Extreme happiness calls for a celebration. Dance and celebration go hand in hand. Human beings are essentially social. There are some events in the social life that fill one with great happiness which enkindle the desire for celebration. Such occasions are marriage and birth of a child. It is not only the family but also the entire community living together in a village feel very happy. These are the events that ensure continuity of the community and of the tradition nurtured by it. Therefore, marriage and childbirth are celebrated by all the societies. These two celebrations, more often than not, definitely include dancing. Some do it in an informal manner, but there are communities, both tribal and non-tribal, who do the dancing in a formal manner.
Unlike other places, Laddakh has a traditional marriage custom in which the bride comes to the groom's house for the marriage. Dance, accompanied by specific songs, is performed when the bride is being brought to the groom's house. The dancers are called Neyopa. They wear distinctive traditional dresses with equally distinctive and fascinating jewellery. The leader of the group called Neokkpun has to be an expert vocalist with a wide-ranging repertoire of folk songs, especially those sung during the different stages of the marriage.
The accompanying musicians usually belong to the Mon community. The musical instruments are : Surnai, a double-reeded wind instrument similar to Shehnai, and Damama a pair of bowl shaped drum much like the Nagada of North India. In olden days the Damamas were carried on the back of a yak.
Gaja Nach, which literally means the dance of elephant, is performed by the shepherd community called Dhangar who live in Maharashtra. Since it is considered auspicious, the dance is also performed at the time of temple festivals. The dance is performed with a slow tempo and swaying movements that evoke the gait of an elephant in a stylized way. The dancers also hold colorful scarves which when moved in a swaying manner suggest the fanning of elephant's ears. The Pavato provides the melodic music and percussion music is provided by the Khaital and Dhol.
The Devar-attam is prevalent in Madurai district of Tamil Nadu. It is professionally conducted by a group of performing artist belonging to Kampalattu Nayakkar community. It is danced by men only wearing white costume. The headgear is also white from which dangles a colored bead. Seven or nine or eleven dancers are required to perform this dance on the occasion of a marriage ceremony. Specific songs are sung to the accompaniment of the drum music provided by Urumi. At times a long flute is also played.
The marriage dance of Lakshadweep is called Kolkali. It is performed by men only. About twelve to sixteen dancers perform the dance. They beat two sticks that provide the percussion music. The leader plays a pair of cymbals. The dress of the dancers is very simple consisting of a lungi, a banian, and a scarf over the head. The dance begins with a slow tempo that gradually increases and become quite vigorous at the finale.
The Bhil tribal community of Rajasthan performs Jhoria dance at the time of marriage ceremony. Both men and women perform the dance. The male dancers form one circle and the female dancers form another and dance to the music provided by Dhol, the drum, Shehnai, the reeded wind instrument, and Nagara, a large bowl-shaped drum with one face.
In the eastern part of Rajasthan Kathchi Ghori dance is mostly performed at the time of marriage ceremony. The dance is generally performed by dancers belonging to Kumbhar and Bavaria communities. As the name of the dance suggests, it is a dance of false horse rider. To the both ends of a pair of bamboo rods two baskets are tied. The head of a horse prepared with papier-mache is fixed to one of the baskets. To the other a bunch of flex fibers are tied to suggest the tail of the horse. The dancer gets into the dummy horse at the middle of the space between the two bamboo rods and adjusts it at his waist so that it appears as if he was riding a horse. The dancer is dressed like a bridegroom. Traditionally, four to five dancers perform the dance. The musical accompaniment to the dance is provided by Dhol, the dium, and Turahi, a wind instrument made of brass.
Almost all the tribal communities perform dance at the time of marriage of anyone belonging to their community. They are, however, the usual recreational dances, not specifically for the marriage ceremony.
Quite a few communities perform dances on the occasion of childbirth. The Mali community of Rajasthan perform Chari dance when a son is born to a family of their community. It is also called Chariwa. A pitcher made of brass is called Chari. The dance is named after it because the women of the community each balancing the pitcher on head perform the dance. On the mouth of the pitcher is kept a bowl with flames. The flames are up to one foot or one and half foot high. While dancing the dancers spin and sway, even, at times, they sit down and get up with the rhythm, but they do not lose the balance of the pitcher on their heads. This acrobatic element makes the dance fascinating. The dancers are dressed in their best. Only percussion music accompany the dance. The musical instruments are : Dhol, the drum, and two idiophones, namely, Thali and Bankia.
