Dancing has always been an artistic form of expressing one’s emotions. In India, it can be of many forms and while modern dancing is widely popular in the country, the classical form as well as folk forms are closer to the hearts of Indians. Apart from the musical instruments creating certain rhythms identified differently by both these forms of dancing, the main difference between classical dance forms and folk dances is the contrasting degree of difficulty level in their performances.
Classical dance forms involve more characteristically and professionally developed steps, posture and gestures with precise movements, where individual body movements symbolize certain expressions. However, the case of folk dances differ as they are usually performed in groups where anyone with little to no professional training can be a part. In case of folk dances, the enthusiasm is visible in the synergy of the people dancing during festivals and special occasions. The extravagance of the outfits and the vibrant ambience around, eases the minds of people, to forget all the worries of life for those brief moments.
One such form of folk dance is Ghoomar. Ghoomar literally translates to going around in circles and twirling about. It is taken from the word, 'ghoomna' which means turning round about one self.
This dance form was originally the creation of the imaginative Bhil tribe of Marwar region (now Jodhpur, Rajasthan). Historically, after the tribe was defeated by a royal clan or Rajputs, they amicably decided to acknowledge and accept each other’s culture and way of living over time. This led to the articulate dance of ghoomar developed by the Bhil tribe, infiltrating the palaces with the women of the royal households embracing it and performing it on auspicious occasions. The dance was accepted by other royal clans and eventually made its place as part of the royal dances of Rajasthan. Essentially, a tribal dance, ghoomar, also known as jhumar is now renowned as one of the most famous folk dances of the world.
Traditionally, the dance is performed in front of Goddess Saraswati, the goddess of wisdom, knowledge and art. Even though men also take part in ghoomar, the dance is specifically performed by the women of Rajasthan during special occasions such as weddings, the festival of Teej, incoming of monsoon, and other festivals like Holi and Diwali. In some parts of Rajasthan, the rite of passage of girls into womanhood is marked by the ghoomar dance. Another interesting fact is the performance of ghoomar by the newly wed brides in their in-law’s place, surely it is putting your best foot forward (pun, intended)!
The dance steps of ghoomar include leg work and hand movements which are simple yet require perfect synchronization among the dancers of the group. Clapping of hands, snapping of fingers, and hand maneuvering while pirouetting, and all this while forming a circle, undoubtedly makes this dance a visual treat.
In addition to the beautiful movements, the elegant attire that is used to perform ghoomar is known as ghagra choli. It is basically a long skirt and a blouse with intricate designs and heavy zari and mirror work. The skirts of bright hues of red, pink, yellow, blue, are long and flaring which creates an artistic visual when all the women swirl together. The twirling in ornamental costumes with the famous gota work of Rajasthan, in addition to the kundan and silver jewelry creates a mesmerizing optic that resembles a colorful kaleidoscope justifying the rich and exuberant Rajasthan.
Image by Bhavesh Bhagchandani
There are different variations of ghoomar depending on the place or parts of Rajasthan. In some places the dancers play ghoomar with more than two earthen pots or brass pitchers on their head along with pots of fire held in both hands, a combination of concentration and coinciding movements makes it a spectacle worth watching.
The sheer elegance of ghoomar can be seen in pop culture as well. More recently, the performance of actress Deepika Padukone in the movie Padmaavat, dancing ghoomar to a beautiful rendition of a folk song is an alluring experience for the audience.
Along with that the dance is performed not only in various places of India, but also worldwide in different events, to showcase the fascinating art & culture of Rajasthan. Although, ghoomar is one of the most popular folk dances of Rajasthan, it cannot be denied that the state has other exquisite folk-dance forms to offer, such as the kalbeliya, kachi ghodi, gair, bhavai, to name a few.
It can be said that through dancing, women of Rajasthan express their emotions and feelings. This form of empowerment of women through dancing can be seen in almost all places of India throughout history, and as a result has given us the rich folklore that we pride ourselves in. The valor and vigor of yesteryear women, expressed through these dances, empowers us too, in a way.
Pratha Content Writing Intern