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Folk Dance

Folk Dances of India

India is a land of varied cultures and traditions. Diversities in all spheres make the Indian culture quite unique. Indian folk and tribal dances are product of different socio-economic set up and traditions evolved over ages. In India, we have festivals and celebrations virtually every day, and dances are performed to express joy and festivity. This has added to the richness of Indian culture. Since every festival is accompanied by celebration, folk dances have become an integral part of our social milieu. There are numerous folk and tribal dances, and almost all of them have continuously evolved and improvised.

Folk dances are performed for every possible occasion - to celebrate the arrival of seasons, birth of a child, a wedding and festivals, which are a plenty. The folk dances are extremely simple with minimum of steps or movement. Indian folk dances are full of energy and vitality. Some dances are performed separately by men and women while in some performances men and women dance together. On most occasions, the dancers sing themselves, accompanied by artists with instruments. Each form of folk dance has a specific costume and rhythm. Most of the costumes, worn for folk dances, are colorful with extensive jewels and designs. Let’s have a look at folk dances of India

North India

  • Dumhal -This age-old dance is still kept alive by the Rauf tribe of Jammu & Kashmir and is performed by men who wear long and colorful robes, accompanied by tall conical caps. The performers place a banner into the ground at a fixed location, and the dance is performed around this banner.
  • Hikat - Performed in groups, the dancers hold each other’s hand and go around dancing in circles. The pace of their movement is adjusted according to the tempo of the music being played. Usually, it all begins slowly and the pace gradually picks up until the women gain full momentum.
  • HurkaBaul - This dance form is associated with the state of Uttarakhand. Performed during maize and paddy cultivation in the state, this dance form is more of a storytelling. While a singer incorporates heroic stories of battles in his song, the dancers enact the stories with the help of their moves.
  • Chholiya - ‘Chholiya’ dance form is practiced in the Kumaon region in the state of Uttarakhand. It is traditionally performed in wedding processions. Sword wielding men dancers are seen dancing spiritedly and hence ‘Chholiya’ is often referred as ‘sword dance’.
  • Bhangra - ‘Bhangra’ is one of the most popular and energetic dances of Punjab. The origins of this impressive dance form remains speculative. While it is widely believed that ‘Bhangra’ is a martial dance form, it is also said that it was started by farmers to celebrate the harvest season. No celebration in the Punjab and surround areas is complete without a Bhangra performance.
  • Dhamyal - ‘Dhamyal’ or ‘Dhuph’ is one of the most popular folk dances of Haryana. ‘Dhuph’ is a circular drum and is played by male dancers. The dance is performed as a part of celebration after a long day’s work in the fields.
  • Mayur Nritya - This dance form is prevalent in the state of Uttar Pradesh. Also known as peacock dance, ‘Mayur Nritya’ is performed by dancers who wear specially designed clothes so as to resemble a peacock. It is performed while worshipping Lord Krishna.
  • Charkula - It is a dance performed in the Braj region of Uttar Pradesh. ‘Charkula’ is basically a multi-tiered circular pyramid and it’s believed that Goddess Radha’s grandmother announced the birth of her granddaughter while balancing a ‘Charkula’ on her head. Hence women dancers carry huge ‘Charkulas’ which in turn holds many lighted oil lamps.
  • Rasa Lila - It is a divine form of dance performed in several parts of India. This particular dance form is considered very important by the devotees of Krishna as it has a mythological significance. It is believed that the dance was performed by Krishna along with Radha and her friends.
  • Giddha - This dance form is performed in the state of Punjab. Giddha is the female version of ‘Bhangra’. The dance aims at expressing the feminine grace. The women wear colorful clothes while performing. Giddha is usually accompanied by ‘Bolliyan’, a collection of couplets.

Central India

  • Gaur Dance - This dance is associated with the tribal people in the state of Chhattisgarh. In this dance, men don colorful head-dresses and hats adorned with peacock plumes. Women, beautified by tattoos and ornamented with fillets made out of brass and necklaces made out of beads, also join the gathering.
  • Muria Dance - This dance is associated with the tribal people of the Bastar district of Chhattisgarh. It usually begins with an invocation to the phallic deity of the tribe. The Muria people also perform ‘Hulki’ dance and ‘Karsana’ dance. While ‘Hulki’ dance is considered the most attractive of all dance forms, ‘Karsana’ is seen as a recreational activity.
  • Saila Dance - This dance form is associated with Bastar district in the state of Chhattisgarh. Saila is a unique dance in which the dancers use sticks for rhythmic purpose. The dancers are seldom seen forming a circle, each standing on one leg and supporting themselves by holding on to the dancer in front. Then they all hop together round and round.
  • Karma Dance - Karma dance is performed by the tribes of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Bihar and other regions of India. The dance is associated with the fertility cult and is related to the Karma festival that falls in the month of August. The dancers form a circle by placing their arms on the waist of the adjacent dancer and dance in a rhythmic manner.
  • Kaksar Dance- Kaksar dance is popular among the Abhujmarias of Bastar. It is performed in hope of reaping a rich harvest. To invoke the blessings of the deity, young boys and girls perform Kaksar. An interesting trivia about the Kaksar dance is that it allows its dancers to choose their life partners from the same dance troupe.
  • Jhumar - This dance form originated in the Multan and Balochistan region of PakistanJhumar is slower and more rhythmic. Often performed by men, ‘Jhumar’ marks the beginning of the harvest season and portrays the happiness of people.
  • Jawara Dance - It is associated with the state of Madhya Pradesh. The dance not only involves rapid feet movement but also difficult acts of balancing. The women perform a balancing act by carrying a basket full of the harvested crop on their head.
  • Bhagoria Dance - This is performed by the tribal people of Madhya Pradesh.  Though the dance is part of a unique festival, which allows young men and women to elope, it has its own agricultural significance – completion of the harvest season.
  • Suwa Dance - It is performed by tribes in the state of Chhattisgarh. Also known as ‘parrot dance’, this unique dance gets women to act like parrots! It is usually performed only by women and girls while men get to play musical instruments of their choice.
  • Tertali Dance - It is performed by the Kamar tribe of Chhattisgarh. The dance is performed only by women who start by squatting. A musical instrument called ‘Manjira’ is tied all over their body – most commonly to their legs and the same is played by the performers throughout the ritual.
  • Grida Dance - Grida dance is performed in the state of Madhya Pradesh during winter when the rabi crop is ready to be harvested. The dance marks the success of farmers which is celebrated among the villagers in a grand manner.

East India

  • Chhau - This dance form traces its roots to Odisha, Jharkhand and West Bengal but it is popular in other parts as well. As masks form an important feature of this dance it is called ‘Chhau’, which literally translates to ‘mask’. The performers wield weapons such as swords and shields whi

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