The name of Rajasthan brings to the mind swirling and whirling images of dancers with distinctive dance forms coming from the diverse regions and groups of Rajasthan.
Ghoomar is a community dance of women performed on auspicious days. It is associated with the Bhil tribe as well as the royal ladies of the courts. The two seems contradictory as the latter belong to the high caste. History says that the Kachhwa Rajput kings could not subdue the Bhils and had to come to an understanding which brought them close to each other.
No auspicious occasion is complete without a vermillion mark being put on the forehead by a Bhil chieftain. Ghoomar comes from the word ghoomna or pirouette.
Ladies in splendid billowing ghagras or skirts go round in clockwise and anti-clockwise directions accompanied by songs sung by both men and women. The Ghair dance is performed only by men but during the festival of Holi in a rare instance both the sexes join in with women comprising of the inner circle.
In the Chari dance the dancers step in tune balancing pots on their heads decorated with lighted lamps. It generally marks a wedding or the birth of a male child.
The snake charmers have a dance of their own known as Kalbelia. The tribes dancing are also known by that name.
The traditional Terha dance is performed with thirteen manjiras in honour of a saint – Baba Ramdev. The terhatali dance is performed by women while sitting. They have majeeras or small brass discs tied to their wrists, arms, elbows, waists and hands. Some hold swords between their teeth while balancing a lighted pot on their heads.
Rajathan is famous for its kathputli dance or dance of wooden puppets. In this traveling form of entertainment the family of the entertainer participates on a mobile makeshift stage.
Other folk dances are Raila, Jhoria, Kachhi Ghodi as well as fire dance and dance of the drums. Drum dance is performed by men with naked swords in their mouth while juggling with three swords with their hands.
The musicians hold aloft drums slung round their necks with clashing cymbals in their hands. In the Fire dance the performers dance on a bed of burning coals praying to the god of fire. Strangely they come away without any blisters. The charkala dance of the Meenas depicts the eternal story of Lord Krishna. The dancers carry elaborate lampsteads.
In Bhavai dance veiled women sway while balancing seven or nine pitchers balancing on a plate or the edge of a sword.
In the dance of Kachhi Ghodi the dancers entertain the bridegroom’s party wearing elaborate costumes that make them look like horses on the gallop.
There are mock fights with swords and nimble side stepping. Ballad singers complete the picture with ancient tales of bravery and chivalry.
Amongst classical dances the Kathak of Jaipur developed into a distinct style from that of Lucknow.