Dance Forms of the Bhuiyas

    An important aspect of tribal culture in colonial and post-colonial Orissa is the art  of dancing and singing. Most of the dancing items of the tribals of the colonial phase are missing in the present time. For example, Dali Dance was very popular among the Sabaras of Dhenkanal in the colonial era. It was popular in the areas along the river Lingara (a branch of Brahmani). The dance involves three persons. One person play Jhumuka badya (a musical instrument) and another two carry on the head a burning pot like object (Agni khapara). (Sambalpur Hiteisini, 13th September 1899) Similar dance practices of the Bhuiyas and the Mundas are not visible at present day society. Some dance forms of the Bhuiyas of the colonial phase are still in existence and they constitute a significant part of the cultural life of the Bhuiyas of Keonjhar, Sundargarh and Singhbhum zone. Many writers have highlighted the cultural activities of the Bhuiyas of these areas. Keshab Chandra Mishra in his series of articles on the history of the Bhuiyas in Oriya published in Utkala Sahitya had given emphasis on their dance practices. (Mishra, Utkala Sahitya, Vol. XIII, Sala-1316) He had emphasized the dance practices of dhangada and dhangadi on festive occasions and he had not appreciated their dance poses and forms in his article. Naba Kishore Das, a noted Oriya essayist, in an interesting poem had referred to the dance practice of the Bhuiya Youth. The poetry narrated how the unmarried girls (dhangadis) from distant villages would come to Bhuiya Pidha (centre of the Hill Bhuiyas of Keonjhar) and had gathered at Manda ghara (Common House) for dancing with the dhangadas (unmarried young men of Bhuiya tribe). The poem runs like this –

(Das Naba Kumar, "Promise of Bhuiya Girl" in Oriya, Janmabhumi, Cuttack, 01-05-1941,1st Year, Second Issue).

    Rabindranath Mishra in another Oriya article on the Pauri Bhuiyas of Bonai in Janmabhumi has also stated about the Changu pita Nrutya (Changu Dance) of the Bhuiyas and Uchka Nata in Bonaigarh in the colonial phase. (Janmabhumi, Oriya periodical, Cuttack, 1-7-1941, First Year, Sixth Number) Prananath Pattnaik, famous Communist leader- and left writer in an elaborate focus on the: neglected life of the Bhuiyas in Nabajiban in 1961 had well appreciated the pattern of dancing of the Bhuiyas of the past and the present. (Pattnaik, "Abahelita Bhuiya Adibasi", Nabajibana, March-April, 1961, P. 804 - 815) Famous Anthropologist Sarat Chandra Roy had also given an account of the dance practices of the Bhuiyas in the colonial phase in 1935. On the basis of these documentary sources a humble attempt has been made here in tills article' to present the dance practices of the Bhuiyas of Orissa for a comprehensive cultural history of the tribals of Orissa.

    Like many primitive tribes the Bhuiyas are fond of dancing and singing. Dance and songs bring great enthusiasm for the Bhuiyas' dull and cheerless life. It was the chief source of enjoyment in their hard and dreary existence. Dances are not only the means of intense emotional satisfaction and crude artistic expression; they also serve as an expression of social solidarity and rejoicing. (Roy, P. 286; Pattnaik, P. 810-812) They also promote courtship and marriage. Occasionally they also serve as a means of inducing in individuals of a psychic temperament a kind of auto-hypnotism. Besides its social and religious significance the dances appear to have a magical import and some economic value.

    The dance is associated with and reflects almost the whole of the Pauri Bhuiyas' life. In the open space in front of the mandaghar of the village may be seen, night after night, particularly in moon light nights, young men and women untiringly engaged in dancing till a late hour and sometimes till the small hours of the morning. On occasions of periodical religious festivals and social meetings particularly weddings, dances and songs continue for days without break.

    The Bhuiya young men sing songs and play upon their changu drums. The Bhuiya women are the chief dancers who take up the songs started by the men and dance to their tune. The Bhuiyas have various kinds of dances in most of which the dancers adopt a stooping posture, in some of which they dance in an erect posture. In some cases the girls and women veil their faces and in others they dance with their faces unveiled. In some occasions the dancers are arranged in one or more rows. In some other forms of dances they move in a circle. Though the Bhuiyas have no idea about the original aims of the dances, some of these dances may be presumed to have some magical object similar to those of the corresponding dances among their neighbors. The greatest and the most exciting occasions for Bhuiya dances are the dancing meetings of the bachelors of one village and the maidens of another. Many of their civics would appear to be suggestive of courtship and wooing. The partial and complete veiling of the faces of the girls and the young men gallantly advancing with brisk but measured steps towards the girls and the girls in their turn, coquettishly flirting backwards and again advancing a little forward may probably symbolize this.

    The Bhuiyas have a plurality of dance forms and practices. The most important Bhuiya dance form is Sangi Nat. It is prevalent among the Hill Bhuiyas living in the wild highlands of the inaccessible hill ranges of Bonai. The instrument used in this dance is Changu, which is a crude kind of tambourine nearly two feet in diameter. Large number of men and women young as well as adult take part. The women veil their faces with one end of their sari cloth and dance in a stooping posture holding each other's hands and moving three steps forward and then backward. The men sing and play upon their changu drums standing at right angles to the line of the women. But at intervals, as if by way of exhibition of gallantry, they advance a few steps forward and confront the line of the female dancers who thereupon recede backwards. Hip movements predominate in the dance. The men sing chhanda, chaupadi and other amorous songs mostly composed by the village composers.

