Dancing is one of the most prominent aspects of Baisakhi celebrations in Punjab. Most popular form of dance for the occasion is Bhangra and Gidda, the folk dance for men and women respectively. To celebrate the harvest festival of Baisakhi men and women dress themselves in traditional attire and get together in open fields and dance to the fast paced beat of the dhol.
The scene of Baisakhi celebrations looks quite colorful. A drummer carries the dhol with the help of a strap around his neck and beats the two heads of the drum using sticks. Leader of the dance group stand by the drummer while other dancers move in a circle. Other people from the village keep joining the circle. Dancers take turns to recite a boli (verse) of the song by coming into the centre of the circle. Most often dancers depict the scenes of sowing, harvesting, winnowing and gathering of crops through zestful movements of the body to the accompaniment of ballads. More excitement is added to dance performances when dancers and drummer challenge each other to continue the dance.
Given here is a short description of popular Bhangra and Giddha, the popular folk dance of Punjab:
Bhangra is the most popular folk dance of Punjab and in recent times it has gained tremendous popularity not just in India but countries around the world. What make bhangra so popular amongst youth today are its fast and energetic pace and relatively simple dance movements. The dance is considered to be extremely vibrant and exudes life, renewal and hope for the future.
By origin, Bhangra is associated with fertility rites and was commonly performed at the time of the ripening of the harvest. Today, bhangra is so popular that it is performed on every social or cultural function in Punjab.
Bhangra dance is performed in several popular styles including Sialkoti, Sheikhupuri, Tribal, Malwa, Majha and Jhummer. Bhangra is danced to the accompaniment of dhol and rhythmic clapping. The flow of the rhythm is interspersed with chants of “Hoy, Hoy”, “Balle, Balle” or “Shawa – Shawa” by the dancers. Use of props like sticks, chimtas and acrobatics add thrill to bhangra performances. Quite often dancers divide themselves competitively into pairs. Each pair performs in its turn while the rest remain in a circle. When a pair exhausts itself it goes back to the ring and another pair comes forward to take its places. This way Bhangra goes on for hours on a Baisakhi day.
Giddha is a popular folk dance of women in Punjab and exhibits teasing, fun and exuberance of Punjabi life. Gidda dance is just as energetic as bhangra and at the same time it manages to creatively display feminine grace and elasticity. Giddha is essentially danced in circles. Girls form rings and one of the dancers sit in the centre of this ring with a dholki (drum). Just as in bhangra, one girl comes forward and sings a boli (verse). As she comes to the end of it, the others pick up the refrain and join. Most commonly girls dance in twos.
Gidda dance is stylistically simple. Jingle of the bells, thumping of the feet, beat of the drum and the resplendence of Punjabi women in salwar kameej creates an enchanting atmosphere for it. What makes Giddha so popular is that it is not performed according to any cut-and-dried rule. Harmony is the essence in gidda movements that are inclusive of swinging and twisting the body, shaking of the shoulders, bending to a double and clapping. Giddha dance incorporate village life scenes of woman spinning, fetching water from the well and grinding. This is accompanied with appropriate boli and songs.