Indian culture includes a treasure of a variety of folk dances. The diversity in culture and tradition is reflected in the variety of Indian folk dances too. Land of the Hindu Gods and of the Buddha of mystics and militants of Mughals and Sikhs, here are spectacles of dances that fascinate and enchant.
The dance of the Kashmiris is called as ‘Dumhal’ with long colourful robes, tall conical caps, studded with beads and shells; the menfolk of the Wattal perform this dance on specific occasions. While dancing, the performers sing too, with drums to assist their music. The party of performers move in a ritual manner and dig a banner into the ground at a set location on set occasions. The dance begins with men dancing around this banner.
Hikat, danced by women, is a modification of a game played by children. Forming pairs, the participants extend their arms to the front gripping each other’s wrists and with the body inclined back, go round and round at the same spot.
Dance and music is a way of expression for the people of Himachal Pradesh. In all regions, people living in this place of natural beauty, embellish themselves for the dance at all times. The breathtaking landscapes and artistic history is garlanded by the passion for dance in this land.
The valley of Kulu, celebrates Dussehra with great grandeur and splendour. There is singing and dancing, around a collection of images of Raghunathji, brought from different temples. There are different dances for different occasions. Collectively all dances are called Natio. No festivals or social ceremonies go without dancing.
Different regions in Himachal Pradesh have different dances. In most of the dances, men and women dance together in a close formation.
The autumnal hue is celebrated in September by a dance performance called Namagen. The most striking dance amongst these is the Gaddis. The costumes are largely woollen and richly studded ornaments of silver are worn by women.
The dances in Uttar Pradesh range from simple performances to ceremonious ones. They are called the Doms and the Bhotiyas. Among these the Dhurang or Dhuring are related to death ceremonies. These dances aim to free the soul of the dead person from evil spirits. This dance has robust movements and remind one of the hunting dances of Nagas on the eastern borders of India.
The Jhumeila, the Chaunfla of Garhwal and the Hurka Baul of Kumaon are seasonal dances. The Hurka Baul is performed during paddy and maize cultivation. On a fixed day, after the preliminary ritual, the dance is performed in different fields by turns. The name of the dance is derived from hurka, the drum which constitutes the only musical accompaniment, and baul, the song. The singer narrates the story of battles and heroic deeds, the players enter from two opposite sides and enact the stories in a series of crisp movements. The farmers form two rows and move backwards in unison, while responding to the tunes of the song and the rhythm of the players.
A famous dance of Kumaon, Uttar Pradesh, is the Chholiya, performed during marriages. As the procession proceeds to the bride’s house, male dancers, armed with swords and shields, dance spiritedly.
Amongst the occupational groups, the most enthusiastic dancers are the dhobis, the chamars and the ahirs. The dhobis dance to celebrate any significant occasion. They sing and dance on the occasion of a birth or marriage, and during Holi or Dussehra. There are Rasa Dances that revolve around the early life of Krishna.
The most interesting group of dances are the dances of the agricultural community which revolve round the annual seasons and which have a ritualistic and a functional dimension.
One of the most popular dances of India performed during Baisakhi by the men in Punjab is the ‘Bhangra’. Among the most virile and captivating dances of India it includes tricks and acrobatic feats. The songs include recitation of meaningless ‘bolis’, words, such as hoay, hoay.
The drummer usually in the centre of the circle, is surrounded by men dressed in lungis and turbans. The dance performed by the women folk of Punjab is called the ‘Gidha’. In the Gidha, at a time a woman or a pair of women dance while the others clap in rhythm. The dance is performed in the festival of Teeyan to welcome the rains. This dance also includes a step when women go round and round with feet planted at one place.
Jhoomer is a dance of graceful gait and self-surrender and is, sometimes called the cool dance of Punjab. This is also performed in a circle. Dancers dance around a single drummer standing in the centre.
Luddi is also a male dance of Punjab. It is danced to celebrate a victory. The performers place one hand at the back and the other before the face copying the movement of a snake’s head.
Jalli is a religious dance associated with the Pirs. It is usually performed in a sitting posture. Sometimes it is also danced round the grave of a preceptor.
The folk dance of Haryana is known as the ‘Dhamyal’ or the ‘Duph’. The dance can be performed by men alone or with women. The Duph which is a circular drum is played nimbly by the male dancers as they dance. In Haryana during the spring after work in the fields has been done with comes the time for celebration. Lahoor is the dance performed by women accompanied with songs which are phrased by witty questions and witty replies.