The Lively and Captivating Folk Dances of Rajasthan

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Folk Dances of Rajasthan
Image – Wikimedia

Known for its rich cultural past, Rajasthan is the royal state of India. Tribal music or folk music plays a key role in Rajasthani culture because tribal communities formerly had dominated the state. The dances and accompanying music are ballad-like, tell epic stories and that of eternal love. There are other songs of devotion, too. Rajasthan Dances are performed on numerous auspicious occasions with the purpose of expressing happiness among themselves, as well as telling stories in a unique and enticing style. The emergence of princely states during medieval times also led to the evolution of folk dances, since the monarchs patronised different art and crafts. Each region has its own type and style of folk entertainment with diverse dances and songs since rulers from several cultures ruled the Rajasthan. It’s vivid, powerful and highly captivating. Here are various Rajasthani folk dances, you ought to know about.

1. Ghoomar Dance

Folk Dances of Rajasthan, Ghoomar
Image- Wikimedia

Ghoomar is one of Rajasthan’s most prominent folk dances, once played as royalty entertainment. Inaugurated by the Bhil tribe and then adopted by royal clans, including the Rajputs, women perform this dance form during festivals and important events like Holi, Teej and the arrival of a newlywed wife in the home she married into. The women wear traditional costumes, ghagra (a long, flowing skirt) and kanchli or choli (a blouse). To complete the costume, the face is covered by an odhani (a veil). The charm of the folk genre is its beautiful gestures involving swinging hands, clapping and twisting while singing traditional musical tunes. Together with a high pace and music, the coordinated movements between dancers and their whirlwind dresses are fascinating and delightful. In regions like Udaipur, Kota, Bundi and Jodhpur it is extremely popular. You will also often be prompted to join in the dance with the locals!

2. Kachhi Ghodi Dance

Folk Dances of Rajasthan, Kachhi Ghodi
Image- Wikimedia

Kachhi Ghodi is a renowned traditional dance performed by males from the Rajasthan district of Shekhawati. Tales of local bandits executed via mock sword wars are told in the dance. Men wear diverse traditional costumes such as a dhoti, turbans and kurtas, and they pretend to ride an adorned dummy horse. The whole dance is meant to be a symbolic exhibition of chivalry and valour. Dancers generally fake battles with swords to enhance the rhythm, while flute music and drums are played in the background as accompaniment. You can find this type of dance form notably in the Shekhawati region and in Jaipur and Udaipur, with it usually being performed during marriages or social functions.

3. Kalbelia Dance

Folk Dances of Rajasthan, Kalbelia
Image- Wikimedia

The traditional dance Kalbelia (or Kalbeliya), the Rajasthan dance, is often referred to as “Sapera Dance” or the “Snake Charmer Dance.” This dance was originated by the tribes of Kalbelia. It is a lovely form of folk dance where women wear an angrakhi- a jacket-like garment, odhani- a veil, and a black whirling ghagra- long skirt. They dance gracefully in groups curling around each other to imitate a snake’s movement. The music played in these dances are by men by utilising traditional instruments including the Dholak (a two-headed drum), the Khanjari (percussion instrument), and the Pungi (a woodwind instrument). Other traditional musical instruments, such as dufli, morchang and khuralio, are also available. The songs are based on folklore and mythological stories. The greatest sites to enjoy this kind of dance are Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Bikaner, Barmer, Jalore, Jaipur, and Pushkar.

4. Bhavai Dance

Folk Dances of Rajasthan, Bhavai
Image- Wikimedia

Rajasthan is mainly a traditional folk dance performed by ladies of the State Tribal Communities of Kalbelia, Jat, Meena, Bhil or Kumhar. It takes many years that the dance takes ladies who balance 8-9 pots or brass pitchers on the head while dancing and twisting on the side of a glass or brass plate with their feet (sometimes even the edge of a sword). The graciously twisting movements of ladies paired with the balancing show their difficulties in society.  The dance form is paired with male singers and instruments like the harmonium, sarangi and dholak. During significant occasions and festivals, experts perform this dance genre. Since some respected hotels provide a closer insight into Rajasthan’s cultural and historical customs with these performances, visitors may expect a feisty and exciting performance during their visit to the State. Apart from that Jodhpur, Jaipur and Bikaner present some of the best shows of Bhavai.

