Do you want to see someone living on the razor's edge? Rather, dancing on a sword's edge? Then be there to witness Bhavai, the folk dance drama from Gujarat, on January 16 at Emirates Auditorium, Crowne Plaza, Dubai. Presented in two shows - at 6pm and 9 pm - by Rangmanch, ...

By Pratibha Umashankar

Published: Sun 11 Jan 2004, 1:39 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 12:40 AM

it is not a ticketed event. Admission is by invitation only.

Bhavai, a folk theatre form, is a traditional dance-drama form performed before large gatherings in the region of Saurastra. It is, in fact, a composite art form comprising dance, music, disguises, gymnastic skills and drama. Asait Thaker (AD 1361), a poet from Siddhpur in north Gujarat gave birth to this folk theatre. Asait has to his credit about 360 Bhavai-vesh (episodes of Bhavai with disguises), besides a long historical ballad Hansauli. Today, only 60 Vesh of the Bhavai are available to us.

Bhavai, which exudes the authentic aroma of Indian rural life, were originally staged in open grounds before an audience of village folk - farmers, shopkeepers and other members of the community - who came seeking entertainment after a hard day's work.

A full-fledged dramatic performance of Bhavai during the Middle Ages was a form of worship. The bhavaiya or the Bhavai performers, later drew inspiration from events in the lives of contemporary people. The episodes were a combination of satire and popular reformation. In this sense, this folk art form also became a tool to spread a social message.

This art form has survived through the ages, and is a living tradition even to this day. It has also attracted many research scholars in the field of folk theatre and folk literature, who have conducted extensive research work.

The Bhavai vesh encapsules different types of poetic forms such as Sakhis, Harfo, Rekta, Zakdi, Chabola, Chhand, Kundliar, Savaiya, Paya Kavit, Duha and Garba. It also features characters such as the Kotwal , Lachhori, Tlapali and Pendu . All these components lend a special flavour and meaning to the performance.

One of the main attractions of Bhavai vesh is the sword dance or the dance with the jingling bells. The artiste ties a bell strap on his feet, and to the accompanying rhythms of drum and cymbals and with the musical notes of Bugal - a type of trumpet - keeps dancing on the rim of a thali (a big plate), while rotating the dinner plates on his fingers. He also dances on the edge of the sword. The skilled performer displays other breath-taking feats like rotating swords and burning torches on his fingers, balancing a bottle on his head and rotating it only through the movement of his head. He also balances pitchers on his head, and raising one of the legs upwards, places a tilak (a red mark) on the pitchers with the help of his toe. It is remarkable that this unique folk art form has stood the test of time and the onslaught of other modern forms of entertainment. Rangmanch is bringing a troupe of authentic folk artistes to perform in Dubai. The event, therefore, promises to be a unique theatre experience.

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