Nepali Dances of the Hills

Nepal as a whole has more than 100 different ethnic groups and, expectedly, what you get is a multitude of languages and culture including of course, a fascinating variety of dances. Here are the more popular Nepali dances of the hills.

Maruni Dance: A popular dance of the eastern hills, it was originally performed only during the Tihar festival when the dancers go from house to house. It is now performed during other festivals too. Previously, males dressed as females used to be the dancers, but nowadays young girls perform the dance which also includes a joker like figure (dhatu waray, meaning liar) who injects humour into the routine. Based on the shingar ras (‘beautiful expression’), nine instruments (naumati baja) provide the music in which the beats of the madal (a two headed drum) and the tune of the bansuri (flute) predominate. In the western hills, the Maruni dance is performed in July-August and ends in December-January.

Sorathi Dance: A group dance of the western Nepal’s Gurungs, it is performed over 16 days between the Dashain and Tihar festivals. It re-enacts the legend of a king had seven wives but was childless nonetheless. The youngest queen at last bears a daughter whom the other queens throw into a river out of jealousy. The child is saved by a fisherman who raises her as his own. The dance enacts all this and at the end, the plot is revealed, with the mother and daughter reunited and the guilty ones punished.

Ghanto Dance: Another Gurung dance, it is performed by pre-pubertal girls (called ghansaris or ghatonis). Beginning during Magh Panchami (near January-end) the dance ends on Baisakh Purnima (around April-end or beginning of May) with the final episode performed over three days. The dancers dance trance-like with closed eyes clad in a ghanto dress that includes traditional jewellery and special headgear. The movements involve twisting, rising, sinking and then turning in squatting positions with hands barely touching the ground; all this to the hypnotic chant of a ballad accompanied by the beat of madals. The life story of King Parsuram and his queen including his death and her immolation (sati) and subsequent reincarnation are all re-enacted in this leisurely dance form. Ghanto dances are of three types: Sati, Baramasye and Kusunda ghanto with the first being of a rigid nature while the other two are of more flexible nature.

Tamang Selo Dance: A vigorous dance of the inhabitants of the country’s middle hills, the Tamangs, it is a group dance performed during rituals and communal ceremonies. The rhythmic beat of the damphu (a hand held drum) accompanies the dance; it is also known as damphu dance.

Shebru Dance: This dance is performed by Sherpa communities living in the Himalayan regions. Shebru means feet (shybru) and rhythm (ru),

The Magars and Gurungs have a dance called Khyali dance during which young men compete in displaying their talents so as to win a wife for themselves.  Some other dances of the hills are the Dhan and Chyabrung dances of the Limbus,; the Jhayure dance, also of the Limbus, Magars and Gurungs; and the Magars’ Kauda dance that is based on the theme of love. The Rodhi dance is a Gurung dance performed in the rodhi ghar (a communal home to facilitate interaction between young folks) which was once hugely popular. The Tappa dance is a dance of Dang district of far western Nepal which begins slowly and picks up tempo towards the end. The Chudka dance is another group dance of the eastern and western hills performed during Phagu Purnima in March.Fasting women in red saris and heavily laden jewellery dance the Sangini dance during the three day long festival of Teej (in August).

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