The Raja Murias living in the Bastar district of Madhya Pradesh perform the Parab dance after the harvesting of Khatif crops. It is also performed during the bright fortnight of the month of Chaitra. A branch of th Semal tree is brought and planted at the central place of the village. Only unmarried boys and girls perform this dance round the Semal branch celebrating the harvest festival. Groups of dancers exchange visits and the dancing goes on throughout the night. The dancers wear clothes of bright colors and decorate themselves with laces and strands of cowries. While the percussion music is provided by a double faced drum, the melodic, by Mahuri, a reeded wind instrument like Shehnai.
Several Harvest dances are prevalent among the tribal communities of Madhya Pradesh. The Oraons perform Sarhul dance after the Kharif crops are harvested. Through the dance the gods are thanked for the crops and they are prayed to grant the community a happy life. On the full moon day of the lunar month of Chaitra, corresponding to March/April, this dance is performed after worshiping a Sal tree. This is the time when Sal trees blossom. There is a tribal myth associated with the worship of a Sal tree. The myth is as follows : Oppressed by a king of Bihar, the Oraon tribe fled to a Sal forest in Madhya Piadesh. The Sal trees not only gave them shelter but also necessary means for their living. Sal trees for the Oraons are symbols of protection. In gratitude, therefore, they worship a tall Sal tree every year and perform the Sarhul dance around it.
The entire village go near the selected Sal tree every year on the full moon day of Chaitra and in a ritual give it their offerings. Then men and women dance around the tree throughout the night. Often dancers from other villages are also invited to join the festivities. While dancing the dancers sing and musical accompaniment is provided by Mandar, a cylindrical drum with two faces, Nagara, a large hemispherical drum with one face, Jhanj, the cymbals, and Chatkola, a kind of castanets. The dancers are all in white. Men wear peacock feathers on their back side waist and women decorate their buns with white feathers or cranes and white flowers. The dance is usually in a fast tempo.
One of the most representative harvest dances is Bihu of Assam which is mainly observed in rice growing areas. On three most important stages of agricultural operations Bihu festival (utsava) is held just before the sowing of the seeds, at the time of transplanting the paddy seedlings and while harvesting. The word Bihu is a derivative of the Sanskrit word Visuva that means equinox. The Assamese pronounce ‘S’ as ‘H’, therefore, they pronounce Visuva as Bihuba. In Assam, Bengal, and Orissa, ‘V is pronounced as ‘B’. The shorter form of Bihuba is Bihu.
Of the three Bihu festivals, the most colorful and lively is the Bahag Bihu which is held from the first day of the lunar month of Vaishakh, the Assamese derivative of which is Bahag. This is the day of the vernal equinox and the Indian New Year’s Day. In fact, the festival begins from the New Year Eve and continues from four days to one month. The Bahag Bihu is celebrated in four stages of development. The first is known as Goru (cattle) Bihu. It may last for one or more days. In Goru Bihu the cattle, especially the cows, are specially treated with oil-bath and food like salted rice cakes. In the evening there is music and dance. The next is Manuh (human beings) Bihu in which after a ceremonial bath people wear new clothes. Boys and girls perform Bihu dance to the accompaniment of Bihu songs which are basically love songs. The songs are quite tuneful. The musical accompaniment is provided by Dhol, the drum, Pepa, a buffalo-horn pipe, Toka, the bamboo clapper and cymbals. The next is Gosain Bihu in which people gather in the shrine called Namghar. There, all pray to God first and then the musicians’ and dancers perform. The Bihu festival is concluded with Bihu Urva which means sending away the Bihu. This is done at a lonely paddy field or forest where the villagers go with all the ritual materials used during the three phases. A ritual is performed to bid farewell to Bihu.
The Kankali Bihu is held in the lunar month of Kartik corresponding to September/October. This month in colloquial Assamese is called Kati. Therefore, the festival is also called Kati Bihu, At this time of the year paddy seedlings are transplanted. The festival is held for proper growth of the transplanted seedlings. It is observed with solemnity. Rituals are performed and prayers are sung. Usually dance is not performed during this Bihu.
The Bhogali Bihu, also called Magh Bihu since it is held in the lunar month of Magha, corrresponding to December/January, is again a festival of gaiety and jubilation. By the time the festival is held, the harvesting is almost over or at the last phase. Houses are full of harvested grains. This is the time for the villagers to celebrate. Therefore, the dances performed during the Bhogali Bihu are more vigorous and faster in tempo than the dances performed during the Bahag Bihu.