5. Gair Dance

Folk Dances of Rajasthan, Gair
Image- Wikimedia

Gair is another of Rajasthan’s well-known folk dances from the Bhil community. This popular kind of dancing has two types or variants which go by the name of Dandi Gair and Geendad. Men and women both dance together, with appealing moves and colourful instruments. The men wear a long tunic-like skirt with a staff, sword, and arrow, while the women wear ghagracholi. The music to this genre of dance is performed on different traditional instruments, while dancers swing their arms to loud drums in a clock-wise and anticlockwise way. At each turn the dancers fall in, beat their stick, while the song is accompanied by a repetitive rhythmic thump of the drums. In the Mewar region, this dance type is performed. However, its varieties such as the Dandi Gair and the Geendad also exist in Marwar and Shekhawati.

6. Kathputli Dance

Folk Dances of Rajasthan, Kathputli
Image- Wikimedia

Kathputli is a famous puppet dance display that began in the Bhat tribal group of Rajasthan a thousand years ago; and was named after Kath, which means “wood” and putli translates to “doll with no life.” Kathputli are normally mango wood and cotton-stuffed. These dolls are usually 1/2 feet high and constructed in Sawai-Madhopur, Bari and Udaipur. The puppets are controlled and manoeuvred by strings on the limbs of the puppeteers. These people are also vocalists who give a special flavour to Kathputli dancing as they sing stories from Indian culture and mythology. Some of them also deal with current social challenges. Shadipur depot in New Delhi is the Kathputli Colony neighbourhood, where these puppeteers have been living over the years. The two leading institutes in the field of art preserve and promote the art of kathputli are Bhartiya Lok Kala Mandal in Udaipur, established by Devilal Samar in 1952 and Rupayan Sansthan in Jodhpur, established by Vijaydan Detha and Komal Kothari in 1960. The ideal spot to experience this popular Rajasthan dance is in the Marwar region.

Suggested Read – Kathputlis of Rajasthan – A True Cultural Asset of India

7. Chari Dance

Folk Dances of Rajasthan, Chari
Image- Wikimedia

Chari is a traditional type of folk dance hailing from the Saini communities of Ajmer and Kishagarh, the Gujjar. Women perform at major events such as marriages, festivals. These women have traditional dancing attire with a lot of ornaments incorporated in the costume. They balance brass pots (chari) with a light lamp inside their heads ( which is set on fire with cotton seeds soaked in oil) while also performing various tricks easily. The nagada, dholak and harmonium act as musical accompaniments. The music and colour of the dance contrasts with this region’s dull and dry climate. It brings enjoyment and vibrant energy to the people wactching it. Catch a glimpse of this dance form in Ajmer and  Kishangarh. 

8. Chakri Dance

Folk Dances of Rajasthan, Chakri
Image- Wikimedia

The word “Chakri” denotes a circle, as the name implies. It is a popular folk dance of Kanjar in several parts of Kota and Rajasthan district. It is usually done in groups of women. The dance shows the circular movement of dancers on their knees, who twist in circles. Dancers wear beautiful skirts with tons of traditional Rajasthani mirror work and the entire group looks radiant and colourful as they carry out the dance. The Chakri draws its name from Chakra which means the wheel, and it goes to indicate how quickly women move about when they spin like swift wheels. They cover a wide space as they continue to move without clashing with each other and still move around the group with much expertise. The music is quite important here because the dance is so rapid and agile. The women also sing when they dance to support the quick rhythm of the instruments. The music begins gently and continues to reach the height with the development of the dance. Nagara and the dholak are two major instruments played as accompaniments to the dance of Chakri. The Nagara is an instrument like a drum, and the beats are hard and loud, and they are the best music to play at a high level of energy for the performance. Dholak is another drum-like instrument, producing wonderful and lively music as well. Men play the Dholak or Nagara in most cases to support the women of their clans.

Suggested Read – Traditional Dress of Rajasthan: Reflects a Culture that Persisted Since Ancient Times

Through folk music and dance, the liveliness of Rajasthani traditions and culture is evident. Folk music and dance are life for Rajasthanis, and they have become habitual to their part of existence. Each style of dance performed here links the history and culture of Rajasthani. These traditional dances are colourful, stimulating, energetic and vibrant. Remember next time you are in the State, try and see these performances.

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