Dances of Himachal Pradesh
The Mala (garland) Dance
The Kayang Mala dance is very popular in Himachal. In this, the dancers dressed in their traditional finery, weave their arms, together to form a sort of a criss-cross pattern so that, they appear like beads in an intricately woven garland. They drink chhang (a rice-brew) before the dance and that adds to the lusty beauty of the dance.
The Demon (Rakshasa) dance or Chhambha
These dances from the Kinnaur area are reminiscent of the pre-historic period. The Kinnaur folk are compared to playful deer. This dance form is performed with demon masks numbering three, five, seven or nine. It depicts the attack of the demons on the crops and their ritual chasing away by the forces of good. 'Chhambha' is similar to the Punjabi dance Bhangra. Dressed in their demon costumes and masks, the dancers look quite awesome. These dances are arranged in areas which have a dense population. During local festivals like Chaitol and Bishu, community dancing can be seen. In these men and women hold hands and dance. The leader is known as 'Ghure' and the rest follow in his footsteps.
The Dalshone and Cholamba dances
These dances belong to the Ropa valley and in these the patterns formed by the dancers look like coiled serpents. The Cholamba dance is performed when a tiger is killed. The skin of the dead animal is stuffed and a gold ornament is put in its nose. The carcass is then rotated and the people dance around it.
This is a dance which copies the movement of a snake.
This dance is faster in tempo and is performed by young men and women to a romantic song.
This dance is performed in most villages in the area and it combines both slow and fast movements. This depicts scenes from the life in the village as also the forest.
This is a popular dance at festivals. In this dance songs connected with the festival are sung. As the musicians play upon their instruments the leader of the dance, dances with a traditional Chamar in his hands. The chamar becomes a great source of resentment and leads to fights among the dancers. The Ghure who is the leader of the dance has to deposit a small fee at the temple of the deity for using the chamar.
The Shan and Shabu dances
These are two popular dances of the Lahaul valley people and are danced at the Buddhist Gompas in the memory of the Buddha. Shan means a song of prayer for the Buddha. Dances performed to these songs are known as Shan dances. It is a tribal dance which is performed at the completion of the harvesting of crops. The instrument played in this is drums, shehnai and a stringed instrument like a violin.
This dance depicts the feelings and beliefs of the people in this area. This is also linked to the local religious festivals.
Keekali and Bhangra
The Keekali (Kikli) dance is a dance of young girls and is danced playfully in twos. The girls hold hands crosswise and rotate fast on their toes, singing songs.
The Bhangra is a male dance which originated in Punjab and is popular in the Kangra, Himirpur and Una areas in a fairly wild form.
Nuala is a folk dance of the Chamba valley. In this a garland is placed upon a pedestal as Shiva's garland and around it many dance dramas depicting scenes from the life of Lord Shiva are enacted. Women possessed of evil spirits are also brought to these gatherings and their antics also add to the general mystery and awesomeness of the spectacle along with the heady fragrance of the incense and the beating of the drums. The chief devotee, Chela, of Shiva dances in a trance and answers questions that are put to him. He predicts dire changes and natural calamities which send shivers in the crowds and people vow to offer special Puja if these are warded off by the gods.
Several forms of Nati dance are prevalent in the Kulu, Sirmaur, Mandi, Mahasu and Chamba areas. In Kulu this is known as Siraji Nati. It is like the Kathak dance and embraces a number of dances like Dheeli, Dekhi, Feh, Bakhali, Kahika, Dohari, Lahauli, Chambiyali, Banthada and Loodi. Rhythm is the main feature of this dance. The instruments that accompany this dance range from Drums, Shehnai, Cymbals and Ranasinga (an instrument similar to a trombone). The Shehnai played by the Hesis is the life of the Nati dance. It not only provides a rhythm but also puts life into the entire performance.
The Jhoori, Gi, Swang Tegi and Rasa dances
The Jhoori, Thadair, Rasa, Gi, Nati, Swang Tegi, Draudi and Padua are popular dance forms of Sirmaur and the surrounding area. Jhoori is performed in the open fields. This dance is in the form of questions and answers delivered in musical tones and actions. Each line ends with Hoo Hoo sounds. The Gi dance is performed to an intricate beat of three divisions. The singers stand in a circle and the dancers stand in the middle rotating with arms outstretched. The Dhadair or Thadair is a dance to the Rudra Tal. In this the dancers hold aloft weapon like bows, arrows, knives or sticks and yell too as they move towards their imaginary adversaries. This song repeats scenes from the local history. In the Rasa dance, the dancers step back and forth and sit and leap up alternatively as they dance. This dance form is symbolic of the unity of the people. Swang Tegi is a free dance which copies the gestures of animals. Dharvedi and Droondu are religious dances arranged during Jagaras or Shant. In these, the scenes from the battlefields or temple and stupa shapes are presented. Dancing in circles and suddenly lying down on the ground and striking various poses are some of the chief features of these dances.
