Vibrant, vigorous, graceful, sinuous, plaintive and martial, the dance and music of Rajasthan in India evoke the desert in all moods. The music and dance of Rajasthan is the most lilting tribute to the spectacular beauty, the undulating sinuousness and the brutal harshness of the landscapes, and to the hardiness and heroism of the people who live in this land of the Kings and Queens.
Music and dance in Rajasthan are deeply ingrained in the life of Rajasthan. The vibrancy of Rajasthan is never completely discovered until you engulf yourself in the music and dance of Rajasthan. A tour to Rajasthan would be incomplete without experiencing the Folk Music and Dances of Rajasthan. The music and dances of Rajasthan are so appealing and soothing that it matches so well with this strange and wondrous land of culture. The cool stillness of the desert after the searing heat of the day and the upsurge of life in the short-lived rainy season or spring are filled with soulful, full-throated music and rhythmic dance of Rajasthan. The state of Rajasthan has a very vibrant, highly evolved tradition of performing arts carefully nurtured and sustained over the centuries.
Being a land of royalty, the rulers of Rajasthan have all along been great patrons of music and dance. Patronized by erstwhile royalty, the music and dance of Rajasthan follows a legacy that dates back to several centuries. The rich folklore and culture has added some more sparkles to its glory making Rajasthani dance and music a treasured jewel in Indian culture. The tradition of court dances and music performance of Rajasthan still can be seen today in the cultural mights making the grandeur of bygone Rajput era alive infront of you. Needless to say, the music and dances of Rajasthan draw inspiration from its legends that abound in valor and courage as also romance.
The striking feature of Rajasthan's music and dance scene is that there is great variety. In fact, nothing much has changed since the time of their inception, probably a thousand years back. The music and dance of Rajasthan are rooted in tradition. Although music and dance of Rajasthan are an integral part of the daily life of Rajasthan, it is more pronounced during festivals. Songs of ancient poets like Kabir, Malookdas and Meera have become an integral part of the Rajasthani folklore. Apart from festivals, music and dance of Rajasthan are also performed during special occasions like marriage, and childbirth. Enjoy a dance performance and we can say for sure that you can't help yourself from shaking your body in the hypnotizing melody and beat.
Harmonious diversity and History
The music of Rajasthan is very vibrant and the manner in which Rajasthani music has evolved by absorbing the unique features of its adjoining states like Gujarat, Haryana and Punjab has meant that Rajasthani music is bold and evocative. Rajasthan has already carved a niche for itself in not only India but has also been very popular overseas, courtesy the "Festival of India" shows that are conducted in a select few western countries. The State Government of Rajasthan has provided patronage and opportunities for self employment for folk artists by organizing festivals and cultural programs. Rajasthan has also aroused and directed the interest of the local people towards our rich cultural heritage.
All the regions of Rajasthan have their distinct folk entertainment. The dance styles differ and so do the songs. Interestingly, even the musical instruments are different in Rajasthan.
The hilly tracts of central and southern Rajasthan are rich in community entertainments because of the lifestyle of tribes like the Bhils, Meena, Banjaras, Saharias and Garasias.
The Jogis in Rajasthan were well-known for their recitation of the great ballad Nihalde Sultan, Shivji-ka-byawala and songs about Gopi Chand and Bhartrihari. Most of these musical communities of Rajasthan live a rural base and function as wandering minstrels traveling from village to village around Rajasthan. There are many other artists in different art forms that use music as an accompaniment in Rajasthan.
Eastern Rajasthan is fertile and affluent, with plenty of patrons to sustain professional entertainers like the Bhats, Kamads, Bhopas, Kacchi Ghodi dancers and Kathputli (puppeteer).
There is a great tradition of popular poetry, which is written under the rival banners of Turru and Kalangi. This is a sung in groups in Jikri, Kanhaiyya or Geet(of the Meenas), Hele-ke-Khyal and Bam Rasiya of Eastern Rajasthan. Group singing of classical bandishes, called the Dangal or taalbandi is also unique to this region. Bhopas are singing priests of various deities or warrior saints. The Bhopas of Mataji wear costumes and play the Mashak.
People in the harsh scantily-populated desert areas of Western Rajasthan have very little leisure for merry making. Therefore, in this region, entertainment is provided by professional performers like the Bhats, Dholis, Mirasis, Nats, Sargadas and Bhands who have been performing the age old musical soirees in Rajasthan.
