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Folk Dances of India

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Folk Dances of Punjab

Bhangra Dance

Bhangra Dance:
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 is harvested.

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

Giddha Dance:
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).

Jhummar Dance

Jhummar Dance:
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.

Jaago Dance:
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:
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 Dance

Kikli Dance:
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 Dance

Teeyan Dance:
`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.

Luddi Dance:
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.

Sammi Dance:
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 folk.

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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