Rajasthan, the royal state of India, is known for its rich cultural heritage. The folk dances of Rajasthan are quite popular. They are not only aesthetically pleasing, but they also narrate historical and allegorical stories in a unique and captivating way. Among all Rajasthani folk dances, Ghoomar is a dance form that engages tourist attention to the full.
Quintessentially Rajasthani, Ghoomar is probably the most popular folk dance in India. This dance form was introduced by the Bhil tribe, and later adopted by the royal communities of Rajasthan, including the Rajputs. It is performed by women on the eve of special events and festivals such as the arrival of a newlywed bride at her marital house or for Holi and Teej.
The women wear a traditional outfit – the ghagra (a long, swirling skirt) and kanchli or choli (a blouse). To complete the ensemble, a veil is worn covering the face. The beauty of this folk genre is in its graceful movements that involve swaying hands, beating palms and spinning around, while singing the traditional songs. The coordinated movement among women and their whirling outfit, coupled with the upbeat rhythms and songs, leave the spectators mesmerized. As a traditional dance form, Ghoomar often includes traditional songs such as “Gorband”, “Podina”, “Rumal” and “Mor Bole Re”. Song themes are centred either on royal legends or folk traditions.
‘Gangaur Ghoomar Dance Academy’ was established by Maharani Rajmata Goverdhan Kumari of Santrampur in 1986 with an objective to preserve and promote Ghoomar folk dance. The Government of India awarded her the Padma Shri in 2007 in recognition of her contribution to the preservation of folk arts. The Ghoomar dance was ranked 4th in the list of top ten local dances from around the world in 2013.
Ghoomar dance gained mainstream attention with the release of the film Padmaavat in 2018. The film revolves around the life and times of the legendary Rajput queen, Padmini. Although the song featuring the dance won the praise of critics and fans alike, the dance in the film faced criticism for mixing the Ghoomar dance steps with that of the other folk dances and thereby sacrificing the authenticity of Ghoomar dance form. Another criticism levelled was that the song used for the dance did not correspond to the actual traditional folk songs. All this notwithstanding, the film won the National Award for Best choreography.