FOLK DANCE OF HIMACHAL PRADESH
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.