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Folk Dances of India

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Folk Dances of Uttar Pradesh

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Charkula Dance

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Charkula Dance

Charkula Dance:
This is the most spectacular dance performance from Uttar Pradesh. It is widely performed in the Braj region of Uttar Pradesh. In the performance of Charkula, veiled women with balancing a large multi-tiered circular wooden pyramid on their heads, dance in various steps. The wooden pyramid is lighted with 108 oil lamps. The women dance on the `rasiya` songs of Lord Krishna.

Charkula dance is especially performed on the third day after the Holi festival- on Dooj. On this day, Radha, a concert of Krishna was born. According to a famous legend, Radha`s grandmother ran out of the house with keeping the charkula on her head to announce the birth of Radha. This was to show the pleasure & joy of her grandmother since then, Charkula has formed as a popular dance form of Brajbhoomi. It is performed during many various festivals.

Charkula is therefore a traditional folk dance of Braj. In the dance performance a female dancer tactfully balances a column of lighted deepikas over her head while dancing.

The charkula is a tapered wooden column with four to five circular tiers. On each level it has earthen lamps lighted. The number of lamps that are lighted may range from 51 to 108 at times. The dancers with balancing the charkula on her head, moves with swift and graceful movements on the tune of music.

It is a dramatic dance performance that is visually attractive. The Charkula dance, is mainly associated with the Braj area & is popular among the Brahman Community of the Villages in Mathura district.

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Swang

Swang:
It is a kind of folk -drama that is flourished with songs. It is considered as a rich performance with literary wealth. It is played either in the open or on platform created specially. The plot of this performance is based on the stories of great personalities. In State, the Swangs of Puran Nath Jogi, Gopi Nath and Veer Hakikat Rai are very popular. In the Swangs of Puran Nath Jogi & Gopi Nath the life of detachment incident and in Kakikat Rai`s Swant, the love of religion is presented at its artistic skills. Similarly a spirit of sacrifice for its sake is highlighted for more impact and the popularity rests on the conversing ability of performer.

The Swang is considered a folk art form, which is personified by amateurs or new artists. Even some hereditary actors from the State of Haryana perform this. Though artists of Naqaals do somewhat same kind of job, in Swang the story is presented with more interesting way with including caustic comments, particularly related to current topics. Most of the dialogues that are used in are traditional, but there is a lot of slick improvisation can be found in performance. The body language is a perfect foil that converts all the serious comments of the storyteller into something-stupid yet extremely funny kind of performance. The humour is lusty and seldom appeals to an urban audience at large.

The play of Swang begins with a Puravaranga.It is an invocation to the goddess Bhavani. Puravaranga is not strictly a prologue tradition. The stage is constructed in a circular manner. The plays are generally performed in the open ground or space. There are very few people in the performance and the costumes are changed on the stage itself. One player performs many parts.

At the centre, the musicians occupy the place on the stage, often getting up to sing and dance from that place itself. Music and dancing is considered as an intrinsic part of this performance. Male actors play all parts, no women participants are allowed. The eunuch or hijra is another essential character in these plays. And has perform in all Margi (classical) and desi (folk Sanskrit) plays. In all parts of Uttar Pradesh it is a popular art form.

Scholars says that the main difference between Nautanki and Swang is that the Swang is intended to arouse religious sentiments and the Nautanki is mainly a presentation of episodes depicting love and valour. Swangs are intended for serious impact.

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Nautanki

Nautanki:
Nautanki is a form of street play or skit that is popular in northern side of India especially in the states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.It is said that before the entry of cinema in life of common man in India, it was the only mean prevalent for entertainment. A Nautanki is consisted of folklore and mythological dramas blended with folk songs and dances. But, now it has taken other forms too.

Though it is said that that the Nautanki originated in Punjab but there is no trace of the Punjabi language in this folk theatre form. But it is more popular in Utter Pradesh.It is really difficult to trace the history of a dynamic art form like Nautanki, which has developed according to the changing needs of the large masses of people who live in the villages of India.

The two main places, where Nautanki took root and grew are Hathras and Kanpur. Latter on, two schools of this musical drama came to be established at these places. While the content of the dramas and the meter of the stanzas is more or less similar with the musical quality and quantity of the Hathras school is far superior to that of the Kanpur school, where the emphasis is on dramatic dialogues and gestures. Nautanki performance begins around midnight and carries on till daybreak of next day.

