What Is India News Service
Saturday, July 30, 2005


Himachal Pradesh


Art, Culture & Heritage

Fair & Festivals | Music & Music Instruments | Folk Arts & Folk Theatre

DANCE - Mala Dance | Demon Dance | Dalshone and Cholamba Dances | Jataru Kayang | Shan and Shabu Dances | Keekali and Bhangra | Nuala | Nati | Jhoori, Gi, Swang Tegi and Rasa Dances | Khaydayat and Lamba Dances | Lahadi and Ghooghati Dances | Dand Ras and Dangi Dances


Himachal is a land of dances. Its dance forms are varied and some are quite complicated. These dances are an inseparable part of tribal life which reflects the great perseverance and good humor of the human beings in the face of poverty and death. No festivity here is completed without dancing. The dance forms like Dulshol, Dharveshi, Drodi, Dev Naritya, Rakshas Nritya, Dangi, Lasa, Nati and Nagas are danced all over the state and provide a welcome break in the monotony of life. These last for hours and the beats and gestures keep changing from one stage to another.

The Mala (garland) Dance
The Kayang Mala dance is very popular in Himachal. In this, the dancers dressed in their traditional finery, weave their arms, together to form a sort of a criss-cross pattern so that, they appear like beads in an intricately woven garland. They drink chhang (a rice-brew) before the dance and that adds to the lusty beauty of the dance.

The Demon (Rakshasa) dance or Chhambha
These dances from the Kinnaur area are reminiscent of the pre-historic period. The Kinnaur folk are compared to playful deer. This dance form is performed with demon masks numbering three, five, seven or nine. It depicts the attack of the demons on the crops and their ritual chasing away by the forces of good.

'Chhambha' is similar to the Punjabi dance Bhangra. Dressed in their demon costumes and masks, the dancers look quite awesome. These dances are arranged in areas which have a dense population. During local festivals like Chaitol and Bishu, community dancing can be seen. In these men and women hold hands and dance. The leader is known as 'Ghure' and the rest follow in his footsteps. In some areas men and women dance separately.

The Dalshone and Cholamba dances
These dances belong to the Ropa valley and in these the patterns formed by the dancers look like coiled serpents. The Cholamba dance is performed when a tiger is killed. The skin of the dead animal is stuffed and a gold ornament is put in his nose. The carcass is then rotated and the people dance around it. 

The Nagas Kayang is a dance which copies the movement of a snake. The Herki Kayang is faster in tempo and is danced to a romantic song. This dance is performed by young men and women. The Shuna Kayang dance is danced in most villages in the area and it combines both slow and fast movements. This depicts scenes from the life in the village as also the forest.

Jataru Kayang
This is a popular dance at festivals. In this dance songs connected with the festival are sung. As the musician play upon their instruments the leader of the dance, dances with a traditional Chamar in his hands The chamar becomes a great source of resentment and leads to fights among the dancers. The Ghure who is the leader of the dance has to deposit a small fee at the temple of the deity for using the chamar.

The Shan and Shabu dances
These are two popular dances of the Lahaul valley people and are danced at the Buddhist Gompas in the memory of the Buddha. Shan means a song of prayer for the Buddha. Dances danced to these songs are known as Shan dances. It is a tribal dance which is performed at the completion of the harvesting of crops. The instrument played in this are drums, shehnai and a stringed instrument like a violin.

A similar dance known as Shabbo is performed at festivals. It depicts the feelings and beliefs of the people in this area. These dances are linked to the local religious festivals.

Keekali and Bhangra
The Keekali (Kikli) dance is a dance of young girls and is danced playfully in twos. The girls hold hands crosswise and rotate fast on their toes, singing songs. The Bhangra is a male dance which originated in Punjab and is popular in the Kangra, Himirpur and Una areas in a fairly wild form. Rituals such as Chandroli, Jhumakada and Googa swang also give one a glimpse into the local dance forms.

The tribal dances of the trans-Himalayan region are different in content and music. The old tradition of both song and dance in these areas has been zealously guarded against any urban influence. The districts of Kinnaur, Lahaul and Spiti and Tehsils of Pangi and Bharmour of Chamba district constitute this zone. The inhabitants in these areas are known as Kinnauras, Lahaulas, Spitians, Pangwals and Gaddis. There are the Gujjars who are the wandering nomads. All these tribes have their own distinct traditions of folk-dances, songs, dresses and ornaments.

Besides the popular dances like Kayang, Bakayang and Banyangchu there are ritual dances performed by Lamas on certain religious ceremonies or festive occasions. One masked dance particularly features an important event in the history of Himalayan Buddhism when Lamas successfully carried out a plan of executing a cruel king Langdarma. A special occasion for masked dances is the celebration of the birth of Padma Sambhava who is held in high esteem by the Buddhists of Himalayas since it was he who carried the message of Buddhism to Tibet.

In the sword dances of Kulu, men dancers dressed in the traditional tight white trousers and tunics with bright bordered shawls and black plumed caps decorated with blue primulas and yellow jasmine. The women dancers wrapped in woolen shawls wearing their colorful headgear (Dhatu) enter the arena. Forming a circle and holding a handkerchief in the right hand men and women wave it as they move round and round in slight change and there are four steps taken with a pause in the fifth and three more steps with the flat of the foot. Then suddenly two or three dancers come into the centre of the circle and commence dancing with brandishing swords. The dance is accompanied by dholak, Ran Singha, Karnal and small Clarinets.

