Bhaṅgṛā (Punjabi: بھنگڑا / ਭੰਗੜਾ, IPA: [ˈpə̀ŋɡɽaː] (listen)) is a type of traditional dance of the Indian subcontinent, originating in the Majha area of Punjab. The dance was associated primarily with the spring harvest festival Baisakhi, and it is from one of the major products of the harvest—bhang (hemp)—that bhangra drew its name. In a typical performance, several dancers executed vigorous kicks, leaps, and bends of the body to the accompaniment of short songs called boliyan and, most significantly, to the beat of a dhol (double-headed drum). Struck with a heavy beater on one end and with a lighter stick on the other, the dhol imbued the music with a syncopated (accents on the weak beats), swinging rhythmic character that has generally remained the hallmark of any music that has come to bear the bhangra name.
Traditional Bhangra/folk dance of Majha
The origins of traditional Bhangra are speculative. According to Dhillon (1998), Bhangra is related to the Punjabi dance 'bagaa', which is a martial dance of Punjab. However, the folk dance of Majha originated in Sialkot and took root in Gujranwalla, Sheikhupur, Gujrat (districts in Punjab, Pakistan) and Gurdaspur (district in Punjab, India). The traditional form of Bhangra danced in the villages of Sialkot district is regarded as the standard. Although the main districts where traditional Bhangra is performed are in Punjab, Pakistan, the community form of traditional Bhangra has been maintained in Gurdaspur district, India, and has been maintained by people who have settled in Hoshiarpur, Punjab, India, after leaving what is now Punjab, Pakistan. Traditional Bhangra is performed in a circle and is performed using traditional dance steps. Traditional Bhangra is now also performed on occasions other than during the harvest season and is popular in Pakistan.
According to Ganhar (1975), Bhangra has been imported into Jammu which is danced on Baisakhi. Other Punjabi folk dances such as Giddha and Luddi have also been imported into Jammu. Punjabi language influences can be observed when people dance such dances. Jammu falls within the Punjab region and shares an affinity with Punjab.
Free form traditional bhangra
The 1950s saw the development of the free form traditional Bhangra in Punjab, India, which was patronized by the Maharaja of Patiala, who requested a staged performance of Bhangra in 1953. The first significant developers of this style were a dance troupe led by brothers from the Deepak family of Sunam (Manohar, Avtar and Gurbachan) and the dhol player Bhana Ram Sunami. Free form traditional Bhangra developed during stage performances which incorporate traditional Bhangra moves and also include sequences from other Punjabi dances, namely, Luddi, Jhummar, Dhamaal, and Gham Luddi. The singing of Punjabi folk songs, boliyan, are incorporated from Malwai Giddha.
Bhangra competitions have been held in Punjab, India, for many decades, with Mohindra College in Patiala being involved in the 1950s.
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