Folk traditions and classical forms found royal patronage in Rajasthan. A major school of the sophisticated classical Kathak dance form originated in Jaipur, as did Dhrupad singing. The rulers of Jaisalmer extended patronage to the Manganiyar community in Rajasthan.
State and royal patronage elevated some of these musicians into Kalawants in the royal courts of Rajasthan. The music of Rajasthan had acquired a sophistication that was absent from the rustic tones of the others. The famous Maand of Rajasthan, which is a unique style of singing and a core melody, is their creation. True to its desert environment, the Maand speaks of love, separation, chivalry and revelry. Ballads are an integral part of the professional repertoire and Dhola Maru, Moomal-Mahendra, Doongji-Jawarji, Galaleng, Jala-Boobna, Nagji-Nagwatnti are the most popular ones. The Mahabharat and the Ramayan are popular themes for ballads and the Mirasis and Jogis of Mewat have a delightful folk version of the former, while Hadoti has the Ramayan of Dhai kadi.
Music of Rajasthan
The brightness of its life, the legends of its heroism and romance are all captured in the vibrant and evocative music of this desert land. 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, Gujurat, Malwa, Mewar, Haryana and Punjab.
Music which rich evocative heroic plaintive and joyful governs all aspects of Rajasthani lives. The voices both male and female are strong and powerful. The numerous songs sang by the women reflect the various feminine moods and strong family ties that govern their lives, Peepli and Nihalde are songs imploring the beloved not to leave her or to return to her as soon as he can.
There are songs about the family comparing every member to the numerous ornaments worn by women. The festivals of gangaur and teej, celebrating marital bliss and the brief but splendid moonsoon of Rajasthan call for special songs without which no celebration is complete.
Men and women of Rajasthan sing devotional as well as festive songs. Songs by the saint-poets like Kabir, Meera and Malookdas are part of the folk repertoire. They are sung all night during the raatjagas (all night soirees spent singing devotional songs) which are held as thanks giving to a particular deity. The resonant singing of the Rajasthani folk is accompanied by music from simple instruments like the Baara and Algoza, that usally give a beat or a drone to offset the poetry.
Fairs and festivals bring an even greater riot of colour and music into lives of these desert people .Holi the festival of colours,brings forth the joyous,lively rhythms of the change and dhamal songs Marriage ,childbirth ,the visit of the son-in-law, all call for song and music. Even children have their own special songs called the saanjhi and the Ghulda. Favorites that are sung at all times are the Panihari Eendoni, the famous Kurjan Digipuri-ka-raja and the Rasiya songs of the Braj region.
The hard life of the desert dwellers made them seek means of making life more pleasant by developing their artistic talents. There are many traditional communities who are professional performers and their skills are handed down from generation to generation. The Bhat and Charans are bards, who could inspire the Rajput warriors with accounts of heroic deeds by whipping up patriotic flavor or even ridiculing the royal families with their satire.
The wandering balladeers, like the Bhopas who sing about the Marwar folk hero-Pabuji, travel from village with their phad painting and rawan hahha entertaining people with their ballad. There are many singing communities in Rajasthan known as the Dholis. Also known by other names like Mirasis, Dhadhis, L angas, Manganiyars, Kalbelias, Jogis, Sargaras, Kamads, Nayaks or Thotis and the Bawaris.
Today their musician be heard all over the state and is popular even on the national & international circuits. The best flavor of this rich artistic talent can be savored during various fairs & festivals of the state, especially during the Desert Festivals (Jan-Feb), the Pushkar Fair (Oct-Nov), the Marwar Festival (Sept-Oct) and the Camel Festival (Jan-Feb).
Musical Instruments of Rajasthan
The haunting melody of Rajasthan evokes from a variety of delightfully primitive looking instruments. The musical instruments of Rajasthan are simple but quite unusual. Handcrafted by the musicians themselves they are rather unique and include instruments like the Morchang, Naad, Sarangi, Kamayacha, Rawanhattha, Algoza, Khartal, Poongi, Bankia, and Daf in Rajasthan. There are dozens of other instruments, which are exclusive to Rajasthan only. It is a rather difficult task to list all the different types of music, dance, and entertainment that can be found in Rajasthan. Rajasthani folk music are accompanied by traditional instruments like Baara, Algoza, Sarangi, Jantar, Morchang, Ghoralio, Garasiyas, Kallbelias, Jhalar, Thali, Jaltall, Ektara etc. all of which adds punch to the Rajasthani music scene.
