Music & Dances of Rajasthan: Music of Rajasthan, Dances of Rajasthan, Folk Dances of Rajasthan, Folk Musical Instruments

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Music and Dances of Rajasthan

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Music of Rajasthan

Music and dance play a significant role in the life of people of Rajasthan. The cool stillness of the desert after the hot days are filled with soulful music and rhythmic dance. Both music as well as dance are respected as skills by the dwellers of the desert. There are several communities of entertainers in Rajasthan, who served at court, recounting the tales of passion and valour of the warriors and others. For many of these communities, this is the only source of their income. Traditionally, families would invite the Bhats, Dholis, Nats and Bhaands to sing and dance at family celebrations, births or marriages, or other festivities. No Rajasthani marriage is complete unless accompanied by the deep bass of their voice. Professional entertainers who performed a particular type of dance like Bhopas, the Kachhi Ghodi dancers, and the puppeteers are found in the more fertile tracts of eastern Rajasthan. Some of the best known entertainers of Rajasthan are the Kalbeliya dancers, with their rhythmic snake dances and the Langhas and Manganiyars of Jaisalmer. The 'Dholis' or the singing community of Rajasthan is popular both at the domestic and international levels.

Music and Dances of Rajasthan, Rajasthan Dance

The dance styles, music and the musical instruments also differs from region to region. The most significant are the devotional songs and the communities who render these songs. There is a richness and diversity in Rajasthani music which comes from a tradition that is old and undisturbed, and from a culture that has imbibed the best from its neighboring states of Sindh, Gujarat, Malwa, Mewat, Haryana and Punjab. The voices, both male and female, are strong and powerful. The numerous songs sung by the women reflect the various feminine moods and strong family ties that govern their lives.

Dances of Rajasthan
Dances of Rajasthan, Ghoomar Dance

The people of Rajasthan have their own ways to celebrate the evening in the form of folk music and dance. The desert comes alive when the performers perform the folk dances. The females participate equally in these refreshing activities. The Ghoomar dance is the unique dance form of Rajasthan that is performed in the privacy of homes, by the women only, while all other folk dances are either linked to a particular region, or a particular festival. In recent years, these performances have become more widespread, and the regional distinction is beginning to wear off. In the Ghoomar dance, the elegant movement of the dancers in circles, making the Ghagra (like a long skirt) flow both clockwise and anti clockwise is stunning. Another dance form is the Chari dance which involves the dancer holding a pot with lighted lamp on their heads. It is a great art of balancing. Another act of bravery can be enjoyed at the fire dance when the boys and men jump over the live wood and charcoal, and the drumbeats in the background add to the effect of the performance.

Folk Dances of Rajasthan

Some of the best known folk dances of Rajasthan are Bhavai, Chari, Drum Dance, Fire Dance, Gair, Ghoomar, Kachhi Ghodi, Kathak, Kathputli, Sapera Dance and Terah Tali.

1. Ghoomar
Ghoomar is a community dance form of the Rajputs and performed by the women of the house. The word "Ghoomar" is derived from the word ghoomna, which means moving in circles. Ghoomar is a very simple dance in which the women uses simple swaying movements to convey the spirit of any auspicious occasion and move gracefully in circles. There is an amazing grace as the skirts flare slowly while the women twirl in circles, their faces covered by the veil. All the women, whether old or young, participate in the dance, which can continue for hours into the night. A new bride, on being welcomed to the home of her husband too, is expected to do the Ghoomar dance as one of the rituals of the marriage.

2. Gair
Gair is one of the dance forms of the Bhil tribes. This picturesque dance is performed during Holi festival and performed by both men and women together. The men wear long, pleated tunics that open out into full-length skirts as they move first in clockwise then in anti-clockwise direction, beating their sticks to create the rhythms when they turn. The variations of this dance are the Dandia Gair of the Marwar and Geendad of the Shekhawati region.

