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Folk Dances of India

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Folk Dances of Arunachal Pradesh & Nagaland

Wancho Dances:
The Wancho tribes of Arunachal Pradesh perform their special dances on the occasions like festivals, ceremonies etc, are popularly known as Wancho dances. Ozele festival of Wancho tribe is celebrated in the month of February-March, when the work of sowing of millet is over. The festival is celebrated for four days and was observed in Longkhau village. At this time, the Wancho dance is performed from about 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. inside the house of chief authority.

For the performance, the male-folk, boys, youths and adults take part while among women, only girls and those young married women who have not joined the husband`s family can take part. Such kind of differentiation is seen in many tribal dances of India. The dancers become ready for performance with elaborate adornment, especially in fine clothing and accessories. All are standing in a circle surrounding a bonfire. The girls are standing ant one of side of the circle holding each other`s hands.

Holding a sword in the right hand of the male dancers, most of them place the left hand of them on the shoulder of the left side dancer. The male dancers start singing as they start to perform various steps. First, they all take a short step with the right foot towards the right side and flex the knees with an accompanying forward swing of the sword. For the next time, they gently bring the left foot up to the heel of the right one. This sequence of movements is repeated several times as the course of dance.

Generally, on the eighth or ninth step of the performance the singing of the male-dancers ends. At this moment, all dancers stamp their right foot twice on the ground. The female dancers take part in the singing through which they give reply. Women folk stamp the right foot twice on the ground during their turn of singing, once generally in the fourth step and the next at the end of the singing. This end falls on the ninth step. Again the male dancers take up the singing and thus the dance continues further.

A cane basket is hanging at the waist over the buttocks of the male dancers. This basket is decorated with coloured straw tassels, monkey skulls or wild animals tooth. The straw tassels of the baskets are decorated with the help of coloured beads. The straps of some of the baskets are decorated with white conch-shell discs. Apart from this, each basket has a bell that is fitted at its bottom. The tinkling of so many bells at a time gives the musical sound. No any other musical instrument used for the dance.

The anklets of straw and girdles having one or two loops of red cane or of bands of cowries or beads are tied just below the knee of every performer. The boys and a few youths are naked but others wear a loincloth that is of white or light blue in colour. Two red stripes towards the end are decorated with small beads of different colours.

The armlets are either of ivory, brass or red cane loops. With the help of coloured goat`s hair the handle of the sword is decorated. All performers wear bead necklaces. Some of them also wear necklaces of coins. The ear decorations are done with tufts of red woolen threads. Some even has the head-dress that is made up of bamboo and having a cone and decorated with horn-bill feathers. Some have red cane head-dresses decorated with wild boar`s tushes.

The hairs of this tribal are cut in order to have a specific shape. The hair up to the middle of the crown is brought forward and cut so that the fringe reaches just up to the top of the forehead, while the hair of the back is kept long. These are tucked in a round to a red or yellow coloured rectangular piece of wood, called the Kahpak. Some of this kahpak`s are studded with small pieces of glass while some are decorated with carvings of the human figure or human skull or with a tuft of coloured goat`s hair. Both sides of the head are shaven always.

The dances by Khamptis communities are popularly known as Khampti dances or their dramas are also termed accordingly. Khamptis are Buddhists. They have many dance-dramas through which they unfold some stories or depict mythical events bearing ethical lessons. These activities are generally performed during the religious festivals of Potwah, Sankian or Khamsang. This dance constitutes the entertainment part of the festivals.

The dance is termed as simply `ka` and the dance-drama is called `kapung` in which `ka` means dance & `pung` is the story. It actually means a story that is depicted through the dance performance. The rehearsal of the dance-drama starts about one month before a festival. This is generally done in the monastery or in any house of their choice.

The villagers send an invitation to the drama-party for the performance. The drama is staged in the front courtyard or in some suitable open space near the houses. Generally, women are not seen in the performance of the drama. The female roles are played by a man with wearing woman`s costume.

After the performances, the party is given a remuneration amount. This is generally in such a number that will be divided by seven such as fourteen, twenty-eight or forty-two rupees. With the help of this money, they purchase the costumes and masks used in the dramas. If there is the surpluses it is shared by all the members of the drama party.

