‘Bhand Pather’ artists visualize a bleak future
By: Misbah Ul Ain
Sopore: Bhand Pathar, the ancient Kashmiri folk theater has lost its relevance in the society with the theater artists visualizing a dark and bleak future for this art form.
Bhadh Pather used to be a star attraction in marriages and societal ceremonies in the past. However, the art has become a thing of the past with the artists predicting its nemesis.
“There is no demand for this art which has badly hit our livelihood. Now our kids are switching to other fields and professions to earn their livelihood. This will soon become history,” said Abdul Ahad Bhat, a bhand Pather artist from Adipura Bomai, Sopore.
Over the years, the artists associated with the age-old Art of Bandh pather are feeling alienated and disowned as they rarely get invitations on marriages and other government sponsored programmes.
Bhand Pather is a play festival where groups of artists perform plays addressing social, political, and economic issues as they march from one location to another while dressed in vibrant costumes.
With the passage of time, these artists have now abandoned the art because they say that they hardly earn anything from it.
“The government has no policies or regulations for these artists. Whenever someone wants our performance, we make sure to go, do our best with our old costumes and strained minds, and make people laugh,” Abdul Ahad Bhat said.
He said that their elders have participated in Batt Paether, Bohair Paether, Darza Paether and Aaram Paether.
“When the Kashmiri Pandits used to celebrate festivals, the Pandits offered us walnuts, rice, cigarettes, and money, and we all went to their homes,” he said.
He said their women would dance (Rouff) for 15 days on these holidays particularly on the eve of Eid ul Fitr and Eid ul Adha.
Bhand Pather contains every component and factor that could aid in fostering global awareness and material integration.
“In the past, landlords (Zameendar families) would not set the date for their children’s weddings unless they would consult us. We were invited first when someone got married at Pandit’s home, and we would go there joyfully,” Bhat added.
“But now the performances have stopped,” he rued.
These days, the artists have stopped practicing their Art owing to fewer earnings and lack of interest by the local populace.
“Our government does not have any policies or programmes for artists like us. Whenever someone needs us at events or for other purposes, we go and do our best,” Bhat said.
President, ‘Bomai Looke Theater’, Mohammed Dilawar Bhat said he has been a performer for the last 50 years.
“In the past there was a routine that when a wedding would be scheduled at someone’s home, they would invite us. But today we are not invited, and everyone is neglecting us,” he said.
He said they receive invitations to perform in only one or two government sponsored programmes in a year.
“Our kids argue that it would be beneficial for us to do something else and earn our livelihood,” he said, adding that their kids are doing away with this traditional art because of the prevailing scenario and less demand for art and artists.
He said Bandh Pather used to be in huge demand juust a decade back but the interest in this art form has faded altogether.