Considered to be extremely “old” is a Southeast Asian dance form known as Lakhon Chatri. This “ancient” dance is said to have originated from Central Thailand, and is closely associated to yet another “Thai” theatrical dance style known as Menora. Apparently, the word “Chatri” has been obtained from the Sanskrit word “Kshatriya” which is a warrior class according to the Hindu caste system. Furthermore, this dance basically represents a story related to kings. In addition, this dance popular in rural regions in Southern and Central Thailand gradually became famous in a city like Bangkok over a period of time.
This theory is supported by the fact that the Lakhon Chatri tells the tale of kings and that its attire resembles that of ancient kings. Others believe that chatri is a distorted version of the words yatra or yatri, which mean “to travel, to go on a journey.” They make the argument that “chatri,” or roving performing groups, still exist in India today.
a. History/origin of the Lakhon Chatri dance:
According to the cultural history of Thailand, this dance style first originated in central and southern Thailand. It was during 1769 that King Taksin of Thonburi for the first time along with his army is supposed to have captured a few people as well as a Lakhon Chatri performing dance group. Furthermore, it was in 1780 that Taksin for the first time ordered this dance troupe to officially perform the Lakhon Chatri in a competition arranged to celebrate the installation of an Emerald Buddha in Thonburi. In addition, in 1832 it was during the rule of King Rama, the third that Somdet Chao Phraya Borom Maha Prayurawong along with his army had also managed to capture several talented Lakhon Chatri performers from the southern region. It was during this period then that these talented Lakhon Chatri dancers began performing on a regular basis, and slowly but gradually made this dance style extremely popular. Apparently, as of today this dance style has continued to be passed on from one generation to another throughout the country.
b. Costumes used in the Lakhon Chatri dance:
The costumes used in this dance style include a calf length trouser known as the “Sanap phlao”, and decorative cloth strips including the hoi na that hang from the front and hoi khang that hangs from the side. Furthermore, accessories include jewel sashes known as Sangwan, a pendant known as thap suag, an embroidered collar known as krong kho, and a pointed crown headdress known as a soet. Later on, similar to the Lakhon Nok, a blouse is added to the costume for female performers to wear while performing in the Lakhon Chatri show. In addition, the performers are usually “shirtless” while performing.
c. Music involved in the Lakhon Chatri dance:
The musical instruments basically involved in this dance style includes a pair of hand cymbals, a pair of small knobbed gongs, a pair of wooden sticks, a barrel shaped gendang, a reed instrument, and a vase shaped single headed drum.
d. Training centre and technique involved in the Lakhon Chatri dance:
In terms of the technique, this dance involves the main performer (i.e. character) dancing around a circle in the anticlockwise direction. In addition, while performing the main performer recites an incantation (i.e. a charm or a spell) so as to apparently invoke spirits capable of driving away the presence of evil. Furthermore, this dance also includes the performer dancing around the circle in a clockwise direction and reciting the incantation backwards. As for training centers/schools, there are none available around the world since this “ancient” dance is mainly performed in Central and Southern Thailand.