There is dancing, singing, drama, devotional music and puppet shows and other community festivities which transform the hardworking Rajasthani into a fun-loving and carefree individual. Each region has its own folk entertainment, the dance styles differ as do the songs. Interestingly enough, even the musical instruments are different.
Of considerable significance are the devotional songs and the communities who render these songs. Professional performers like the Bhaats, Dholis, Mirasis, Nats, Bhopas and Bhands are omnipresent across the state. They are patronised by the villagers who participate actively in the shows put up by these travelling entertainers. Some of the better known forms of entertainment are:
This is basically a community dance for women and performed on. auspicious occasions. Derived from the word ghoomna, pirouette, this is a very simple dance where the ladies move gently, gracefully in circles.
This is one of the many dance-forms of the Bhil tribal. Performed during Holi festival, this is among a few performances where both men and women dance together.
This most sensuous dance performed by the Kalbeliya (Snake-charmar`s community). The sapera dancers wear long, black skirts embroidered with silver ribbons. As they spin in a circle, their body sways acrobatically, so that it is impossible to believe that they are made of anything other than rubber. As the beat increases in tempo, the pace increases to such a pitch that it leaves the viewer as exhausted as the dance.
Another Holi dance but performed only by men. This becomes Dandia Gair in Jodhpur and Geendad in Shekhawati.
This is popular in the Kisherigarh region and involves dancing with a chari, or pot, on one’s head. A lighted lamp is then placed on the pot.
This is a dance performed on dummy horses. Men in elaborate costumes ride the equally well decorated dummy horses. Holding naked swords, these dancers move rhythmically to the beating of drums and fifes. A singer narrates the exploits of the Bavaria bandits of Shekhawati.
The Jasnathis of Bikaner and Chum are renowned for their tantric powers and this dance is in keeping with their lifestyle. A large ground is prepared with live wood and charcoal where the Jasnathi men and boys jump on to the fire to the accompaniment of drum beats. The music gradually rises in tempo and reaches a crescendo, the dancers seem to be in a trance like state.
This is a professional dance-form from Jalore. Five men with huge drums round their necks, some with huge cymbals accompany a dancer who holds a naked sword in his mouth and performs vigorously by twirling three painted sticks.
The Kamad community of Pokhran and Deedwana perform this dance in honour of theft deity, Baba Ramdeo. A rather unusual performance where the men play a four-stringed instrument called a chau-tara and the women sit with dozens of manjeeras, or cymbals, tied on all over their bodies and strike them with the ones they hold in their hands. Sometimes, the women also hold a sword between their teeth or place pots with lighted lamps on their heads.
Puppet plays based on popular legends are performed by skilled puppeteers. Displaying his skill in making the puppets’ act and dance, the puppeteer is accompanied by a woman, usually his wife, who plays the dholak, or drum and sings the ballad.
Pabuji Ki Phach
A 14th century folk hero, Pabuji is revered by the Bhopa community. The phad, or scroll, which is about 10 metres long, highlights the life and heroic deed of Pabuji. The Bhopas are invited by villagers to perform in their areas during times of sickness and misfortune. The ballad is sung by the Bhopa as he plays the Ravan-hattha and he is joined by his wife who holds a lamp and illuminates the relevant portions at appropriate points.
Rajasthan’s most sophisticated style of folk music and has come a long way from the time it was only sung in royal courts, in praise of the Rajput rulers.
Professional singers still sing the haunting ballads of Moomal Mahendra, Dhola-Maru and other legendary lovers and heroes.
The Kamaycha has a big, circular resonator which produces a deep booming sound. It is used exclusively by the Manganiyars in the Jaisalmer-Barmer region. So deeply is the sense of tune and rhythm in the mind and ear of the folk musicians, that they need nothing more than intuition and a highly trained ear to tune their instruments.
Rawanhathha Probably the earliest instrument played with a bow, and this humble instrument could well be the precursor of the violin. It has two main strings and a variable number of supporting strings, with a belly of half coconut shell and a body of bamboo. The bow has ghungroos (bells) attached to it. The music is staccato and accompanied by the syncopated singing of the Bhopa and the Bhopan.The Jogis of Abu Road area use a smaller version of the Rawanhathha which has its two main strings tuned to the ‘Sa’ of the Indian octave and a third of steel to ‘Pa’. The Langas use the Sindhi sarangi. It is made up of four main wires, seven jharas and seventeen tarafs. Others members of the family are the Gujratan, Jogia and Dhani sarangis. The Surinda, favourite of the Manganiyars, is a small sarangi. The Chikara, used by the Meos and Jogis of Mewat is a replica of the Sarangi.
The morchang resembles a jew’s-harp. The plaintive, melancholic twang of the morchang adds a desolate dimension to the songs of the Manganiyars
A slender instrument used particularly at the time of weddings, is sahnai. A double-beating reed instrument consisting of a single piece wooden tube with a opening and a metal mouthpiece, it is played as an accompaniment to nagara.
This is the most important folk musical instrument and is found in various forms in Rajasthan.
The Ektaara is single string instrument, but it is mounted on the belly of a gourd attached to a body made of bamboo. The Galaleng Jogis of Dungarpur and Banswara have twin gourded Kendru appears akin to the ancient Kinnari Veena, and it has often been called the Keengri in Rajasthan literature. The Chautara, also called the Tandoora or Nissan, is also a popular five stringed drone and beat instrument used as an accompaniment to devotional music and for the Terathali dance
The Algoza, common in the Tonk-Ajmer areas, is like two flutes played together. The Kathodis use the Pawri, a flute of bamboo held vertically. The Bhils use a short flute in some of their dances. Ceremonial music is provided by Nafeeri and Surnai, both rudimentrary forms of the shehnai .Then there is the Poongi of the snake charmers and its adaptation by the Langas called the Murla. Both have two tubes, one for the notes and the other for the drone.
It is a vertical flute with a single long hollow tube, into which the player whistles, at the same time gurgling a song in his throat or actually singing intermittently. The effect is haunting.
The snake charmers use it. It has two tubes, one for the notes and the other for the drone.
The Ghanti or the Ghanta are commonly used and the ghungroo(ankle bells) form an integral part of music. The Bhopas of Bherunji wear large ghungroos around their waists and sway their bodies to provide a rhythm. The war dance of the Godwad area, the Ramjhol, is performed to the rhythm of the large ankle bells. Then there are the Manjeeras which are made of brass in the shape of hemispherical metal cups struck against each other.