Tribal Dances


Dances are the chief amusement of the tribals. Like all folk dances, they are community affairs, characterized by robustness and earthiness. All the dances are group dances involving complex footwork, and they are wonderful to watch! The dancers are usually in a line, gyrating in a circle, always in the anti-clock direction.

The most spectacular dances are those of the Maria tribes. The men lace a strip of cloth round their torso, wear head-dresses of peacock and cock feathers, and tie bells around their wrists and ankles. Some also wear stag and bison horns on the head. In the case of the Bison-horn Marias, the boys and girls dance in separate sub-groups, with the steps of the girls being simpler. Drum-beats are central to the dance.

In the case of the Hill-Marias, the group is often mixed, with a girl between two boys. The men wear heavy buttock-bells. Singing is important in these dances.

  1. Saila Dance
    Only males participate in this group dance, performed during public functions, national festivals, and political rallies, and in January after cutting the crop. All the dancers hold two hard bamboo sticks and strike the sticks of their neighbour in unison.
  2. Suwa Dance
    This is a dance by which a young girl lets a young boy know she is interested in him. When a marriageable young boy listens this song and sees the girl dancing, he sends a marriage proposal to her parents. It is also danced to please the goddess of wealth.
  3. Karma Dance
    “Karama” is a tree worshipped by the locals. According to legend, in an ancient war, only a young couple that hid in the hollow trunk of this tree was left alive, and ever since then this tree has been regarded as sacred. The karma dance is peformed according to caste, but holds the same significance across all castes. Male and female dancers are chained together to form a circle. A branch of the karam tree is passed among the dancers as they sing and dance in praise of the karam tree. This branch should not touch the earth. At the end of the dance, it is washed with milk and rice beer and later it is planted in the middle of the dancing arena.

Also worth watching is the stilt dance.