the Himachalis is almost as indispensable as food, water and
air. No festive occasion, however small, goes without
All regions have their own dances, moulded by the ecology
and the physical environment.
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.
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.
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 folk dances.
The Dangi is a lively women’s 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
The dance begins with a slow tempo but gathers momentum as
the dancers begin to spin.
Another women’s 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.
of Legendary Love Story of Konju and Chanchalo
The Gaddi boys of Chamba often
sing the legendary love story of Konju and Chanchalo.
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
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…
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 husband’s
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
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).
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 thing altogether.
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.
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
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.
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. There’s 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.
Instruments Plays a Significent Role
The Paharis are partial to a
whole lot of musical instruments without which pahari music
wouldn’t 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 cymbals).