Nautanki is performed on stage that can be courtyards or maidens. The music used for this performance can not be categoried as classical or even folk but contains elements of both. In fact, it has a pattern of its own, which is consistent for dramas. The poetry is written in various metrical patterns and sung as per the convention & requirements of current performance. The prominent musical instrument used is the nagada. It is a single-faced kettledrum, which in fact announces a Nautanki performance in a village area. Sometimes the sarangi and harmonium are also used for generating music. The dholak or drum provides the rhythm for addition.

The verse used is simple & direct appealed towards emotions of human beings. The basic verse used can be divided into three portions such as: (1) Doha which is sung free, without a beat or musical accomplishment; (2) Choubola which forms the main stanza, and last of all is (3) Daur or Chalti or Udhan, which is sung at a great speed & also becomes very slow at the end.

The nagada is played after each portion is over. In various ways, these verses are sung, the school of Nautanki and the efficiency of the singer decide that. To avoid monotonous treatment many new ideas are also used like the introduction of a short verse called kada between the three stanzas.

The overall popularity of the Nautanki artists is decided from the power of his voice, the meanings he can draw out from the written verse, and the expressions he can deliver at that moment. The writer of Nautanki is not bound by any limitations even of time and space. His imagination is wide & can cross the barriers of recognizable reality, and successful in creating insights into relations in possible realities within the boundaries of a unified theatrical truth.
The language in which the Nautanki is written is Hindustani, no any regional language with blending of the dialect of the area in which it is performed. As the Braj Nautankis is mostly in verse form whereas, the Kanpur Nautankis have Urdu poetry and plenty of straightforward prose dialogue. The Nautanki also contains certain elements of the Sanskrit theatre, both in selecting stories and in the sequence wise unraveling of the plot. The effect of the Parsi theatre is also visible in the style of enactment, particularly in case of the Kanpur school of Nautanki.

The presentation of story and incidents is done in a familiar suggestive idiom, to establish a contact with the audience. Music plays a very important role to discover and expose various layers of meaning and provide a new dimension to theatrical reality in essence. An important element of Nautanki is satire & also used for the same purpose.

Many time the Nautanki artistes are from families that are in this profession for generations. Most of them are illiterate, though a number of professional singers have also joined Nautanki mandlis.

A characteristic of Nautanki is that it is always been an open and secular dramatic form till date. All elements of Nautanki dance, music, are used with an unlimited scope for improvisation etc. is today explored with their relevance in contemporary themes. Today, the nagada beats in a different cultural ethos but it still pulsates with vibration.

Many say that Nautanki may be loosing its mass appeal in the absence of any recognition from the establishment theatre form of India. The invasion of television and also the evolution modern theatre have created a danger to this form of art. But some artistes working hard to keep Nautanki alive. It was once, the strongest mass medium in the states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. But the common man certainly and widely accepts this art. Some argue on comment that it is not a folk art by saying it is a form of Classical one. As Classical is any art with its own set of rules and certain discipline. In Nautanki, too, strict discipline is required during the time of performance & it also carries rules that are to be followed.



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Naqaal

Naqaal:
Naqaal is a folk art form of north India. In all villages of Punjab & Uttar Pradesh it is very popular & preferred way for entertainment. It not only enjoyable but provides a new aspect to deal with many issues. It presents subtly and sarcastically the seamy shadow spread on our life. The common man is generally at the center of attention & preferred while making a theme of performance. Generally Mirasis, Naqaals and Bhands community people perform this art with specialized skills.

The artists travel in-group from place to place. Generally, a Naqaal group comprises of many dancers, singers, clowns and musicians. The one who is responsible for group is the leader, Ustad. Various legends are an important subject of performance. With it many semi-historical kind of tales like Dulla Bhatti, Sohni Mahiwal, Kima Malki, Hodi and Koklan are also form the popular repertoire of the Naqaals that are performed.

At the time of performance, Bhands present their roles, which are farcical in nature, more complex & difficult. They are quick-witted and having well adjustable skills developed in them. Their profession is passed on from generation to generation. They are born experts in entertaining others with jokes suited best to that occasion. Sometimes, they make mimicry of landlords who live in luxury themselves but at the same time deprive their employees to live even a simple life.

As many stories are presented through Naqaals, a very popular tale of this region is also performed very often. This is about a rich person who employed a servant on the only condition that he would not converse with the help of simple sentences but only through singing. And for every time of breaking these rule he would be fined. In such way, days were passing. On one day his master`s house was on fire so, the servant hurriedly came and started dancing and singing in front of his master to give him the information about the accident. But in the meantime, the house was completely burned. The master reprimanded the servant for behaving so silly on such serious occasion. But, the servant reminded him about the rules of his service contract and do advocacy of his side by saying that he did not want to risk his job. The master hit his own head & regretted.

