Last week we took a quick trip to Rajasthan, India.  Now it’s time to get to the heart of what matters most to us tribalistas – music, dance, and fashion.   So now that you’ve gotten a glimpse of the colorful cities of Jaipur, Udaipur and Jodhipur with their incredible history of textile design, jewelry-making, woodcarving, miniature painting, and attention to geometric details, we’ve set the tone for understanding how the music, dance and costumes of this region have become so impressively divine.

It seems to me that folk dances around the world can be grouped into themes: coming-of-age rituals, wedding celebrations, and pure entertainment.  Let’s take a look at 4 of the dances that fit those themes in Rajasthani culture, and you’ll get a taste of the music and costuming styles for each as we explore.

Ghoomar: Coming of Age in a Colorful Way

The Ghoomar dance is a coming-of-age folk dance amongst young girls of India.  The “ghoomna” is the twirling step which allows the girls to swirl the beautiful colors of their chaniya (skirts):

A colorful chaniya outfit (Photo from Aishwarya Designs)

It’s common for the dancers to wear translucent veils partially or completely covering their faces.  Though the specific styles of fabrics in the dancer attire may vary from region to region or personal taste, bright colors are a must for this type of dance!


The Chakri Celebratory Circle Dance

The Chakri dance revolves around a circle. Literally.  In fact,  the word chakri translates to circle, and the dancers spin vigorously to the beats of a dholak drum and traditional songs. I love how sassy these ladies are, especially when the drummer decides to flirt with them:

The Snake-handling Showboaters of the Kalbeliya Tribe

The Kalbeliya dance of Jaisalmer  is referred to as the ‘snake charmer dance’ for two reasons.  Members of the Kalbeliya tribe were historically nomads who made a living by working with snakes. Indian nomadic herpetologists, if you will.  (My kind of people!)  If a cobra was found in someone’s home, a member of the tribe could carefully remove the snake and release it back into the wild. They would also milk the snakes for venom to trade and sell.  So the dance that is named for the tribe reflects sinewy, serpentine movements of their “mascot.”


But if, like me, you’re imagining a Rachel Brice-esque slinky slow dance piece with a snake as a partner, you’re way off.

The pieces are upbeat and playful.  In fact, I’m going to venture to say that these ladies are the showboats of Rajasthan.  They historically made their living entertaining the cityfolk from town to town, so you’d better believe they know how to put on a good show.  “Watch me balance 7 pots on my head.”  “Check out this backbend – now watch me pick up a dollar bill in my teeth from a backbend.”  If that’s not enough to earn a dollar from passers-by, then how about standing on balanced tin cans, shimmying my shimmery costume, waving my elbow tassels, and keeping rhythm with my ankle bells.  Like I said, my kind of people.


The Playful Puppetry of Kathputli

And I would fail miserably if I didn’t mention the Kathputli puppet dances.  These are literally puppet shows using marionettes that dance, and they’re typically comical in nature.  This one in particular is impressive and hilarious:


Alright, that’s all for today, kids!   OH, wait, here are a few more costume variations for these dances to pore over – and check out for more!


Want more about Indian folk dances, cultures, and fun? Stay tuned for a 3-minute Ethnography about Banjara!  Got a suggestion for me to research? A costume style that intrigued you?  Email or leave your comments here!