Entertainers and performers have been an integral part of the culture of Rajasthan since ages. The royal families had always been known to invite these performers at their courts and they traveled through the state, skillfully reciting and staging tales of both passion and valor. It was customary for the families to invite the Bhats, Dholis, Nats and Bhands to perform, sing and dance at all the family celebrations including births, marriages or any other festive occassions. Dholis feature in every Rajasthani marriage with their simple drums and deep bass of their voice. Some professional communities are known to give only typical performances especially in eastern Rajasthan. Bhopas usually sing only about Pabuji, a local hero and are also known for their Phad paintings. Then there are Kachhi Ghodi dancers, the puppeteers and the much-famed Kalbeliya dancers who are known for their rhythmic snake dances. The Langhas and Manganiyars from Jaisalmer have also got ample opportunities to give show performances all around the world in their simple and uncomplicated manner.
We present you with the most
popular of the various styles of dances in Rajasthan.
Bhavai: The heart skips a
beat as we watch this rare feat, which is more akin to acrobatics set to
the rhythm of the music, as veiled women dancers balance seven or nine
brass pitchers on their heads and dance deftly, pirouetting and swaying
while their feet are set on top of a glass or on the edge of a sword!
Their every movement keeps the audience in suspense. Though, today, some
of the performers use only papier-mache pots stuck together, their
nimbleness is still a feat of wonder.
Drum Dance: It seems that
performers are not much behind the warriors of Rajasthan when it comes
to valor and chivalry. These people have a troupe of musicians with
drums around their necks and cymbals in their hands used to create an
ethereal music while the main performers put a naked sword in their
mouths and juggle three other swords to the beat of the drums.
Fire Dance: One wonders
whether scorching sands of Thar make the people here immune to burning
from fire as Jasnaiths of Bikaner and Churu performs on a large bed of
glowing coals, with more and more energy till the dancers appear to be
in a near-hypnotic state. A devout devotional performance, the rhythmic
choreography certainly does not end up in blisters on the dancers' feet.
Generally performed late on a winter's night, it takes a lot of faith to
witness it too.
Dancers balance the brass pots with burning cottonseeds on their heads
and create adroit patterns with their hands and the bright flames by
swaying their heads. It is amazing to see how these performers move
effortlessly on the floor and do not seem at all conscious of a
potential danger of being burnt at all!
Gair: Orignally a Bhil tribal dance to be performed at the time
of Holi, there are several variations of this dance and is performed by
both men and women. The men in long, pleated tunics opening out into
full-length skirts as they move first in clockwise then in
anti-clockwise movements and beat their sticks to create the rhythm when
they turn. Quite similar to Garba of Gujarat, some of its variations are
Dandia Gair of the Marwar region and Geendad of the Shekhawati region.
Ghoomar: Mainly performed by Rajput women on all the auspicious
occasions, it has simple and graceful swaying movements. It is quite
scenic as the colorful and embroidered skirts of the women flare as they
twirl in circles with their faces covered by the veils. All the old and
young women dance together, sometimes for many hours, and it is
customary that a newly wedded bride performs ghoomar as one of the
rituals of the marriage.
Kathak: Jaipur gharana is as famous as Lucknow gharana of Kathak
(a former royal Indian classical dance mainly used to tell tales along
with dancing). Known for the indefinite number of rounds, its
performances are currently on a decline, today.
Kathputli: Puppeteering of Rajasthan is world-famous. A popular
traveling form of entertainment, the puppeteer sings ballads behind the
stage and is assisted by his family to erect a makeshift stage on which
the puppets are strung and are made to enact tales of valor and romance.
There are much screeching and high-pitched sounds that accompany the
movements of the puppets across the stage.
Sapera Dance: Perhaps the most famous of all the Rajasthani
dances, the women of Kalbeliya snake charmers wear long, black skirts
embroidered with silver ribbons. The way, in which they spin in a circle
and sway their bodies acrobatically, it seems as if they are made up of
nothing but rubber. Wriggling like snakes themselves, the dancers are
fervently energetic and perform with an increasingly quick tempo and
Kachhi Ghodi: This dance originated in the bandit regions of Shekhawati,
where dancers wear highly structured costumes that give an impression as
if they are riding on dummy horses. An energetic dance, it uses
mock-fights, showing off swords, dexterous sidestepping and pirouetting
to the melodious music of fifes and drums. The ballad that usually
accompanies the dance is about the famous highway-man Robin Hood.
Terah Taali: This devotional dance is customary in the Kamad
community of Pokhran and Deedwana, in the honor of their folk hero, Baba
Ramdeo. Women sit on the floor before his image, with thirteen cymbals
tied to the various parts of their body. They strike these
choreographically with the ones in their hand performing various
arabesques. Occasionally, they also balance pots on their heads and hold
a sword in their mouths to add to the theatrical effect of the