The Dafla community of Arunachal Pradesh perform specific dances on the occasion of both marriage and childbirth. It is danced by women only. Wearing colorful skirts, blouse, and necklaces of colorful beads, the dancers clasp each other's waist and dance with graceful swaying movements. No musical instrument accompany with the dance. The dancers wear waist girdles which produce rhythmic percussion sound that enhances the appeal of the songs the dancers sing.
The Dhobi community of Uttar Pradesh also celebrate marriage and childbirth with dancing. Generally dancers are all men but, at times, women also join the dance. The dancers are mostly in circular formations. Dholak, the drum, and a folk version of Shehnai, the reeded wind instrument are musical instruments used.
In the Bundelkhand region of Madhya Pradesh the Dhobi community perform Kanara dance at the time of a marriage ceremony. It is also known as Kanadyayi. Until a few decads ago no marriage could be solemnized in the Dhobi community without performing the dance. Before the dancing begins, goddess Saraswati, Lord Ganesh, and the Guru are invoked. Then the dancers begin their dance and go to a pond or well to bring water, all the while dancing. The musical instruments used are: a folk version of Sarangi, a Chordophone, Dholak, the drum, Lota and Tar, the idiophones.
The Adis are one of the major tribes of Arunachal Pradesh. Their marriage ceremony is called Nyida Parik which has its own characteristics and style. There is also a legend associated with the Adi marriage. It is as follows: Donyi is the sun god. His daughter is Dony Mundi. She was marrried to Abo-Tani, the father of all human beings. Their marriage ceremony was a grand affair. Marriage of anyone of the Adi community should follow the same ceremonial rituals.
After completion of preliminary arrangements of marriage agreed upon by both the parties, the bride party along with the bride is invited to visit the house of the groom. A grand reception awaits the bride party at some distance from the house of the groom. In the reception is included the dance of two groups of male dancers. The dancers of one party wear hats made of cane and decorated with beaks of hornbill. They hold poles called Yoksa. The dancers of the other party wear hats made of cane but without any decoration. They hold brass plates. When the bride's party comes nearer the dancers start dancing and hitting the poles on the ground and beating the brass plates rhythmically. The dance is usually in faster tempo. The hornbill signifies the nobility of the groom's family and the brass plates implies that they speak in a pleasant voice. In other words the dance in the reception express symbolically that the groom deserves the bride.
Women of the Mali community of Kishangarh region of Rajasthan perform Chari dance on the occasion of die birth of a son. It is also called Charwa. Chari literally means a brass pitcher. The dance is called Chari because each of the dancers balances a brass pitcher on her head. On the mouth of the pitcher is put a bowl of fire; flames going up more than one foot high. The dancers spin and make swaying movements yet they never lose the balance of the pitcher. The dancers wear their best dress and dance to the music of Dhol, the drum, Shehnai, the reeded wind instrument, and two idiophones, namely, Thali and Bankia.
The women of Dafla tribal community of Arunachal Pradesh dance on the occasion of a childbirth in the community. They dance in semicircular formation, each dancer holding the waist of the two dancers flanking her. They sing while dancing. No musical instrument is used. The waist girdles and iron chains produce a tinkling sound that becomes the percussion music of the dance.
The Dhobi community of Uttar Pradesh sing and dance on every social occasions including childbirth. Men and women both participate in the dancing. They usually dance in. circular formations. The accompanying music is provided by Dholak, the drum with two faces, and a folk version of Shehnai, the reeded wind instrument.
The Abuj-Maria tribal community perform an interesting dance known as Kaksar. Actually, Kaksar is a deity who is worshipped before the rains for a rich harvest. It is, however, different from the other harvest dances discussed earliler, because, according to the tradition, while the boys and girls are dancing they choose their partners for life. The marriage is solemnized later. The boys wear a fascinating costume that includes a belt of large number of big and small jinglebells (ghungroo) tied to the back side of their waist. When they dance the sound of the jinglebells enhances the appeal of the percussion music of the dance. The girls hold in their right hand waist-high iron rods having a few jinglebells on the top. While dancing they sing and strike the iron rod vertically on the ground on the accented beats of the rhythm. This sound blends well with that of the jinglebells worn by the boys. The girls form a semicircle and each dancer holds the iron rod in her right hand and the waist of nearest dancer with the left hand. The boys form a semicircle in front of the girl group. Both move in circles. While Mandar and Timki provide the percussion music, Bansuri, the flute provides the melodic component of the accompanying music.