Nuala is a folk dance of the Chamba valley. In this a garland is placed upon a pedestal as Shiva's garland and around it many dance dramas depicting scenes from the life of Lord Shiva are enacted. Women possessed of evil spirits are also brought to these gatherings and their antics also add to the general mystery and awesomeness of the spectacle along with the heady fragrance of the incense and the beating of the drums. The chief devotee, Chela, of Shiva dances in a trance and answers questions that are put to him. He predicts dire changes and natural calamities which sends shivers in the crowds and people vow to offer special Puja if these are warded off by the gods.

Several forms of Nati dance are prevalent in the Kulu, Sirmaur, Mandi, Mahasu and Chamba areas. In Kulu this is known as Siraji Nati. It is like the Kathak dance and embraces a number of dances like Dheeli, Dekhi, Feh, Bakhali, Kahika, Dohari, Lahauli, Chambiyali, Banthada and Loodi. Rhythm is the main feature of this dance. The instruments that accompany this dance range from Drums, Shehnai, Cymbals and Ranasinga (an instrument similar to a trombone). The Shehnai played by the Hesis is the life of the Nati dance. It not only provides a rhythm but also puts life into the entire performance.

The Nati is not a dance for professional dancers but is open for participation by all age groups. It is a slow-moving dance from Lasya variety and lasts through three or four days and nights. The costume for this comprises of Chola (top coat), Ghaghra (skirt), Gachi, Lachhi, a floral shawl and Boomani with silver chains, tight churidar pyjamas, socks and shoes. The women wear heavy armlets and silver and gold ornaments known as Tunki and Chanki around their necks. The men and women hold an ornate fan in one hand and a colourful handkerchief in another and clap as they dance. Earlier the men and women danced separately but now they dance in unison.

The Jhoori, Gi, Swang Tegi and Rasa dances
The Jhoori, Thadair, Rasa, Gi, Nati, Swang Tegi, Draudi and Padua are popular dance forms of Sirmaur and the surrounding area. Jhoori is danced in the open. It is danced to questions and answers delivered in musical tones. Each line ends with Hoo Hoo sounds. The Gi dance is performed to an intricate beat of three divisions. The singers stand in a circle and the dancers stand in the middle rotating with arms outstretched.
The Dhadair or Thadair is danced to the Rudra Tal. In this the dancers hold aloft weapon like bows, arrows, knives or sticks and yell too as they move towards their imaginary adversaries. This song repeat scenes from the local history.

In the Rasa dance, the dancers step back and forth and sit and leap up alternatively as they dance. This dance form is symbolic of the unity of the people. Swang Tegi is a free dance which copies the gestures of animals. This is danced during the Diwali festival with the dancers wearing tiger masks carved out of wood. Dharvedi and Droondu are religious dances arranged during Jagaras or Shant. In these, scenes from the battlefields or temple and stupa shapes are presented. Dancing in circles and suddenly lying down on the ground and striking various poses are some of the chief features of these dances. These are danced with great fervor. These dances can be seen during the Dussera season in Kulu.

Khaydayat and Lamba dances
In these dance forms the dancers hold a sword in one hand and a scabbard in another and dance in a circle. The deft sword-play among the dancers is a delightful part of this dance and is more important than the musical or rhythmic aspect of dance. At the time the musicians quicken the tempo and the rest of the dancers cease to dance and stand quietly. The dance re-invokes memories of the feudal past.
  The Lamba dance lays more stress on the movement of the feet. In this the dancers with first movement put the right foot forward and then the left and then the right again and in the fourth movement revert back to their original position. At the same time they clap their hands. It is a vigorous dance.

The Lahadi and Ghooghati dances
Lahadi is a popular dance of hill communities which is performed by women. In this, women form two teams which stand face to face. The singing is begun by women of the first team and the second team retreats as the singers bend at the waist, clap and move forward. This is then repeated by the other team and the first team retreats to its original position. This lasts for a long time. This dance form employs no musical instruments and the dancers clap their hands.

In the Ghooghati dance the dancer stands in a line and the one behind puts his hand on the shoulders of the one in front of him. The first two or three dancers sing the song and the rest repeat the lines. This dance places a lot of importance on physical movement. As they sing the dancers move backwards and forward and bend sideways. This presents very interesting Choreographic composition.

The Dand Ras and Dangi Dances
The Dangi dances is a dance form of the Chamba area. It is performed at festivals, weddings and during Jatara by the Gaddi women, in lines and semi circular patterns. This is accompanied by the singing of the love ballads of Sunni and Bhukhu. The dancers join hands and move away by turns in this graceful dance. The Danda Ras is danced to the best of complex rhythms like Dhamal and Lahauli on drums. The Lahauli beat goes slowly and in this the Gaddi dancers lower and raise their legs slowly as they dance in a circle uttering sounds like Jey Jey and Shee Shee. They wear their tradition costume of Chola-Dora and tight fitting Churidar pyjamas.



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