Sherebul Islam:

an Artistic Expression of Traditional Dance of Bangladesh

Sherebul Islam is a name of rural musical theater based dance performer of Bangladesh. He has been performed the traditional dance theater for at least 34 years. At this point, he is doing a historical role. Because the history of dance art of Bangladesh is around two thousand years old. The archeological testimonies and ancient literary pieces hold varied shreds of evidence of Bengal trend dances. In Charyapada, created in-between 650 to 1200 AD, clearly depicted the images and acts of dances. For example, Charya 10 describes, “Dombee dances on sixty-four petals of a single water lily”. The Charyapada 17 describes, “Bojracharya (man) sings while Devi (woman) dances and thus the Buddha Natak goes”. Later, the Natha Cult literature narrates, “Goroksonatha dances standing on a Madal, his feet don’t touch the ground but float in the air. Goroksonatha dance with the jingling rhythm of the moves of the ornamental long-skirt and then the rhythms of Madal say, ”Know your body, know your body”. In addition, the biography of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu mentions about dances performed in the 1400 AD. Varied forms of dances are found in the different Padma Purana or Manasa (the myth of snake Goddess Padma or Manasa) performances prominent during fifteenth to eighteenth centuries.

In the myth of the myth of snake Goddess Padma, it’s stated that Usha and Anurudha, a woman and a man respectively, danced in the heaven in front of the gods and goddesses. Once they made mistake in using rhythm. Being cursed, they were sent to earth as a common human being namely Behula and Laxmindar. On the bridal night of Behula and Laxmindar, a snake bit Laxmindar and he died. Then, Behula through an adventurous journey went to the gods and goddesses, danced there and became able to make her beloved husband alive. This myth and its performance are woven part of faith and culture of Bangladeshi rural people. Such myths are the basis of many different forms of traditional dances in Bangladesh.

The story of the snake Goddess Padma or Manasa has been being performed in different parts of Bangladesh and they are dance based. As per variations of performances, they are known in different names in different places.

The Padma Purana performances in the Kushtia region of Bangladesh are ritualistic and music-dance based. This is why this form of dance is known as Padmar Nachon (dance of Padma) in Kushtia. Field investigation reveals that there are more than 30 groups of Padmar Nachon in the district of Kushtia. More than 500 dancers are involved in the performances of Padmar Nachon. Among them, Sherebul Islam is the most renowned one. He performs not only in the rural settings but also in the urban stages and international events.

Sherebul was born on 1st January 1970 in the village of Khadimpur under the Union of Bahulbaria in Mirpur Upazila of Kushtia. His father is late Lutfar Rahman, a farmer and mother Khattan Nahar (65). After entering  Primary School, he got involved in the local cultural performances. At his age of 14, when he was in grade 5, Sherebul was selected for performing in a local Yatra Party. Local theater activist and playwright-director Mr. Rezaul Haq Solok trained him in acting. Firstly, he played the role of the hero (prince Rahim) in popular Rupban Yatrapala. From then onward, he played vital roles in the Yatra pala of Kajal Rekha, Sagar Vasa, Nasiman and so many others for 10 years at a stretch.

For his passion for acting, he left school when he was in grade 9. In the year of 1994-95, Bangladeshi Yatra performances encountered unexpected socio-political challenges. The performers in the Kushtia region found that Padmar Nachon (Dance-based performance on snake Goddess Padma or Manasa) was still popular. During this time, Sherebul joined a group of Padmar Nachon.

Padmar Nachon is, in fact, dance-based performance. He required intensive grooming to achieve skill of performing Padmar Nachon. But the already known dancers of the Padmar Nachon opposed his access stating his ineligibility. Because he was the performer of a different form. In this context, Sherebul determined his goal began to attend each and every event of Padmar Nachon across his territory. By observing the dances, he started practicing the same by himself. Keeping the sun back, he examined his own shadow to confirm if he was doing perfectly. Simultaneously, through careful listening, he learned all of the songs and pronunciation style for being a Padmar Nachon performer.

With his feeling of confidence, in 1995 he joined the group of Padmar Nachon lead by Guru Akbar Ali. He first performed in an event in the village close to Bogmari Border. On his first performance, he got spontaneous popular reward amounting Taka 1200. From then onward, he gradually became the inevitable artist of the group of Guru Akbar Ali.

Then he married Marzina Khatun, from his own village. His only son Mishkatul Islam Jim (15) is in grade 9. Sherbul maintains his family by his occupation of performing as Padmar Nachon artist. However, during summer rural cultural performance is not possible; and in the Arabic month of Ramadan, cultural performances in Bangladesh are socially prohibited. In such time, he earns his livelihoods by selling vegetables. Sometimes he drives three-wheelers too.

As a successful Padmar Nachon performer, he along with his group performed at the SAARC Folklore Festival in Chandigarh, India in 2009. Moreover, in 2018, he performed at Medenipur in India. Besides performing in the regular rural events in Bangladesh, he and his group performed at Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy (National Academy of Fine and Performing Arts), Liberation War Museum, Jahangir Nagar University and University of Chattogram University. He trains new generation artists to develop the quality of Padmar Nachon. He uses 7 kinds of rhythm to create numerous dance style known in various names, such as picking eggplants, driving pigeons away etc across Kushtia area.

It’s remarkable that he has to take the costume of a woman on to perform Padmar Nachon. Often he performs in other forms of dance performances like Gazir Gaan, Manik Pirer Gaan and even if Stick Dance.

copyright- Saymon Zakaria and Nurunnabi Shanto



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