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How Bengal’s bohurupee folk artistes are helping fight the novel coronavirus

So far, six bohurupee artiste families have been roped in by the West Bengal Police for an awareness campaign about COVID-19.

By: Express News Service | Kolkata | Updated: April 9, 2020 12:04:25 pm
The police have roped in several bohurupee folk artistes to dress up as COVID-19 pathogens. Photo Courtesy: Birbhum Police.

A two hundred-year-old folk art form from Bengal has found a new purpose during the novel coronavirus pandemic. Prevalent in West Bengal’s Hooghly and Birbhum districts, the bohurupee folk art form traditionally involves artistes donning elaborate costumes and makeup, in a bid to imitate mythological characters in Hinduism. 

However, since Tuesday, the Birbhum Police have roped in several bohurupee artistes and some of their own officers to temporarily shed their usual costumes and police uniforms to “dress up” as COVID-19 pathogens instead.

Prevalent in West Bengal’s Hooghly and Birbhum districts, the bohurupee folk art form traditionally involves artistes donning elaborate costumes and makeup.

So far, six families in the bohurupee profession from Hatia village, Labpur block in Birbhum district, have been engaged in this awareness campaign. The nationwide lockdown since March 24 has meant a loss of income for many daily-wage earners, including the bohurupee of Birbhum, who travel from village to village to earn a living. To safeguard the artistes from exposing themselves to the virus when outdoors, the costumes cover the bohurupee from head to toe, using elaborate masks and gloves.

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“Since the lockdown, we have come up with many initiatives to raise coronavirus awareness. The bohurupee do this for a living so we put their skills to use. We are giving them some money and incentives in return,” said Shyam Singh, Superintendent of Birbhum Police. The bohurupee are poor and don’t have other sources of income, added Singh.

To safeguard the artistes from exposing themselves to the virus when outdoors, the costumes cover the bohurupee from head to toe. Photo Courtesy: Birbhum Police.

Since the initiative was launched only on Tuesday, police officials said that it was difficult to ascertain whether it has had any impact on district residents yet. Birbhum Police had earlier issued a statement saying that the initiative was undertaken to warn offenders who were continuing to violate lockdown rules, unwilling to understand the severity of the spread of coronavirus. The statement indicated that there were plans of expanding the initiative through the district.

Here’s a quick Coronavirus guide from Express Explained to keep you updated: What can cause a COVID-19 patient to relapse after recovery? | COVID-19 lockdown has cleaned up the air, but this may not be good news. Here’s why | Can alternative medicine work against the coronavirus? | A five-minute test for COVID-19 has been readied, India may get it too | How India is building up defence during lockdown | Why only a fraction of those with coronavirus suffer acutely | How do healthcare workers protect themselves from getting infected? | What does it take to set up isolation wards?

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