Percussion instruments come in all shapes and sizes from the huge Nagaras and Dhols to the tiny Damrus. The Daf and Chang are a big favourite of the Holi (the festival of colours) revellers.
The stringed variety include the Sarangi, Rawanhattha, Kamayacha, Morchang and Ektara. Flutes and bagpiper come in local flavours such as Shehnai, Poongi, Algoza, Tarpi, Been and Bankia in Rajasthan.
Dances of Rajasthan
Rajasthan has a very rich and varied cultural heritage. When it comes to culture, Rajasthan has everything in abundance - be it folk dances, drama, music, art or handicraft. As far as Rajasthani dances are concerned, they are not only spectacular but also very colorful. Rajasthani people know how to celebrate life and dancing is one important medium of celebration. The dances of Rajasthan form an integral part of the lives of Rajasthan's people. Besides ordinary dances in Rajasthan, there is a dance for every special occasion. These dances reveal the talents of dancers, traditions of countryside and communal harmony. In Rajasthan there is great diversity and each region has its won unique dance forms and no two regional dances are the same. Even the instruments used are different. There are specialized performers who belong to clans like Dholis, Bhopas and Bhands who regularly perform in the villages of Rajasthan to the utter delight of the simple village folks.
A brief description of some prominent dances in Rajasthan:
Bhawai Dance of Rajasthan:
The Bhawais of Rajasthan are professional dancers; their dances being face from religion or superstition, these dances are very fast, energetic, imaginative and reflect day to day life. Women never participate in these performances.
Chari or Pot Dance of Rajasthan:
This dance of Rajasthan requires a lot of patience, balance and great skill. The dancers carry brightly lit brass pots on their heads, displaying many flexible movements of the body. It is a dance of gay occasions.
Dandiya of Rajasthan:
This dance of Rajasthan is performed during Holi, a colourful spring festival. Men and women of Rajasthan performed separately or together, holding short wooden sticks in both the hands. The dance begins with a slow tempo of stick beats and speeds up gradually.
Gangaur of Rajasthan:
This dance of Rajasthan is performed by young girls and married ladies in the month of March. The performers pray to Goddess Parvati while dancing. The performers dress up in beautiful clothes and jewelry carrying brass pots filled with green grass, leaves and flowers on their heads.
Ghoomar of Rajasthan:
The Ghoomer dance of Rajasthan is a trademark women's dance performed by the women themselves who dance elegantly in circles. This dance of Rajasthan is performed during special occasions. The dancers of Rajasthan dance in a ring or circle starting with slow music, the tempo increasing gradually. This dance of Rajasthan is performed by the women folk and is the most famous dance of Rajasthan.
Kachhi Ghodi of Rajasthan:
It is one of the most interesting dances of Rajasthan where the gorgeously dressed dancers ride a dummy horse (Kachhi Ghodi) and hold swords in their hands dancing in rhythmic unison. The dancers of Rajasthan do the foot work with the beat of the drum.
Raas of Rajasthan:
Lord Krishna's beautiful and symbolic dance with Gopis is a delightful representation with deep philosophical meaning. This dance of Rajasthan depicts - 'Thus should man love God'.
Terah Taal (Thirteen Beats) of Rajasthan:
This is a dance of professional expertise where the dancer performs with the help of hollow metallic discs (Manjeeras) tied on the hands, legs and foreheads - a thirteen different places. The performers of Rajasthan, mostly ladies, start beating these manjeeras at thirteen different places in rhythms with the music.
Gair Ghoomar of Rajasthan:
Gair Ghoomar of Rajasthan is one of the many dance-forms of the Bhil tribals performed during Holi festival, this is among a few performances where both men and women dance together. Gair dance of Rajasthan is another Holi dance but performed only by men. This becomes Dandia Gair in Jodhpur and Geendad in Shekhawati, Rajasthan.
Fire dance of Rajasthan:
For a touch of exotica, there is the mesmerizing Fire dance of Bikaner in Rajasthan which is hosted in a large open ground where wood and charcoal are lighted and the energetic dancers dance in a transcendental state of mind as the music gradually rises in tempo and reaches a crescendo in Rajasthan.
