The land of punjab is a land of exciting culture, myriad images of swaying emerald green fields and hearty people uhose robust rustic ways of camaraderie and bonhomie are very much a part of their heritage.
Rabindranath Tagore, the Nobel laureate, had claimed Punjab to be the place in India where the first civilized man was born. Thus, much of Indian thought, philosophy and culture is supposed to have originated from this land. Kingdoms changed and empires perished, but the inhabitants of Punjab enlivened their culture, especially the folkdances, which are a vital organ of this culture. The origin of folk dance is associated with the evolutionary era when man left the caves and settled in the plains, devising means to save himself from animals. Raisinq his hands and letting out a scream at the first kill, it is belleved gave birth to folk dance. Jumps and waving of arms In excitement. gave a name to the dance with screams being developed into folk music.
Folk songs of Punjab are the songs of the body and soul. The joyous flight of birds, starry nights, sunny days and thundering clouds, signifying happiness and joy, are all reflected in folk songs . So ageless are these songs that no one can clalm their creation. Punjab is the only place where male and female dances are not the same and are of varying forms. While the male dances are the bhangra, jhoomer, luddi, julli and dankara. the female one's are Giddha and Kikli.
Bhangra is considered to be one of the oldest dances in the world. Though danced now at every gala day, bhangra is closely associated with the Baisakkhi festival on the day the harvesting of wheat begins. The dancers are dressed in a kurta (long, tlowing, collarless shirt), waistcoats, loin cloth up to the ankles and a colourful turban with a folded tail hanging down like a plume. A golden band to keep the turban in piace is also worn. The song for the dance is called saddh or boli or the call. Adrum, musical tongs and empty earthen vessels provide the rhythmic beat.
Starting with a slow beat, the dancers circle the drummer, who, with a gradually increasing rhythmic beat, beckons them on. Being a virile dance, acrobatics are also performed to display the vigor of their bodies. A man with a whistle accompanies the party to Indicate a change in the movement of the dance. Another. holds a pole atop which a squirrel in puppet form is holsted attached to a string which indicates agility.
The origin of bhangra has been attributed to the disciples of Shiva who, while grinding bhang or marijuana, sang and danced. Hence the name, bhangra.
Jhoomer also called the cool dance of Punjab, is performed by male dancers with a graceful gait. The costumes are the same as worn for bhangra. To the tunes of emotional songs, the dancers with a waving of arms. move in a slow circle around a single drummer in the centre. No acrobatics are pertormed during this dance.
Luddi is danced to celebrate a victory in any field. The dance has its historical linkages to the moment when Punjabi Sardars rescued women who were forcibly taken towards the Middle East. The costume for this dance is simple consisting of a kurta, loin cloth and a turban. The performers dance by placing one hand at the back and the other before the face copying the movement of a snake's head. Thic is also danced with the drummer in the centre. This dance, however. is not as popular as the bhangra in India.
Jalli is a religious dance associated with the Pirs and recluses and is generally danced in their hermitages. The dance is generally pertormed while in a sitting posture. After donning black clothes and a black scarf over the head, the dancer holds a thick staff in his hand and dances by revolving it. This dance is very rarely pertormed these days and is fast disappearing.
Dhankara, like other male dances, is also performed in circles generally ahead of marriage processions to exhibit joy. Also known as the gatka or tippi dance, the dancers rhythmically ply colourtul staffs in their hands crossing them with each other. The high point is reached in the sitting position when the bitons are crossed. No special costumes are worn.
The folk dance of Punjabi women is similar to the bhangra in its vinlity and tastness. Though confined to women, it is by no means a gentle style of dancing .
During the harvest and on ceremonial occasions like a marriage or the birthday of a son, the Punjabi women revelling joy, give vent to their suppressed feelings in a male dominated society through the giddha. Slogans known as bolis are sung while dancing which exhibit the deep human feeling. These bolis cover varied themes from nature to excesses commited by the husband and his relatives; some talk about love affairs to the loneliness of a bride separated from her groom. The Punjabi salwar kameez or lehnga (loose ankle skin), rich in colour and decoration is worn. No musical instruments except perhaps a dholak accompanies a giddha.
The kikli is a part when, while singing participants begin moving in a circle. As the tempo builds up two or three pairs free themselves and begin performing the Kikli. In this, two panicipants stand face to face with their feet close to each and their bodies inclined back. while clasping each other's hand's and arms stretched, the participants swirl around in a very fast move using their feet as a pivoting points. This continues to the accompaniment of Dhols and clapping of hands till the tempo gradually eases off.
Long atter the dances and the singing cease singing cease it takes time to get used to silence. The rythimic beat of the dholak, its booming crescendo, subtle shifts in rythms or the lazy lulling beat, linger on.
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