North East India comprising of the states of Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Sikkim, host some of the most popular tribal and folk dances of India. These dance forms foster a sense of unity and display the rich cultural traditions and heritage.
People from different tribes assemble in groups during festivals and perform the dances for fun and frolic. The synchronization and bonding within the performers are to be immensely appreciated and admired. In this article, you can enlighten yourself with the different tribal dance forms of northeastern India and the unique value associated with each of them.
Tribal Dances of Arunachal Pradesh
Almost all the festivals of the state of Arunachal Pradesh are accompanied by traditional and tribal dance and music. Men and women in equal numbers participate in the dances with enthusiasm.
The most spectacular dance of the state is called “Bardo Chham”. The key focus of this dance form is the masks of animals or demons worn by the performers. The masks depict twelve different animals. The objective of the dance is to ward off evil power from the world and the lives of human beings to spread peace and harmony everywhere. The dance is especially famous among the tribes of Sherdukpen. The attractive feature of the dance is brightly coloured attires, adorning the performers as they skillfully sway along in groups. The stories illustrated through the dance, essentially portray the tales of Lord Buddha.
“Wancho Dance” is another enthralling dance of the state performed by both men and women. Mainly performed by the Wancho tribe, the unique feature of the dance form is the way swords are waved by the men. Men and women take turns in singing as well as in dancing. The dancers usually put on their traditional attire while performing during the festivals or any religious occasions.
The third most important dance of the state is “Buiya Dance”. It is performed mainly by the women folk while the men folk support by playing cymbals and drums. The dance form is popular among the tribes of Digaru Mishmis and solely performed for entertainment and fun.
There are four other tribal dances in Arunachal Pradesh, namely the Aji Lamu dance performed by the Monpa tribe, Chalo dance performed by the Nocte tribe, Hiirii Khaniing dance performed by Apatani tribe and the Ponung dance performed by the Adi tribe.
Tribal Dances of Assam
In the festive occasions, the Assamese people of all genders and ages form groups in circles or in rows to sing and dance with the rhythmic beats of pipes and drums. The most ancient dance form of Assam is known as “Ojapali” where the key performer is called Oja. Usually, the dance form represents stories complemented with musical tunes and beats. The stories are mainly from Hindu mythology.
“Bagurumba” is a dance form popular among the Bodo tribal people. It is mainly performed by the women folk of Assam. Song and music accompany the dance depicting stories of plants, animals, insects and the other natural constituents like air, water, wind, rain. The dance is essentially performed during the festivals or any religious ceremonies.
The tribes who work in the different tea estates in Assam, traditionally perform a dance called “Jhumur”. The dance is mainly performed by the women folk were place their hands at each other back, while moving synchronously in a rhythmic motion. It is said to re-energize the tribal workers with renewed force and motivation.
Tribal Dances of Meghalaya
Meghalaya is a state embellished by the scintillating beauty of Mother Nature. The tribal dances of the state are mostly centered around the flora and fauna of the panoramic atmosphere.
The “Nongkram Dance” is one of the stunning and enthralling performance by the tribes of Meghalaya. The tribes mostly dwell in the famous Khasi Hills. It is performed by both the men and the women folk. The dance exhibits tremendous amount of energy and enthusiasm. The tribes dedicate their faith and respect to the deity through their dance forms. The dance is mainly performed during the autumn months when the fields flourish with the rich harvest.
The “Laho Dance” has gained prominence among the Pnar tribal people. It is also performed by both men and women. The men stand at the sides and the women in between during the performance. The dance popular among the Garo tribes of Meghalaya is known as “Wangala Dance”.
“Shad Suk Mynsiem” is the popular dance festival in Meghalaya. Men and women (especially the unmarried girls) assemble in groups to perform in the dance festival. The festival allures people from different parts of the state to witness the spectacular presentations of the dancers.
Tribal Dances of Tripura
The state of Tripura is renowned for exclusive dance forms performed by the different tribal communities. The unique among them is the “Hojagiri Dance” executed by the women and girls of the state. The dance is eminent among the Reang community. The dancers balance lighted earthen lamps on their heads while standing on a pitcher made of clay. It is astonishing to watch the stupendous balancing power of the performers. The men play different types of musical instruments to accompany the women. The synchronous movement of the dancers along with the music and the balance amazes the audience. The dance is mainly conducted during Dussehra, Durga Puja, and Laxmi Puja.
The “Bizu Dance” and the “Hai-Hak Dance” are accomplished by the Chakma and Halam community of Tripura respectively. It is delightful to observe the scintillating movement of the dancers as they sway along with the musical beats. “Basanta Raas” is also another fascinating dance performed by the Hindu Manipuris, dwelling in the state.
Tribal Dances of Manipur
Manipur offers a wide spread variety of music and dance forms for entertainment and refreshment from the daily humdrum of life. The locals enchant themselves with songs and dances. The most popular dance is the “Dhol Cholom” where the key musical instrument is the drum. It is performed by the men folk, who demonstrate gymnastic stunts as they play the drums. The dance is usually conducted during Holi.
Tribal Dances of Mizoram
In Mizoram, the dances are majorly performed during festivals or any religious ceremonies. Both men and women folk participate in the dances in groups. The dances and songs are accompanied by the beats of the traditional musical instruments like the drums and the gongs.
The state of Mizoram is distinguished for the famous “Bamboo Dance”. The dancers skillfully dance within vertical and horizontal movements of bamboo staves. The men usually move the bamboo staves while the women dance in between them, ensuring not to be clenched within the staves. It is a bewildering experience to watch the expertise of the performers and their concentration and dedication.
There are two other dance forms in Mizoram, the “Chawnglaizawn Dance” and “Zangtalam Dance” performed by the Pawi tribe and Paite tribe respectively.
Tribal Dances of Nagaland
In Nagaland, the dances demonstrate cheerfulness and amusement as the dancers move along sith liveliness and vigour through their performances. The local tribes are full of exuberance and enthusiasm. The distinct feature of the dances from Nagaland is an exclusive movement of the legs.
The prominent among the dance forms is “Chang Lo”, performed to symbolize the victory of warriors over their enemies. The attires worn by the dancers are those of warriors, portraying the different war strategies and movements through their dance moves. The dances are conducted during the Poanglem festival. The women folk also participate in the dance wearing impressive and attractive costumes.
The other dances of the state of Nagaland are the dances performed by the Lotha Naga tribe and the Khiamniungan tribe. “Jamhang Tsouthong Dance” is one of the significant tribal dances of Nagaland, presented by the Khiamniungan tribe.
Tribal Dances of Sikkim
In Sikkim, the dances and songs signify the sensational beauty of Mother Nature with its phenomenal wonders and incredible mystic charm. Many of their dances are performed to celebrate the rich harvest. The dances are usually accompanied by the beats of the traditional musical instruments.
The famous dance of the state of Sikkim is “Maruni”. Both men and women participate in this dance, performing mainly during weddings. The fun part of the dance is the presence of a clown in the dance. The clown known as Dharu Warray performs various funny and entertaining acts to amuse the audience. The dance has been initially started in Nepal and now being followed in Sikkim. The dance is accompanied by the beats of 9 different traditional musical instruments.
The tribal dances of North East India reflect the old traditions and rich culture of the tribes. It also portrays the unity and liveliness between them, embracing all through their jubilant acts.