The traditional dances of Himachal Pradesh are varied and complicated. These dances are a vital part of tribal life. It reflects the culture and the tradition of Himachal. Hardly any festivity there is celebrated without dancing. Hence, we have listed down the major traditional dances of Himachal Pradesh that showcase the rich culture of the state. These are;
Nati is the most famous dance of Himachal Pradesh. The Nati dance has two main purposes- one is to celebrate the new year and the other is to celebrate the rich harvest produced after their hard work in the fields. It is listed in the Guinness world record book as the largest folk dance.
The Nati Dance in the second week of January 2016 was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest folk dance in the world. Nati entered in the book as the largest folk dance in terms of participants’ number. Total 9892 women participated in this folk dance in their traditional colorful Kullvi dress on 26 October 2015 during International Dussehra festival which is a centuries-old festival and celebrations begin on Vijaya Dashami, the day when the festivities end in rest of the country.
- It mainly originated from Kullu and Shimla district and became popular across the state and in Chandigarh where Himachali youth performed this on cultural programmes in colleges and universities.
- Nati is performed on important occasions such as marriages.
- There are seven types of nati, these are; Kullvi Nati, Mahasuvi Nati, Sirmauri Nati, Gaddi Nati, Kinnauri Nati, Shiv Badar Nati and Lahauli Nati. Each dance has its own style of costumes and music and aids in distinguishing from the rest.
- The Kinnauri Nati dance is mime-like and includes languid sequences. Important among the dances of Nati is ‘Losar shone chuksom’. The name from Losai, or the New Year. Activities such as sowing the crop and reaping it are included in it.
- The Kullu Nati is the most popular one. It has about thirteen forms and is predominantly performed during the festival of Dusshera. The dancers wear colourful tunics and sway to the rhythm of the music. This dance is performed for hours together till the dancers and the orchestra have their energy drained out.
- The Shiv Badar Nati is performed during Shiv Ratri in praise of Lord Shiva, the destroyer. This dance is performed by the folk of the upper hills in Mandi.
In English it means Garland, The Kayang Mala dance is another famous dance of Himachal Pradesh. Dancers dress in traditional finery, weave their arms together to form a sort of a crisscross pattern in order to appear like beads in a woven garland. They drink chhang (a rice brew) before this dance.
Also known as Chhambha or the Demon Dance, This dance from Kinnaur and nearby areas are redolent of the historic period. The Kinnaur folk are compared to deer. The dance is performed with demon masks. It represents the attack of the demons on the crops and their ritual pursuing away by the forces of good. Chhambha is more or less similar to the Punjabi dance Bhangra. These dance forms are generally organised in areas having dense population. During their local festivals like Chaitol and Bishu, such community dancing can be witnessed. Men and women hold hands and dance together. Their leader is known as Ghure.
Thoda is a war dance that is performed before men go to war. There are old rituals that are performed by holding a bow and arrow in the hands. The dancers actually try to mimic a battle scene by dancing.
It is based on one of the oldest folklores in Himachal Pradesh. The dance primarily involves female dancers. This dance is performed during the harvest season in the temple of Goddess Naina Devi. There are different themes or variations of this dance. One theme depicts the love story of a majestic king and a common village girl. Other depicts the business transactions between the client and the business. This dance is filled with enthusiasm and vigor along with plethora of emotions.
This dance is performed by the Buddhists in the monasteries and is performed once in three years. It is famous for its vivacious headgear, costumes and masks. The theme of their costumes is yellow, black and gold and is made smooth and shiny. The headgear is called the chhanak.
This dance style is also famous in Uttrakhand. This dance gives energy to the dancers and is said to make the dancers even bolder as they face the hardships in life. Commonly practiced in Kumaon region of the Himachal Pradesh, this dance form rejuvenates the dancers. This dance is performed by both men and women. The people of Kumaon dance to their fullest to appease their divine God- Lord Vishnu from which the name of the tribe arose ie; Kumaon is derived from Kurmanchal; Kuurma– meaning tortoise and referring to the Kuurma avatar of Lord Vishnu.
SHAND AND SHABU
Shand and Shabu are two popular dance forms in Himachal Pradesh which are generally performed at Buddhist monasteries in the loving memory of Lord Buddha. They are said to have originated in the Lahaul and Spiti district of the state. However, they are also performed by locals after the harvesting of crops is finished. During their performances, several musical instruments, such as drums and shehnai, are played. Nowadays, they have also started using the violin.
