Himachal Tradition and Dances
¤ Dances of Himachal Pradesh
Dance for the Himachalis is almost as indispensable as food, water
and air. No festive occasion, however small, goes without dancing.
All regions have their own dances, moulded by the ecology and the
For instance, the Kinnauris of the high north have cluster formations
and strong cohesive lines in their dances while the women of southern
Chamba pirouette, circle and frisk around, symbolizing spring and open
spaces. The movement patterns and the music cannot be dissociated from
the occupations of the people.
With a medley of tribes and village communities, HP has an
astonishingly large number of dances, with themes ranging from seasons
and everyday life to myths and legends.
¤ Region-Wise Dances of Himachal
Losar Shona Chuksam : The Losar Shona Chuksam (Losar is the
Tibetan New Year) is an agricultural festival dance performed by the
Kinnauris in which the movements depict all activities from sowing to
reaping ogla (barley) and phaphar (a local grain).
The dance also includes innovative pieces like mime. Another dance,
the Namagen, celebrates autumn. The dancers themselves sing while
musicians play the instruments. The drum is the very life of these
Dangi : The Dangi is a lively womens dance of the
Chhatrari village in Chamba. The song is like a question-answer
session between the two dancing groups. Themes vary: the conversation
could be between a king and a poor girl with whom he is in love or
between a trader and his customers.
The dance begins with a slow tempo but gathers momentum as the
dancers begin to spin.
Another womens dance is the Sikri, performed during the Suhi
Fair held in spring. The accompanying song tells of the beauty of
flowers and the season, especially the flowering of the Marua flower.
¤ The Singing of Legendary
Love Story of Konju and Chanchalo
The Gaddi boys of Chamba often sing the legendary love story of Konju
The tale goes that Konju used to brave perilous rivers and wild
animals at midnight to visit his ladylove, Chanchalo. But Chanchalo
fears for his life as his rivals have guns. She pleads with him to go
back and so the song ends with the sad parting of the lovers who
exchange a ring and a scarf:
In your hand is a silk handkerchief,
and my ring is on your finger,
As a token of our undying love.
My lustrous black eyes, O Konju, often
Admired by you, are now filled with tears
Symbols of our hopeless love
¤ Sirmaur Dance
Gee Dance : The Gee dance of
Sirmaur is performed during the festival of Lohri. Singers stand in a
curve with instrumentalists while individual dancers (boys or girls)
rise one by one to dance to the music.
A peculiar custom related to this dance is that only girls born in
the village it is being performed in can partcipate in it. Brides who
may have come from other villages cannot dance it in their husbands
They can dance the gee only in their parental village. The Rasa,
another dance from Sirmaur, has a carefully thought-out pattern and
lasts for a long time.
The dancers form chains (pindi-bandhas) or concentric circles and the
songs (mostly love stories) are in a question-answer form.
A host of musicians accompany the singers, and you might sometimes
find the male dancers brandishing dangras (axes).
Note: This dance is different from the Rasa dances of Braj and
Manipur where the amours of Radha and Krishna are sung, though there
may be some link. The Rasa of Sirmaur is an excellent example of
Puranic tradition filtering to the hills and metamorphosing into a new
Burah Dance : Men flourish their dangras (axes) in big open
movements in the Burah dance which is definitely a macho martial
dance. Ballads telling of battles and legendary heroes are sung to the
beat of the hulki (an hourglass-shaped drum).
The Kariyala is a dance drama, more like a theatrical performance by
professional artistes, while the Thoda is a dance of archery.
Naati : The Naati of Kullu is an all time favourite with the
people. Dancers link their hands and move in step to varying rhythms
(there are 13 styles in all).
Traditionally danced by men (wearing swirling tunics, churidaars,
sashes and decorated caps) for hours on end, it has now been modified
so that women can participate in it too.
Kharait, Ujagjama and Chadhgebrikar : The dances of Kullu have
always been open to new themes and forms due to foreign influences.
Kharait, Ujagjama and Chadhgebrikar are martial dances of men. These
are danced with swords and heralds, sometimes in a circle in a fast
tempo. The songs are contemporary and the theme patriotic. The Ludi
Banthde was originally a love song (of rajas perhaps) but has been
substituted by happenings of today. Others like Dhili Pheti and
Bashari performed in village melas (fairs) are pure joyous events
where both men and women participate.
Shunto: The Shunto is danced by men to a song is in praise of
Buddha. The Shaboo is danced on festive occasions while Gafila is a
dance for couples. The dance Dodra Kawar mainly revolves around
agriculture. The Singhi or snow lion is a Buddhist dance performed to
ensure peace and prosperity.
Himachal Pradesh Music Himachal does not have a classical
music or dance tradition, but the rich and varied folk traditions of
yore are practiced till date.
The vast repertoire of pahari (literally of the mountains)
folklore often gets translated into these songs.
These ballads dwell on village romances, chivalry and the changing
seasons. Theres no dearth of topics which range from the mundane
to stories about fairytale kings and queens or just beautiful girls.
The songs are mostly sung in chorus during fairs and festivals and
are accompanied with dancing. Each line is repeated several times
before passing on to the next.
¤ Musical Instruments Plays a
The Paharis are partial to a whole lot of musical instruments without
which pahari music wouldnt be half as interesting. The
kangarange is the most commonly used stringed instrument.
Among the wind instruments are the bhopal, shamal, bugial, and
shehnai (different kinds of pipes), the damentu (horn), the highly
ornate narsingha (hornpipe) and the sanai (hautboy). To keep the
rhythm of the various dances are such percussion instruments like the
damane, anga, dhol and dholak (drums), the hulki (an hourglass-shaped
drum), the karnal (clappers), khanjiri (tambourine) and jhanja (large