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Folk Dances of India

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Folk Dances of Madhya Pradesh


Maanch is a form of operatic ballet that is very popular in Malwa. It is a lyrical folk drama of Malwa region of the State Madhya Pradesh. The language of the Maanch is traditionally Malwi, although, now Hindi is also being used in its performance. It is believed that Guru Balmokand, who died quiet an early age, started modern Maanch, during a performance of Genda Pari ("The fairy of the Marigold Flower"). He left sixteen plays, which are still popular in Malwa region.

The word Maanch is derived from the Sanskrit folk-form, "Manch"."Manch" means the stage or place of performance. As an indigenous & distinct folk-form, Maanch has its beginning in the seventeenth century.

Maanch is performed in open space with barest of theatrical equipments. The stage is having a round shape. It is never covered from any side. No curtain is used as a background. Rarely, a place is reserved near to the stage for old veterans & known as `Bara Ghant Ka Pat`. This means a seat for an expert or experienced persons. On both sides of the stage the seats are provided for organizers and workers. The Guru or the leader sits on the stage itself. Provision for instrumentalists are made on the left side corner of the platform. The person who joins the singing of the refrain during the performance also sits near the `Bara Ghant Ka Pat` or else gets a place near the instrumentalists on the stage.

The stage is prepared from wooden poles and is used to provide the platform at a height of five to six feet or even more from the ground. The length of the stage is generally thirty feet while the width is about twenty feet.

A different type of stage was also popular in Malwa in which instrumentalists used to sit on a separate platform at a considerable height. The acting platform used to be quite lower position than this platform. Both the platforms are connected to each other. Such a stage-design is having some of the definite disadvantage like the performer, who depend upon the dholak and sarangi players at suitable points while singing, will need to look up and chances of losing contact with the audience may occur.

Generally, most actors in Maanch are from artisan classes like Goldsmiths, Tailors, Carpenters, Gardeners, and Coppersmiths. Only men can participate in this though there was one exemption has been eccentric woman, Babajan, who appeared in heroic roles. For get up she had wore a turban and a loose-sleeved shirt. She performed on the Malwa folk stage some 20 years ago.

The actual performance of the Maanch opens late in the evening with an invocation of gods and goddesses. Then a tribute to the founder of the Maanch mandal (group) and the scriptwriter of the drama is sung. This is followed by verses in praise of Saraswati (the goddess of learning), Lord Ganesh, Bherun, Chousath Jogin (The sixty-four nuns) etc. The entire cast standing with folded hands on the stage renders the songs.

Then the Chopdar comes on stage to introduce the theme of the drama and sets the mood. Prior to that, he calls upon the Bhisti (water carrier) to sprinkle water on the ground. The Farrasan, who is supposed to spread a carpet, follows him. The stage is ready for performance after this. Both the Bhisti and the Farrasan run on their performance, which also contains mime & singing of several songs for more than an hour.

The Chopdar plays an important role at the beginning of the actual play. He invites the performers on the stage and introduces them to the audience. The dialogues in the Maanch always end with the refrain line, which is sung by the performers standing together either in the corner of the stage or arranging themselves near the instrumentalists. Providing musical background dholak plays a vital part. The whole orchestra repeats the dramatic verse and enables the actor to dance in circles at the conclusion of each couplet. The dholak is played with its own style and forms the base of typical folk music of the region. The sarangi is also used to give orchestral effects.

The presentation style & technique of the Maanch, its various thematic elements, & suitable music and gaudy costumes all contribute in making this play a unique one. All of this is followed by a rich tradition. Actors are absolutely free to move in any direction at the time of performance. There are no rigid rules to follow and stage formalities to worry. They sometimes even sit amongst the audience when there is no stage work. Sometimes, the characters do not leave the platform for the whole play. They just move at the back and front for their turn. Certain characters make their entry from a distance walking through the audience.

Gaur Maria Dance:
Gaur Maria dance is one of the important dances of Bison Horn Marias of Abhujmaria plateau of Bastar in Madhya Pradesh. The dance is basically performed on the occasion of marriages. This is a beautiful and joyful dance that is performed as an invocation.

This spectacular dance performance symbolizes the hunting spirit of the tribe. The word `Gaur` means a ferocious bison. The announcement or invitation for a dance is given by making sound with a bamboo trumpet or a horn. With wearing head-dresses that are frilled with stringed `cowries` and plumes of peacock feathers fastened to them. The men folk in the presence of flutes and drums make their entry in the dancing arena.

Generally, women are adorned with brass fillets and bead necklaces over their bodies join to the dancing place soon. The bodies of women folk are painted with tattooes. They carry dancing sticks called Tirududi in their right hands and tap them according to the drum-beats. The dancers perform in their own groups by the side of the male members. Sometimes, they also take the liberty to cross and re-cross in between the groups of male dancers and drummers. The jingling anklets of the dancers truly correspond to the songs of their lips as they move further in dancing.

The men with beatting the drums, tossing of the horns and feathers of their headgears as per the rising tempo gives the dance a wilder touch in appearance. The men with drums usually move in a circular direction with creating a variety of dancing patterns. In the bison dance (Gaur) they attack on one another and chase the female dancers. The Marias imitates a number of bison movements in the dance performance. Most of them perform like frisky bulls, hurling wisps of grass into air, charging and tossing horns. This dance performance is engaged with chanting of many words in loud voice for inspiration in dancing.

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