Folk Dances of India
India is a land of varied cultures and traditions. Diversities in all spheres make the Indian culture quite unique. Indian folk and tribal dances are product of different socio-economic set up and traditions. Indian folk and tribal dances are simple and are performed to express joy. In India we have festivals and celebrations virtually every day. This has added to the richness of Indian culture. Since every festival is accompanied by celebration, folk dances have become an integral part of our social milieu. While there are numerous folk and tribal dances, they are constantly improved. The skill and the imagination of the dances influence the performance.
Folk dances are performed for every possible occasion, to celebrate the arrival of seasons, birth of a child, a wedding and festivals. The folk dances are extremely simple with minimum of steps or movement. Indian folk dances are full of energy and vitality. Some dances are performed separately by men and women while in some performances men and women dance together. On most occasions, the dancers sing themselves, accompanied by artists with instruments. Each form of folk dance has a specific costume and rhythm. Most of the costumes, worn for folk dances, are colorful with extensive jewels and designs.
Gaur dance is a popular folk dance of Madhya Pradesh dances. Gaur dance is popular in the Sing Marias or Tallaguda Marias of South Bastar. Men put head-dresses with stringed ‘cowries’ and plumes of peacock feathers and make their way to the dancing ground. Women ornamented with brass fillets and bead necklaces with their tattooed bodies also join the gathering. The men beat the drums, tossing the horns and feathers of their head-gears to the rising tempo that gives the dance a wilder touch.
Chhau is a popular folk dance of Bihar. Since masks form an important feature of this dance it is called ‘Chhau’, which means mask. All the Chhau performers hold swords and shields while performing. The stages are decorated and brightly lit by torches, lanterns and flickering oil lamps. The musical instruments used are the Dhol (a cylindrical drum), Nagara (a huge drum) and Shehnai (reed pipes). The Chhau dance is performed by men and boys. Chhau dance is full of energy and strength. It is interesting to note that the entire body of the dancer is engaged as a single unit. This body language of the dancer has to be poetic and powerful.
North East India
Bihu is a popular folk dance of Assam is called Bihu. The Bihu dance is an integral part of the Bihu festival of Assam. The Bihu festival is celebrated in mid-April, during the harvesting time and lasts for about a month. Young men and girls perform the Bihu dance together to the accompaniment of drums and pipes. Love forms the subject matter of the songs that are sung during the performance. The dances are performed in circles or parallel rows.
Dumhal is a popular dance of Kashmir. This dance is performed with long colorful robes, tall conical caps (studded with beads and shells). Dumhal dance is accompanied by songs which the performers themselves sing. It is supported by drums. There is an interesting tradition associated with Dumhal dance where the performers of this dance place a banner into the ground at a fixed location and they begin to men dance around this banner.
Padayani is one of the most colorful and popular dances of Southern Kerala. Padayani is associated with the festival of certain temples, called Padayani or Paddeni. Such temples are in Alleppey, Quilon, Pathanamthitta and Kottayam districts. The main Kolams (huge masks) displayed in Padayani are Bhairavi (Kali), Kalan (god of death), Yakshi (fairy) and Pakshi (bird).
South West India
Dollu Kunitha is a popular drum dance of Karnataka state. In the Dollu Kanitha dance, large drums are adorned with colored clothes and hang around the necks of men. The songs used in this dance usually have religious and battle fervor. The main emphasis is on quick and light movement of the feet and legs. The Dollu Kunitha dance forms a part of the ritualistic dances of the Dodavas of Karnataka.
Dandiya is a popular folk dance of Rajasthan. Dressed in colorful costumes the performers play skillfully with big sticks in their hands. Dandiya dance is accompanied by the musical instrument called the ‘Meddale’ played by the drummer in the centre. The Bhil tribal of Rajasthan perform a variety of dances. All these folk dances correspond to the agricultural cycle. The Ghumer dance, Raika and Jhoria are some examples of this type of dance. The Gher dance is a favorite and popular dance of the Mina tribe who are similar to the Bhils while Valar is typical dance of the Garasias of Rajasthan.