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Folk Dances of India

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Folk Dances of Maharashtra

Koli Dance

Koli Dance:
Koli is one of the most popular folk dance form of Maharashtra State that derives its name from the fisher folk of Maharashtra - Kolis. These community people are famous for their distinct identity among others and for their lively dances. Their dances consist of elements from their daily work related to the fishing.

Both men and women in a group perform this dance. Both of them make their single row or stand in pair. These fishermen portray the movement of the rowing of a boat in this dance form. Sometimes, they also portray the movements of waves and the casting of nets to catch the fish.

It is said that despite their obvious hardships regarding their occupation, their dances bringing out the liveliness of the fisher-folk, who enjoy each moment of their life. And there is this dance of Joy, a celebration of valuable life, performed with sheer exuberance by the dance participants.

The equipment used by fisherman is an oar. They hold small oars in their hands and move them to the rhythm of a song beat. Swaying of oars in backward and forward direction creates a scene of a boat tossing on the high sea-waves. The Koli dance takes different shapes and styles according to the different parts of the region.

Generally, women participants wear green coloured sari in their Koli style coming upto knees while male wear a lungi kind of costume having triangular shape. This dance got the loudest cheers and wolf whistles. Performing a traditional dance named "Koli" was undoubtedly the sweetest experience.

Dindi Dance

Dindi Dance:
In Maharashatra, religious devotional dances are called as Dindi. The verses & poems form the vital part of Dindi. The musicians for this dance comprise of a `Mridangam` player and a vocalist who give the dancers the necessary musical background. Mridangam is a kind of instrument that is used for generating music. This dance is usually performed on the Ekadashi day in the month of Kartik.

Dindi is a widely popular in Varkari people. This is a religious devotional dance that describes the playful attitude of Lord Krishna. Dindi is a small drum, like a `Tamate` used for musical purpose. Men and women folk in together perform the dance on the rhythmic music.


This is a form of theatre called Tamasha, which came into being in Maharashtra in the early 16th century. The history of the Tamasha of Maharashtra presents a picture, which is somewhat different from the other folk forms in Maharashtra.

The word Tamasha is a Persian of having meaning fun or entertainment. Some scholars even believe that this form of theatre has been strongly inspired by two forms of Sanskrit drama - the "Prahsana" and the "Bhana".

The interspersed poetry and narrative writing in Tamasha tells us of the existence of many dance and music styles such as the themes of the Ramayan and the Mahabharat. This is obvious but one can not find a direct bearing of early and medieval writing in it.

In Maharashtra, one can find a strong influence of the Sanskrit Literature in writing and on creativity of Marathi folk art. Ram Joshi (1762-1812) is considered as the originator of the Tamasha, was as familiar with the Sanskrit puranas and the recitation and singing of the Kirtaniyas as with the popular forms of theatre common all over the countryside. His association later with Moropant, an outstanding name in contemporary Marathi writing, led to a transformation, which resulted in the Lavani singing being used to popularize the Aryas of Moropant.So, scholar still believe that Lavani is derived from Tamasha itself.

This dance form is developed in 16th century. The love songs i.e. `Lavanis` are the heart of Tamasha and are very popular in common people. Instruments used are the Dholki drum, `Tuntuni` (a single string instrument), `Manjeera` cymbals, `Daf` (a tambourine-like instrument with a single leather surface), `Halgi` (smaller Daf), the metal triangle called `Kade`, the `Lejim` (an instrument with a jangling sound), the Harmonium and `Ghunghroos` (ankle bells). Tamasha is associated and performed with two of the communities of Maharashtra; they are Kolhati and Mahar.

Besides, there were two other forms of Tamasha, which is important to mention in the context of the Tamasha. One was the ballad singing tradition of the Pawada and the other was the theatrical form known as the Dasavatara (ten carnation of Vishnu) that is common to Maharashtra and Karnataka and in many other parts of India and which survives today in Goa and the konkan region. Finally, there was one more form, which was anterior to these last two, and this was the Gavalana. The saint poets of Marathi, particularly the Vaishnavites have used them on wide scale.

For the performance of the Tamasha no special stage is required with special arrangement. It can be anywhere in the Village Square, the courtyard of any house, an open ground or on an artificial stage. The overwhelming performance begins with the entry of the musicians as in other dance-drama forms. At the beginning two percussionists named the dholkiwala and the Halgiwala enter in the scene. While the dholkiwala provides the basic rhythm and the usual metrical cycles are played on the dholak, the Halgi provides the sharp accents and other piercing sounds. These add up in musical background of Tamasha.

The beginning of the recital is announced loudly by them with accompaniment of two more instrumentalists, the manjirawala and the tuntune player. The entry of the singer held at last and he acquires position in front of the group. Sometimes, the Manjirewala and the tuntune player also make their contribution in singing. There is also the Surtya, the provider of the drone or the tonic who often joins in the singing. After the drumming is over and the main musician has entered and taken his position in the group, an invocation song to Lord Ganesha is sung, called the Gana.

The Gana follows the Gavalana or the Gaulaniare. This is a Marathi counterpart of the Krishnlila in Marathi religious literature, in which different episodes of the life of Krishna were described, sung and enacted frequently. The poet singers in Lavni are known as "Shahirs" had composed many narrative and love songs that reflected artistic heights unthinkable for Tamasha.

Apart from the dance sequences, movement enters into the Tamasha through considerable acrobatic play, which is executed, by the Natucni (female actress), Songadya and other characters. In this respect ,the Tamasha is a close to the Bhavai. Also some of the acrobatic movements have close affinities with the several folk dances known to Maharashtra.

The musical compositions of the Tamasha manifest the typical phenomenon of a simultaneous use of the Raga and the incorporation of many folk and indigenous melodies. Amongst the Hindustani Ragas used for Tamasha Yaman, Bhairavi, and Pilu are common. All this rich fare of elementary ritual, farce, satire, sarcasm, dance and music concludes with something, which is akin to an Aarti. In any case, the finale is always on a high moral note that the good wins, evil perishes, truth is victorious and falsehood is self-destructive.

The costumes of the Tamasha players, who are called by various names like the Gammat, Phada etc, are not fixed costumes. In the most of the part, they are everyday dress of the different sections of the Maharashtra society. Maharashtra has a lively tradition of song, dance, music and theatre. The Lavni performed only by women is sometimes called the gem of Marathi folk music and dance. It is incorporated in slapstick Tamasha, and is perhaps one of the most popular folk forms.

In short, content determined by the nature of their performances and the chiseling of the conventions in the folk forms like the Tamasha gave a new dimension to the theatre art in Maharashtra. Today, Marathi theatre itself has evolved over the years, and now it has become an awareness weapon, which can challenge norms and often embraces rebellious issues for the common man. A new, obscenity-free version of Tamasha has evolved nowadays which is known as the Loknatya theatre.

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