A knee-length loincloth tied around their waists and a series of ethnic jewelry covered all of the men’s bodies as they joked with the women. The women responded to the openings in tune with the music of the tapping, and the soft lighting in the background complemented the mood. Draped in saris and heavily adorned with ornaments, the women also returned the favor through subtle smiles and flushed cheeks. In a world almost entirely fueled by transient social media content on apps like Twitter and WhatsApp, the vision seemed almost surreal. What unfolded in front of me, however, was just another depiction of daily life and celebration among the tribes.
The dance performance was part of the second edition of the National Tribal Dance Festival which recently concluded in Raipur, the capital of Chhattisgarh, with the participation of 45 tribal communities. Known as the Dhap dance, it is popular among the tribes of the Sambalpur district in Odisha.
The few hundred participants gathered through their performances presented the various traditions and the myriad of cultures of the ancient inhabitants of the forest.
This in turn has resulted in a unique opportunity for the urban masses and tourists to get acquainted with these traditions which are mostly rooted in pagan customs and nature.
Tribal communities spanning the entire country – from Andaman and Nicobar to Kashmir and from the northeastern states to the far west of Gujarat – presented a visual feast to the audience, filled with remarkable traditional costumes and adornments. Through their performances, the dancers tried to reiterate the similarities and differences in their lifestyles and lifestyle choices.
Many of the performances had themes based on traditional customs like wedding ceremonies and harvesting rituals. One group from Assam, for example, performed the Karbi Tiwa dance while a tribal group from Gujarat performed the endearing Mewasi dance. These two dances are usually part of wedding ceremonies.
Equally captivating were the tribes of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands who danced the Nicobari as they deepened their relationship with religion and agriculture.
The nomadic Gujjar tribes of Jammu and Kashmir, who reside in airplanes in winter but move to the high altitude areas of Kashmir, have left audiences spellbound with their Gojari dance that they normally hold for weddings and other celebrations. social.
Members of the dance troupes felt delighted to be a part of the event.
Kailash Sisodia, 40, who led a group of 16 dancers from the Bheel tribes of Madhya Pradesh, was proud to have organized the Bheel Bhagoriya dance with members of his team.
Dressed in a yellow turban, blue shirt and white dhoti, these tribes were armed with bows and arrows and swayed to the rhythm of drums followed by women in traditional golden saris.
“The dance performed during Holi in local markets where young boys and girls participate to brighten up their marriage prospects. We really feel blessed to be here and to present our culture to such a large audience, ”said Sisodia, who is a local BJP leader in addition to being a farmer.
Another team leader, Sumit Kumar Pradhan, 30, led a tribal group of 22 members from Sambalpur to Odisha to perform the Dhap dance.
“During wedding ceremonies, the friends of the groom and the groom tease each other about the rules of marriage and that is the point of this dance,” said Pradhan, who had only wrapped a piece of cloth around his waist. up to the knees. The troupe were decked out in local jewelry and heavy makeup.
A member of the Oraon tribe from Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand, whose group performed the tribal dance called Bandi Oraon, said he was delighted to see the encouraging response from the audience.
“It is a dance that is performed on all occasions, whether it is a wedding or birth ceremony or even a death ceremony. Only our dress, our dance steps and our music change according to the occasion, ”he said, adding that the trip from his village from Ranchi to Raipur is like a dream come true.
The groups competed for a reward of five rupees, three lakhs and two lakhs respectively, according to a press release issued by the administration in charge of managing the event.
The dance forms in the wedding ceremony category included Gour Sing from Chhattisgarh, Karma from Madhya Pradesh, Dhimsa from Andhra Pradesh, Gojari from Jammu and Kashmir, Kadsa from Jharkhand, Guryaballu from Andhra Pradesh, among others. “, did he declare.
“Dance forms under the category of traditional festivals and rituals included Karma from Chhattisgarh, Gussadi Dhimsa from Telangana, Urav from Jharkhand, Sidi Goma from Gujarat,” he added.
Besides 45 tribal groups from 33 States and Union Territories, seven tribal dance teams from countries such as Nigeria, Palestine, Kingdom of Eswatini (Swaziland), Uzbekistan, Mali, Sri Lanka and the Uganda brought an international touch to the whole event.
Thousands of visitors feasted as they watched Indian tribes and tourists shake their legs to the tune of Ugandan folk song Bakisimba.
Robert Musiikuua, 30, who was the leader of the group, informed that the Bakisimba is a royal or Ugandan dance that is originally performed in front of the king.
The troupe also staged another popular dance, La Raka Raka, which young men and women in northern Uganda love to perform together.
“We are happy to be here to showcase Uganda’s cultural diversity and heritage. We will promote tourism in our country. This festival brought us together as a nation and a culture, ”said Musiikuua.
“Culture can be used as a tool to create unity, peace and fight against environmental degradation. When we play together, we learn something from each other and take that learning home, ”he added.
Thempekile, team leader of the Eswatini Kingdom dance group (Swaziland), echoed similar expressions as she also felt that performing at the National Tribal Dance Festival was an important cultural achievement for her.
The eight-member team, including two officials, performed the Sibhaca dance, a vigorous war dance popular in Swaziland. “It is performed on all occasions but mainly on competitive occasions etc.,” said Thempekile, 28.
“It’s memorable to be here in India and to share our culture with others. Everyone appreciated our culture and it was a wonderful feeling, ”she added.
Mohan Dass of the Sri Lankan Tamil Tribe Team said being in India was like a home for his team and that he was thrilled to have the opportunity to perform some of the best folk dances in his community.
“We are Sri Lankan Tamils and playing in India is always a source of great pride for us,” said Dass.
State administration officials believe that the 2nd edition of the tribal dance event shows its popularity and success as the attendance was much higher than the 1st edition held in 2019.
“In the first edition, there were only 24 states and 6 countries. But the 2nd, which is the first event of its kind in the post-Covid era, saw 33 states and Union territories and seven countries, ”said Chhattisgarh Tourism Secretary Anbalagan P.
He added, “These states and UTs, which do not have tribal populations like Delhi and Chandigarh, were unable to participate. Otherwise, this time we had a pan-Indian response which was quite encouraging. Anbalagan believes that such events will promote foreign tourism in the state.
Speaking about the event, Bhupesh Baghel, Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh, said that such festivals act as a bridge between us and the tribal community and this platform shows that tribes all over the world have something in common with each other. .
“The goal is to make them understand that they are not far from us. They are part of our culture and our tradition. They are as important to us as other companies. That’s why I’m holding him in the state capital, ”Baghel said.
He added, “The tribal people of a particular region feel that they are as much as their own geographic boundaries which are not true. But these kinds of events made them realize that tribes exist across the world and that there is a certain similarity in their way of life.