Eight Famous Folk Dances of India
India is the land of festivals. Our diversity is the reason why throughout the year we have innumerable festivals to celebrate in every corner of this nation. No celebrations or ceremonies go unsung here in this country, all festivals and joyous occasions are celebrated with music, dance, laughter and other harmonious activities.
India the Land of Festivals
India is the land of festivals. Our diversity is the reason why throughout the year we have innumerable festivals to celebrate in every corner of this nation. No celebrations or ceremonies go unsung here in this country, all festivals and joyous occasions are celebrated with music, dance, laughter and other harmonious activities. While some dances performed in weddings and happy occasions are simply a symbol of expressing joy, some dance forms are almost a sort of discipline to the learners and the performers. It is much more than just moving your hands and legs; it is a form of art that performers worship. Children in some states of India take up the practice of a particular form of dance as their part of life and through that dance form they discover themselves and their abilities. In this article we will tell you about a few famous dances in India that seem to have become an integral part of India's culture and tradition. The oldest folk dance to have been thriving till date in India is Bharatanatyam. The dance’s history and description were found in 2nd century CE in the Tamil scriptures of Silappatikaram. The dance grew to become the oldest and one of the most celebrated classical dance forms in Indian history.
Bhangra is the dance form which took birth in the state of Punjab. It was initially started as a marker of celebration of rain, and was also performed during the harvesting season as a sign of joy. Men and women would gather around in villages in the form of groups and perform the dance with an extravagant display of music played on drums and nagada and other assorted instruments. They would wear colorful clothes as a sign of happiness and sing and dance to their heart’s content. Later on, this dance began to take place on all joyous occasions, whether it be a marriage, baby shower, celebration or any excuse to be happy and dance, you would always find a group of dancers accompanying the event. While some hire professional bhangra dancers for the event, some perform it themselves or join the crowd of performers. There have always been specific bhangra songs journeying from our grandmother’s time to our age which are still performed with the same enthusiasm. While certain songs are new or are a pop version of the old songs remixed to match the beat of today’s generation. You will find this dance form performed in many of India’s famous movies, such as Gaddar: Ek Prem Katha, Veer Zara, Jab We met and many such.
Jhumar is a dance form that is practiced and performed primarily in the state of Haryana. The dance form amongst the locals in Haryana is usually called ‘Haryanvi gigga’. The name gets its etymology from the ornament and jewelries that men and women adorn themselves with while performing the dance. Women wear a head piece which in Hindi describes the shape of jhumars or chandeliers (in English). They usually wear bright and colorful clothes with sparkling jewelries and other necessary accessories while dancing to their hearts content. The dance is usually performed in large groups in gatherings or ceremonies such as marriages, childbirth, etc. One of the most interesting facts about this dance is that women sometimes dance on ‘thalis’ or steel plates. They learn the art of balancing their body bare-legged on sharp steel plates while dancing gracefully. Some even carry pots or plates on their head while they gracefully walk around or even dance with shaky utensils on their heads. These skills are practiced beforehand and learned from a very early age. Unless trained you cannot perform these art pieces on your own. While the dance form looks dazzling to the eyes of the spectators it is equally tough for the performers to carry it out elegantly. This is one of the reasons why such dance forms are held in high regard and are seen as much more than just a dance form.
Garba is the dance form that takes place primarily in the state of Gujarat and most parts of west India. The dance is very enthusiastically performed by both men and women of all age groups. The dance is considered an ode to the Hindu goddess Ambe. People wear colorful clothes and a small cardigan-like garment which is studded with sequins and handstitched with fine colorful threads. The Garba dance is usually performed with two wooden sticks in two hands. During the dance, men and women pair-up and play with the beautifully crafted wooden sticks. These wooden sticks are often decorated and are strong enough to sustain the course of the dance. Competitions are held all across India for enthusiastic Garba players. It is believed that some Garba competitions sometimes even last one whole night until they decide the winner. Performers are required to dance to the tune of a dhol or any musical instrument. Sometimes this dance also takes place in groups or gatherings. It is usually performed in large open grounds so that any number of people can easily participate.
Bharatanatyam is one of the oldest forms of Indian classical dance to have ever existed. The roots of Bharatanatyam seems to originate from the region of Tamil Nadu. Earlier the dance form was practiced and performed in the localized region of South India, later as it gained fame it began to be performed in most parts of India. The origin of the dance form has been found written in codified versions in several books. One of the most famous books to document this art form is Natya Shastra by Bharat Muni. Many actors and celebrities took to this dance form and performed it through the course of their lives. Some of the most famous and recognized Bharatnatyam performers were Rukmini Devi, Balasaraswati, Padma Subramaniyam and Rama Vaidyanathan. Special clothes and jewelries are made solely for the performance of this dance. Women deck themselves up with beautiful jewelries, flowers in their head, shiny bangles and silk clothes to look like dazzling goddesses while they performed their best on stage.
Bihu or more commonly known as Rongali Bihu is generally believed to be the festival of Assam. The festival in which this dance form takes place occurs in the month of January and October. The dance form or the festival Bihu is essentially a set off three significant Assamese festivals that take place in the district of Assam. Bohag Bihu takes place in April, Kongali or Kati Bihu takes place in the month of October and the last one Bhogali Bihu is noted to take place in the month of January. The purpose of celebrating Bihu is the commemoration of spring in the state of West Bengal. The word Bihu means asking the Gods for blessings. The festival is generally celebrated in a very pompous manner and huge feasts are laid out for people of the town. Men and women dance to their regional folk songs. Common musical instruments that are used in the festival of Bihu are the Dhol, Taal, Toka, flute and Gogona. Women wear and red and white sarees on the occasion.
The dance form Lavani took place in the heart of the state of Maharashtra. it is believed to be a famous genre of music and dance carried forward since ages. This dance form is generally performed by women to the beat of the dholki, a percussion instrument. The dance is quite intense and is known for the powerful tune it is performed on. Over the years the dance form has been noticed to be performed in many of the films in Indian cinema and in Indian theaters, some of the films in which Lavani has been performed are Agneepath, Bajirao Mastani, Ferrari Ki Sawari, Aiyyah, Singham and many more.
The dance form originated in a village named Kuchipudi in India. The dance form is considered to be one of the central dance forms of Indian classical dances. In the Indian text of Natya Shastra, one can find instructions to perform the dance cum drama called Kuchipudi. The dance is generally given a religious outlook considering its origin and the purpose of its performance. The evidence of the dance form was also found in copper inscriptions in the 10th century. The dance form is performed by both men and women where male members are called Agnivastra and they generally wrap themselves with a garment called dhoti. Female dancers wear instructed sarees made specially for their performance. They also wear heavy jewelry and makeup to resemble goddesses while performing.
The most interesting part of a Kathakali performance is its costume. The dance form largely got fame because of its spectacular costume. It is generally performed as a ‘story play’ genre of art. The performers wear creative masks on their faces to perform according to the dance’s tradition. The dance form took birth in the southwestern region of Kerala. The dance form identifies its origin and its ethnicity to Hindu temples and folk arts such as Krishnanattam. The dance is carried out with Tamil folk songs, heavily creative costumes and vocal performers. One of the prime things to notice in this performance is the performer’s expressions as he or she dances. Most of the dances are however carried out by men of society.