Digaru Mishmi Buiya Dance:
The Digaru Mishmis performs two types of dances, named as Buiya and Nuiya. The Buiya dance has two types of movements and it is performed for entertainment while the Nuiya is a ritual-dance performed by a priest. Buiya dance is performed on any festive occasion like the Duiya, Tazampu and Tanuya festivals. All such festivals are performed for the prosperity and good health of the performer and his household. This dance is also performed after a feast that is arranged by a family to entertain the fellow villagers who co-operate with it opening a new field.

The dance is performed in the passage that runs along one side of the house from the front to the rear. Men and women take part in the dancing. Although, there is no agelimlt for performing this dance, children and old persons do not take active part in the dance. But they do the role of spectators.

There is no any special kind of costume get-up is required for this dance, so the performer dance with wearing their usual dresses. The male dancers generally wear a loincloth, a sleeveless jacket, a turban and ear-rings. The female dancer wears a blouse, a long skirt reaching down to the ankle. With this get-up women folk is seen with a side-bag on the left side. They wear various ornaments like necklaces, large silver-ear-plugs and a silver fillet with its strap studded with coins or cowries. These ornaments add colour in the dancing look.

The dancers stand forming a line one behind the other, in the passage. One of the dancers plays on a drum while another plays on a gong. Another dancer, depending upon the availability also plays cymbals. On the beats of the drum, gong and cymbals, the dancers perform various steps. In this they take one step forward with the right foot, then gently bring the left foot up to the heel of the left one flexing the knees as before.

With repetition of this sequence of movements, the dance is performed till it reaches to the rear of the passage. Thus, they dance up and down the passage of the house. Sometimes, the dancers sing with to the accompaniment of the music, but it is not seen in all the performance. When they sing a song, it may be solo or in chorus.

Generally, there is no any another movement is seen during the dance when skipping of steps is done but there is no accompanying song. The skipping steps of the female-dancers are comparatively lower and graceful while those of the male-dancers are higher. At a time of performance, the male dancers dance vigorously.

Any kind of remuneration is not given to the dancers. Similarly, there is no any formal training is given but they learn the dance movements by observing the performances by others.

Ponung Dance:
It is a folk dance of the Adis. Generally, it is performed during the festival that is celebrated before the harvesting. The purpose of this festival is seeking a good harvest and welfare of the village community. Ponung is an exclusively women dance in which young married women and girls take part. The dance performance is led by a Miri, who is a man adept in mythical songs about the origin of paddy and other crops. With the singing of mythical songs of the Miri, the iron discs that are fitted loosely in the hilt of the sword are rattled. The female dancers are dancing rhythmically on this background. They are singing in a chorus. The abhanga written on the origin of paddy is sung by the Miri, at the time of dancing.

Adi village is having a rich cultural way of living. The tribal people are more famous for their Ponung, dancing with the accompaniment of songs. All the girls dance in a circle with holding each other by stretching their hands over each other`s shoulders. The Miri dances and sings in the centre of the circle. He is holding aloft and shaking a sword like musical instrument called `Yoksha`. He initiates the singing and then the girls repeat the same lines in chorus. Girls are moving in a circle & dancing rhythmically at a low pace. On all-important & auspicious occasions Ponung is performed.

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Naga Dance

Naga Dance:
The Nagas are simple people, can be described well by the term tribal. Its own dialect, customs and traditional costumes characterize each tribe, with the common link being their passion for music & dance. The term "Naga" is derived from Sanskrit word "Nag" which means "person belongs to hilly region or simply hill-men". Nagaland is the home of various hill-tribes among them Popular is Naga.

The term "Naga" is general which covers many tribes of that region. In fact the Naga is a generic term that encompasses many tribal communities that are spread all over the hills and plains of northeast India. Some of the characteristics are that belongs to a warrior race. They are tall, robust, hardworking, brave, self-reliant, artistic, freedom-loving, good looking and possess a more importantly inborn instinct for color and intricate designs even dancing steps. They are also known for their keen sense of humor as a natural gift, splendid war dances and wealthy folk songs.