Khaydayat and Lamba dances
In these dance forms the dancers hold a sword in one hand and a scabbard in another and dance in a circle. The deft sword-play among the dancers is a delightful part of this dance and is more important than the musical or rhythmic aspect of dance. At the time the musicians quicken the tempo and the rest of the dancers cease to dance and stand quietly. The dance re-invokes the memories of the feudal past. The Lamba dance lays more stress on the movement of the feet. In this, the dancers with first movement put the right foot forward and then the left and then the right again and in the fourth movement revert back to their original position. At the same time they clap their hands. It is a vigorous dance.
The Lahadi and Ghooghati dances
Lahadi is a popular dance of hill communities which is performed by women. In this, women form two teams which stand face to face. The singing is begun by women of the first team and the second team retreats as the singers bend at the waist, clap and move forward. This is then repeated by the other team and the first team retreats to its original position. This lasts for a long time. This dance form employs no musical instruments and the dancers clap their hands. In the Ghooghati dance the dancer stands in a line and the one behind puts his hand on the shoulders of the one in front of them. The first two or three dancers sing the song and the rest repeat the lines. This dance places a lot of importance on physical movement. As they sing the dancers move backwards and forward and bend sideways. This presents very interesting Choreographic composition.
The Dand Ras and Dangi Dances
The Dangi dances is a dance form of the Chamba area. It is performed at festivals, weddings and during Jatara by the Gaddi women, in lines and semi circular patterns. This is accompanied by the singing of the love ballads of Sunni and Bhukhu. The dancers join hands and move away by turns in this graceful dance.
The Danda Ras is danced to the best of complex rhythms like Dhamal and Lahauli on drums. The Lahauli beat goes slowly and in this the Gaddi dancers lower and raise their legs slowly as they dance in a circle uttering sounds like Jey Jey and Shee Shee. They wear their tradition costume of Chola-Dora and tight fitting Churidar pyjamas.
Crafts of Himachal Pradesh
The traditional metal (brass and bronze) pots produced locally have a beautiful finish. The Mangath region in Kangra district is well-known for brass utensils. Many of these Musarabbas (brass pots for storing water), tumblers, platters and charotis (large pots used for feasts), boxes and articles used for puja, bells, stools and tables display beautifully rendered floral motifs and miniatures.
The temples and Madhis in the Himachal area are full of stone statues of deities. The tribal areas have their own kind of statues which reflect the religious beliefs of the tribals. In the Googa Madhis in the villages, the Googa and his Googadi, his horse and soldiers are carved out in great details. Many walls display beautiful relief work. The Shiva temple at Baijnath and the Krishna temples at Masroor are carved out of a single rock. The temples at Chamba, Mandi, Kulu and Bilaspur areas display feats of architectural skill by local artisans much before the advancement of science.
The stone masons are known as 'Batai Hadai'. Large buildings and small articles of daily use in the houses like pounding stones, moohras, pots and basins also display the skill of local masons amply. Many houses have statues of lord Ganesha near the door. These and the divine animal statues in the local temples are all carved locally. Stone masons can be found in each area and locality in Himachal.
Wall paintings are an essential part of the art of the hilly regions. These are painted on walls especially treated for the purpose with clay, lime and golu. The surface of the wall is rubbed over with round stones to give it a smooth finish. The women folk in the house are also good in the art of making traditional drawings. The palace at Chamba, the Akhan Chandi palace, the Laxmi Narayan temple, the living rooms of old houses in Durga Mangnu and the palaces of Bilaspur have beautiful wall paintings. The Kangra fort, the Narvadeshwar temple, the palaces at Sujanpur and the temples and palaces at Vijapur and Alampur also have wall paintings. In Kulu the tradition of decorating the palace walls with wall-painting began during the reign of king Preetam Singh.
The wall paintings in the Sheesh Mahal show the influence of the Kangra school. Connubial paintings (Dehre) and ornamental door hangings are examples of this art.
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