On many occasions, Bhands and mimics entertain people. Some of them are on weddings, births and other festive occasion. But it is also true that sometimes there is a streak of obscenity and vulgarity in their presentation.

It is a famous folk theatre form of Punjab but distinctly separate from that of Swang. These forms have much in common with other forms of folk theatre in India particularly from the region of the North, and are considered as descendants of the desi form of Sanskrit theatre. Naqaal is considered as an accepted main folk art form, and generally performed by the tribe of naqaals. The word Naqaal is having Arabic origin in its theme and the content of the plays is considerably influenced by stories from the Middle East. However, the original form is classical kind of performance & at least 150 years old art. There is a storyteller character in all the plays of Naqaals.

Various issues are openly discussed in Naqaal. Naqaal can be used extensively as a communication mean. It has an immense capacity as it deals with current and popular topics. Sometimes, even contradictory subjects are woven into the play.

Naqaal artists are hereditary gaining this profession. Though they originally belonged to the tribe of Bhands, they later became a part of the Mirasi tribe. From the Mirasis, they learnt to sing and dance & other necessary skills. The subject matter of these plays is also changing, and they include popular kisse and waran (epic, romantic and heroic poems). They also began to entertain royalty people. Merchants and rich landlords also loved it & prefer for entertainment. But, today this patronage has disappeared & Naqaals have a hard time in surviving. Most of these artists have become agricultural laborers and servants & only perform this art form occasionally.

Basically, Naqaal is the art of imitation. In Naqaal, the artists try to imitate life in a manner that provokes violent laughter among the audience. Naqaals not only entertain but do the role of instructing also. Naqaal artists exhibit their art through crisp conversation kind of dialogues.

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Khyal:
Khyal, a folk arts form, popular simultaneously in many States of India. About the origin of Khyal there is no fixed answer. There exists uncertainty with some confusion. But it is an accepted fact that in Uttar Pradesh at Agra, it was performed as a prime dance form. There are different styles, each known by the name of the city, the acting style, the community or the author. In short by the specialty they have. Some popular Khyals are Jaipuri Khyal, the Abhinaya Khyal, Gadhaspa Khyal, and Ali baksh Khyal. Subtleties demarcate these variations.

The atmosphere that is created during festival is encourages the religious undertones of an event. Performances of Khyal start with invocation, which begins with hymns to the respected deities. Generally, these plays are mythological referring the various events in Puranas. Though exploring the historical aspects, it is presented creatively. Therefore, very rich in terms of content and also marked by presence of elements like romance, brave deeds, and sentiment, beliefs etc. Instruments like the nakkara or the dholak drum, cymbals, and the harmonium give the music.

It is said that the clown is as always an integral part of a show. The cast played by males is directed on stage, by the ustaad. Ustaad is the director producer responsible for the play throughout. He always remains on stage & helps to all artists, he even prompt script if time demands.

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Raslila

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Ramlila

Raslila:
Raslila is also known as Braj Raslila. It is originated from Braj area in Agra Region of Uttar Pradesh. It is a theatrical form performed now in many States of India. This performance is reveals around the life of Lord Krishna. Lord Krishna is worshiped, as people strongly believe that He is an incarnation of Lord Vishnu.

Described in the Bhagwat Purana, Shri Krishna had danced & enjoyed with the gopikas in the Ras, which was performed on the banks of the river Yamuna at Vrindavan. Though Lord Krishna is also involved in dancing, at the mid of the dance he disappears, to show his unnatural anger. This sudden disappearance of Him is very agonizing to the Gopikas who enacted his lilas, which latter on with time came to known as the Raslilas. This form is famous in all regions of Uttar Pradesh.

This colourful and glossy art form gives a special attention on music and dancing movements. As Gopikas play a vital role in the performance, the story explores the relationship of Lord Krishna with his consort Radha. The dance is primarily consists of Lord Krishna`s charming childhood actions. This art is closely related with Mathura.

This dance form is a real and extensive of folk-art of this region. The pleasant music and stylished movements are used to describe the cherished divine love of Radha and Krishna through dance performance. The dance and song are basically an enacted expression to show the legends connected closely with the childhood, adolescence and early youth of Krishna with cow maids and cowherds of Mathura.

