Lavani Dance – Witness The Folk Dance Of Maharashtra (VIDEO)
The land of Bollywood, captivating caves, bewitching beaches, and vada pav, Maharashtra, is also the birthplace of Lavani. Maharashtrachi Lavani Dance has become the pride of the state, and for good reason. The very sight of native Maharashtrian ladies clad in sarees draped in the distinct traditional style, swaying rhythmically to powerful and fast-paced folk music captivates the audience, who almost instinctively join in.
From the scintillating yesteryear’s dancing diva, Helen in the song ‘Mungda’, the graceful Madhuri Dixit in ‘Humko Aajkal Hai’ to the gorgeous Deepika-Priyanka duo in ‘Pinga’, the traditional folk music genre of Lavani has found its way into not just mainstream cinema but also the hearts of millions of art and music enthusiasts around the world. While Lavani may have originated in the state of Maharashtra, it has been introduced and adopted by patrons across, not just India, but the entire world.
History Of Lavani Dance
Earlier, Lavani music held a strong erotic connotation and was used as a mean of entertainment for the weary soldiers battling it out during the 19th century when Maharashtra was in turmoil. The sensual Lavani music is known as the Shringari Lavani, while the form of Lavani classified as devotional music, especially popular with the Nirguni cult is the Nirguni Lavani. What you see in movies and theatre is the Shringari Lavani, and this style often essays the bond of love between a woman and a man.
Most people are usually familiar with Phadachi Lavani, the Lavani dance performance that’s performed publicly. However, did you know that there exists another type of Lavani performance that’s meant for a select audience? The Baithakichi Lavani is a private performance before a small number of people in the audience. The traditional Lavani dance form comes from the humble town of Solapur in Maharashtra where it was performed by the Dhangars or the shepherd clan. Primarily inspired by nature, Lavani songs also talk about the birth of Biruba, the deity held in high reverence by this clan.
While Lavani held a place of prominence in history, the dance form gained popularity during the latter years of the Peshwa rule. Eminent poets and singers, such as Parasharam, Anant Fandi, Ram Joshi, Lok Shahir Annabhau Sathe, Honaji Bala and Saganbhau popularised Lavani between the 1700s to the 1900s. Of these art patrons, Lok Shahir Annabhau Sathe is considered to have changed the then existing landscape and bring Lavani in the public eye. Honaji Bala too contributed significantly by developing the seated style Lavani, known as the Baithakichi Lavani.
Types Of Lavani Dances
The mention of Lavani immediately makes you think of women in traditional sarees dancing to fast-paced music. In sharp contrast to the sensuality evoked by a touch of feminine display of the art, such as in Shringari Lavani, Powada empowers men to express ballads of triumph and bravery, and it was a prominent performance often organised for the Peshwa royals.
Lavani, at its crux, is nothing but a form of poetry and storytelling. An ideal display of the same is the conversational performance of the Chakkad Lavani. Performed in a theatre-style setting, the dramatisation relays tales of separated lovers, tugging at the audiences’ heart.
Also known as the Bhedik Lavani, which translates to ‘cutting at your heart’, this type of Lavani is a bold and erotic performance that captivates spectators through short, but poignant anecdotes.
Lavani has often been associated with sensuality and erotica, and no other form of Lavani dance expresses the same better than Andhratil Lavani. While it might seem crude to some, this performance type is marked by a bold essaying of sexual encounters and anecdotes and was even banned in 1948 by the then Chief Minister, Balasaheb Kher.
The Uniqueness Of Lavani Dance
The celluloid version doesn’t do justice to the authentic beauty of the Lavani dance or music, with some low-budget options even adulterating the sacred sensuality with a shade of misinterpreted erotica and condemning women as nymphs luring men to their doom. In essence, Lavani is not a temptress’ weapon, but an untainted and emotive way to connect with the deepest and purest form of love, whether it is between a man and a woman or between a devotee and the deity. However, with multiple iterations and interpretations of Lavani, the traditional threads have disintegrated and patched with a lesser form of the art.
The Dholak Beats
While the Lavani dance is a treat to the eyes, the ears too carry a lingering trace of the typical Lavani music punctuated by the echoing beats of the Dholak, a percussion instrument. Over time, other instruments, such as the string instrument of Tuntuni, the cymbal-like instrument, Manjeera, and the tambourine-styled instrument Daf have also found a place in the mix. If you pay enough attention, you can also hear a subtle and faint tinkling bell sound, which comes from the bell-embellished anklet or ghungroo that the Lavani dancers wear that seamlessly becomes part of the orchestra.
The Lavani music features an upbeat tempo with chants recited in quick succession, setting a buoyant mood. Such is the infectious energy that the audience can’t help but tap their feet to the performance. Some Lavani performances may also end with the ritual of burning a replica of the Manmathas. While Lavani is often considered to be more sombre performance art, often touted as an expression of the cultural and theatrical nuances of Maharashtra, it has also become a part of weddings and festivals. You will often see Maharashtrian women, young and old alike, performing the Lavani at weddings and popular festivals, such as Ganesh Chaturthi.
Lavani Dance Traditional Attire
Women look resplendent bedecked in jewellery and clad in nine yards of colourful saree, which is different from the traditional six-yard generally worn by Indian women. The Nauvari saree is draped in the kaashtha style that allows mobility for quick movements to match the music’s tempo. The performers style their hair in a top bun or Ambada and often adorn it with a flower garland, called gajra.
It’s both interesting and slightly amusing to see that at a time when folk traditions are usually considered sacrosanct, Lavani is being adapted and constantly reinvented to suit the beliefs and tastes of the younger generations. While some view this is as an adulteration, others consider this to be a powerful way to both, hold on to the essence and do away with the misconstrued notions.
Popular Lavani Dance Performers
With the youth increasingly getting interested in the folk performance art of Lavani as they gradually begin to dissociate it with the wrong preconceived notions and adopt it as a medium of expression, more Lavani performers are gracing the stage every day. However, eminent personalities of yesteryears, such as Kanjar Gorl and Raja Bhoj are well-known for taking Lavani in its authentic form to the dilettantes.
Today, Surekha Punekar and Mangala Bansode, two of the oldest living Lavani legends are highly revered in the community. Time and age have not diminished their zeal and portrayal of the art form. People usually queue up to see their performances. Many younger women outside the film industry have also popularised Lavani by taking it to the global stage.
Lavani In The Guinness Book of World Records
Did you know that the Lavani has found a place in the Guinness Book of World Records? At an event organised by Nitin Hanmant Gavalli in the origin state of Maharashtra, 1,326 Lavani performers set the venue on fire with their scintillating dance and thumping music. The event put one of India’s folk performances on the cultural world map.
Lavani has gained a lot of recognition over the last few decades. However, what’s interesting to note is the journey this folk performance art has undergone over the years. The notable transformation has been in its perception; from an ostentatious display of sensuality and categorising women in wrong light to a powerful display of emotions with a touch of raw beauty hidden in its layers.
Another way Lavani has matured is by the inclusion of a wider variety of story lines from tales of love to a tirade on dowry, societal norms, injustice, and just about every conventional and unique aspect of humanity. In fact, today, it offers certain repressed sections of the society an outlet, which is evident by the performance of the 50-year old crossdresser, Anil Baburao.
A Glimpse Of The Lavani Dance With Deccan Odyssey
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