Low pay disheartens traditional dancers

Lalitpur, October 22

Kartik Naach, a Newari festival in Patan of traditional dance performances, bhajans, and religious drama, is on the verge of discontinuation because of severe financial problems.

A performer Sojan Raghubansi said he lost much of his motivation to continue performing because of the low wages paid by the Kartik Naach Samrakshan Samiti, the committee responsible for conducting the festival. Raghubanshi is to perform as Radha and Apsara (female characters of Hindu myths) in Madhbanar Lila, a mythical drama performed during the Kartik Naach.

Many performers have expressed dissatisfaction over the wages paid by the committee.

The performers informed that they used to be paid Rs 300 to 400 per day. Raghubanshi said, “I am a professional Kathak dancer, and I have certain expectations from committee and the state. But it is very difficult for dancers to survive in such situation. I have been dancing in Kartik Naach for the last 19 years. I have often contributed more than I need to professionally to protect this tradition and culture.”

The Kartik Naach was historically observed for the entire month of Kartik during the Malla Regime. However, because of budgetary constraints, the festival has been reduced to ten days this year, starting from November 1.

Chairman of the Kartik Naach Samrakshan Samiti Kiran Chitrakar said that the festival started as a two-day event. But King Shree Niwas Malla added seven more days to the festival, and his son King Yog Narendra Malla added another 15. The festival grew and evolved during the reigns of various Malla kings as time passed.

“The little budget we collect from the municipality, the Lalitpur chamber of commerce and industry, and locals is not sufficient to organise the Naach. We have no option but to make cuts in the salaries of the performers,” said Chitrakar.