Dance Traditions of Madhya Pradesh
Dances of Madhya Pradesh
Tribal Dance Form
Madhya Pradesh has been, and still is, to a large extent dominated by its tribal
population. So it is not surprising that the ethnic dance and music of Madhya Pradesh
is also tribal in nature.
Maria Gond Tribes -Marriage Dance
The colourful Maria Gonds of Bastar celebrate almost every significant event in
their lives by dancing. One of their most famous dance tradition is the spectacular
marriage dance, the Gaur do catch a performance if you can.
The head dress that the Maria Gonds wear for the dance is made of bison horn, raw
silk and feathers and is handed down from father to son. Like the American Indians,
the Maria Gonds attach great importance to their head dress; a Maria may give a
bullock in exchange for a good pair of horns. The traditional marriage ceremony
of the Marias is simple - theres just the dance and the feast after it
Murias Tribes Drum Dance
Their neighbours, the Murias, are known for their tradition drum dances called Mandri.
It is mainly the dance of boys, who play the drum along with dancing. Sometimes
girls also join them, though they appear grouped separately.
The dance movements and steps of the boys are often complicated, involving kneeling,
jumping, gyrating and the like, but at no time is there a let-up in the playing
of the drum.
All over India the harvest means celebration and dancing. So it is for the tribals
here. Women in the Bundelkhand region dance the Jawara, in which they carry the
newly harvested grains of the jowar (sorghum) crop on their heads in baskets. They
skilfully keep their baskets balanced on their heads without using their hands even
though the dance is often quite fast-paced.
The Folk Theatre
The Maach of Madhya Pradesh is a folk theatre form presented largely through traditional
song and dances. Men portray all the characters and the themes are generally historical
or borrowed from folk legends about kings and warriors. There is not much of acting,
as the theme unfolds mainly through song and dance. The singing is generally done
by the dancers themselves, but there are supporting musicians too. The climax of
the performance often shows the principal characters dancing in a cloud of coloured
The dances are to some extent influenced by the folk dances of the neighbouring
state of Rajasthan. The womens dances are full of swirls, with one hand holding
the ghunghat (veil worn over the face) and the other poised on the waist
Other interesting dances of the tribals of Madhya Pradesh are the Phag (a sword
dance) and Lota (a dance performed by women who balance full pitchers of water on
Music of Madhya Pradesh
The Magnificent Tribal Music
Madhya Pradesh probably has the longest musical lineage among the Indian states,
both classical and folk. With songs to mark every occasion these people truly seem
to sing their way through life.
The tribals in fact can make music from anything you hand them: leaves of trees,
seeds of fruits, animal horns, sticks, pots, pans and so on. The tribals of Bastar
for instance swish around the dried pod of a tree, the rattling seeds of which produce
the most enchanting music.
Surprisingly, none of them are trained musicians. They are farmers, blacksmiths
or shepherds by day, but when the sun disappears into the horizon, they transform
into ace drummers, flautists and singers. Preserved among these ancient communities
are some of the earliest and most primitive instruments devised by man.
The flutes and trumpets used by the tribals of Madhya Pradesh are of the simplest
kind, played as part of religious ceremonies or for the sheer pleasure of it.
The singha could well be the first aerophonic instrument invented by man. It is
simply the horn of a dead animal, the tip of which has been sawn off.
The ansingha is an S-shaped trumpet of brass, copper or even silver used as an accompaniment
to music performances.
Pungi or been is synonymous all over India with the community of Jogis or snake
charmers. It has two parallel bamboo pipes fitted into a gourd, one of which gives
the drone while the other has the finger holes. Even Margot Fontaine cant beat the
grace of a cobra dancing to a Jogis pungi.
But you must be cracked silly if you think the snake is swaying to the music of
the snake charmer. Snakes are stone deaf and cant hear a thing. The dance is actually
defensive postures adopted by the snake fearing an attack from us humans.
The Marias use a richly ornamented brass trumpet called the binnoor. A horn-shaped
variation of this is played in religious processions and temple ceremonies.
Mohuri is a cylindrical bamboo flute with seven holes that produces shrill, piercing
notes. Almost all the communities in the region play it.
The modern flute is called bansuri. Usually with six finger holes, it is an integral
part of every music and dance performance.
An older cousin of the modern flute, the bansari is a cylindrical bamboo tube with
four finger holes used by the folk singers.