Most of the Naga villages are developed at a height of three to four thousand feet. All the population lives on the hills and higher elevations or either at the foothills. Many rivers and streams drain the land. The Nagas are very particular about their dress & ceremonial get-up. Women are held in high in society and treated with respect.

These communities perform their particular dances, most popularly known as Naga dances altogether. All these dances have been deeply rooted in their environ, occupations, religious beliefs and practices and the social patters that prevails .The cultural activities of the Nagas especially the dances reflect folds or aspects of their life-style in their rhythmic movements and body language. Their dances are numerous and as rich as varied. Most of these dances are war-like and martial in its approach.

Dancing is performed as natural expression by the Naga tribes. It is full of vigor and vitality. In most of the cases, these dances are monopoly of men, except in Zeliang tribe where women join with their men folk in dancing. There is no any scope for individual performance but group movements carries more significance. Naga dancing is performed always in-group coordination.

At a time of performance, artists first slowly enter the arena or stage with some typical movement or steps, stand in a circle or any other geometrical formation and start adjusting with beats, dance on continuing tempo with the stamping of feet. Their dances are interspersed with clapping and chanting of some specified words. The spear, dao or the shields are swung to the rhythm of the dance that add more musical background. After reaching at the climax, the tempo is brought at down again. The beauty of the dances is get added by the colourful costumes, they wear. The Zeliang dance is famous for its artistic nature.

The Nagas are dressed in ceremonial war kind of costume and dance with many silver, brass and iron made ornaments to adorn the look. The dancers take entry at the dancing arena in a single file and chanting by mouth in a chorus. These chanting & shouting gives inspiration to all members. After they form single circles and make attack on the imaginary enemy or the opposite party with their spears held in the hands. They also do steps in which they return an imitation of enemy attack and deftly avoid the attack for defense.

Though some minor changes are there that are slightly differs from region to region. But in general in this dance, the erect position of body at upper part and the unbent knees always maintain a balance of movements. This is characterized as steps or preliminary requirements of the earlier phases of dance. As the dance proceeds further it exhibits vigor & vitality. The floor patterns they perform during the Naga dances are very much complex and intricate amongst the tribes of that part.

As the dance proceeds towards its end it increases in the degree of shouts, amount of cries and calls. There is no musical accompaniment for any of the folk dances as the chanting and shouts of the dancers themselves provide the background music. Characterized by huge vigor, steps of flashing spears and attacking stances with styled postures, it is a spectacular performance that only the Nagas can perform.

The Zemis of North Cachar hills are having many forms of dances performed on various ceremonies. Each dance with a different & specific name. Sometimes they are termed so depending upon the manner in which hands and feet are executed, after verifying its resembles with the movements of a bird or an insect or an animal. For example, Nruirolians known as `cock dance` is the dance, which resembles the trait of a cock, Gethinglim or `cricket dance`, is a dance in which hands are moved to and fro as a course of action.

Men usually performed somewhat resembling the movement of the insect Temangnetin or the `fly dance`, Hetateulee or the `bear dance` only. With the accompaniment of songs and music this dance is performed. And cymbals are beaten with regular intervals while the singers stand on one side or form a circle so as to allow space for dancers at center.
In some parts, Naga dance is performed during the celebration of Ngada festival on the fifth day of the festival. This day is especially devoted to cultural activities like dances. On this day, all the Nagas dress-up in traditional costumes and visit the village. And as the dancers proceed from Khel to Khel, and visit each Renis (morung) with dance, the whole populations cheer them. Women folk offer them Zeru i.e.rice-beer, meat etc. Naga tribe`s men also perform traditional Naga dance on the occasion of the Hornbill festival. The festival was initiated with a message to preserve the Hornbill, a state bird of Nagaland.

Tribal dances of the Nagas provide a vision to look the inborn reticence of these people. War dances and dances belonging to distinctive tribes represent a rich folk art form in Nagaland. Dressed in colourful costumes and ornaments, the dancers contains many mock war motions, that could be very dangerous, if due care is not taken. Various occasions like Festivals, marriages, harvests, or just the joy of the moment are some of the chances for the Nagas to enjoy with dance.

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