Assam is one among the seven sisters of the north-eastern states and is known for its picturesque scenic beauty, wildlife, silk, and handicraft and the way could anyone forget about the tea so delicious; it’d leave you delirious. Assam also possesses an exotic culture filled with life and the folk dances of the state are no exception. Grab a cup of some lovely Assamese tea and obtain ready to enchant by the magnificence of some of the most popular folk dances of Assam!
Traditional Folk Dances of Assam
Watching most beautiful folk-dance sort of Northeast “Bihu” performed, one cannot help but start smiling as they watch the people of Assam dancing and enthusiastically celebrating their regional New Year on Ranguli Bihu which is from where the dance derives its name. What makes this dance special is firstly its invigorating movements and formations which involve energized hand movements and steps.
Its colorful and bright costumes make the dance even more extraordinary. The women look truly beautiful wearing a costume called ‘chador mekhela’ which mainly made from silk, which is additionally something Assam is renowned for. They dance to the tunes of varied instruments, mainly the ‘Dhol’ and ‘Pepa’, which may be a hornpipe. Its origins often traced to the districts of Tezpur and Darang as early as the 9th century.
A little-known fact about Bihu is that it had been originally a courtship dance and therefore also considered as a symbol of merriment and seduction. Bihu has managed to make an impact at a global level which is something that we can all be proud of.
1. Jhumar Dance – Dance of Assam
Another eminent dance sort of Assam is Jumar who is popular with the tea community who after a day of hard work commemorate the occasion of their apparent freedom from work by dancing. It helps them to urge away from the tedious nature of their work. That’s why this dance form is also known as Chah Baganar Jumar Nach.
It’s specially performed during harvest festivals as well as other joyous festivities. The rationale this dance referred to as Jumar is because of the bells worn by the dancers around their ankles which make the ‘jumar’ sound.
The Jumar dance has various variations depending upon the occasion. It’s going to portrayed as a ritual of devotion, as a courtship dance, or as an invitation to the gods to serve the people with rain and to later thank them for the same.
It often typically witnessed in an open area, with the male wearing long traditional apparel playing the Mandar, which is a type of drum, while the ladies gracefully execute various movements in sync with hands on each other’s waists. It’s truly a refreshing symbolization of the epic highs and lows of just everyday life which is something rarely seen.
2. Bagurumba Dance – Dance of Assam
Bagurumba dance may be a piece that mostly performed by the Bodo tribe of Assam. Once you witness the dance and notice the formations executed by the dancers, they remind you of nature and wildlife with a number of them depicting birds, animals, a flowing river, and so on, and therefore the creative usage of the cloth around their neck (which is special to the Bodo community) during the dance immediately causes your mind to resonate it with the image of a butterfly flapping its wings which is why it is also called the ‘butterfly’ dance.
It’s mainly performed by women at the Bwishagu Festival who dance to the tunes of various instruments such as the Serja, Jota, Gongwa, etc. The ladies dressed in their traditional vibrant clothing which poetically represents nature.
3. Sattriya Dance – Dance of Assam
When describing this dance form, the primary two words that come to mind are elegant and graceful. Sattriya is one among the eight principle Indian Classical Dances (it received said status in the year 2000 by the Sangeet Natak Academy) and its origins traced back to the monasteries called ‘Sattras’ that were set up Mahapurush Sri manta Sankardev for the spread of Vaishnavism during the 15th and 16th century in Assam.
The dancers perform to the tunes of Assamese music called Borgeet. Sattriya depicts the stories of mythologies and therefore the lessons learned from them in mainly three themes: Ramdani, Guru Vandana, and Geet Abhinaya. This dance form also stands out particularly due to the costume’s alluring blend of colors which is a perfect representation of the Assamese culture.
4. Deodhani – Dance of Assam
Deodhani is another dance form popular in Assam. It’s typically performed by one person or a group of three to four women to honor Manasa, the snake goddess. It’s a Shaman folk dance. The word ‘Deo’ means God and therefore the word ‘Dhani’ refers to a woman possessed by a shaman.
The dancers take swords in their hands as props and that they present a war dance with their hair kept open. The dancer depicts a robust woman, a warrior who is unmarried and a believer of Goddess Padma and takes charge of her fate following the legend of Behula who had to bop to protect her husband’s life in front of Manasa.
5. Ali-Ai-Ligang – Dance of Assam
Ali-Ali Ligang makes the list of 1 of the most infamous dances in Assam, particularly famous with the people of the Mishing tribe. It’s usually associated with agriculture because of the reflection of its meaning. The word ‘Ali’ means roots and seeds, the word ‘Ai’ means fruit and lastly, the word ‘Ligang’ means sowing.
The dance’s said reference to agriculture is the reason it enthusiastically celebrated by both boys and girls, wearing traditional clothing with brisk movements, during the Ahu Paddy Cultivation to understand our Mother Earth. Aside from the tea and silk, Assam has such a lot more to offer and its folk dances are one of them.
They’re a truly immersive experience that I, personally, would recommend you witness. However, the little or no knowledge about them is what disappoints me for they are a gem left undiscovered. Let’s leave no stone unturned. Let’s enjoy the sweetness of our rich culture and heritage.
Folk Musical Instruments of Assam:
Considered to be the foremost important Musical instrument of Assamese Folk culture, Dhol may be a very crucial part of any festival of almost all tribes of Assam. Assamese Bihu and Husari are incomplete without Dhol. The Dhol playing always takes the lead in Bihu and Husari.
Gogona is an instrument which held within the mouth to play. It’s a contribution of the Mongolian culture. It’s made from Bamboo and requires high level of workmanship. Gogona understood by different names. According to the dimensions, Gogonas named differently, like Lihiri Gogona, Rmdhon Gogona, xaliki Gogona, etc. aside from extensively used in Bihu of Assam, most Mogoloid and Kirat tribes of Assam use Gogona in the folk music. Now a days it’s compulsory for a Bihuwati, (A female Bihu performer) to play Gogona in stage competitions.
Xutuli is that the instrument which looks like the half moon. Xutuli believed to be existing since the time beyond history. These sorts of instruments try to imitate the sound of animals and birds and produce the sound of a flute. Within the Assamese folk culture, people believe that the sound of Xutuli invites rain.
In Bohag Bihu, Xutuli has importance of its own. Initially, the Ggorokhiya lora (cowboy’s) used Xutuli as a toy, due to ease of construction. Xutuli played by both boy and girls in Bihu, but most significantly Xutuli is an indispensable part of Jeng Bihu and Bihuwati dances, and predominantly played by girls. Now a days every Bihuwati is desired be an accomplished Xutuli player.
The first beat of Bihu music kept by clapping hands, which finally led to development of instruments like toka. Toka is extremely popular and easily available musical instrument used in Assamese folk Music. The Bodo tribe of Assam called this ‘Thorka’.
Khol is additionally a percussion instrument and looks very similar to dhol. The instrument formed from clay, with one end having a little head, while the opposite one having a larger head. It’s usually played with both the hands and strung from the neck using a band.
The opposite name of a Nagada is kettle drums that played with sticks and usually accompanies the Shehnai.