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Folk Dances of India

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Folk Dances of Himachal Pradesh & Uttaranchal

FOLK DANCE OF HIMACHAL PRADESH
Karayila:
The most interesting and equally popular folk drama of Himachal Pradesh is Karayila. Karayila performance is not one single play having a start, middle and ends - in fact, it`s an entertaining series of small playlets, skits, revues and burlesques. Being entertaintive in nature they are based mostly on showing social stire. Humour is a significant part of it & reflecting in all of its shades. This form of shows present sharp and pungent satires about the bureaucracy, social issues like racial discrimination and miserliness very boldly. Sly and sharp kind of social commentary comes in the form of jokes and puns packed with wit and humor.

The word Karayila is derived from the word `Karal` means ferocious. As the masks bring an element of ferocity in the play it might have been named so. However, some scholars believe that the word is used to show its relation with the term Karal which means an offering made by the devotee to his respected deity for fulfilling his wish or desire. As a token of gratitude the devotee makes the offering promised by him for the wish, if it is fulfilled. In India, there is a practice of offering dramatic performances to the deities. Karayila can be said the product of that kind of practice. But, this does not fully explain the social satire which Karayila skits carry within them. Probably they might have been later additions to the Purvaranga in which the ascetics are used in dominance.

Karyila stage is very simple. It is performed on ground with four poles, raised each at Four Corners. To make clear demarcation in the performing arena, a rope is tied to the poles. In the center a bonfire is lit, which is the source of light and heat. This bonfire is considered very sacred and all performances are held around this bonfire. The cold weather of the region may be the reason for lighting the fire but the practice is rooted so deeply that even if the performance is made in any season fire is present at the center. The Karayila folk artists usually belong to the lower middle classes and castes like Sanhai, Sehsi, Cobblers, Weavers and Jheers. For make-up purpose artists use wigs, Kohl powder and costume jewelry. A face powder is made of fine lime or common flour and kohl is prepared out of carbonated lamp soot. For wigs, barks of trees are used.

The performance usually starts with Mangalacharan, a musical ensemble invoking the three gods - Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh, the forest gods and goddesses and Saraswati the goddess of learning. After this, Manasukha or Dandoo comes on the stage and makes an announcement of the theme of the play to the people. The themes of the play range from historical to mythological and are presented with contemporary references. Ramleela, Ras-leela, Krishnaleela, mythological tales from Puranas and history are all similarly presented.

After some time, a male actor in the guise of Chandravali enters the arena with a plate or thali, containing a well-lit lamp in her hand. Chandravali represents goddess Lakshmi, the deity of wealth and prosperity. According to a folk tale this Chandravali was the sister of Rukmini later became wife of Krishna. The story tells that Krishna seduced her and made her his wife. Sometimes, an another character of named Siddha Kanha or Dangra Kanhalso comes in light. Kanha is an another name to Krishna. This character in a way points at Chandravali`s relatinship with the Krishna. Chandravali performs a dance around the bonfire with a lamp lit Thali or Dhupa Patra balanced in her hand. This is the auspicious start of the performance.

After the dance the stage is hand over to the sadhu ka swang. Sadhu means Ascetic, one who has relinquished the world in search of God. Several actors in the guise of Sadhus emerge on the scene and passing through the audience reaches the performing arena. They invoke in a conversation with each other or with the one present in the arena. Sometimes these dialogues are serious. The Sadhus discuss many spiritual and metaphysical issues as per their respective sects and traditions. However, many times, these dialogues take humorous turn particularly when they enter into conversation.

The dialogues are mostly converse in nature are short and sarcastic or sedate depending upon the occasion. The language is simple & elastic. All these folk art forms reflect the simple thought patterns of the rural folk. The plays are full of dances that are set with songs. Some of the folk dance forms presented in these plays are Nati, Gidda, Luddi, Dangi and Dandaras and the musical types are Jhanjhoti, Mohana, Gangi, Jhooriyan and Laman.

After the swang is over other swangs are presented in succession. Between the swang, folk dances and songs are presented to entertain the audience. In some of the tribal areas the custom of community dancing is prevalent, in which all the men and women stand in lines or in a semi circle and sing and dance throughout night. The entire valley reverberates with the sound of music on such occasions.

Hurka Baul Dance:
Folk & tribal communities in Uttaranchal perform many seasonal dances. Some of such dances are Jhumeila, the Chaufula of Garhwal region and the Hurka Baul from Kumaon. Seasonal dances are performed to express joy & celebrate the arrival of new season.

During the cultivation of paddy and maize in the farm, the Hurka Baul dance is performed. On a fixed day, after performing preliminary ritual, the dance is performed in different fields with tunes. The dance is named according to the Hurka, which is the drum used for musical accompaniment in the performance of the dance and Baul is the song. Hurka is the only musical instrument used in the dance. In the Hurka Baul dance performance the singer slowly & interestingly narrates the story of battles and heroic deeds. Generally, the performers enter from two opposite sides and enact the stories in a series having many crisp movements & attractive dancing style. The rural folk form two different rows and move backward to dance, while responding to the tunes of the song and the rhythm of the music.

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