Tribal Music and Dance of Rajasthan
The art of Folk Music and Dances is popular amongst the Tribal people of Rajasthan. Folk Music and dances of Rajasthan arouse the desert in all moods. The spectacular beauty of the land of Rajasthan is elated with the Folk Music and dances performed by the native people of Rajasthan.
Music and dances of Rajasthan are such an essential part of Tribal life that professional musicians and dancers are in abundance. The Garasia tribal inhabit the Abu Road and Pindwara Tehsils of Sirohi district and the neighboring territories of Kotra, Gogunda and Kherwara Tehsils of Udaipur district, Bali and Desuri of Pali district in Rajasthan. In Rajasthan they have a folk dance enriched with folktales, proverbs riddles and folk music. Walar is an important dance of Rajasthan of the Garasias which is a prototype of Ghoomar dance in Rajasthan. Their dances are generally accompanied by the beats of the mandal, chang and variety of other musical instruments which provide a lively rhythm to their dance sequence.
The most famous Bhil dance of Rajasthan is the Gawari, a dance go from village to village of Rajasthan for a month, during which the nine functionaries follow a stricts regimen. The main characters are Rai Buriya, the shiva, his two rais and Katkuria, the comic handman. Between the enactments of various episodes, the entire troupe dances around a central spot consecrated to a deity in Rajasthan.
The dance of Rajasthan is accompanied by a Madal and a thali. The Ghoomar dance of Rajasthan is the characteristic dance of the Bhils. Men and women sing alternately and move clockwise & anticlockwise giving free and intended play to the ample folds of the ghagra. The music of the primitive group of Sahariyas (Sourias) of Shasbad, Kota, shows central Indian links, with their songs speaking of Ram & Sita. The fairs of the Meenas had a lot of free dancing which is unfortunately on the wane.
Swinging With the Beats of Rajasthan
Be it the mesmerizing melody of Sarangi or Shahnai or the cymbal like sound of 'manjeera' or the foot tapping beats of 'khartal' or 'dhol', when they embrace each other on the occasion of a lively dance performance, a magical ambience is created in the golden beauty of Rajasthan. The grace and beauty of the 'ghoomar', 'gair' and 'sapera ' of Rajasthan are increased many fold with the enchanting music and song performance by the professional and folk artists of Rajasthan. The folk songs of Rajasthan narrate the rich folklore and imperial heritage of the state that has been captivating the entire world for many centuries in Rajasthan. Professional singers of Rajasthan still sing the haunting ballads of Moomal Mahendra, Dhola - Maru and other legendary lovers and heroes of Rajasthan. Tourists coming to Rajasthan make it a point to attend at least one dance performance while exploring the heavenly beauty of the deserts of Rajasthan and thus collecting an unforgettable experience for the entire life.
Mind blowing Skills of Dancers of Rajasthan
Extraordinary skill of the Rajasthani dancers may take you aback with their sheer perfection and excellence. Extraordinary performance of fire dancers of Rajasthan may take your breath away when they dance on the bed of flaming coals swaying their body at drum beats. You will not find any blister in their feet and this shows the immense talent and perseverance they have for the sake of art of Rajasthan. Another immensely popular dance of Rajasthan is Bhavai, also well known for the unusual skill of balance when the veiled woman dancer of Rajasthan moves at the beats with seven to nine brass pitchers over their head and standing gracefully on the edge of glass or open sword. There are some other folk dances of Rajasthan like Terah Thali and Ghumar which take the excellence of artistry to a new level of height.
Colours of the Dancing Ambience in Rajasthan
An inevitable part of Rajasthani culture that makes the colourful dance even more graceful is its spectacular attire and dazzling ornaments. Women dressed in heavily embroidered long flowing skirt with multi coloured dupatta and beautiful necklace and bangles when revolves on her heel while performing 'Sapera', the amazed spectators even forget to blink or breathe. Heavy jewellery adorned with precious and semi precious stones add a new dimension to the beauty of the dancing grace. The men of Rajasthan are dressed in heavily frilled and embroidered 'kurtas' or jackets. Men wearing royal sherwanis touching knees are often seen in the Rajasthani festivals that still carry the royal heritage of the state (Rajasthan). But the dressing of men of Rajasthan is not complete unless they wear the special Rajasthani turban bright with the colour of honour and dignity. The accessories including the ambience of the dance performance make the cheerful enjoyment even more joyous with the overwhelming participation by the viewers.