A Report 

Colours of joy 
- Padma Jayaraj, Thrissur                       
e-mail: padmajayaraj@sancharnet.in 

January 4, 2005

The evening of December 28, 2004 twinkled in festive colours with music and dance ringing in the coming year. A team of artistes from Gujarat with students from Kerala presented nearly twelve mesmerising pieces in Thrissur, the cultural capital of Kerala. Sounds of dhol, tabla and harmonium rejuvenated the air as men and women whirled in brilliant costumes. They started with the customary Garbo with lights in their hands and pots over their heads, and some chiming cymbals in their hands to honour the Mother divine.

Hudo, which has its origins in the fairs of Tarnetar, evoked the old world charms of a bygone era. Here young men and women, who come to the fair, dance in joy, clapping hands. In the process they meet and choose their life partners. The decorated umbrellas that the men held gleamed like the promise of hopes.

Holi gave the audience a glimpse of its festivities in a state where it is unknown. After the dreary winter, human hearts long for the season of spring with all its short-lived splendours. The air gets filled with the scent of tender leaves and blossoming flowers, impatient early clouds bring whiff of cool winds. The effect mesmerises the youth. They come out in droves, sing and dance in joy, splashing colours, flowers, and water on each other welcoming spring. The tribes of Dang region have their brand of Holi – tribal version was presented. 

The Tippani of Sourashtra, in the western part of India, originally came from the mason community. In olden times, they made flooring by beating with wooden mallets. Women sang in chorus to the rhythm of beating. Even from the tedium of work sprang art. It speaks of a way of life and an attitude. Songs were either of historical events or the praise of god. Garbi too comes from Sourashtra. Its speciality is dancing with different choreographic movements.

Ghado tell of the joy of living. Fetching water was part of routine once upon a time and even now in villages. Women swayed with pots filled with water singing of their love life or of the pranks of Krishna.  

Indeed, Krishna cult is central to any art form that is Indian before the advent of modernity. And the troupe performed Raas kreeda, the most popular of folk dances in Gujarat. It depicts the glory of Krishna’s Vrindavan days. The small sticks in the hands of the dancers give rhythm while dancing.             
The scintillating dance of the snake charmers stole the show. And so did the vivacious folk forms in flashy colours from the deserts of Rajasthan that tell of the joy of living. The circular movements of the frilled skirts, in Ghumar, were beautiful to watch as swirling colours ebbed and flowed.

The programme opened a wonderful world for the dancers and showcased the diversity of our rich cultural heritage for the viewers. Here is where national integration takes place, in forums of cultural interaction, where music is love, where dance its joy.      
Rangashree School of Fine Arts, Ahmedabad, is engaged in stimulating interest in Indian dances by performing and teaching both within India and abroad. This was their second workshop that taught folk dances of Gujarat and Rajasthan in Thrissur. Such vibrant folk dances are almost absent in Kerala now. So the husband and wife-duo, Shrenik and Avani Pandit of the institute, happily taught four items - the Garbo, Raas leela, Ghumar and   Holi. “Interested students have come to learn more on their own after such introductory sessions,” claimed Avani Pandit, the teacher and choreographer of folk dance at Rangashree.
Navaneetham, a cultural trust in Thrissur, regularly conducts workshops and training programmes to expose young dancers to other performing arts of India. The Christmas vacation saw this new venture by Rangashree School of Fine Arts.

Padma Jayaraj is a regular contributor to narthaki.com