It is one of the oldest-known dance forms in the state. As per locals, it is said to have been in existence for centuries. It is a unique dance form which is performed after the killing of a tiger. During its celebration, the skin of the animal is stuffed and its nose is decorated with gold ornaments. After it is done, the locals of the region dance around the dead animal. Over a period of time, it has become a popular dance in Himachal Pradesh.
Performed by the nomadic shepherd tribe of Gaddi in the Bharmaur region of the Chamba district, The Dandras is a traditional dance which is usually enacted with small sticks.
This dance form is belong to the Ropa valley, Kinnaur and in this dance form the pattern formed by the dancers seems to be as coiled serpents. The Nagas Kayang is a dance form which copies the snakes’s movement. The Herki Kayang is faster in rhythm and is generally danced at romantic occasions. The dance is performed by young men and women. The Shuna Kayang dance is danced in most of the villages and its rhythm combines both slow and fast movements. This represents scenes from the life in the village and the forests.
The Keekali dance form is a dance of young girls. The girls hold each other’s hand crosswise and rotate swiftly on their toes. The Bhangra is a male dance which was originated in the Punjab and is also performed in some areas of Una. The tribal dance forms of the trans Himalayan region differs a lot in content and music. The old tradition of both song and dance in these regions has been enthusiastically guarded against urban influence. Kinnaur, Lahaul and Spiti and Tehsils of Pangi and Bharmour of Chamba constitute this zone. The inhabitants in these regions are known as Kinnauras, Lahaulas, Spitians, Pangwals and Gaddis. Gujjars and many of these tribes have their own distinct traditions of folk dances, songs, dresses and ornaments.
Jhamakada Dance is from the Kangra district of Himachal. It is only performed by young girls and the highlight of this dance is the strong lyrics and percussion based instruments. Jhamakhara dance of Kangra district is famous as it is an integral part of marriage ceremonies. Women dancers in traditional dresses pass on satirical comments in form of songs. The credit for evolving and popularizing Kangra folk dance, Jhamakhara dance goes to Dr. Gauta Vyathit nationally and globally.
People still carry on the tradition of Bilaspuri Giddha from the time of erstwhile rulers. Bilaspuri Giddha is major attraction in every function. It is believed that women used to exhibit their happiness when a barat left for bride’s house by performing Giddha along with different songs. Women wear a special dress stitched out of 25 meter long cloth along with silver ornaments including satlari haar. Famous folk singer and dancer Late Ghambhari Devi had masterly skills in performing Bilaspuri Giddha and people used to visit far off places to visit her performance. Giddha is a popular folk dance of women in Himachal Pradesh. The dance is often considered derived from the ancient dance known as the ring dance and is just as energetic as Bhangra; at the same time it manages to creatively display feminine grace, elegance and elasticity. It is a very colorful dance form which is now copied in all regions of the country. Women perform this dance mainly at festive or social occasions.
In addition to the popular dances like Kayang, Bakayang and Banyangchu there are many ritual dances performed by Lamas on numerous religious festive occasions. One masked dance form mainly features an important event in the history of Himalayan Buddhism when Lamas effectively carried out a plan of executing a king namely lANGDARMA. A special event for masked dances is the celebration of the birth of Padma Sambhava (who carried the message of Buddhism to Tibet.)
|Lahaul Spiti||Shaand, Shaabu, Langdarman, Shehni,Dhure,Gharfi(oldest dance of lahaul Spiti)|
|Chamba||Phoolyatra(Paangi), Churahi ,Jhanjhar , Daangi,Deepak ,Gurehi,Haantar.|
|Kinnaur||Devil Dance chaamb,Kyang or Kiang, Baakyang, Byangchachu, Jaatru kiang,Japro.|
|Shimla||Thoda war dance, Chhohara Ghee ,Mala ,Boora and Sinh.|
|Sirmaur||Nati, Bidsu, Ghee, Rassa, Jhuri, Buddah,Padua and Dangra.|
|Kullu||Kadathi, Dhili, Rujhka, Ujgjama.|
So, above-given were the major traditional dances in Himachal Pradesh. In case we miss any dance form of Himachal Pradesh, do comment us. Also read our other articles.