Dances of Madhya Pradesh
The most popular among the Madhya Pradesh dances, is the Gaur dance of the Sing Marias or Tallaguda Marias (bison-horn Marias) of South Bastar. This spectacular dance symbolizes the hunting spirit of the tribe. The word 'Gaur' means a ferocious bison. The invitation for a dance is given by sounding a bamboo trumpet or a horn. Wearing head-dresses frilled with stringed 'cowries' and plumes of peacock feathers fastened to them the men folk with flutes and drums make their way to the dancing ground. Women adorned with brass fillets and bead necklaces over their tattooed bodies soon join the assemblage. They carry dancing sticks called Tirududi in their right hands and tap them to conform with the drum-beats. They dance in their own groups by the side of the male members. But they also take the liberty to cross and re-cross in between the groups of male dancers and drummers. Their jingling anklets correspond to the songs of their lips as they move. The men beat the drums, tossing the horns and feathers of their head-gears to the rising tempo that gives the dance a wilder touch.
The Murias of North Bastar are trained in the Ghotul for all types of their community dances. Before any dance is commenced at a wedding or a festive occasion, the Murias first worship their drums. Very often they begin with an invocation to 'Lingo Pen', the phallic deity of the tribe and the founder of the Ghotul institution. To a Muria, Lingo Pen was the first musician who taught the art of drumming to the tribal boys. The dancing site is chosen near the Ghotul compound. On marriage celebrations, the Muria boys and girls perform a dance called Har Endanna. The dance commences with a group of boys carrying ritualistic offerings and gifts and conducting the bridegroom to the ceremonial place. In this light and happy dance, there are a variety of movements with the boy and the girl dancers and drummers participating to move in patterns with running steps and circles then changing directions, kneeling, bending and jumping. The movements of the drummers as they dance and manipulate their drums is fascinating.
Young boys of the plains of Chhattisgarh bring life to the post-much time by the Saila dance. Saila is a stick-dance and is popular among the people of Sarguja, Chhindwara and Baitul districts. But in these places, Saila is known by Danda Nach or Dandar Pate. The Saila often comes out with many variations and buffoonery. Sometimes the dancers form a circle, each standing on one leg and supporting himself by holding on to the man in front. Then they all hop together round and round. Sometimes they pair off, or go round in a single or double line, occasionally, on each other's back. The climax of a day's Saila, is the great Snake Dance.
Among the Gonds and the Baigas of Chhattisgarh and the Oraons of the north-west fringes of Madhya Pradesh, the dance is very common. This form is associated with the cult and essentially related to the Karma festival that falls in the month of August. The Karma dance symbolizes the bringing of green branches of the forest in the spring. Sometimes a tree is actually set up in the village and people dance round it. The dance is filled with breath of trees. The men leap forward to a rapid roll of . Bending low to the ground the women dance, their feet moving in perfect rhythm to and fro, until the group of singers advances towards them.
The dance of the Hill Marias of the Abujhmar mountains is quite different. In one of their dance-forms they carry dummy horses on their shoulders and move slowly into a wide circle. Kaksar is a festival dance, performed by the Abhujmaria of Bastar. Prior to the rains, the Maria cultivators in every village worship the deity for reaping a rich harvest. To invoke the blessing of the deity, Kaksar, a group dance, in which young boys and girls take part, is performed.
Chaitra festival dance
The Chaitra festival dance is another famous dance of the Gonds of Bastar district; it is performed after the harvest to thank goddess Annapurna for the already gathered and to seek her blessings for the next crop. Men and women dance in a circle, in semi-circles or in rows; all dancers hold each other's waist. A peacock feather on the head is a distinctive mark and the dancers wear colourful costumes, adorning themselves with garlands of shells and . As the dancers go round in rhythmic movements, their feet beat to the music of the Shehnai, Nagada, Timki, Tapri, Dholak and Maduri. Sometimes, the Singha and Kohuk; wind instruments are also played.
Sua or Sugga dance
The Sua or Sugga dance of the women of Chhattisgarh and the Mikal Hills is significant for its elegance and grace. The word 'Sua' means a . The women take recourse to this dance a month in advance of the festival of Diwali. While dancing, the women lift their feet in imagination of a parrot-walk, then bend and jerk their heads in -like fashion to the clapping of hands. Groups of girls often go on long to the adjoining villages to display their excellence in this dance. Similarly they receive groups of girls visiting their own village. They prepare a wooden Sugga (a parrot) and place it on an earthen pot covered with paddy shoots. One of the girls carries the pot on her head and stands as a revolving figure in the middle of the group to face the dancing row when the opposite row of the girls alternatively stops. In this dance no instrument is used with the exception of a wooden clapper named Thiski is played to provide rhythm, where the Gonds and the Baigas predominate.
