Bhairab Naach (“Bhairava’s Dance”) is an ancient masked dance performed by Newar community in the Kathmandu Valley of Nepal as part of the Indra Jatra festival and named after Bhairab (Bhairava, an aspect of Shiva).There are 12 deities in this dance, namely Dagini (Dakini), Kwancha, Bhuccha, Bhairab, Kali Bhairab (Budi Bhairab), Indrayani, Barah, Kumari, Bishnuvi (Vaishnavi), Bramhayani (Brahmani), Maheswori(Gangaju) and Ganesh (Ganesha). Bhairab leads and conducts the dance. Before the dance all performers bathe and wear ceremonial clothes and mask (Khawpa). After wearing the mask no performer can speak until it is taken out.
Comparable dances include the Mahakali Naach of Bhaktapur; the Devi Naach of Kilaghal Tole; the Lakhe Naach of Majipat Tole and the Layaku Bhaila (Royal Bhairab) of Madhyapur Thimi.
Bhairab nach or Layaku Bhaila is an ancient masked dance performed by newar community in bhaktapur as a part of gai jatra. The Bhairav dance, one of the two now performed in Thimi, gets its name from the fact that it commences from the layaku (royal palace) before circumambulating the town. It is performed in the month of August, after four days of Gaijatra.
The dance is started at the Bhairab Temple in the evening and after a couple of rounds and puja it is taken to the hosting place where it is performed for around six hours including puja. At first all 12 gods dance. After the puja is complete then individual dance starts. First is Bhairab with Kwancha and Bhuccha which is like a child and adult play. It is called a Jyoti Naach. After that Bhairab, Kali, Indrayani and Barah come. It lasts almost one hour and called a Char Bhairab. It is an energetic dance and most people love to watch this part of the dance. Then come Kumari, Bishnuvi, Bramhayani and Ganga. Then Ganesh dances solo. Then come Kwancha and Bhuchha, again with their like childlike playing. At the end comes Dagini. In the closing act all 12 Bhairabs participate. Then the ending puja is performed and they return to the Bhairab Temple.
Altogether five men dance in this traditional dance with four youth and one child. The men wear masks of Bhairab and Daagi ( Kumari). There are two Bhairabs and Daagis and one Jyapugacha (the child artist). They dance with traditional spiritual music and after dancing they start shivering (except the child artist) because of the divine powers of gods. When they are shivering they lose their sense and know nothing about what happened. The adult dancers who are dancing, get hypnotised when they hear the sound of Daaga baja, Bhusya baja and Ponga baja (Different Newari musical instruments). According to the recent dancers, they feel a divine power embaracing them to encourage dancing. According to them when they are dancing they loose half of their consciousness, heavy clothing starts becoming lighter and when they shiver they feel like in the state of unconsciousness or like when they are asleep. This shows that the community has strong devotion toward their tradition and culture.They must not stop dancing even if it is raining.