India is a country of diversity where many different cultures, dance forms, religions and languages thrive in perfect harmony. A visit to this country can be awe-inspiring, enchanting and magical. It is amazing how oldness and modernity blend together – it is a common sight to see a huge mall with high-end retail stores accepting a gold card from their customer and besides it could be a tea stall serving steaming cups of tea and accepting just cash as payment. With its fast growing economy, people around the world are now sitting up and taking note of this mystical country, and its rich and varied culture and heritage.
While Bollywood music and dance are popular world over, there is another dance and music form that has mass following among the people of this country. This is the Bhangra, which is an energetic and lively dance and music form that originated in Punjab, a region towards the northwest of the country.
The Origin of Bhangra
It is believed that Bhangra has been around since 300 BC, but it is only in the last 4 decades that this dance and music form has risen from harvest festival celebrations to become an integral part of mainstream Indian culture.
Historians believe that the Bhangra originated during the time when Indian princely states were fighting Alexander the Great. It was during the 14th century when wheat farmers in the Punjab region used to sing and dance about their village life. This was their way of passing their time while working in the fields. With time, this dance and song became a part of the harvest festival celebrations, with farmers getting happy and joyous to see bountiful crops. From the farms of Punjab, Bhangra made its way to different societal classes and then became an important part of Punjabi weddings and other celebrations. Today, Bhangra is no longer just folk dance and music. Instead, it plays an important role in many North Indian weddings and New Year celebrations, where it is sung and danced with a lot of gusto.
Bhangra has many sub-classes of music and dances. In fact, the Bhangra that people know today is a blend of different music and dance forms from different regions of Punjab. It is an all encompassing term that includes other dance forms, such as Jhumar, Julli, Kikli, Luddi, Giddha and Gatka.
When people sing and dance Bhangra, the Punjabi high bass drum, known as dhol, is a must. However, many other string and percussion instruments are also played. The songs are always in Punjabi, and praise the history and heroes of Punjab or talk about relationships, marriage, love and alcohol. The songs are sung with a lot of pride and ferocity, and it is common to make random sounds and noises or yell certain Punjabi phrases while doing the Bhangra.
Photo by pvssuresh on Flickr.