The exuberance and vitality of the
people of Punjab are vigorously displayed in their folk dances. With the
drum beat or to the tune of some other instrument of folk music, the
energetic feet of the people of Punjab are spontaneously set in to give
birth to a folk dance - an 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.
Punjab's folk dances are replete with foreign influences. It is only in
Punjab where there is no common dance for men and women.
Male Folk Dances 1. Bhangra
The Bhangra is perhaps the most virile form of Indian Folk Dances. Bhangra
is considered the king of dances. Springing from the land of five rivers, it
abundantly reflects the vigor, the vitality, the leaven of exuberance, and
the hilarity permeated among the rural folk by the promise of a bumper crop.
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 comes 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 to the abandon of the dance.
In addition to a drum, chimta-musical tongs and burchu and sound of the
beats from earthen vessels are used as accompanying instruments. The costume
of a Bhangra dancer consists of a bright, colored Patka on the head, a lacha
or lungi of the same color, a long tunic and a black or blue waistcoat and
ghunghroos on the ankles. Some dancers also wear small rings (nuntian) in
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 of 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.
There are several styles of dancing Bhangra such as Sialkoti, Sheikhupuri,
Tribal, Malwa, Majha. One of the Bhangra's moves is also akin to the moves
of Shiv-Tandav dance, which is danced on one leg. Damru, hand-drum is also
used in Bhangra which shows that folk dances and war dances have similar
parentage. A Bhangra performance typically contains many energetic stunts.
The most popular stunt is called the moor, or peacock, in which a dancer
sits on someone's shoulders, while another person hangs from his torso by
This dance, originally from Sandalbar (now in Pakistan), is very much a part
of Punjab's folk heritage. It is a graceful dance based on a Jhumar rhythm.
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 occasionally, reason of
its predominating mood.
This is also performed in a circle. The dancers dance around a single
drummer standing in the center. It's costumes are the same as that of
Bhangra. It is danced to the tune of emotional songs. The dance is without
acrobatics. The movement of the arms only is considered its main forte. Toes
are musically placed in front and backwards and turnings are taken to the
right, sometimes the dancers place their one hand below the ribs on the left
and gesticulate with the right hand. This dance does not tire out its
performers and it is normally danced on moonlit nights in the villages away
from the habitation. It is mostly danced by tribal Sikh professional
acrobats and has yet not been owned by all Punjabis. The dancers of this
dance let-off a sound, "dee dee" in tune with the beat of the dance which
adds to its grace. This dance has also been integrated into Bhangra.
Luddi is a victory dance where people do special movements of their heads.
Its costumes are simple. Only a loose shirt (kurta) and a loincloth are
used. Some tie a turban, other the Parna, which is somewhat like a scarf
tied across the forehead, while still others join in bareheaded. The dancers
put one hand on their backs and the other hand in front of their faces. The
body movement is sinuous, snake-like. There is also a drummer in the center
of the dance.
This dance is more popular across the Sutlej. In Pakistan it is almost as
popular as the Bhangra. This dance has an historical background and pertains
to that moment in history when Punjabi Sardars had begun to rescue Indian
women that used to be forcibly taken in the direction of Basra in Middle
This dance is also the dance of slow movements and some teachers by
integrating it into Bhangra have finished its individual identity.
Muslim holymen, called pirs, perform this dance. Generally they dance in
their hermitages (khangahs). People perform the dance while sitting.
Sometimes they dance around the preceptor's grave. Normally the dancer wears
black. A single dancer can also perform this dance. Toes are tensed in this
dance. The dancer holds a thick staff in his hands and he dances by
revolving it. Sometimes, the murids (followers) also the tie ghungroos
(Jingling bells) around their waists like the Bhangra dancers of yore. This
dance is fast disappearing.
Also called the Gaatka dance, this is a dance of celebration. Two men, each
holding colorful staffs, in rhythm with the drums dance round each other and
tap their sticks together. This dance is often part of marriage celebrations
or religious celebrations.
At least two persons are required to perform this dance, though there is no
upper limit. Like other male dances it is danced in circles. They dance as
they ply their staffs in rhythm crossing them, with each other's. This dance
is either performed at the common yards or in the vanguard of marriage
processions to exhibit joy. Sometimes it is also called gatka dance (dance
of the dum swords). Women also dance this dance but they do so separately
and not in company with men. No special costumes are worn with it; only,
sometimes the dancers tie a band around their waist. It is based on only a
few movements but these movements are rather impressive. Its high point is
achieved when dancers sit down and cross batons. Old people, young children
and flexible young men all perform this dance.