Hudo is another dance performed at the Tarnetar fair where girls choose their husbands. Tarnetar is a small village in the Sourashtra region of Gujrat. Tarnetar is a colloquial derivative of Trinetreshwar (god with three eyes), an aspect of Lord Shiva, who is enshrined in the temple at the village. Every year on Rishi Panchami that falls on the fifth lunar day (tithi) of the dark fortnight of the lunar month of Ashwina, corresponding to August/ September, the three day Tarnetar fair begins. A legend is associated with the fair which is as follows : Arjuna, the hero of Mahabharata, was the winner in the archery competition held at this place. It was declared that the archer who can pierce the eye of a fish hanging from a very tall pole without looking at the fish but looking at its reflection in the pool of water around the pole, will be chosen by Draupadi as her husband. Only Arjuna could perform this near impossible feat of archery for which Draupadi chose him as her husband. This event is commemorated every year by holding the fair where girls choose their respective husbands. The young men who wish to be chosen by the girls, come with colorful and beautifully embroidered umbrellas. They also wear an equally colorful embroidered jacket . After choosing the husbands the boys and girls perform Hudo. The girls form a Line and the boys form their line. The two lines of dancers face each other and dance to the music provided by drums, flutes, and other folk musical instruments. The tempo is usually faster and while dancing the girls clap on the palms of the boys with both their palms. The marriage is formalized later.
Bhagoria is another festival where young boys and girls choose their partners for life. The Bhils living in Jhabua, Alirajpur and Dhar range of Madhya Pradesh, have four main ethnic groups : Bhil, Bhilala, Patalia and Ranth. Bhagoria dance is performed by all these groups. Before Holi in the lunar month of Phalgun, corresponding to February/March, Bhagoria fair and Haats (occasional market) are organized. Most probably it originated as a fertility ritual and later festivity became more important than the ritual. On the day the fair begins, the dancers gather round a pole fixed vertically on the ground. The headman of the village worships Mandar, a drum with two faces. He then strikes the drum. Immediately the drummers start playing. Both men and women participate in the dance. The male dancers hold bows. The dance is accompanied with the percussion music of one or more Mandars only.
The Chhapeli dance prevalent in the Kumaon region of Uttar Pradesh is a social dance which is playful as well as amorous. Several duet dances are performed by couples who may be husband and wife or lovers. Each of the female dancers holds a mirror and a handkerchief. The musicians stand in a semicircle and the pairs of dancers dance before them. The vocalists sing in a chorus and the dancers dance to their singing. The percussion instruments that accompany the singing are: Hurka, an hourglass shaped drum, and Manjira, the cymbals.
The society of Kinnauri tribe of Himachal Pradesh is both polyandrous and polygamous. Although the main occupation of the community is rearing of sheep and goats for the purpose of gathering wool and selling them, quite a few are also agriculturists. One of the festivals that the Kinnauris organize is called Tushimig. Mainly the unmarried girls become more enthusiastic during the month long festival. On the day the festival begins, the unmarried girls choose a spacious house which is meticulously cleaned and decorated. They then prepare a sumptuous meal. After that they go and invite the boys. Most of these young men are boyfriends of the girls. All the boys and girls feast together. After the meal they dance with gay abandon. The musical accompaniment is provided by Dhol, the drum, Bugial, a kind of wind instrument, and Damentu, the horn.
Around the middle of the twentieth century the West felt the necessity of imparting sex education to the youth and adolescent. But almost all the tribal communities have been giving sex education in their own way for thousands of years. They have a system of having separate dormitories for unmarried girls and boys. Generally, these dormitories are located at the end of a village. In the evening, all the girls who have attained puberty go to the dormitory after taking their dinner. The boys go to another dormitory facing that of the girls and separated by about hundred yards. One of the most experienced women of the village remain incharge of the girls' dormitory, and a very senior villager, for the boys' dormitory. The boys and girls do meet and date, but there are definite conventions which are strictly observed. While tribes like Santhal and Oraon have separate dormitories for boys and girls, the Muria Gond have mixed dormitory. This institution of dormitory provides all kinds of informal education including that of sex. The boys and girls are inculcated with the values and religion of the community in these dormitories. Invariably, the boys and girls after coming to the dormitories dance together for hours. These dances also come under the category of social dance.