The princely state of India, Rajasthan is rich in culture and heritage. Not only the monuments and traditions date back to hundreds of ages, the traditional dance forms too along with evolving with age has maintained their charm thereby never failing to spellbind an onlooker be it within its own country or internationally.
You must have seen or heard of the famous Rajasthani folk dance called Ghoomar. Although Ghoomar is the most renowned dance form that most people know of, the variations do not end there. There are numerous such amazing dance forms having their origin in Rajasthan that has gained importance all over the country and in the hearts of the audience.
So in this post, we have cumulatively brought forward for you all the traditional dances of Rajasthan that you must watch at least once in a lifetime to be aware of such amazing artistry.
Although Rajasthan has numerous tribes, cultures and folk dance forms, Ghoomar has stood out to be one of the globally recognized folk dance forms which have its origin in Rajasthan. This dance form was first started by the Bhil community and was performed for worshipping goddess Saraswati.
It was later adopted by other royal communities of Rajasthan including the Rajput. This dance form is performed by all the locals of Rajasthan during auspicious festivals and gatherings like in marriages, during the festival of Teej, Holi and to celebrate the onset of monsoon.
Ghoomar dance is performed in all the states of Rajasthan but all the states perform it in their own distinct way. While performing this dance form, women wear ghagra and choli. Ghagra is a long flowing skirt ornamented with mirrors, thread work and stones and choli is a blouse.
They accessorize the outfit with heavy jewellery and veil their face with an odhani while matching the rhythm of the music with graceful moves. A prominent step of this dance form is known as “Ghoomna” where the women twirl around the ghagra creating a whirling effect.
Some also perform the dance while balancing pots or fire lamps on their head. The beautifully coordinated movements, graceful moves, whirling outfits and upbeat folk music has left every spectator spellbound who could never resist joining in when asked for.
Kalbeliya folk dance is majorly performed by the Kalbeliya tribe. The word Kalbeliya is derived from two words namely, “Kal” which means snake and “Beliya” which means friends. Therefore the two words together mean snake friend. This form of dance is also known as snake dance.
The traditional musical instrument used during performing this dance form is called “been or pungi” which is a wooden wind instrument used by snake charmers. The women dance in circles performing swift moves which literally puts the entire audience in awe.
They move their body in different acrobatic movements which leave the audience spellbound. The women wear Lehenga Choli, which is a combination of skirt and blouse which is mostly black in colour and accessories it with heavy silver jewellery. This dance form is specially performed during the Holi festival.
The main feature of the Bhawai dance form is where the female dancers balance 7-9 brass pitchers on their heads while performing rapid dance steps by resting the sole of their feet on top of glass or over a sword’s edge. The tribes in Rajasthan who have been performing this folk dance for several ages are Bhils, Meenas, Kumhars, Jat, Kalbelia and Chamars.
The women of Rajasthan cover huge miles every day to fetch water in desert areas. While doing so they have become habituated with carrying several pots on their heads and therefore the act of balancing pots on their heads has become a natural act to them.
This has led to the origin of the Bhawai dance form. These dancers can perform the dance form over an ascending plate supported by tumblers, broken glass or on a sword.
They perform tough balancing acts with utmost perfection by taking huge risks while dancing on narrow unstable objects. The men add traditional music to the performance and play musical instruments like Jhanjhar, Dholak, harmonium, sarangi and pakhawaj.
The dancers are dressed in beautiful and colorful traditional Rajasthani attires which makes the whole ambience look more graceful and spellbinding.
4. Kachhi Ghodi
The word Ghodi means horse and therefore the main feature of this dance form is the men of the Shekhawati region performing on dummy horses depicting the tales of the Bavaria bandits. The dance includes acts of mock fights by showing swords and nimble sidestepping.
In the history of Rajasthan, horses have always been a crucial part of the transportation system not only for the locals, bandits but also for the royalty of Rajasthan. Men wear elaborative costumes embroidered with amazing mirror work and ride the dummy horses.
