NATI- HIMACHAL PRADESH: ‘Largest folk dance in the world’

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Girls performing Nati dance during a function organized by Kotgarh khanti Student Association in Shimla.
Photo By Amit Kanwar

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Nati ,an intriguing dance form belonging to north India was officially listed as the “largest folk dance in the world” (in terms of the number of dancers performing) in the Guinness Book of World Records in early January 2016. This “traditional dance” essentially derives its roots from the state of Himachal Pradesh, and is also popular in the union territory of Chandigarh. This folk dance is also said to comprise of different forms that includes Mahasuvi Nathi, Sirmauri Nathi, Lahauli Nathi, and Kinnauri Nathi. Furthermore, this folk dance is extremely popular in the “Himachali” region, and is performed frequently at various cultural programmes.

a. History/origin of the Nati folk dance:

This “Himachali” dance form is said to be similar to the Raas Lila and is considered to have been developed in honour of Lord Krishna and his “Gopis”. Furthermore, it also represents the entertaining plays of Chandravali.  In addition, this dance form according to tradition is supposed to be performed only by males.

b. Costumes used in the Nati folk dance:

Although traditionally this dance form is male oriented, these days however it is performed by women as well, and so the costume worn varies as follows:

1. For males:

The attire used mainly includes decorated caps, sashes, churidaars, and swirling tunics.

2. For females:

Apart from costumes such as churidaar, pyjama, ghagra and chola and decorative caps they also wear gold and silver ornaments known as “Chanki and Tunki”.

c. Music involved in the Nati folk dance:

The instruments used in this dance form include Narsingha, Karnal, Shennai, Dhol, and Nagara.

d. Training availability and dance technique involved in the Nati folk dance:

In this dance form, a group of men/women dressed in their traditional attire arrange themselves in a circle and rhythmically dance to the beats produced by instruments such as the dhol, narsingha etc. As for training centres/schools, there are none available throughout the country, since this folk dance has been developed mainly in the “Kullu” region of Himachal Pradesh, and has been essentially passed on from one generation to another.

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