Chhaliya Folk Dance, A Cultural Heritage Of Far West, Nepal

-An Article by  Mr. Rajendra Singh Rawal, Sr. VP-Mahakali Sahitya Sangam, Kanchanpur

Far West province is famous for its natural, socio-cultural, historical, archaeological, and ethnic diversity. This part of the country was named as ‘Devatavi’ in Sanskrit and Doti in Dotiyali language. The word ‘Devatavi’ originates from two words ‘Dev’ and ‘Atavi’; Dev means ‘God’ and Atavi means the place of wandering. Thus, it means ‘The Garden of Gods’. Even the term ‘Doti’ in Dotiyali language comprises of two words ( Do+Hatti) meaning the state having two Haats (Bazars), one in the plains and the other in the hills then, before the emergence of National States.

The then Kali-Kumaon region of current Uttarakhand state of India was even the part of Doti and was ruled by the Raika Maharajas (Kings) of Doti. Later, it went with the Chand Dynasty of Kali-Kumaon as a dowry which King Kalyan Chand of Kumaon asked his queen, the princess of Maharaja Raika Bhupati Shahi to demand during their wedding. Kumaon then was known as ‘Malli Doti'(Upper Doti).

Video: Artists from Far West Nepal performing “Chhaliya Folk Dance” during the Inauguration Ceremony of 3rd Himalayan Travel Mart (HTM 2019) at Soaltee Crowne Plaza, Kathmandu

Challiya Folk Dance came in existence in this entire region as a cultural boon from the previous Katyuri civilization; as the house of Doti was one of the famous principalities after the decline of the famous Katyuri Empire. ‘Challiya’ initially was an art of fighting with the enemies with Sword and Armour. During the battles, the warriors used to fight tactfully with the enemies exhibiting their war strategy.

Chhal (chicanery) means deceiving. The warrior deceiving his opponent attacked upon his rival exhibiting his tactfulness and cleverness. The drummers on the other side played the drums violently in order to encourage the warriors to attack their enemy with full glory and triumph. These drums in Dotiyali culture are called ‘Damaon’. The beats of drums were used as code music to attack the enemy. With the burst of the music, the attack even used to come to the complex of the battle. The traditional instruments- ‘Ram Dhol’, Turi, Bigul, Ransingha, Tambhore, Mridang, Mijura  Masak Baja (bagpipes), along with the beat of ‘Hudko’ and ‘Damaon’ composed unique music were enough to encourage the warriors in the battlefield. Thus, the bravery of the brave warriors on the battlefield was later fully respected and honoured. This war strategy gradually groomed as a Folk dance known as ‘Challiya Dance’. The art of fighting on the battlefield later became part of Dotiyali culture.

As the battles were fought during the daytime and the nights were to for planning war strategy for the next day, hence inspiring the chieftains or the warriors, the ‘bards’ were demonstrated among the warriors describing their dynasty’s glory and bravery of certain chieftains. This oral tradition is known as ‘Bhada’ or ‘Bharat’. This character song demonstrated as ‘One Act play’ by the local drummer with the instrument ‘Hudko’ is even known as ‘Hudkeli’.


‘Chhaliya’ in the present context has groomed as a cultural tradition of far-west Nepal. This dance has been classified into three categories: Chhaliya Dance, Bhu-wa Bharso (Bhasma) Dance, and Chaulo Dance.

  1. Challiya dance is the art of fighting in the battlefield and attacking upon the enemies deceiving them with the help of the weapon, Sword and Armors
  2. The Bhu-wa Bharso (Bhasma) dance is also the art of fighting taking Oath in front of the burning fire promising either will grab the land from the enemies or give up the life in the battlefield. Bhu- means land, Wa- means or & Bharso- is the corrupt word from Bhasma which means burn till turning to ash.
  3. Chaulo dance is another kind of Chhaliya culture (Chaulo means ‘the sudden attack’).  The warriors used to have a sudden attack upon the opponents with their troops; which was later transformed as a dance playing the swords to and fro in the beats of local drums; celebrating the victory with full of joys and triumphs in the palace of Doti.

Past civilizations have declined, the war strategies have changed, the frontiers with sword and armours haven’t remained; but this culture came into existence in a new form of “Chhaliya Folk Dance” which is demonstrated in the cultural feast & festivals, marriage ceremonies, and other rituals and social celebrations. ‘Challiya’ hence is the boon & gift of Katyuri and Dotyali Civilization to the Far West province of Nepal!