I have some of the fondest travel memories from the state of Rajasthan; or maybe I am just biased as that’s my hometown 😉 Over the past decade, I have pursued many of its delightful destinations and discovered some amazing sights and experiences which have stayed with me still.
One such was the cultural performance witnessed at the Bagore Ki Haveli in Udaipur. I was expecting the usual puppet show and some rendition of Padharo mhare des but I was in for a rich visual treat.
The haveli is located on the main Gangaur Ghat (ask anyone on the streets and they will direct you there) and has a ticketed event for the performance (about 100/- for Indian nationals and there is a camera fee too). This is a daily show at about 7-8 pm in the evenings and most hotels will recommend this to you. It’s an old Rajput residence which has been converted into a museum (which we gave a miss as we had just checked out the City palace museum).
The cultural show is called Darohar in which they showcase about 7 traditional dances. I have been twice for this show and both times the queues were long; so go well in advance.
The performance takes place on the first floor of the building where the arches and jharokhas are all artistically lit up with mostly floor seating on comfortable cushions and a few wooden benches too. The entire arena is open air with covered corridors running on the side from where the performers queue out. It’s aptly called the Neem chowk and yes there is a Neem tree under which you sit to take it all in.
The show curates the traditional dance forms of Rajasthan and each is performed by a set of young girls in amazingly colourful dresses. I marvelled at how gracefully they twirled while carrying off such rich attire. Not only that the bizarre implements they used to augment their performances, left everyone in awe!
The show starts with a welcome song and an address note to explain the background of the performance and what the audience can expect. Special care has been taken to preserve the authencity of the artistic expressions and the entire show is designed to raise the bar on awareness of Rajasthani art and culture. BTW the commentary by the Sutradhar is in both English and Hindi.
First up was the traditional Gavri dance which is actually performed by the Bheel tribals of Rajasthan who believe in the conquest of good over evil; this is shown in an act-dance to represent a fight between the loving Goddess Amba and the vile demon Bhiamwal. The actors/dancers perform in full ethnic regalia with swords to complete the look. Fast paced music and flashes of light accompany the performance.
Next up is the Chari dance which is played out by young women of Gujjar tribe of Rajsthan, in some of the most colourful attire I have ever seen. I didn’t think it was possible to have so many colours on one dress 😉
In this dance, the dancer balances a heavy brass pot on their head; the pot has a lit fire in it which looks quite scary. And the women are quite graceful and fast while twirling and still managing to not drop the ignited brass utensil.
Then comes the Terah taal (or 13 beats ) dance in which the dancers tie manjeeras ( brass cups which make a ringing sound when clanked together) n various parts of their body ( elbows, fingers, wrists, knees and calf of the leg) and then dance while banging them together in sync with the music in the background. This requires quite a lot of skill and an ear for the beat as one has to co-ordinate with the others in the group. This dance is favoured by the Kamada tribe of Rajasthan.
No folk performance in Rajasthan is ever complete without a puppet show and here was no exception. I was surprised to see the puppeteer stay out in the open while controlling the strings as normally they stay behind a curtain to hide their hand movements.
I loved the colourful puppets of the Queen and the king. In one act the puppeteer made the king juggle his head and even balance it up on his toes while standing upside down! That was hysterical and had the audience up in laughs.
Next up was Ghoomar dance which is performed by veiled dancers who twirl with great dexterity and balance while carrying out the hand and body movements to go with it.
The act picks up pace as they dance faster and faster to match the rising beat. Generally this dance is performed in Rajput weddings by the ladies; though never in front of the men.
Lastly comes the Bhavai dance performance which was the most stunning to say the least as it was being danced by a 70 year old lady. This dance is performed by a solo dancer and involves balancing 7 earthen pots of varying sizes on top of the dancers head – all the while she doesn’t stop dancing.
The pots are added one by one and are quite a sight to see.
Once she has 6 pots on her head, she steps onto a pile of crushed glass and dances some more – all the while the pots stay balanced on her head.
It’s quite remarkable to see this last dance as the dancer continues to dance and move around with lots of grace and confidence. This dance is said to be derived from the desert area of Rajasthan where the women have to traverse great distances to fetch water and often balance more than one pot on their heads to save time.
I would recommend not missing out on this cultural tableau while in Udaipur and do take your camera for the dances are simply superb.
I was looking forward to seeing the Kalbheliya dance but that is not included in this performance. Have you ever been to Rajasthan? What do you think of the cultural performances there?
An interior designer by profession, writing is a passion which coupled with travel love blossomed into this blog where I love to just “do my thing”! Be it recipes, food events, travel jaunts, fiction dreaming or even meditative musings; all of it’s taken up quite passionately on my blog. I am a serious wine guzzler and love to chase butterflies in my free time.
Read about the Japanese dancers in Pushkar performing the Kalbeliya dance
This post is written for the December bloghop #mymojo with Shalzmojo
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