Music and Dances of Bihar

Music and Dances of Bihar: When we think of culture, music, art and religion, we at once form an image in our minds, an image of the holy land of Bihar. The history of Bihar can be traced back to as far as the history of civilization itself. Lord Rama’s wife, Sita is known to have been born in Bihar. The city of Pataliputra or Patna was founded by the great Mauryan emperor, Ashoka in 270 B.C. The religions of Buddhism and Jainism were founded in Bihar. Vardhamana Mahavira attained nirvana in this land and founded the new religion of Jainism.

Another prince sacrificed all his worldly treasures and meditated under the Bodhi tree in Bodhgaya. He too attained salvation from the continuous cycle of birth and rebirth and founded Buddhism. Today he is known as the Buddha. Chanakya, also known as Kautiliya, wrote the first treatise on modern science of economics, called the Arthashastra and he too hailed from this land.

This land also witnessed the birth of the tenth and last Sikh guru, Guru Gobind Singh, who attained sainthood in Bihar. The tribal and folk songs, as well as the varied dance forms of Bihar are a representation of the emotional upheavals experienced by the people, as well as their values, hopes, beliefs and traditions. The music and dance forms in Bihar are as many as the numerous tribal groups, filling the state with love, music, art and diversity.

Bihar has produced musicians like Bharat Ratna Ustad Bismillah Khan and dhrupad singers like the Malliks (Darbhanga Gharana) and the Mishras (Bettiah Gharana) along with poets like Vidyapati Thakur who contributed to Maithili Music. The classical music in Bihar is a form of the Hindustani classical music.

Folk Culture of Bihar

The region’s folk songs are associated with the various events in the life of an ordinary person. The historical ballads dealing with the heroic deeds of the freedom fighter Kunwar Singh have also been immortalized through folk songs in the plain tracts of Bihar. Religiosity is the pivot around which the music and amusements of the village folk of Bihar revolve. There are songs like sohar – performed during childbirth, sumangali – associated with wedding, ropnigeet – performed during the season of sowing paddy, katnigeet – performed during the paddy harvesting season.

There is a great tradition of folk songs started by Bhikhari Thakur, an artist from the Bhojpur region. In the field Bhojpuri Music and Songs, there are notable works done by Mahendar Misir, Radhamohan Chaubey ‘Anjan’, Laxman Pathak Pradeep, and Sharda Sinha. Other wandering folk singers include the Kathaks, who travelled in groups and performed accompanied by dholak, sarangi, tamburu and majira. Other musician classes included Roshan Chouki, Bhajaniya, Kirtaniya, Pamaria and Bhakliya.

Bihar, in the ancient times has been an important place for dance and music. In places like Vaishali and Rajgir, in ancient Bihar, beautiful girls acted as Nagar Shobhinis or town ornaments (courtesans). Lord Buddha himself accepted this fact and he himself received an invitation from Amrapalli, the chief courtesan of Vaishali. Theses girls were proficient in music and dancing and were part of processions of religious and social nature. It appears that singing and dancing were the chief amusements of that age.

The regular history of Mithila music dates back from Nanyadeva (1097-1133), a great patron of music and author of a treatise on this art. He developed the popular ragas on systematic lines. This Mithila music was carried to Nepal, Uttar Pradesh, Bengal, etc. 

Folk Songs

Folk-song (lok geet) is a very important form of folk literature. One of the categories of folk-songs is the ceremonial or sanskar songs. These songs form an essential part of rituals of various ceremonies relating to child- birth, initiation (yagyopavita or janeu) ,marriage and in some areas with rituals of death as well. Child-birth, initiation and marriage and other ceremonies are accessions of great happiness and joy. But on such occasions great care is taken to avoid any misfortune; hence the ceremonial songs and rituals are believed to have a magical potency.

There are some folk-tales and folk-songs where the impact of Hindu mythology is clearly seen. There are stories of Rama and Sita from the Ramayana.Fairs, festival and melas have also contributed a lot in preserving the folklore. Being great hubs of social life, these melas have kept up the traditions, stories, ballads and songs. When people attend the Ramnavami or the Janakpur Mela, they are all imbued with the immortal saga of Rama and Sita. Pastoral songs form another important element in Bihar’s folklore.

Folk Instruments

Songs, dances and dramas are accompanied by various musical instruments. Musical instruments of various kinds are common among various tribes and communities in this region. They comprise of the Dhol, Dhak, Dhanaka, Madal, Mandar or Madol, Nagara, flute, Pipahi (Shhehnai like), Jhanjh, clappers etc. Sometimes a C- shaped hom, Narsingha also called the Sakoa is used.Tumdak and Tamak are two percussion instruments played together.

The Tribal Folk Song of Bihar

The folk songs of the tribals have a strong ethical background. Just as in their dance there is no semblance of base. In spite of the absence of a script, many of the songs have been preserved. They have been handed down from generation to generation by the old men and women singing the songs to the younger generation and making them sing. The younger ones have the dancing floor to themselves.

But the older generation, men and women, sit, watch and correct mistakes and provide guidance in music or rhythm. Purity and the primeval form in tribal poetry, songs or dance has been preserved wonderfully, although without any written literature.

In their social life there is no place for the individual and it is the community for which the individuals exits. So the tribal songs have a moral and cultural bearing which makes them the common property of the entire community and the world at large. The universal appeal is a remarkable feature of the tribal songs and music.

