Rare treat to the senses

folk dance

Rare treat to the senses

That the state of Jammu and Kashmir is well known for its picturesque locales is acknowledged by one and all. But, not many of us know that the state is as popular for its dance and music. Yes, dance and music are an intrinsic part of Kashmiri culture, and a sampling of the same can leave one asking for more. I experienced this on my recent trip to the exotic state, and wondered why they have not been publicised much. There lies the charm, I guess.

During my 10-day-long visit to the state, my gracious host ensured that I got introduced to the various dance forms of Jammu and Kashmir, and the music that goes with them. I also had the rare opportunity of witnessing a night-long festivity, celebrated in honour of the local deities, in the hilly region of Jammu. The dance form of Kud, performed during this celebration, left me spellbound. A community dance, Kud is performed by the people of both the sexes, across all ages. According to my host Sameena Arif, Kud is performed in the rainy season, and it is the farming community’s way of thanking the Almighty for the good harvest they have reaped.
At sundown, it was a pleasurable exercise to see men, women and children, attired in their best, arrive at the temple of the local deity, where a bonfire was lit. Once darkness descended, the excited chatter they were engaged in made way for singing, with some of them playing musical instruments that included the flute and drums, even as most of them started swaying joyously, to the slow rhythm of music. Very soon, there were about 30 people around the bonfire, lost in their singing and dancing. Being spontaneous, this dance form has no set rules and steps, I gathered. As a dancer got tired, he would retire, and another one from the group would take his place. In this fashion, the dance continued throughout the night. Soaked in the excitement surrounding the place, nobody seemed to remember that it was well past their bedtime. It was almost 5.30 am when the group unwound, tracing their reluctant steps back to their homes.

My Kud experience enthused me to learn more about the folk dance forms of Kashmir. I even had the good fortune of witnessing two other forms — Hafiza and Bhand Pather. While Hafiza was a dance performed during wedding ceremonies, Bhand Pather is a form of folk theatre, a fine blend of theatre and dance, performed at all social and cultural gatherings.

According to Sameena Arif, the most popular traditional dance of the region is Rouf, which is an integral part of all festive occasions, including Id. In this form of dance, performed only by women, dancers stand facing each other, holding their dancing partner’s hand and sway to the accompanying music. “The songs of Rouf dance are in the form of question and answer, where one set of dancers questions, while the other answers,” she says.

  The other popular Kashmiri dances include Bhand Jashan, performed by a group of about 15 artistes, Bacha Nagma, a harvest dance performed only by boys, Dhumhal, performed only by the men of the Wattal tribe, and Wuegi-Nachun, performed by Kashmiri pundit women after the bride has left for her husband’s home.

Learning about these various dance forms of Kashmir has triggered my interest in witnessing each one of them. Believe me, they are as enchanting as the beauty of the place.

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