The cultural capital of India, Rajasthan, is a state located in the north-western part of the Indian subcontinent. Jaipur, located in the east-central part of the state, is its capital. The name Rajasthan means “The Abode of the Rajas”; it was formerly called Rajputana, “The Country of the Rajputs”.
Historically, it has been ruled by various kings, including the Marathas, Rajput, and even Muslim rulers, all of which have resulted in a diverse culture, numerous forts with a wide variety of architecture, language and, arts, and crafts including the famous folk dances of Rajasthan. Despite largely being a desert, it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in India, for both domestic and international tourists.
Tribal or folk music plays a pivotal role in the culture of Rajasthan since the state was once dominated by tribal groups in the past. The dances and their accompanying songs are similar to ballads, narrating heroic tales, eternal love stories. Others are also devotional songs.
Dances of Rajasthan are performed on various auspicious occasions with the sole motive to express happiness and joy among each other, and also narrate stories in a unique and captivating way. The rise of princely states during medieval times also added to the growth of folk dances, as the rulers patronized varied art and crafts.
The liveliness of Rajasthan’s culture and traditions is reflected through its folk music and dance. Since rulers from multiple cultures ruled Rajasthan, each region has its form and style of folk entertainment, with different dances and songs. They are vibrant, energetic, and very captivating. The most popular dances are the Kalbelia dance from Jaisalmer and the Ghoomar from Udaipur.
Here is a list of some of the most mesmerizing folk dances of Rajasthan that will make you fall in love with the state’s cultural treasure.
This form of dance is performed by the nomadic tribe of the same name. It is one of the most celebrated folk dances of Rajasthan. It is also known as the ‘Sapera’ dance, owing to the sensuous serpentine movements of the dancers. This breath-taking form of dance is performed by women who wear a traditional jacket called angrakhi, an odhni, and a ghagra. Several local musical instruments such as dholak, dufli, pungi, morchang, khanjari, etc., are used for the music to this dance form.
The famous puppet dance of Rajasthan was bound to be on this list. The Bhat community of Rajasthan started performing this art form some 1000 years ago and it still hasn’t lost its charm. Kathputli comes from kath meaning wood and putli meaning doll. The puppeteers not only control these puppets with strings but also sing tales of Indian mythology and various folk tales. Nowadays the subject material has transgressed the ancient usual and various social issues are being dealt with through the Kathputli dance. The size of these puppets goes up to half a foot and they are heavily decorated thus adding to the beauty of the show.
This unreal-looking form of dance takes a lot of skill and practice to master. It involves women carrying several earthen or brass pitchers on their heads and twirling around. Sometimes they do this while balancing on iron nails, metal plates, broken glass, and literally the edge of a sword! Superhumans, or what? These performers are accompanied by male musicians who play instruments like dholak, jhanjhar, and sarangi. Interestingly, it is said that this form of dance was inspired by the women who used to carry several pots of water on their heads and walk miles across the desert.
Gair Ghumna is one of the most popular folk dances of Rajasthan. Mostly performed by the Bhil community, this is prominently found in the Mewar region of Rajasthan. It is performed during the festivals of Holi and Janmashtami. Men wearing long pleated tunics and women in ghagra choli move around in circles, clockwise then anti-clockwise. They form intricate patterns and formations. They carry sticks called ‘khanda’ which are cut out from the Gundi tree; they may also carry arrows and swords. This form of dance is a major crowd-pleaser.
5. Kachchhi Ghodi
The men of the Shekhawati region of Rajasthan perform this highly entertaining folk dance. A dummy horse made out of bamboo and paper is tied around the waist of these dancers. They dance around and have mock fights that depict folk tales about the local bandits. The tune of a flute and a dhol is usually used during this performance. It is basically performed as a form of entertainment at social gatherings such as weddings.
Chang is actually the name of the instrument that is used to create music for this dance form, hence the name. This fascinating dance form sometimes involves men dressed as women as they perform a highly upbeat performance that is exciting to watch. It is usually performed from the start of Maha Shivaratri to the festival of Holi. It is one of the best folk dances of Rajasthan that is specific to the Shekhawati region that is in the towns of Bikaner, Churu, Sikar, and Jhunjhunu.
Undoubtedly one of the most popular folk dances of Rajasthan, Ghoomar is simply spectacular to watch. Just picture Deepika Padukone dancing to the song ‘Ghoomar’ in the movie Padmaavat. It is characterized by the graceful swaying of the hands and elegant spinning while adorned with a heavily embellished ghagra (long skirt). The skirt whirls around presenting a beautiful canvas of colorful embroidery and mirror work. The name itself suggests a spinning or circular movement. This form of dance takes place during auspicious occasions and festivals, specifically at the arrival of a new bride to a household. It was introduced by the Bhil tribe of Rajasthan and was hugely popular among royalty.
8. Terah Taali
This form of dance is quite interesting as it involves 13 brass discs tied to different body parts of the dancers. Their movements allow the discs to collide with each other and the sound produced is the rhythm that helps them dance. The dancers may also hold swords in their mouths and balance pots on their heads which makes this dance even more engaging to watch. This is mainly performed by the Kamada tribe of Rajasthan, while some other tribes such as Mirasi and Bhat may also perform. The Pokhran and Deedwana perform this folk dance in order to honor Baba Ramadeo, their folk hero.
Looking at a Rajasthani folk dance performance is similar to looking into a kaleidoscope! So many vibrant colors, moving around in patterns, enthralling our very souls. The overall culture and traditions of Rajasthan have an everlasting impact on anyone who visits the place. The richness of the art of this land is unfathomable. One lifetime is not enough to explore it all. Better start now! Hope you liked this list of some of the most famous folk dances of Rajasthan. Which of these folk dances are you most excited to witness?