Folk Dances of Punjab
Bhangra is one of most popular dances of India performed during Baisakhi only by the men in Punjab. Among the most virile,
vigorous and captivating dances of India, Bhangra includes tricks and acrobatic feats in its performance. The songs include
recitation of meaningless `bolis`, words such as hoay, hoay. Or Balle, Balle...
The Bhangra is perhaps the most virile form of Indian Folk Dances. It strongly reflects the vigor, the vitality, the leaven
of exuberance, and the hilarity permeated among the rural folk due to the promise of a coming bumper crop. The drummer usually
is standing in the center of the circle & is surrounded by dancers.
When the wheat crop is ready for ripening, the breeze flows softly & touches the surface of the golden crop creating
a ripple and reckoning the sickle, it is a time of celebration. It is absolutely a time, when the hard labor of the farmer
is about to bear fruit, it is a time of rejoicing and merry making and through Bhangra their emotions find a perfect outlet
for spontaneous expression of genuine happiness. The Bhangra season concludes with the fair of Baisakhi when the wheat crop
Bhangra is considered the king of folk dances in Punjab. There are several styles of performing Bhangra like Sialkoti,
Sheikhupuri, Tribal, Malwa, Majha etc. One of the step or move of Bhangra is also similar to the moves of Shiv-Tandav dance,
which is danced on one leg by Shiva. Damru i.e. hand-drum is also used in Bhangra.
The season in which Bhangra is performed begins with the sowing of wheat and then every full moon attracts teams of young
men in every village who dance with enthusiasm for hours. The dancers gather in an open space & form a circle around the
drummer. Drummer holds two sticks with the help of which he beats the drum, to beckon the dancers to a higher tempo of movement.
At the initial stage dance starts with a slow movement of their feet. But as the tempo increases, the hands, the feet and
in fact the whole body comes into action. The dancers whirl round and round bending and straightening their bodies, jumping
on one leg, raising their hands, clapping with their handkerchiefs and exclaiming the words "Bale Bale, Oh Bale Bale…"
which not only inspire themselves but also others for the dance.
The drummer is usually standing at the center of the circle during the time of performance. At intervals the tempo of
the dance becomes slow, dancers stop moving, but continue to beat the rhythm with their feet. One of the dancers from the
group come forward near the drummer and covering his left ear with his palm sings a boali or dholla, derived from the traditional
folk songs of Punjab. Picking up the last lines of boali, the dancers again start dancing with greater vigor as before.
For powerful music set up, in addition to a drum, chimta-musical tongs and burchu and sound of the beats from earthen
vessels are used. The costumes of a Bhangra dancer are unique, which suits the vigor of dance. They are consists of a bright,
colored Patka on the head, a lacha or lungi of the same color, a long tunic and a black or blue waistcoat and ghunghroos on
the ankles. Some dancers also wear small rings (nuntian) in their ears as an ornament.
Giddha dance is considered as originated from West Punjab. During Lohri occasion, the Punjabi women reveal their joy,
give vent to their suppressed feelings in a male dominated society through the Giddha. It is also an evergreen folk dance,
in which young ladies gorgeously dressed in colourful cloths. They wear bright coloured kameez, salwars and chunnis &
sing folk songs in mellow but sonorous voices, especially accompanying to the beat of the clapping.
This dance form is derived from the ancient style of ring dancing. One of the girl plays on the drum or `dholki` while
others form a circle. While moving in a circle, the girls raise their hands parallel to the level of the shoulders and clap
their hands in unison. Then they also strike their palms against those of their neighboring participants. Clapping of hands
generally provides the rhythm.
With drums earthen pitchers are also used to lend enchantment to the ears of the dancers and spectators. Since this dance
has nothing to do with men, only women can participate in it. During performing Giddha, the leader of the chorus sings a boli,
which is repeated by other participants. The earthen pitcher, ghada is gently played with gentle strikes on it with the help
of a ring or a stone to keep dance in the rhythm.
This dance is ceremonial in nature and performed on festive occasions such as marriages, mundan, and the festival of Teej
or occasionally at the time of harvesting too. The centre of attraction for this dance is folk songs called bolian, which
are accompanied by the beat of the dholak, ghada and taliyan (claping). By singing bolian the ladies outpour their feelings
of resentment, agony, pain, jealousy at their in-laws, and affection, warmth and love for their parental homes.
