Punjabi Folk Dances

Punjab is very rich in terms of dance. Folk-dances of the Punjab virtually hold a mirror to the characteristic Punjabi manliness, fortitude, forthrightness and gaiety. Folk-dances are not bound by any rigid rule. The dances are down-to-earth and devoid of all superficiality or sophistication. They are an expression of emotions through physical movements. The dancer is free to synchronize any emotion with a gesture that he finds appropriate. The folk dancer does not need any special dress or make-up. The dancers are basically so simple that virtually no preparation is required for them.

The folk-dances are secular in character. Members of different sects and creeds, irrespective of their faiths, get together and dance. The main object of the dances is fun and entertainment.

The exuberance and vitality of the people of Punjab are vigorously displayed in their folk dances. With the drum beat or to the tune of some other instrument of folk music, the energetic feet of the people of Punjab are spontaneously set in motion to give birth to a folk dance - an expression of the soul triumphant, an outburst of emotions. It’s a dance that cuts across all divisions of class and education and eventually became a part of such diverse occasions as weddings and New Year celebrations.The men and women do not dance together. They form separate groups. Folk dances are generally not the same for men and women but some dances are common to both. Punjab has many types of folkal dances, among them Bhangra and Giddha being the most famous.

The Many Sub-Dances of Bhangra

Bhangra has developed as a combination of dances from different parts of the Punjab region. The term "Bhangra" now refers to several kinds of dances and arts, now-a-days practicing Jhumar, Malwai Giddha & Gatka.


Bhangra isn’t just music but a dance

Bhangra, the vibrant folk of Punjab and integral part of Punjabi culture, was the the exuberant and catching form of music and dance originally born and inspired by Punjabi farmers (North India) commemorating the harvest festival of Baisakhi. when the sight of tall heaps of golden wheat fill the farmer’s heart with joy. It is widely known both as a style of music and a dance. Even the elders occationally join the young to celebrate and dance Bhangra.


Bhangra The dancers begin to move in a circle around the drummer, who now and then lifts the two sticks, with which he beats the drum, to beckon the dancers to a higher tempo of movement. They start with a slow movement of their feet. As the tempo increases, the hands, the feet and in fact the whole body comes into action. They whirl round and round bending and straightening their bodies alternatively, hopping on one leg, raising their hands, clapping with their handkerchiefs and exclaiming Bale Bale! Oh Bale Bale to inspire themselves and others to the abandon of the dance.

At intervals the dancers stop moving, but continue to beat the rhythm with their feet. One of the dancers come forward near the drummer and covering his left ear with his palm sings a boali or dholla, derived from the traditional folk songs of Punjab.

Picking up the last lines, the dancers again start dancing with greater vigor.

In addition to a drum, chimta-musical tongs and burchu and sound of the beats from earthen vessels are used as accompanying instruments..


As many Bhangra lyrics reflect the long tributes to the rich cultural traditions of the Punjab, knowledge of Punjabi history offers important insights into the meaning of the music. Bhangra lyrics, always sung in the Punjabi language, generally cover social issues such as love, patriotism, peace, friendship, and relationships. Additionally, there are countless Bhangra songs devoted to Punjabi pride themes and Punjabi heroes. Bhangra singers do not sing in the same tone of voice as their Southeast Asian counterparts. Rather, they employ a high, energetic tone of voice. Singing fiercely, and with great pride, they typically add nonsensical, random noises to their singing. Likewise, often people dancing to Bhangra will yell phrases such as "Hey hey hey,"Balle balle," or"Hey aripa" to the music.

Musical Instruments

Various diverse/different Punjabi instruments contribute to the sound of Bhangra. Bhangra also features a variety of string and other drum instruments. Mainly its music is coordinated by a musical instrument called the 'Dhol'. Its beats is what gives the human body the vibes in the dance movements.

The music centers on the heavy beat of the double-barreled drum called the dhol describes/defines the Bhangra. The dhol is a large, high-bass drum, played by beating it with two sticks. The width of a dhol skin is about fifteen inches in general, and the dhol player holds his instrument with a strap around his neck.

The string instruments include the tumbi, sarangi, sapera, supp, and chimta. The dhad, dafli, dholki, and damru are the other drums.

