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Folk music and dances captures the life and culture of the people of Punjab. There is a big assortment of music and dance right from the birth to death - of love and separation, of marriage and fulfillment.
It was in the jungles of Punjab where the first rays of civilization had appeared. In this respect, Punjab is considered the motherland of dances. From tribal to the kings and eventually republics took shape. These changes left their imprints on the sands of time and caused changes in culture also expression of the soul triumphant, an outburst of emotions.
The dances of Punjab are the clear depiction of the vitality and exuberance of the youth of Punjab. Bhangra, Jhummer, Luddi, Julli, Dankara, Malwai Gidda and Dhumal are male folk dances of Punjab. On the other hand, Sammi, Giddha, Jaago and kikli are among the main female folk dances of Punjab. The Bhangra is perhaps the most virile form of Indian Folk Dances.
Springing from the land of five rivers, it abundantly reflects the vigor, the vitality, the leaven of enthusiasm, and the amusement permeated among the rural folk by the promise of a cushion crop. Bhangra is a lively form of music and dance that originated in the Punjab region in Southeast Asia. As many Bhangra lyrics reflect the long and often turbulent history of the Punjab, knowledge of Punjabi history offers important insights into the meaning of the music.
While Bhangra began as a part of harvest festival celebrations, it eventually became a part of such diverse occasions as weddings and New Year celebrations. Moreover, during the last thirty years, Bhangra has enjoyed a surge in popularity worldwide, both in traditional form and as a fusion with genres such as hip-hop, house, and reggae. As Bhangra continues to move into mainstream culture, an understanding of its history and tradition helps to appreciate it. The Bhangra season starts with the wheat sowing and then every full moon attracts teams of young men in every village who dance for hours in open fields.
The dancers begin to move in a circle around the drummer, who now and then lifts the two sticks, with which he beats the drum, to beckon the dancers to a higher tempo of movement. They start with a slow movement of their feet. As the tempo increases, the hands, the feet and in fact the whole body springs into action. They whirl round and round bending and straightening their bodies alternatively, hopping on one leg, raising their hands, clapping with their handkerchiefs and exclaiming Bale Bale! Oh Bale Bale! to inspire themselves and others abandon themselves into the print of the dance.
Bhangra celebrates the harvest and is associated with the festival of Baisakhi. The Punjabi farmer and his fellow villagers circle round and round in a leaping, laughing caper with full enthusiasm. It's a dance that cuts across all divisions of class and education. When the wheat crop is nearing ripening, the breeze softly touches the surface of the golden crop creating a ripple and reckoning the sickle, when the hard labor of the farmer is about to bear fruit. It is time for rejoicing and merry making and through Bhangra their emotions find uninhibited and spontaneous expression of genuine happiness. The Bhangra season concludes with the Baisakhi fair when the wheat is harvested. The vivacity can also be seen in the Giddha dance of the women of Punjab. This dance translates into gestures, bolian-verses of different length satirizing the excesses committed by husbands, their sisters and mothers, loneliness of a young bride separated from her husband, evils of society or expressing candid love. Giddha is a very vigorous folk dance and like other such dances it is very much an affair of the legs.
So quick is the movement of the feet in its faster parts that it is difficult for the spectator even to wink till the tempo falls again. The embroidered 'duppattas' and heavy jewelry of the participants whose number is unrestricted further exaggerate the movements. The Jhummar is a dance of ecstasy. It is a living testimony of the happiness of men. Any time is Jhummar time especially during Melas, weddings and other major functions and celebrations. Performed exclusively by men, it is a common feature to see three generations - father, son and grandson - dancing all together.
There are three main types of jhummar, each of which has a different mood, and is therefore suited to different occasions. This is also a male dance of Punjab. It is danced to celebrate a victory in any field. Its costumes are simple. Only a loose shirt (kurta) and a loincloth are used. Some tie a turban, other the Patka, which is somewhat like a scarf, tied across the forehead, while still others join in bareheaded. This is also a dance of gay abandon. The performers place one hand at the back and the other before the face copying the movement of a snake's head. This is also danced with the drummer in the center but sometimes the dancers dance before a throng of people and keeps moving forward also. This dance is more popular across the Sutlej and in Pakistan it is almost as popular as the Bhangra. This dance has a historical background and pertains to that moment in history when Punjabi Sardars had begun to rescue Indian women who used to be forcibly taken in the direction of Basra in Middle East. Kilkli, is more of a sport than a dance, and is generally popular with the young girls.
The dance, performed in pairs, is a favourite of the young girls. It can be done by any even number of performers starting with two. Before beginning the dance, the two participants stand face to face with their feet close to each others and their bodies inclined back. Standing in this pose the arms of the dancers are stretched to the maximum limit and their hands are interlocked firmly. When the Punjabis dance to the drum beat, the whole atmosphere seems to swing with the mesmerizing music. Be it any occasion - birth of a child, marriage ceremonies, death or harvesting of crops - music has its own significance. Any celebration is incomplete without music and dance in Punjab.
article published 3/4/2003