The dummy horses are used as support and are equally decorated with meticulous embroidery and mirrored work. The dancers ride the dummy horses with weapons in their hands. The tradition and culture of Rajasthan are beautifully represented through Kachhi Ghodi dance and is mostly performed during marriages.
Gair dance performers belong to the Bhil tribe of Rajasthan. Performers move in a huge circle while some performers go out of the circle at one beat and then come back at the next beat on which the rest move forward. The thumping beats are majorly sounds of beating sticks.
The dancers first move clockwise and then anti-clockwise. The word Gair means circle and therefore the reason behind the dance being performed in a circle. The dancers wear long pleated tunics which come off as a skirt with attractive jewellery and while carrying swords which makes the whole performance even more attractive to look at.
The musical instruments playing in the background are majorly dhol, nagada and dholak. This dance form is majorly performed during Holi and Janmashtami (birthday of Lord Krishna).
The meaning of Chari is pot. This dance form is also performed with whole balancing pots that signify the hard work of the desert woman in Rajasthan who travel miles on foot to collect water. Cottonseed is inserted inside the brass pots which upon ignition gives a torch-like effect.
Also sometimes a lighted lamp is placed on the pot while the dancers move their hands-free to Rajasthani folk music played on the traditional musical instruments. This dance form is mainly performed by the Gujjar community of Kishangarh.
It is performed to celebrate the hard work of the woman walking miles to fetch water. It is also performed during the birth of a child or during marriages. Ornaments worn by the performers are big nose rings, gajra, armlets, hansli, mogri etc.
Kathputli dance is the Rajasthani puppetry art which is a tradition ageing back to at least a thousand years. This act first originated in the Bhati community and then was incorporated by other communities in the region as a result of increasing the popularity of the dance form.
The word Kathputli is an amalgamation of two words “Kath” which means wood and “Putli” which means puppet. Therefore Kathputlis are puppets made of wood and dressed up with a cloth and controlled by a single string. The puppets can do many movements like fighting with swords, dancing and enacting different kinds of situations.
The puppet shows are not only for entertainment purposes but they also provide social messages and show the problems prevailing in the society like the dowry system, women empowerment, education etc.
During the performances, a stage is set where the puppeteers narrate the stories and their companion plays a musical instrument like a dholak or drum. Kathputli dance is a very special kind of traditional folk dance which narrates tales of love, courage, sacrifice and kindness therefore entertaining and also educating people.
The Chakri dance form was first introduced by the Kanjar tribe who reside in the Kota and Baran areas of Rajasthan. Chakri dance is an integral part of the women of these districts who make a living out of performing Chakri dance on many occasions.
The word Chakri means wheels and therefore describes the look of the dance form where the women who wear traditional Rajasthani skirts embedded in mirror work swirl around very fast which makes it look like a spinning wheel. The dance is performed in a group and all the performers keep circling around and keep moving in a circle.
The music played along with this dance form is also a very integral part of the whole performance. The music starts out slow and then slowly gains momentum making the audience dance along without any hesitation.
The women who perform this dance form are highly skilled and have to be very focused while dancing as they cannot afford to crash into each other while spinning at such a high speed otherwise it would lead to nothing less than a traumatizing accident.
9. Fire Dance
Fire Dance is one of the most difficult dance forms and is only performed by skilled artists. The people belonging to the Banjara community are seen mostly performing this dance form which depicts the Jasnathis’s living style who belong to the Churu and Bikaner districts of Rajasthan.
The men while performing lit wood and charcoal with fire and then jump onto it and dance in circles while and the most interesting aspect being they do not have any burnt marks or wounds after the performance is completed.
The dancers also hold two flame sticks in their hands and throw kerosene into the fire that they hold in their mouths over the lamps. This makes the whole act very difficult and scary and is mostly performed during cold nights in the winter season.
