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Folk Dances of India

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Introduction of Indian Folk Dances

India is having a treasure of a variety of folk dances. The cultural diversity and rich traditional pattern of Indian society is truly reflected through variety of Indian folk dances. The origin of Indian folk dances forms can be traced to different parts of the country. Each form of dance represents the culture and ethos of a particular region or a group of people. Most of the Indian dances describe & explain the Indian art of living.

Indian folk dances are full of variation and multiplicity in terms of themes, forms, and styles. Folk dances continue to be a distinct category that can be characterized by the overwhelming spontaneity of participation without an artificial barrier between the actors, performers and in various the audience.

Folk dances play an important role and provide the best medium to express the feelings and emotions to common man. Indian folk dances are roughly classified as per the States boundaries.e.g. Bhangra is a famous folk dance of Punjab, performed only by males. Dashavatra is a folk art of Goa & Konkan region that describes the ten incarnation of Lord Vishnu.

These folk dance forms have contributed significantly in the development of the classical dance forms of the country too. Therefore, India has a large number of folk dances, with different regions of the country to their own set of dances. Folk dances are particularly prevalent in tribal, rural or comparatively less developed areas, where dance is regarded as an integral part of their lives.

Folk dances are dances of ordinary people and mostly are traditional in nature. Depending upon customs, every village has its own folk dances performed on specific occasions such as the birth of a child, to celebrate the arrival of new seasons, weddings and festivals. Therefore, folk dances can be classified, as harvest dances, celebration of arriving season, ceremony based dance such as wedding dances, dances that are performed exclusively to show joy and happiness, ritualistic dance etc.

In many cultures, the term ethnic dance or traditional dance is used to indicate Folk dances. Although every single term has its own context for interpretation, the latter terms may encompass significance of ceremonial dances.

The terms ethnic and traditional are used when it is required to emphasize the cultural roots reflected from that particular dance. In this sense, nearly all folk dances are ethnic ones. But if some dances form, cross ethnic boundaries such as Kuravanji, a folk dance of Tamil Nadu is originated in neighboring State Andhra Pradesh and still termed as Folk one. However, not all-ethnic dances are folk ones. The simplest example of these are ritual dances or dances of ritual origin.

There is no such separate genre as folk dancing. Rather, there is a large body of unrelated non-classical dance forms. The only thing common among these dance forms is their origin in rural areas.

It would be more appropriate to categorize these folk dances into two categories: folk and tribal. The difference between the two is of cultural. Folk dances are the rural extensions of the larger Indian population. Examples are the Bhangra of Punjab and the Garba of Gujrath. However, the tribal dances are dances by India`s aboriginal populations. These people, known as adivasi, have a culture, which is very different from the larger Indian population. So, attempting to relate Indian tribal dances with Indian folk dances is not right.

Indian folk and tribal dances are product of different socio-economic set up and traditions of that particular region. The skill and style, steps of the dances influence the final performance of the dance in each case.

It is very usual, that on special occasion, the villagers will gather , sing and dance, accompanying themselves on a variety of folk instruments for gaining music. Such special occasions include harvesting, planting, marriages and religious holidays,etc.

Geographical Classification

At large, classifying Folk dances of India on the basis of geographical context is widely accepted. On this basis Folk Dances can fall in these categories: -

Central India :
In this category folk dance of Madhya Pradesh, tribal communities dance from Chattisgarh, & North Bastar are considered. Gaur dance is a popular folk dance of Madhya Pradesh dances. Saila dance is performed by the young boys of Chattisgarh during the post harvest time, is also fall under this category.

East India :
In this category of folk dances from the region Bihar, west Bengal, Orrisa are counted. Chhau is a popular folk dance of Bihar, in which masks form an important feature of this dance it is called `Chhau`, which means mask.

Northeast India :
In this category of folk dances from the east region of India are included, Which covers folk dances from the states Assam. Tripura, Manipur, & Meghalaya.Even the Zemis, Zeliangs and several other tribes of Assam have a number of folk dances, which also fall in same category.

North India :
In this category of folk dances from the north region of India are included, Which covers folk dances from the states Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Punjab, & Haryana. Bhangra is one of the most popular and energetic dances of India, is from Punjab.It is performed by men folks during Baisakhi. Dumhal is a popular dance of Kashmir, which is performed with long colorful robes, tall conical caps (studded with beads and shells) are also fall in this category.

South India :
In this category of folk dances from the South region of India are included. This covers folk dances from the states Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, & Trivendam. Kummi is a popular folk dance of Tamil Nadu, which is performed by tribal women during festivals. Andhra Pradesh is also a part of this section.

South West India :
In this category of folk dances from the Southern west region of India are included, Which covers folk dances from the states Karnataka, Goa,& Lakshadweep. Among this famous Tarangmel, an energetic and youthful dance of Goa is important one. The Tarangmel dance is usually performed during Dussehra and Holi celebrations is also included in this section.

West India :
In this category of folk dances from the west region of India are included, Which covers folk dances from the states Maharashtra & Gujarat. E.g.Tamasha & Koli are folk dances of Maharashtra, performed with enthusiasm & vigor.

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