Chholiya - Folk Dance of Kumaun

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    A Chhuliyar Playing Trumpet

    Chholiya is one of the popular dance forms of Uttarakhand, which is prevailed mostly in Kumaun region. This dance is performed as a symbol of valour and enthusiasm in war. In this dance the male dancers, holding sword and shield in hands, wear the traditional attire of ancient warriors. Accompanied by the local musical instruments like Dhol, Damou, Ransinga, Turhi and Masakbeen, the attractive coherence of dancers mesmerizes the viewers.
    Various myths are associated with the origin of the Chholiya dance. Cultural activist, Mr. Jugal Kishore Petshali writes, "The way a female dancers wears jingling anklets to centralize the attention of viewers, in the same way the dancers of Chholiya who remain in the disguise of ancient warriors try to deviate the attention of rival army in the battlefield. According to the scholars, this dance genre was performed in the battlefield since 10th century A.D. due to the aim of deceiving the rival army, this dance form came to be known as chhal (deceive) or Chholiya Nritya."

    It is also said that once a triumphant king of Uttarakhand described the ways and methods of warfare and the victory in such a way that the queens become bewildered. Enchanted by the description they urged to see the bellicose scenery. Following the command, the soldiers divided themselves into two mock rival groups. They presented the art and tactics of war so vividly and attractively that the king, queens and the arteries become astonished to witness the bravery of warriors from them, it had become a tradition to present Chholiya dance in royal courts at regular intervals on auspicious and celebrate occasions. Gradually it influenced the subjects also and become a part or mean of earning livelihood by presenting this dance on various platforms.

    Due to the celestial attraction this dance holds, it has remained in vogue since 10th century A.D. to present. Eventually, the form and style of dance had undergone various alterations. After the decline of royal dynasties this dance form has become folk dance of Uttarakhand. In orders to maintain the existence of this dance from extinguishing completely, the government of Uttarakhand, various NGS's and cultural activists are working to protect it various ebullient efforts are being done to promote the genre.

    Chholiyar While Dancing

    Now a day, this folk dance has become vocational. The Chholiya dancers are invited to perform on pious, special and cultural occasions like marriage, various regional worships of deities, naming ceremonies, etc. People having cultural insight provide ample resources to promote cultural heritage. The number of Chholiya dancers may vary at one or others occasion. They group themselves in 8 to 10 members or 14 to 20 members at a time. The leader of the group gives symbol to the dancers by beating the Dhol or Damau and playing the Masakbeen.

    Unfortunately, the modern and global musical instruments have taken the place of traditional ones. On the other hand, people to have losted their interest in regional arts. Due to this, the dance form is suffering an acute shortage of encouragement and aids.

    There is a particular noteworthy fact regarding the dance form, in the frontier areas of Kumaun like Munsyari  and Dharchula, this dance is performed by the female folk of Rang community holding bright swords and shields in hands.
    Though the new generations are eventually being detached from this folk dance, yet Chholiya dance is existing as one of the inseparable part of our rich and varied culture. All it needs is to familiarize our new generations with its significance as a distinctive and unique heritage.

    Wherever we are living, earning or carrying on our lives, but whenever we will hear the victorious, loud and glorious timbre of Chholiya, our goose will certainly bump, hearing the old familiar sounds which remind one of the distinctively of Uttarakhand.

    Writer - Neeraj Bhatt

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