The vitality of Bhangra can also be seen in the Giddha dance of the women. Various emotions are strongly expressed through
bolian. This dance translates into gestures, bolian-verses of different length satirizing politics, the excesses committed
by husbands, their sisters and mothers, loneliness of a young bride separated from her husband, evils of society or expressing
guileless deep love.
Giddha is a very vigorous folk dance and like other such dances it is very much an affair related with the legs. The movements
of the feet takes place on so much quick in its faster parts that it is difficult for the spectator even to wink till the
tempo falls again.
During the dance `Giddha` songs called `bolis` are sung. One participant generally sings the `bolian` and when the last
but one line is reached, the tempo of the song rises and all start dancing. In this manner `bolian` alternate with the dance
sequence which continue for a considerable period of time. Mimicry is also a very popular insertion in `Giddha`. One girl
may play the role of aged bridegroom and another his young bride; or one may play a quarrelsome sister in law and another
a humble bride. In this way Giddha provides for the entire group of girls a best forum for giving vent to their emotions.
The number of participants are unrestricted & it further exaggerate the movements in group
Traditionally, dress during Giddha dance is short female style shirt (choli) with ghagra or lehnga (loose shirt upto ankle-length)
or ordinary Punjabi Salwar-Kamiz, rich in colour, cloth and design. The embroidered duppattas and heavy jewelry of the participants
add colours to the dance. The ornaments that they wear are suggi-phul (worn on head) to pazaibs (anklets), haar-hamela, (gem-studded
golden necklace) baazu-band (worn around upper-arm) and raani-haar (a long necklace made of solid gold).
The Jhummar dance is a dance of ecstasy. It is a living testimony of the happiness of men, so performed only by men. At
any time Jhummar is performed but mostly at a time of melas, weddings and other major functions and celebrations. Performed
exclusively by men, it is a common feature to see three generations - father, son and grandson - dancing all together. Therefore,
in some part it is termed as generation dance. There are three main types of Jhummar dance, each of which has a different
mood, and is therefore suited to different occasions & for all reason of that predominating mood.
This dance is also performed in a circular form. The dancers dance around a single drummer standing at the center of round.
Its costumes are same as that of Bhangra. It is danced to the tune of emotional songs. The dance is characterized by without
acrobatics involved. The movement of the arms only is considered its main forte. Toes are musically placed in front and backwards
and in the same way turnings are taken to the right or left. Sometimes the dancers place their one hand below the ribs on
the left and gesticulate with the right hand. This dance is not tiresome and it is normally performed on moonlit nights in
the villages away from the habitation.
It is mostly danced by tribal Sikh professional acrobats and unfortunately has yet not been owned by all Punjabis. The
dancers of this dance let-off a sound, "dee dee" in tune with the beat of the dance which adds in its overall performance.
This dance is also integrated from Bhangra. It is believed that this dance has originated from Sandalbar, now situated in
Pakistan, but is very much a part of Punjab folk heritage. It is a dance based on specific Jhummar rhythm.
As it is not a dance of all communities in Punjab itself, it is on the way of diminishing. So some of scholars have started
giving official training of this dance in order to preserve old folk art.
On the night before the wedding, the female relatives of the bridegroom prepare a `Jaago`. Jaago is constructed following
the style of ancient balconies on several surfaces of which lamps are hanged in the style of stars. These are filled with
ghee or oil, cotton wicks are placed in them and lighted. This is put on the head of groom`s mother`s brothers` wife, led
by her the mother`s relations.
With singing, dancing, frolicking & knocking at the doors of residents of the groom`s village they takes entry in
village. Dancing group accepts presents of food, grain and ghee for the lamps and continues these rounds through the night,
when youth glows and the dark of the night resounds with mirth and laughter.
Jalli dance is a religious dance associated with Pirs and recluses and is generally danced in their hermitages (khangahs).
This dance is performed mostly in a sitting posture by male folk artists. Sometimes, it is also danced around the grave of
a preceptor. Even a single dancer can also perform this dance. Toes of leg are tensed in this dance. The dancer holds a thick
staff in his hands and while dancing he revolves it. Normally black coloured clothes are worn by participants with his head
covered with black scarf. Sometimes, the murids (followers) also tie ghungroos i.e.Jingling bells around their waists like
the Bhangra dancers. This dance is fast in terms of beats.
This is basically the dance of slow movements and some even identifies it by integrating with that of the Bhangra.
