Music and Dance
Most of the folk dances of Rajasthan are very graceful and require great skill and dexterity. However when performed well these dances are a sight to behold and thus have gained immense popularity the world over.
Bhawai or Bhavai is the traditional folk dance of Rajasthan and is one of the nail biting, suspenseful dances of the state. Performed with great skill it is the art of dancing and gyrating even while maintaining a fine balancing act and poising many articles and items on one’s head. Jats, Bhils, Raigars, Meenas, Charmars and Kumhars are the tribes and clans that promote the growth of this folk art. The Kalbelia tribe of the snake charmers is especially adept in this skill of balancing and he womenfolk of this clan perform a sprightly saltation while holding as many as seven to eleven earthern urns on their head.
The womenfolk of these tribes are used to such balancing precision due to their endeavor in the parched desert areas. A number of such urns and pots are easily carried across a distance in this fashion by the Rajasthani women who transport water from the wells/oases to their homes. Believed to have originated in the neighboring state of Gujarat, Bhawai was soon picked up and adapted by the local tribal men and women who imparted the dance a distinctive Rajasthani essence.
To give the dance a climactic turn, the performer not only balances the pots on her head but also climbs atop a plate (thali) placed on brass tumblers. The thrill comes from the fact that even a slight asymmetry can easily upset the show. The more venturesome dancers take to performing the jig on broken glass or a sword. Sometimes a dancer also balances a ‘puja thali’ (a plate holding the common items of worship) on her head. The accompaniment to the dance, Bhawai is provided by the men singing melodious songs and by instruments like dholak, manjeera, pahkwaja, sarangi and the bhungal.
Most of the folk dances of Rajasthan are very graceful and require great skill and dexterity. However when performed well these dances are a sight to behold and thus have gained immense popularity the world over. Chari or the popular pot dance is one such folk art that is received globally with awe and admiration and represents the grace of Rajasthan’s culture well.
The Rajasthani woman performs the Chari, a sprightly dance even while carrying an earthen urn or brass pot on her head. What is most amazing is that a lighted ‘diya’ or oil lamp is placed in this urn and its glow is visible throughout the period of the dance. The perfect balance and adroitness of these dancers commands reverence and applause when ever the Chari is performed.
This dance is performed on special occasions and on festive days. Graceful movements of the limbs, deft swirls on the knees and the rhythmic pulsating music entrance and enthrall the hearts of the viewers. Chari performers are trained right from childhood and only when the art of balancing the pot is mastered do the performers graduate to dancing with the lamp in the pot.
The womenfolk of the Kisherigarh region of the state of Rajasthan specialize in this dance form and the region has produced the best known Chari performers. Sometimes the oil-rich cottonseed is burnt instead of the diya and is placed in the pot. Years o rigorous practice is needed to acquire this skill and thus the women avoid any risk of getting burnt.
The grace, the music and the sparkling colors of their costumes illuminated by the diya’s soft glow, Chari is indeed a dance of the spirited women devoted o upholding their traditions even in modern days.
Kalbeliya is a nomadic community who sometimes introduces themselves as Naath, Jogi, Sapere and Sadhu. Their family business is to catch snakes. This comes in handy as they showcase a number of tricks using these snakes while giving spectacular shows in nearby villages and towns and at their Jajmaan’s (client) place and thus earn livelihood for themselves. As the time changed they have made permanent lodgings outside the cities.
Kalbeliya community consider themselves as the disciples of Guru Kannipav. According to them Guru Jalandhar Nath ji had two disciples namely Gorakh nath and Kannipav. Gorakh nath ji loved simplicity whereas Kannipav ji was very jovial kinds. Both of them were very proud of their art. To test their expertise at their art Guru Jalandhar nath ji asked both of them to bring something to drink for their Guru. So Gorakhnath ji with the help of his talent produced a cup full of elixir and offered it to his Guru while Kannipav ji caught a few snakes and scorpions and extracted the poison out of them and filled the cup with that poison and offered it to his Guru.
This offended the Kannipav so much that he asked Kannipav to drink that cup full of poison and cursed upon him that he should always remain outside the village boundaries. Since then the followers of Kannipav lived outside the village boundaries and were known as Kalbeliya.
They very happily follow all the rules that have been given to them by their Guru Kannipav
1. They always ask people for their food.
2. To always be happy and merry.
3. They always refer to the women younger to them as sister and the women elder to them as mother.
4. They follow simple and straight paths in life.
5. They never ever abuse their master.
6. They never kick their enemies.
7. They stay far away from theft.
8. They always bury their dead and deceased ones.
Pungi is a special instrument of Kalbeliya community. They catch snakes with the help of pungi. They enchant the snake by playing this instrument and then catch it. They believe that the snake can never bite them and they also make ‘Surma’ using the snake’s poison . Due to the use of Surma they believe that they will never lose their eye sight. The women of this community are expert in singing and dancing.
In olden times the women use to sing and dance only on special occasions such as weddings, festivals etc. in their very own distinct style. As times changed these women started performing stage shows around the whole world and with it changed their dancing style as well as their attires. Their swaying dresses, made up of colourful beads give a distinct identity to the women of Kalbeliya community. What makes this attractive dress more interesting is that it is made by the Kalbeliya women themselves. A very interesting fact about them is that they never teach the folk arts to their children. They gain expertise in singing and dancing by watching the elders doing it at home.
The Kaamad community offer their prayers to Baba through dance and music. The men sing bhajans and the women perform an emotive dance. This dance is called terah taali dance. As the name suggests, this dance depicts thirteen different emotions.
For this dance thirteen Manjeera’s are tied on these women’s hand and feet and that is why it is called terah taali dance. The men play Dholak and Tambura and along with this they recite couplets (dohas).
When the women dance the manjeeras produce sounds which gives the impression as if the dance itself is producing music instead of dance being performed on the music. This terah taali dance is performed by the people of Kaamad community who live in the Pali and Nagore district of Rajasthan. The patrons of Kaamad community belong to Meghwal community. This community asks for alms from the people of Meghwal community only.
In present times the number of people performing terah taali dance is very less. As it is the population of this community is very less and moreover many men and women of this community has stopped performing this dance. Consequently the coming generation of the Kaamad community does not take interest in this art form. So this dance form is just on the verge of becoming extinct.
It is the most famous of the Rajasthani Dances. Ghoomar is a traditional women’s folk dance of Rajasthan, India which was developed by the Bhil tribe and was adopted by the Rajputs. It is performed by groups of women in swirling robes, and accompanied by men and women singing together. In this many women dance on the music of Dhol, thali and Manjira (Rajasthan Music Instruments)
This dance is performed by nomadic kanjar tribe of Rajasthan at the time of wedding. With skirts whirling, the women give an impression of a spinning top, hence the name Chakari Dance.