The tableland of Malwa has comparatively very few dances. On occasions, the countryside women of this part perform the 'Matki' dance with an earthen pot balanced on the head, the Matki is mostly danced solo. Sometimes just for merriment a couple of women join the main dancer who usually dances with a veil on her face. The two other variations of the Matki are the Aada and Khada Nach.
The Phulpati is another dance, exclusively for unmarried girls. It is a dance of the semi-rural womenfolk. The agriculturist class of Malwa is not very much inclined to any dance by nature. During the Holi festival the revelers cannot restrain themselves from coming out with some sort of dance movements to the uneven manipulation of .
When rabi crops sway in the fields in full bloom, the parties from different villages join together and perform the Grida dance. It continues from morning till evening. The host village returns the visit next year by going to the village of their guests of the preceding year. The dance has three distinct phases: (1) Sela - The feet movements are slow and comparatively rigid. (2) Selalarki - The feet movements become brisker and faster. (3) Selabhadoni - With the acceleration of the tempo, every limb of the body begins to sway in mood of exaltation.
Bamboo & Cane
Bamboo & Cane occupy an important place in rural life: utility articles such as agricultural implements, fishing traps, hunting tools and baskets are made of bamboo. In Madhya Pradesh these are generally made by a community called Basor or Basod, who sell them in weekly markets. Shahdol, Balaghat, Mandla and Seoni regions of Madhya Pradesh are main bamboo producing centres. The artisans have skillfully harmonised their age-old knowledge and techniques with new designs, to meet modern market demands. The Gond, Baiga and Korku tribal communities are highly skilled in the craft of bamboo.
Cute little dolls made out of small cloth pieces are produced in Gwalior, Bhopal and Jhabua. The work of Battobai, a craftswoman from Gwalior has achieved international fame. The dolls made here are interesting pieces of work, influenced by different cultures and traditions of India mirroring the diversity and uniqueness of the country.
The floor coverings of Madhya Pradesh consist mainly of durries and carpets in a rich variety of designs. A durrie, essentially a thick cotton woven fabric, is meant for spreading on the floor, and is made all over Madhya Pradesh, especially near Sironj. Cotton and woollen punja durries, handwoven in various colours are designed to suit traditional as well as modern home decor. Patterns are generally based on kiln designs, geometric traditional motifs & animal and human figures.
Since the Mughal times, Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh has carved a niche for itself in the weaving of carpets. Later on, weaving also began in the Shahdol & Mandla belt. The carpet weavers of Madhya Pradesh are undisputed masters of not only weaving carpets but dyeing also. Woollen carpets are available in vibrant colours with both floral and geometric designs. The weavers have used their ingenuity to transform traditional motifs into modern designs; drawing from the treasury of ancestral motifs: trees and flowers in carefully blended colours.
Folk paintings of Madhya Pradesh, specially the wall paintings of Bundelkhand, Gondwana, Nimar and Malwa are living expressions of people, intrinsically linked with the socio-cultural ambiance of the area. They are not mere decorations but also spontaneous outpourings of religious devotions.
Pottery has been called the lyric of handicrafts. It symbolises man's first attempt at craftmanship. The colours of terracotta articles and figures vary from pink, red, brown to light and dark grey. The terracotta products of each region in Madhya Pradesh have their own identity and distinctiveness. The art of moulding terracotta in Madhya Pradesh shows a mature ability, the pantheon being even more varied and localised. In the rural areas, it is common to see terracotta animal figures placed under trees and in shrines made by potters. The famous traditional statues of elephants, serpents, birds and horses are incomparable in simplicity. The lifesize images of human forms are among the finest examples of Bundelkhand terracotta.
The people of Madhya Pradesh
Gonds and Kols
The Gond and Kol groups are found in Chhindwara. They are also settled by the rivers of Betul, among the hills of Seoni and Balaghat. They have an extensive legendary history of their past heroes. Tribals of Bastar come under this group. The Gonds are a great people with stirring memories and passionate poetry. They seem to have entered the wilds of Baster along the banks of the Godavari. In the fourteenth century they were the ruling class in many parts of central India. They built palaces, forts, tanks and lakes. Towards the end of the eighteenth century they were found scattered into many tribes.
The Bhils inhabit the districts of Dhar, Ratlam and Jhabua. The Bhil group constitutes the Bhilala, the Mankar, the Patlia, the Barela, the Nihal or Naik and the Rathia.
The Dhurwas (Parjas) are the third largest Adivasi group in Baster following the Marias and the Murias. The tribe is concentrated in Dantewara and Konta. They border on most tehsils of Madhya Pradesh in the South.
The Banjaras are nomadic people settled in some parts of the Narmada valley. They have a rich folklore of their own and a strong community sense.
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