This is an excellent example of a dance that is highly rich in terms of footwork, mime and music. And therefore, it requires great skill and innovative techniques. It is said that there are only few exceptions to this dance, which can compete favourably with these lilas in India.

Nowadays, Raslila is performed in a group by a mandala or a ring with the accompaniment of songs (Bhajans) that are relating to Krishna legends and the music of drums. With these cymbals and flutes are also used. Many steps of this dance are of complex pattern & even some are similar with those of the Kathak, a classical dance.

The specialty of Lila-dances is characterized by the fact that they perform as per the pure nritta sequences & quick footwork movements. With it spinning, acting, pirouetting, stamping of the foot, supples arm movements and mimicry with music is generated through vocal and instrumental at the same time.

Performed with Radha, Krishna and gop-gopis, the actor-dancers gives expression of the various mood and sentiments by gestures, acting and mime. Their bodies move freely & gracefully bending forwards, backwards and sideways at a time of dancing. As their bodies are more flexible comparing to others, only young boys are seen mostly in its participation. At the beginning, all participants form a single file open circle and then they close it with holding one another`s hand and perform the dance in a group, solo, or as a duet.

It is said that the Raslila dance form in its present form & appearance is ascribed to Swami Haridas and Shri Narayan Bhatt. In some parts, only young Brahmin boys of are 13 to 14 years are seen to perform the Raslila. But the charming childhood pranks of Shri Krishna is remains the central theme of these dramas throughout its performance.

Ramlila:
Ramlila is considered as a traditional art form reputed in folk culture of Uttar Pradesh. It primarily deals with the life of Lord Rama in Ramayana. Like Lord Krishna, Rama is another incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Ramlila is basically an enactment of the myth.

And usually, presented in a sequence of play with a story in varying days from 7 to 31. It is considered as a dance form having spiritual connectivity. So, a performance of Ramlila creates a festive atmosphere with peaceful waves. Even at this time, observance of religious rites is also possible. Not only in dancing steps but also in costumes, jewelry, masks, headgear, make-up and decoration this dance performance is rich.

Ramlila is generally performed during the festival Dussehra. This festival is celebrated for the victory of goodness represented by Rama over Ravana representing evil forces. The original art form of Ramlila was unique but with the time, many local variations of Ramlila are added in different parts of the State. These changes are seen primarily with changes in terms of dialogues and music of dance. This art form is performed almost in all villages during the Dussehra festival.

In brief description, Ramalila is celebrated for ten days that ends on Dussehra festival, which falls on the tenth day of the bright half of Ashvin month coming in September-October. Ramalila is also evolved from old literature, it is based on the epic story of the Ramayana.

Many Scholars also consider Ramalila as a dance-drama. Mostly it is staged at various places in the cities, towns and villages of Uttar Pradesh with great devotion as a ritual. At the time of actual performance, the Ramayana is constantly recited with its verses accompanied by dance and pleasant music. It is an amazing mixture of dance, music, mime, Abhinaya and poetry that is represented in front of enthusiastic and religious audiences.

The basic of Ramlila theme is a struggle between the forces of good and evil, and the eventual victory of the former over the latter is sure with course of time. Rama symbolizes the best in humanity and Ravana is the evil force in the surrounding.

The story of this performance is that the Ravana, a ten-headed evil abducted Sita, the consort of Rama. He did this with the help of anther demon named Maricha. King of Lanka, Ravana forcing Sita to be his wife, but she refused & always busy in thinking of her husband Rama & his courage. As Rama comes to know about his wife, he sent he first requests to Ravana to return Sita. But the wick natured Ravana refused. Rama fought a fierce battle with him and ultimately routed and killed Ravana with his associates and regained Sita.

The celebration of Ramlila in Ramanagar at Varanasi held annually is very special & popular. This Lila is enacted on a huge area of about three square miles across the Ganges for thirty days. It is considered as a spectacular performance enjoyed by thousands of people every day for a period of one month. This large audience seats in a semicircle form. Together they enjoy the thrilling performance punctuated with fights, bouts, sword dances, and acrobatics, etc. The local Maharaja does the function and offers worship to Lord Rama daily with belief & respect. It is said that it was started over 125 years ago by that time supreme Maharaja Udit Narain Singh of Varanasi. It is ritualistic in nature.

In some other states like Punjab, it is also performed. The two great books named Maharishi Valmiki`s `Ramayan` and Tulsi Das Ji`s `Ram Charitra Manas` formed the theme of which a distinct folk drama, Ramlila was based. A huge stage is created for the performance and artists wear adorably & artfully.

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