Kikli is more of a sport than a dance & is generally popular within the girls. Usually, the dance is performed in
pairs. It is a favourite of young girls. Before beginning the dance performance, the two participants stand face to face with
their feet close to each other`s and their bodies inclined back. Standing in this pose the arms of the dancers are stretched
to the maximum limit and their hands are interlocked firmly. This can be the best description of style of Kikli.
The dance starts in its performance when the pairs, maintaining the above-mentioned pose, wheel round and round in a fast
movement at the same spot with the feet serving as the pivotal points. The girls sing as they swirl around with colorful `orhnis`
or `daupttas` flowing from their heads and anklets producing tinkling melodies.
There are varieties of traditional songs available that are used to accompany the `Kikli` dance. Most of these songs consist
merely of loosely rhyming lines without underlying theme. One of the examples is:
Kikli kleer di,
Pag mere vir di,
Daupatta mere bhai da,
Phitte mun jawai da.
`Teeyan` is the women`s dance festival celebrated in allover Punjab. Giddha can be seen at its best when `Teeyan` is celebrated.
This festival in Punjab is celebrated in the month of Shrawan during the rainy season. The dance usually takes place on the
bank of any river or pond under big shady trees, where women gather. Swings are thrown over the branches and singing, swinging
and dancing starts. Teeyan is also performed to welcome the rains is the principal time for the Giddha.
On this day when the married daughters come to their parent`s house their brothers fix the swings for them. As they swing
they share their anxieties with each other reflecting through lyrics of songs. Dressed in their best and wearing ornaments,
girls gather during these festivals like the fairies. These dancers look a medley of color and beauty. The festival continues
till the 3rd Lunar day in the month to full moon and there is a gala function celebrated on the concluding day.
This is also a male folk dance of Punjab. It is danced to celebrate a victory or success that is gained in any field.
Its costumes are simple. Only a loose shirt (kurta) and a loincloth are used. Some tie a turban, other the Patka which is
somewhat like a scarf tied across the forehead, while still others join in bareheaded.
This dance is also very much interesting in watching. The performers place one hand at the back and the other before the
face acting as the movement of a snake`s head. These is also danced with the drummer standing at the center but sometimes
the dancers dance before a throng of people and keep moving forward also. This dance is more popular across the Sutlej and
in Pakistan it is almost as popular as the Bhangra. This dance has an historical background for its performance. It pertains
to that moment in history when Punjabi Sardars had begun to rescue Indian women who were used to forcibly taken in the direction
of Basra in Middle East. Latter on, any victory is seen as similar to this & celebrated with this dance.
This is basically the dance of slow movements and some even identifies it by integrating with that of the Bhangra.
Tribal communities of Punjab perform this dance. Fairly tale tells to us that "The fairy dancers of the court of
lord Indra from heaven are reputed to have taught the technique of Giddha and Sammi to the girls on this earth". The
fairy, which taught Giddha, was known as Giddho while the one who taught Sammi was named as such. Sammi Dance is a kind of
dance popular in Sandalbar, which now is in Pakistan.
Sammi has not been able to gain popular acceptance and is breathing its last in the huts of the tribal communities. Women
of Baazigars, Rai Sikhs, Lobanas and Sansi tribes dance in this medium. This is also performed during the privacy of women
This woman`s dance is also performed like that of Giddha dance. The dancers stand in a circular mode and swing their hands,
bringing them up from the sides, right in front up to the chest level and clap: they take their hands down in accordance with
the rhythm and clap again. Repeating this gesture, they bend forward and clap again, and go round and round in a circle. As
the rhythm is maintained with the beat of the feet, various swinging movements are performed with the arms. Most of the gestures
are confined to the movement of the arms, clicking and clapping. No instrument is used for an accompaniment to this dance.
Rhythm is achieved through beating of the feet and clapping.
The performers do special kind of make-up. All women participants knit their hair in a distinct way. They knit their hair
into thin plaits all over their head into intricate patterns and tie the remaining length of the hair in one full plait. In
the middle of their head they fix a special ornament shaped like an inverted lotus called phul-chowk or Suggiphul (flower
of the crossings of the plaits). The performers wear a kurta and the tehmet (lower cloth) and cover their head with a thick
cloth of loose rectangular dimension, called `Bhochhan`. Chutki is used to keep the beat in this dance. Chutki is a frictional
sound of single note created by pressing and then sliding the thumb and the index or the middle finger. The background song
of this dance is also called sammi. This is also a dance of controlled movements. It is said that even the Devtas (angels)
get inebriated while seeing this dance.
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