    Another dance form is called Udka Nat in which the female dancers veil their faces and dance in a stooping posture, each holding the hands of the dancer to her right and the one to her left and each with her feet similarly joined respectively with those of her two contiguous companions. Dega Nat is another form of the Udka Nat where the girls dance without veiling their faces. They hold each other's hands as they dance in a stooping posture with one foot placed in front of the other, moving in a line and now and again wheeling round in a circle.

    A significant dance style of the Bhuiyas is Ghechapari Nat. It is also a stooping dance in which the dancers do not veil their faces. They arrange themselves in two rows, one confronting the other. Each girl holds the hands of the girl standing opposite to her in the oilier row. An excellent dance style is the Tuki Nat, in which, both young and old women may take part. It is distinguished by the agility of its movements. In the Buri Nat - all women, old or elderly join. The movements are so much slow that it is also called "the bashful dance".

    These are the important ordinary dances of the tribe some of which are either identical with or similar to the dances of several other tribes of the Central Hill-belt of India. According to S. C. Roy the most interesting Paudi Bhuiya dances are the dances in imitation of the movements of various animals and reptiles and birds of their native hills and forests. Some of these imitative or dramatic dances would seem to have originally had some magic motive behind them, but the colonial Bhuiyas appear to have no idea of it.

    The primitive Juangas have the same dances, as they are close neighbors to the Bhuiyas. But it is not certain whether one of the tribe borrowed them from the other, or whether they both inherited them from a common original ancestral stock. The songs that accompany these dances between both the tribes are composed in the Oriya language, which the Paudi Bhuiyas speak and the Juangs have no corresponding songs in their own Juang language. It indicates that the animal dances were developed by the Paudis from which the Juangs borrowed them. These dance forms are the following:

1. Sap-pari Dance, 2. Bora-pari Nat, 3. Baghapari Nat, 4. Bhalpari Nat, 5. Mrigipari Nat, 6. Hatipari Nat, 7, Gidha-pari Nat, 8. Gundaripari Nat, 9. Murgipari Nat.

    The Sap-pari Nat or Snake dance is a dance form in which a number of women kneel down on the ground in a straight row, bent forward their bare heads so as almost to touch the ground and in tune with the sound of drums and songs, slowly swing their heads sideways with short turns in imitation of the zigzag movements of snakes. In the Bora-pari Nat or Bora-snake dance the dancers similarly imitate one of the huge black Bora snakes that can hardly move their un-widely bodies but lie inert, stretching their bulky length and devour any creature that conies their way. In the Bagha-pari Nat or Tiger Dance a few female dancers dancing in a stooping posture represent deer grazing and a man represents a tiger attacking the deer. In the Bhalpari Nat or Bear Dance a number of female dancers represent a party of persons whom a man representing a bear attacks. Mriga-pari Nat or Deer Dance is a form of Dance where a party of female dancers represent a herd of deer’s grazing in the forest and a man is shown as shooting an arrow at them. In the Hatipari Nat or Elephant Dance a few women each with a twisted cloth hanging down in front of her head to represent an elephant's trunk and each with a boy on her back to represent the rider on the elephant, dance with the heavy leisurely gait of elephants. In the Gidha-pari Nat or Vulture Dance the dancers represent vultures wheeling round a carcass and one after the other peeking at it. The Guridari-pari dance or Sparrow dance is remarkable because a number of girls with light steps briskly dance about in a stooping posture to represent little birds frisking about. In the Murgipari dance or Cock dance girls with cloth sticking out of their heads as cocks' combs dance in imitation of cocks.

    Thus the Bhuiyas like other primitive tribes are very fond of music. Their musical instruments are a few and simple consisting of the invariable changu which they themselves manufacture with Karkar wood for the frame and a piece of goat’s skin for the sounding board and occasionally a bamboo flute. String instruments are practically unknown. The themes of the Bhuiya songs on the dancing occasions a re-limited to the common objects of their environment-the birds and beasts of their hills and the crops of their forests and the elemental feelings of the human heart, particularly the emotion of love. The Bhuiyas are a tribe of simple culture, but with the growth of civilization they have been considerably influenced by the Hindu culture. The songs used in some of the dance practices of the Bhuiyas are borrowed from the Hindu scriptures. The songs of love of Krishna - Banamali and Radha (later incorporations) are very popular on the dancing occasions of the Hill Bhuiyas who take intense delight in singing those songs.


References :

  • Sambalpura Hiteisini (Oriya weekly newspaper from Bamanda) 1899.
  • Das, Nabakumar, "Promise of Bhuiya Girl", 1st Year, Second Issue, 01-05-1941, Janmabhumi (Oriya Magazine)/ Cuttack.
  • Mishra Rabindranath, "Pauri Bhuiyas of Bonai", Janmablnimi, 01-07-1941, First Year, Sixth Number, Cuttack.
  • Pattnaik Prananath, "Abahelita Bhuiya Adibasi" (Neglected Bhuiya Tribe), Nabajibana (Oriya monthly magazine), March-April, 1961, p.804-815.
  • Mishra Keshab Chandra, "Bhuiya Jatira Itihasa" (History of Bhuiya Tribe), Utkal Sahitya, Oriya monthly magazine, Cuttack, Vol. XIII, No. II, Ill, VI, X.
  • Roy S.C., The Hill Bhuiyas of Orissa, 1935, Ranchi.
  • Sundargarh District Gazetteer, ed. N. Senapati and D.C. Kuanr, Government of Orissa. 1975.