Karma Dance

The traditional Karma Dance gets its name from the Karma tree which stands for fortune and good luck. The dance begins with the planting of the tree, followed by circular formations around it. In this group dance, there are usually as many men as women dancers. The dancers form a two-tiered formation and the movements are usually backward and forward, towards and away from each other. The dancers swing to the rhythm of the drum and the clapping of the women folk. Later, breaking the formation, the dancers thread in and out and the body movements involve bending of the torso and the knees.

The dancers put their arms around the waists of their neighbours and form semicircular rows. Each row of dancers sings and dances alternately to the accompaniment of the Mandur and Timki. Drums beat fast and loud and the dance ends on a happy note. The choreography is imaginative and the themes of the songs are contemporary and relevant.

Jhijhia Dance

Jhijhia is a prayer dance that originated in the Koshi region of Bihar and is performed during droughts, when the land is dry and parched and there are no signs of clouds in the lifeless sky. Through the Jhijhia dance, the young girls offer their prayers to the King of Gods, Lord Indra. The dancers pray to the Lord of Rains for life-giving rain and a good crop. The words of the song Haali Huli Barsaaun Inder Devta depict the conviction and deep devotion of the dancers as they pray to their Lord.

Kajari Song

Kajari is a song of rainy season. The popular melodious tune of Kajari songs produce a sweet sensation in body and it is heard from the very beginning of the Shravan month with the rhythmatic note of rain. The eves of village begin dancing like peacock with the song of “Bhijat awe Dhaniya Ho Rama …”.

Jhumar Dance

Jhumar is a traditional folk dance of Bihar, which is performed by the rural women. There is no fixed season for this beautiful dance form, it is a dance, which is performed at all times. Spring descends on earth with its beauty and spreads joy and happiness all around. The women dance with gay abandon. The men folk are invited to join in and they usually provide the musical accompaniment.

Magahi Jhumar Dance

The Magahi Jhumar dance is usually presented in the form of a duet, where male and female dancers play the role of husband and wife. They dance in unison, expressing their desires and aspirations. The wife asks her husband for good clothes and beautiful ornaments. The husband promises to give her everything she desires. This vibrant folk dance in performed to the accompaniment of melodious music.

Jharni Dance

The Jharni Dance is a ritualistic dance performed by the Julaha community during Muharram. The dancers use bamboo sticks split at one end. They stand in a circular formation, and move around, each dancer striking the stick of his partner. The sound produced provides the beat for the dance.

Jat Jatin

Jat-Jatin is the most popular folk dance of North Bihar, especially in Mithila and Koshi region. It is performed by a pair of man and woman. Man goes to far-off place to earn livelihood. Jat-Jatin is a folk dance of the same emigrant husband accompanied by his spouse. Apart from poverty and sorrow, this dance reflects a rainbow of the sweet and tender quarrel as well as some complaints between husband and wife. The folk mocks to comfort the hurdles of life with a smile. The headlines of the lyrics is “ Tikwa-jab-jab Maugailion re jatwa – Tikwa kahe na lawle re … ”

Jhumeri

Jhumeri is a folk dance from Mithilanchal. After the month of Ashwin comes Kartik with its clear skies. On the full moon night of Kartik the young maidens of the village sing and dance to celebrate the turn of the season. The words of the Jhumeri song Kartik maas na akashey badari and the graceful movements of the dance cast a spell on the audience.

Sohar Khelwana

Sohar Khelwana is a dance performed by women to celebrate the birth of a child. In India, the arrival of a newborn is celebrated with traditional rituals. The child receives blessings from family members, neighbours and well-wishers. Through the Sohar songs, the women compare the new born to Lord Rama and Lord Krishna, popular Hindu Gods who are the embodiments of virtue. The eunuchs are an integral part of the celebration of childbirth and take part in this dance.

Holi Dance (Dhamar Jogira)

Spring arrives, resplendent in the colours of ‘abir’ as the magic of Holi sweeps across the land. Commemorative of the victory of good over evil, the Festival of Colours is celebrated with unabated enthusiasm by the young and old alike. Come Holi and the hues of the rainbow deck the air in fine mists, the streets in telltale smears and our hearts with the joyful hope that peace and happiness shall reign.

The Holi dance is a vibrant dance form of Bihar. The accompanying songs are sung in the Dhamar style.

Krishi Nritya

The rains have quenched the earth’s thirst. The sight of their fields rich with the golden crop fills the farmers’ hearts with joy. They express their happiness through dances, which are rhythmic and enjoyable.

Chaita

Chaita songs, as the name suggests, are sung in the month of Chaitra, when flowers appear in the mustard plants. Men sing these romantic songs.

Nachni

The Nachni dances with her Rashik or male partner, to the singing and clapping of male accompanists. Nachni dances are presented at various festivals and special occasions. The Nachni is not only the dancer, but also the singer. The accompanying musical instruments include the Nagara, Shenai and Harmonium.

Natua

The Natua dance begins with an item called the Natua Kachal. In this duet performance, the accompanying musical instruments include the Nagara, Dhol and Shenai. The costumes worn by the dancers are indigenous and attractive.

Source: Bihar Gatha & Eastern Zonal Culture Center Ministry of Culture, GoI

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