In this dance form the performers wear bright clothes and the music starts slow and then reaches a tempo which almost hypnotizes the audience as well as the dancers.
10. Terah Taali
The word Terah signifies the number thirteen and hence thirteen manjiras (thirteen cymbals or small brass discs) are attached in various parts of the body which the dancers strike with the ones they hold in their hands is an integral aspect of the whole dance form.
The swinging sound of the majiras created by the talented dancers along with the traditional folk music played in the background makes the whole performance nothing less than mesmerizing.
The dancers also balance many pots on their heads and sometimes hold swords in their mouths to make the act more spellbinding. The women performers sit on the floor and produce rhythmic sounds matching to the music being played in the background with the manjiras tied on their wrists, elbows, arms, waists and hands.
As the tempo of the music increases the dance becomes more spectacular to watch. This dance form is performed on many festive occasions and also during marriages.
11. Drum Dance
Drum Dance has its origin from the Jhalore regions of Rajasthan. As the name suggests Drum dance is performed on the beats of drum or dhol. Instruments like nagada, dholak, dhol and drums are a very integral part of this dance form.
The men play the drums with a pair of painted drum sticks while the women dance on the beats increasing the energy of the performance and environment as the music increases its tempo.
The dancers sometimes also hold swords in their mouths along with juggling a couple of them with their hands to make the performance look more attractive and enjoyable for their audience.
This dance form relates to the daring nature of the rural people of Rajasthan and hence the artistry with swords and other difficult to use props. The dancers wear colourful dresses and ornaments while performing.
Gavari is a tribal dance drama performed by the Bhil tribe of Rajasthan. The performers of this dance form visit different villages every month where they perform different acts with different characters and have proven to be an awaited source of entertainment for the people of the rural areas of Rajasthan.
Every year the end of the festival of Raksha Bandhan marks the beginning of the 40-day Gavari festival. Through this tradition, the members of the Bhil tribe pay respect to Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati.
The story of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati defeating the demon Bharmasur is depicted through various acts. Many strict rules are also followed during this 40 day period wherein the people following it do not eat green vegetables, do not sleep on a bed and wear no shoes.
The participants dress like Lord Shiva, Goddess Parvati and Brahma Sur while performing the art form. A life size sculptural representation of an elephant is immersed to conclude the ritual.
Walar dance is considered as the prototype for the world famous Ghoomar dance form. It is a part of the Garasia Rajasthani tribe who reside in the Pindwara Tehsil of Sirohi district and some more areas of the Udaipur and Pali district of Rajasthan.
Gangaur and Teej are two main festivals where the Walar dance form is performed. Walar dance is majorly performed by women who do simple circular movements on the beats of mandal, chang and other popular Rajasthani folk musical instruments.
In the earlier days Walar dance used to be also performed in royal palaces.
The meaning of the word Khayal is “Thought”. Khayal is a vibrant folk dance drama in which various stories of Hindu epics such as Ramayana and Mahabharata are depicted through the performance of different characters.
Khayal dance is performed through many ages by the men of Bhawai tribe. Even today men perform the Khayal dance keeping the age-old tradition of their ancestors alive. Through Khayal dance the performers try to put forward important social messages and stories of the great Gods.
The men who perform this dance are very good at dancing, mimicry, acting and narration so that they are able to portray their characters with utmost perfection. No women participate in Khayal dance and only Bhawai men perform this folk dance drama.
Chang dance is native to the Shekhawati region of Rajasthan. Chang is a round flat drum and is played by tapping one’s fingers on the drum.
Chang dance is also known as Dhamaal or dhuff dance which translates to having a wonderful time which the performers of the dance depict while performing fast-paced steps to the rhythm of Chang. Chang dance is performed during the Holi festival and other Hindu festivals or celebrations.
Chang dance can be popularly seen performed in a group by men in Churu, Sikar and Jhunjhunu regions of Rajasthan from the period starting from Maha Shivratri till Dhulandi which is the next day after the festival of Holi.
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