The menfolk of Punjab dance Bhangra while the womenfolk perform Gidda. If is performed on all happy occasions like marriage and childbirth. The ceremonial Gidda, however is danced for consecutive twelve days in the month of July when the festival called Teejan of Sawan is held. The dance consists of singing, clapping, and enacting the Boli, which is one or two couplets that narrate a very wide range of subjects from household chores to the tensions between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law: The singing of the Boli is punctuated with an enthusiastic refrain-phrase Balle, Balle. To perform Gidda the dancers form a circle and participants in pairs, take turns to come to the center and sing the bol. Towards the end of the boli the pair dance with gay abandon and then return to the circle. Another pair replaces them. Thus the dance may continue for hours. Often the dance is accompanied by a Dholak played by one of the women participants. At times it is danced only to the clapping. Gidda is uniformly popular in Punjab, however, the Gidda of Malwa area is famous for its gusto and speed.
Karthi is performed by both men and women. Unlike Bhangra and Jhumar, in this dance there is a ritual beginning in which a God of harvest is worshiped first. Then women singing songs lead the procession to the place of the dance. Men follow them. Karthi is not as vigorous as Bhangra and Jhumar. In this dance a reeded wind instrument like Shehnai is used. The dancers perform in circular formation with men and women alternating and holding hands of the nearest dancers on either sides.
In Jhumar many elements of Bhangra are there. The only difference is that while dancing the dancers depict the various agricultural operations through dance movements. The dancers also execute gaits of different domesticated animals. The finale of Jhumar is exactly like Bhangra. It is also danced by men only and accompanying music is only provided by Dholak and singing of folk songs.
Punjab is considered as the granary of India. The main crops are wheat and sugarcane. Three harvest dances are performed in Punjab and all of them are associated with wheat cultivation. The most popular and widely known dance is Bhangra. Next to it is Jhumar. The Karthi dance is performed more in the hill region.
Bhangra is one of the most virile dances and is danced only by men. After the wheat seeds are sown the Bhangra is performed in the full moon night. First of all, in an open place in the village the leading drummer plays Dhol, the drum with two faces. One face is played by the fingers, the other face is played with a blunt stick. The rhythmic phrases played on the Dhol is indeed exhilarating. Hearing the drum beats dancers come and gather in the open place. A Bhangra dancer wears lungi, a Kurta, a waistcoat, and a turban. The dancers wear colorful dress. The Dhol (also called DholaK) player is the leader. He is joined by a pair or more of vocalists who sing couplets of folk song called Boli or Dhola.
After a couplet or two the stepping changes and the dancers shout with great zest the typical refrains like Bale-Bale, Oai-Oai, and Uhun-Uhun. Various kinds of stepping are there in the repertory of Bhangra. Acrobatic elements also spice up the dance. The main inspiration for Bhangra comes from the enlivening drum music. Earlier no other musical instrument was played with the dance. Nowadays idiophones like cymbals and Chimta are being used. The melodic content is only singing. No melodic musical instrument is played with Bhangra dance.