Although the most important instrument is the dhol drum, Although it has only one string, mastering the tumbi takes many years. The sarangi is a multi-stringed instrument, somewhat similar to the violin. The sapera produces a beautiful, high-pitched stringy beat, while the supp and chimta add extra, light sound to Bhangra music. Finally, the dhad, dafli, dholki, and damru are instruments that produce more drum beats, but with much less bass than the dhol drum.

Bhangra Costumes

Men’s Attire: Traditionally, men wear a lungi while doing Bhangra. A lungi is a colorful piece of cloth wrapped around the waist. Men also wear a kurta, which is a long Punjabi-style shirt. In addition, men wear Bhugaris - also known as turbins - to cover their heads.


Malwai Giddha It is the folk dance of males of Malwa region of Punjab. This dance is originated performed by old mans. This includes teasing of other people in their Boliaan(folk poetry). It originated in the Village Chatha of malwa region of Punjab and used to call "Chathian Waley Baabeyan Da Giddha" then "Baabeyan Da Giddha" and presently called Malwai Giddha.

The instruments used in Malwai Giddha are not merely for show. A performer has to play it in rhythm. The performer has to know not only the how to play the particular instrument but also the way to carry it. The most commonly used instruments are: Tumbi , Chimta , Kato , Sapp , Kartara

Jhumar or Jhoomar

It is a lively form of music and dance that originated in the Multan and Balochistan. It is slower and more rhythmic form. The word "Jhumar" comes from Jhum/Jhoom, which means Swaying. The songs evoke a quality which reminds of swaying. Though the content of these songs is varied - they are usually love with emotional songs . The dance is also performed in circle, to the tune of emotional songs.

Performed exclusively by men, it is a common feature to see three generations - father, son and grandson - dancing all together at weddings. The movement of the arms only is considered its main forte. Feet are musically placed in front and backwards and turnings are taken to the right, sometimes the dancers place their one hand below the ribs on the left and gesticulate with the right hand.


It is a weapon-based martial art associated with the Punjab region. It has also traditionally been practiced by other ethno-cultural groups in India and Pakistan. The word gatka properly refers to the wooden sticks which were used for sparring. It might have originated from the Sanskrit word for sword (khadga. While it is primarily an armed fighting style.

Feel the heat and beat of Bhangra

Bhangra is arguably the most famous export of Punjab. Its lively beat has found fans in Bollywood and Hollywood. Madonna, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and Britney Spears have incorporated bhangra into their music. U.K. artists Rishi Rich, Juggy D, Punjabi MC and Jay Sean have led the Eastern music revolution into the mainstream consciousness. The active calorie-burner dance even has spawned the "Masala Bhangra Workout," wildly popular on the East Coast

Masala Bhangra

From the Bhangra the workout was evolved know as Masala Workout which is nothing but the Active Calorie Burner.



Giddha is Punjab's most famous folkal dance for women. In Giddha, the women enact verses called bolis, folk poetry, and dance. The subject matter of these bolis include everything from arguments with the father-in-law/mother-in-law to political affairs. The dance rhythm is set by the dhols and the distinctive hand claps of the dancers. These days, people associate Giddha with Bhangra.

Giddha is a very vigorous folk dance and like other such dances it is very much an affair of the legs. So quick is the movement of the feet in its faster parts that it is difficult for the spectator even to wink till the tempo falls again. The embroidered 'duppattas' and heavy jewelry of the participants whose number is unrestricted further exaggerate the movements. During

the dance 'giddha' songs called 'bolis' are also sung. One participant generally sings the 'bolis' and when the last but one line is reached, the tempo of the song rises and all start dancing. In this manner 'bolis' alternate with the dance sequence which continue for a considerable period of time.

Mimicry is aso very popular in 'Giddha'. One girl may play the aged bridegroom and another his young bride; or one may play a quarellsome sister in law and another a humble bride. In this way Giddha provides for all the best forum for giving vent to one's emotions.

Giddha Costumes

The traditional dress during giddha dance is short female style shirt (choli) with ghagra or lehnga (loose shirt upto ankle-length) or ordinary Punjabi Salwar-Kamiz, rich in colour, cloth and design. The ornaments that they wear are suggi-phul (worn on head) to pazaibs (anklets), haar-hamela, (gem-studded golden necklace) baazu-band (worn around upper-arm) and raani-haar (a long necklace made of solid gold).