3. Chari Dance
Chari Dance is more popular in the Kishangarh region. This dance involves dancing with a chari or pot on the head. The dancers make the intricate patterns with their hands while balancing brass pots on their heads. The performance is made more picturesque with the flames from cotton seeds set alight, so that the bobbing heads create streaks of illuminated patterns as they move effortlessly around the floor.

4. Kachhi Ghodi
Kachhi Ghodi dance originated from the Bandit region of Shekhawati. This dance is performed by the men for the entertainment in the bridegroom's party. The men wear elaborate costumes that looks like riding on the dummy horses. Holding naked swords, these men move rhythmically on the beating of drums and a ballad singer sings the exploits of the Robin Hood.

5. Fire Dance
The fire dance is performed by the Jasnathis of Bikaner and Churu. These dancers perform this dance on a large bed of flaming coals on to the beats of drums that rises in crescendo till the dancers appear to be in a near hypnotic state. These devotional performances can be usually seen on the winter’s night.

6. Bhavai
The Bhavai dance is one of the most spectacular dance. In this dance, the veiled women dancers balance up to seven or nine brass pitchers as they dance nimbly, pirouetting, and then swaying with the soles of their feet perched on top of a glass, or on the edge of a sword. Some of the performers use only papier mache pots that are stuck together, and move their feat, amazingly.

7. Drum Dance
The drum dance is performed by the warriors. In this dance, a naked sword is put in the mouth of a man, and juggle three swords with his hands while avoiding the injury caused to himself. His troupe that consists of musician holding aloft drums around their necks and cymbals in their hands assist him in this dance.

8. Kathak
Kathak, a formal and classical form of dance evolved as a Gharana in the courts of Jaipur where it reached to such a scale that established it as distinct from the other centres. Even today, the Jaipur Gharana is well established and the performances occur in other centres rather than in the state where the opportunity for classical dance forms has been on the decline for a while. The most famous centre of Kathak in Jaipur is the Jaipur Kathak Kendra, where this dance form is still taught by some of the earlier tecahers of the Jaipur Gharana.

9. Kathputli

The traditional puppet show or Kathputli dance, once existed in Rajasthan. Kathputli dance is a traveling form of entertainment and uses the ballads, retold in the voice of the puppeteer who is assisted by his family in erecting a make-shift stage. In this dance, the puppets are strung on the stage and various historic stories, tales of love are told and include much screeching and high-pitched sounds as the puppets swirl and move frenetically.

10. Sapera Dance

The Sapera Dance is one of the most sensuous dance forms of Rajasthan which is performed by the Kalbeliya snake-charmers community. In this dance, the sapera dancers wear long, black skirts embroidered with silver ribbons. As they spin in circle, their body swings in such a way, that it is impossible to believe that they are made of anything other than rubber. Sometimes, the music and dance increases to such a pitch that it leaves the viewer and as well as the dancer exhausted.

11. Terah Taali

Terah Tali is the devotional form of dance that is practiced by the Kamad community of Pokhran and Deedwana, to honour their folk hero, Baba Ramdeo. In this dance, the women sit on the floor before his image and thirteen cymbals are tied to various parts of their body which they strike with the ones they hold in their hand. Their hands make various patterns while they do this, and sometimes, they may also balance pots on their hands and hold a sword in their mouth.

Folk Musical Instruments

The folk singers of Rajasthan also play various musical instruments like the sarangi, ghungroos and ektara to bring the sweetest music to the people of Rajasthan.

The sarangi is the most important folk musical instrument and is found in various forms in Rajasthan. The Jantar of the Bhopas of Dev Narain ji is like the Goddess Saraswati's Rudra Veena. The jantar has two gourds, four strings and fourteen frets. The Ektaara is also a single string instrument, but is mounted on the belly of a gourd which is attached to a body made of bamboo.

In Western Rajasthan, a simple instrument called the Morchang is very popular. The Ghoralio is common among the Bhils, Garasiyas and the Kallbelias. Both these instruments resemble the Jewish harp.

Folk Music, Folk Musical Instruments

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