Chhau is derived from Sanskrit chhaya(shadow, image or mask), or from Chadma(disguise). Some others such as Sitakant Mahapatra suggest it it derived from Chhauni(military camp, armor, stealth) in Odia language.
Chhau is a semi-classical Indian dance with martial, tribal and folk origins. It is majorly originated in the eastern Indian states of Odisha, Jharkhand and West Bengal. It is found in three styles named after the locations, i.e. the Purulia chhau of Bengal, the Saraikeilla chhau of Jharkhand and the Mayurbhanj chhau of Odisha.
The dances ranges from celebrating martial arts, acrobatics and athletics performed in festive themes of a folk dance to a structured dance with religious themes found in Shaivism, Shaktism and Vaishnavism. The costumes vary between the styles, with Purulia and Saraikeilla using masks.
The stories enacted by chhau dancers include those from the Hindu epics – the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, the Puranas and other Indian literature.