Kuldeep Singh Katoch
Jammu and Kashmir is known for its rich and diverse culture. People of multi-religious, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, and, multi-lingual identities live here. Jammu Kashmir is also known as the land of fairs and festivals which have great cultural, traditional and religious significane.
These fairs and festivals take place on some special occasions which reflect the diverse socio-cultural aspects of the Jammu and Kashmir. Traditional cultural activities like folk songs and folk dances are an integral part of marriages, fairs, and festivals of Jammu and Kashmir. There are scores of folk dances and folk songs which are performed in different parts of the region. Focusing here on the importance of folk dances, there are myriad forms of folk dances of Jammu and Kashmir like Kud Dance, Hafiza Dance, Bacha Nagma, Chowki Nach, Lohri Chajja Dance, Gujri Dance, Dogri Dance, and many more others. In Jammu and Kashmir folk dances are performed on certain occasions chiefly on marriages, and local fairs, some are even performed during harvest season or at the time of big celebrations. Myriad forms of folk songs and folk dances glorify the natural beauty of Jammu and Kashmir.
Kud Dance is mainly preformed in villages during nights around a bonfire during the harvest season to pay obeisance to the Kul Devi- Devtas (local deities). It is a kind of ritual performed by the villagers. It is the only folk dance of Jammu and Kashmir that is performed in the honour of Kul Devi- Devtas (local deities) as a thanksgiving ceremony for the people’s wellbeing. So instead of entertainment, it has some religious values too. People of the villages believe that by performing Kud dance they please their Devi-Devtas. So, it is preformed as gratitude towards the Kul Devtas for protecting and taking care of their crops, cattle, and children from all sorts’ of natural calamities. The beauty of the dance is that, people of all ages, men, and women can participate in the dance. People of all ages take part in it with the same enthusiasm.
According to Khem Raj, Rashtrapati award winner people had great reverence for this traditional folk Dogra dance. It was mainly performed during nights besides the other daytime occasions like marriages, fairs, and festivals. In those days people used to call the night of Kud dance as Jatra. It was the time when the culture of Jatras was very prominent in Dogra culture. Usually, Jatras were held during nights and in Jatras people assembled and folk songs and dances were performed during all night. People of all castes and religions went to Jatras, bringing together their relatives too. Those convivial gatherings were also the symbol of unity among the people in villages. They all went there with full vigour and enthusiasm to enjoy folk culture which comprised of folk songs and dances.
In Jatras during wee hours people assembled at one place under the open sky. All families brought different dishes from their homes which were made up of new crops of the year. All the dishes were kept at one place in the different containers and people used to sit to eat in long queues. All these dishes were served to the people by ten to twenty people. These dishes were not eaten in modern disposal or steel plates but the hand-made plates of leaves of Trimble (wild fig tree). Among the dishes which people brought from their homes, the prominent cuisines were Khameere, Ambal, Madra (lintel cooked in curd), Dal Patt, Kheer, Mitha Bhat (sweet rice). After having the dinner people used to sit cheerfully and with full excitement to watch the Kud Dance performed by local popular and prominent dancers of the particular areas. Prominent Kud dancers from other areas were also invited to dance by the particular community who organized the Jatra. During the night all the people of the community after taking dinner together used to sit in a large circular shape on ground and huge space would be left for the dancers to perform Kud. In the circle, people used to sing songs and performed folk dances. The dancers were usually from the local community and mostly belonged to the farmers’ class. They were not professional dancers but they danced like professionals with spontaneous moves and matching steps with the same rhythm directed by the traditional music. By using beautiful imagery Narya Agarwal portrays the picture in his article “Kud Dance: Marry Folk Dance of Jammu” in this way ” Stars shine in the sky while the bonfire flames rise high, the villagers gather to thank the Lord for protecting them and their yield. Dressed in white colors and ready to celebrate, they circle the bonfire. As the instruments start to play they start swaying”.
So, the Kud dance is performed all nights in different rounds which are based on the speed of the moves of dancers and the speed changes according to the speed of the music. According to Khem Raj the Kud dance is usually performed in three rounds. In the first round dancers’ moves are slow and in a relaxing manner and the speed of the dance is changed with the Aak (overjoyed and collective loud cry by dancers while dancing). Dancers dance by moving forward and backward with spontaneity and rhythm by shifting the body movements with Aak. And the movements of the dancers are directed by the rhythm of the music. Then the second round which is called Srajiya (intermediate stage) comes in which the fast moves are taken by the dancers and music speed also increases. Then the last round is Pangra, it is the valedictory and final round of the dancers, and they dance with much faster speed by catching each other waists and swaying forward and backward by using Aaks with each shifting movement. In the wee hours before sun rising the ritual ends. So, in this way Kud Dance reflects the culture of villages that are located in the middle mountain ranges of the Jammu region. Like in the big or metropolitan cities people celebrate their happiness and joyous moments by throwing big parties in big hotels and dancing on DJ, People of Jammu villages celebrate their merry-making and bonhomie nights with the swaying and sinuous movements of Kud under the open sky.
While the beauty of Kud dance remained the same over the years yet it has lost its significance in today’s generation. Khem Raj told that the Kud dance has its roots in Bhomag and till 1990s it was also performed during nights in Jatras in addition to day time festivals and celebrations. The Kud is still preformed in all areas of Bhomag, mainly in Panchari, Lander, Moungri, Lali, Ladda, Sukhal Ghati, Devi Ghar, Danga Kote, Sujan Dhar, Tote etc., The famous Kud dancers of Bhomag during 1990s were Mir Chand, Jameet Singh, Pars Ram, Ishar Dass, Jagan Nath, Prabhu Singh Ludu Ram, Dharm Singh, Thakur Dass, Chandu Ram, Dina Nath, Chuni Lal, and many others who made their contribution to make Kud dance famous in Jammu and Kashmir. However, the people of 1990s were more interested in Kud dance than the young generation of post 2000. That is one of the reasons that it is fading away now like many other traditional folk dances of India. And if the situation remains the same for some more years the Kud dance would be read only in some newspaper articles.
Traditional musical instruments used are like Dhol (drums), Murli (Flute), Jular (Narshingas), and Chhaina (Trumpets).
Costumes of dancers
White color Chaga (long Kutra) or Churidars (Top and bottom), Safa (Turban), Parna (Piece of cloth tied near the hip), and shoes. All these have the same color which may be white or orange.
(The author is a PhD Scholar Lovely Professional University Punjab)
Kuldeep Singh Katoch