Music and dance are deeply ingrained in the life of Rajasthanis. The cool stillness of the desert after the searing heat of the day and the upsurge of life in the short-lived rainy season or spring are filled with soulful, full-throated music and rhythmic dance.
All the regions of Rajasthan have their distinct folk entertainment. The dance styles differ and so do the songs. Interestingly, even the musical instruments are different.
The hilly tracts of central and southern Rajasthan are rich in community entertainments because of the lifestyle of tribes like the Bhils, Meena, Banjaras, Saharias and Garasias.
Eastern Rajasthan is fertile and affluent, with plenty of patrons to sustain professional entertainers like the Bhats, Kamads, Bhopas, Kacchi Ghodi dancers and Kathputli (puppeteer). People in the harsh scantily-populated desert areas of Western Rajasthan have very little leisure for merrymaking. Therefore, in this region, entertainment is provided by professional performers like the Bhats, Dholis, Mirasis, Nats, Sargadas and Bhands.
Folk traditions and classical forms found royal patronage in Rajasthan. A major school of the sophisticated classical Kathak dance form originated in Jaipur, as did Dhrupad singing. The rulers of Jaisalmer extended patronage to the Manganiyar community.
The haunting melody of Rajasthan evokes from a variety of delightfully primitive looking instruments. The stringed variety include the Sarangi, Rawanhattha, Kamayacha, Morchang and Ektara.
Percussion instruments come in all shapes and sizes from the huge Nagaras and Dhols to the tiny Damrus. The Daf and Chang are a big favourite of the Holi (the festival of colours) revellers. Flutes and bagpipers come in local flavours such as Shehnai, Poongi, Algoza, Tarpi, Been and Bankia.
Rajasthani dances have a life of their own, a vigorous rhythm that is hard to describe.
Whether it is the community dances such as the men-only Gair, or the women-only Ghoomar, or the Gair Ghoomar in which both men and women participate or the Kachhi Ghodi dance where men in elaborate costumes ride equally well-decorated dummy horses, while a singer narrates the exploits of the Bavaria bandits of Shekhawati or the sensuous Snake dance of the Kalbeliya gypsies of Jaisalmer, in which women accentuate supple and snake-like movements or the spell-binding Fire dance of Bikaner and Churu where men dance on a platform of smoldering embers.
Other popular dances include the Chari dance of Kishangarh and the Drum dance of Jalore.
Then of course, there are the colourful Kathputli (puppet) shows, which are a hot favourite with every traveller to Rajasthan.