Bengal government on Saturday, in what is probably the first major recognition for the ancient dance form in recent times. Earlier, eminent jhumur artiste Sindhu Bala Devi who was also a nachni, was awarded the Lalan Puraskar in 1993.
Nachni is a folk dance form practiced in the rural belts of West Bengal, Odisha, and Jharkhand. Women performing the dance are given away in an informal marriage to their male partners, known as the ‘rasik’, who are usually their managers and co-dancers and are typically from a higher caste. Nachnis do not get the legal acceptance of a wife and are largely considered outcastes in the society.
Posto Bala can’t recall her year of birth or when she took to the dance form. She only remembers leaving home at a young age with ‘lover’ Bijoy Karmakar from her village in Nawpara to Kendori in Purulia. She has lived with Karmakar her entire life but was never considered his wife.
According to the prevalent social system of Manbhum—spread over the conjoining borders of West Bengal, Jharkhand, and Odisha—nachnis are considered sex workers and face large-scale social oppression. They suffer in extreme poverty in later years and none comes forward to perform the last rites after their death.
Posto Bala has been working for the rehabilitation and social recognition of the nachnis. She is the secretary of a nachni rehab centre set up by a Kolkata-based NGO in Purulia town. The Lalan Puraskar, she said, will finally recognise her dance form as an art.
Jhumur songs accompany the nachni dance form. The songs usually contain crass lyrics for cheap entertainment of the rural people. However, over the past few years, jhumur songwriting has undergone almost a total overhaul with songs now being written on environment, global warming, forest conservation and similar subjects.