This folk dance also has not been able to achieve the popularity of Bhangra.
Of course it is a male dance and, likewise, is danced in a circle. Drum is
used as the accompanying instrument; its costumes are akin to Bhangra and
Traditionally women of the Sandalbar region, now in Pakistan, perform Sammi.
The dancers dress in bright coloured kurtas and full flowing skirts called
lengas. A particular silver hair ornament is associated with this dance. In
the middle of their head they fix a domed ornament shaped like an inverted
lotus called phul-chowk or Saggiphul (flower of the crossings of the
plaits). Sammi has not been able to gain popular acceptance and is breathing
its last in the huts of the tribals. Women of Baazigars, Rai Sikhs, Lobanas
and Sansi lot tribes dance in this medium. This is also danced in the
privacy of women.
This women’s dance is also performed like ‘Giddha’. The dancers stand in a
circle and swing their hands, bringing them up from the sides, right in
front up to the chest level and clap: they take their hands down in
accordance with a rythem and clap again. Repeating this gesture, they bend
forward and clap again, and go round and round in a circle. As the rythem is
maintained with the beat of the feet, various kinds of swinging movements
are performed with the arms. Most of the gestures are confined to the
movement of the arms, clicking and clapping. No instrument is required as an
accompaniment to this dance. Rythem is kept up with the beating of the feet
Giddha is Punjab's most famous folk dance for women. The vitality of Bhangra
can also be seen in the Giddha dance of the women of Punjab. This dance
translates into gestures, bolian-verses of different length satirizing
politics, the excesses committed by husbands, their sisters and mothers,
loneliness of a young bride separated from her husband, evils of society or
expressing guileless deep love. The dance rhythm is set by the dhols and the
distinctive hand claps of the dancers.
The dance is derived from the ancient ring dance. One of the girls plays on
the drum or 'dholki' while others form a circle. Some times even the dholki
is dispensed with. While moving in a circle, the girls raise their hands to
the level of their shoulders and clap their hands in unison. Then they
strike their palms against those of their neighbors. Rhythm is generally
provided by clapping of hands.
The embroidered 'duppattas' and heavy jewelry of the participants whose
number is unrestricted further exaggerate the movements. The traditional
dress during giddha dance is short female style shirt (choli) with ghagra or
lehnga (loose shirt upto ankle-length) or ordinary Punjabi Salwar-Kamiz,
rich in colour, cloth and design. The ornaments that they wear are
suggi-phul (worn on head) to pazaibs (anklets), haar-hamela, (gem-studded
golden necklace) baazu-band (worn around upper-arm) and raani-haar (a long
necklace made of solid gold).
Giddha can be seen at its best when 'Teeyan' or the women's dance festival
is celebrated. This festival in Punjab is celebrated in the month of Sawan.
The dance usually takes place on the bank of some river or pond under big
shady trees. Swings are thrown over the branches and singing, swinging and
dancing starts. On this day when the married daughters come to their
parent's house their brothers fix the swings for them. As they swing they
share their anxieties with each other through songs. Dressed in their best
and decked by ornaments, girls gather during these festivals like the
fairies. These dancers look a medley of color and beauty. The festival
continues till the 3rd Lunar day in the month to full moon and there is a
gala function on the concluding day.
Literally Jaago means wake up! When there is a marriage in the house, female
relatives of the groom dance through the village streets carrying a pot (gaggar)
decorated with lightened candles and sing Jaago songs on the night before
wedding. The themes of the songs are social and usually a bit of teasing,
often aimed at elders, goes with the song. The Jaago is put on the head of
groom's mothers or brothers' wife, led by her the mother's relations,
singing, dancing frolicking knocking at the doors of residents of the
groom's village, enter in, dance gidha accept presents of food, grain and
ghee for the lamps and continue these rounds through the night, when youth
glows and the dark of the night resounds with mirth and laughter.
Kilkli, is more of a sport than a dance, 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. Girls wheel
round and round in a fast movement at the same spot with the feet serving as
the pivotal points. The girls sing as they swirl around with colorful
‘dorias’ or ‘dupattas’ flowing from their heads and anklets producing
There is a rich repertoire of traditional songs available that are used to
accompany the ‘kikli’ dance. Most of these songs consist merely of loosely
rhyming lines without underlying theme. One of the examples is :
Kikli kleer di,
Pag mere vir di,
Daupatta mere bhai da,
Phitte mun jawai da.