Mukharai, 2019.01.02 (Dr Ashok Bansal): Madan Lal Sharma, who has helped produce Charakula dance performances in countries including Germany and Russia, now sits in a grocery shop in Mukharai village.
Madan Lal is credited with helping to spread the fame of Mukharai’s traditional Charakula dance to the world. Due to the popularity of the dance, Mukurai village also got a place on the tourist map. Mukharai village is home to around two thousand people and is Radha Rani’s grandmother’s village.
Madan Lal is now 70 years old, but despite his efforts to promote the Charakula dance, he is not entitled to any special pension and works in a grocery store to help make ends meet.
The first Charakula dance was performed by Radha Rani’s maternal grandmother. According to local legend, when she heard that Radha Rani had taken birth, Mukhara Devi decorated the wheel of a bullock cart with lamps, then picked it up and started dancing with it above her head. In this way, Radha Rani’s grandmother started the tradition of the Charakula dance. The tradition is continued to this day by village women, who perform this dance at festivals, especially Holi.
Madan Lal Rasia is a singer. In the year 1985, he teamed up with some women to make a stage performance from the traditional dance form. Women in the dance troupe included (late) Ashrafi Devi and Lakshmi Devi.
The Charakula dance is an exacting dance – Dancers need stamina and courage to hold keep the lamps on their head. The strength of body and mind needed for the dance came as a surprise to urbanites, so, as soon as the dance was performed in cities, its fame spread far and wide.
Madan Lal and the dance troupe were sent overseas to promote Indian art. Fame was achieved but fortune did not follow. Madan Lal has a collection of certificates and awards but little financial security.
Despite promises to support Braj’s artists, there is very little government support available for local artists. Many art and music schools struggle to survive because, these days, fewer and fewer people are attracted to art, which is seen as a non-profitable profession.
Those who love Braj culture know that art is an essential part of that culture – Art is the blood that keeps the body of Braj culture alive.