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  “Bahurupi” or ‘many guises’ is an age-old profession. One can often encounter a bahurupi while travelling by the train or roads or while visiting rural fairs in West Bengal. They have to get their legal licence from proper authority to get into the profession. They dress themselves as various Hindu gods and goddesses. They visit shops and houses in localities, singing devotional songs. It is their attitude that they never beg for alms. They carry a makeshift bag (“jhola”) with them and people who wish just drop offerings in the bag. At the end of the day their bag is filled with some rice, vegetables, pulses, fruits and a few coins.
It is their everyday job to get dressed in the dawn. They use cheap colours, totally unsafe, to paint their face. The wigs they wear are also made of cheaper materials. They dress themselves with colourful robes; justified for the character they are representing that day. Glittering and attractive ornaments are sometimes used to make them look beautiful. When they dress themselves as lord Krishna, the blue Hindu god, they wear eye-catching clothes and ornaments with a crown having a peacock feather. When they guise themselves as lord Shiva, they wear garments looking like the fur of tiger. They even wind a rubber snake around their neck and carry a trident and drum. When they represent goddess kali they paint their face black and wear a garland of cut-off heads made of clay. They even tie a pair of extra hands at their back with a broad sword (“khanra”) in one hand. Likely they try their best to guise themselves also as national heroes, demons, characters from Indian epics (Ramayana and Mahabharata), animals and even imaginary characters from folk tales.
Baharupis also take active role in educational campaigns, national health programs and other cultural activities. The costume they wear and the cosmetics they use, the colours they apply are all very cheap and are definitely hazardous to health but still they are too poor to afford for better ones. The costumes are usually shared by many persons and it cannot be said that they are maintained in hygienic conditions. They are used for years. It is now a profession. Once it was a passion and was treated as a part of folk culture. Once guising as god they felt themselves as god and did not even think to act in ways that impart insult to the character.
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