Bhangda is a type of traditional folk dance of the Indian subcontinent, originating in Sialkot in the Majha area of Punjab.
In a typical performance, several dancers execute vigorous kicks, leaps, and bends of the body – often with upraised, thrusting arm or shoulder movements to the accompaniment of short songs called Boliyan, and most significantly, to the beat of a Dhol (double-headed drum).
Struck with a heavy beater on one end and with a lighter stick on the other, the Dhol imbues the music with a syncopated (accents on the weak beats), swinging rhythmic character that has generally remained the hallmark of Bhangra music.
An energetic Punjabi dance, Bhangra originated with Punjab farmers as a cultural and communal celebration.
Its modern-day evolution has allowed Bhangra to retain its traditional Indian roots, while broadening its reach to include integration into popular music and DJing, group-based competitions, and even exercise and dance programs in schools and studios.
During Harvest Season :
Bhangra was mainly done by Punjabi farmers during the harvesting season. It was mainly performed while farmers did agricultural chores. As they did each farming activity they would perform Bhangra moves on the spot. This allowed them to finish their job in a joyous way.
After harvesting their wheat crops during the Vaisakhi season, people used to attend cultural festivals while dancing Bhangra. For many years, farmers performed Bhangra to showcase a sense of accomplishment and to welcome the new harvesting season.
The origins of traditional bhangra are speculative. Some people say Bhangra is related to the Punjabi dance ‘Bagaa’, which is a martial dance of Punjab.
However, the folk dance of Majha originated in Sialkot and took root in Gujranwalla, Sheikhupur, Gujrat (districts in Pakistan) and Gurdaspur (district in Punjab, India).
The traditional form of Bhangra danced in the villages of Sialkot district was regarded as the standard. The community form of traditional Bhangra has been maintained in Gurdaspur district, India, and has been maintained by people who have settled in Hoshiarpur, Punjab, India, after leaving the newly-created country of Pakistan post-partition of India.
Traditional Bhangra is now also performed on occasions other than during the harvest season. Bhangra has become popular in Jammu as well, where Bhangda dance is performed during the festival of Baisakhi.
Other Punjabi folk dances such as Giddha and Luddi have also been imported into Jammu. Punjabi language influences can be observed when people dance such dances. Jammu falls within the Punjab region and shares an affinity with Punjab.
Free Form Traditional Bhangra :
The 1950s saw the development of the free form traditional Bhangra in Punjab, India, which was patronized by the Maharaja of Patiala, who requested a staged performance of Bhangra in 1953.
Free form traditional Bhangra developed during stage performances which incorporate traditional Bhangra moves and also include sequences from other Punjabi dances, namely, Luddi, Jhummar, Dhamaal, and Gham Luddi.
Bhangra Today :
Bhangra connects to a much deeper set of masculine values. Most of these values are set through labour, industry and self-sufficiency in agriculture, loyalty, independence and bravery in personal, political and military endeavours; and the development and expression of virility, vigour, and honour are common themes.
Bhangra referred both to formal male performances and to communal dancing among men and women.
In the past 30 years, Bhangra has been established all over the world. It has become integrated into popular Asian culture after being mixed with hip hop, house and reggae styles of music Certain Bhangra moves have been adapted and changed over time but at its core remains a sense of cultural identity and tradition.
Even though Bhangra is mainly in the Punjabi culture, many people tend to showcase Bhangra as a source of joy and entertainment at weddings, parties, and all sorts of fun-filled celebrations.
Many people also do bhangra as a source of exercise, it is an excellent substitution to the gym. Traditionally, Bhangra is danced by men but now we see both men and women participating in this dance form. With Bhangra competitions all over the world, we see all sorts of people competing in these events.
Women in Bhangra :
Nowadays, we see many second-generation South Asian women who are connecting with their culture through Bhangra. Many of these young girls tend to bring their Bhangra moves into the club scene. D.J. Rekha was one of the first South Asian women to bring popularity to Bhangra in the U.S by introducing her Basement Bhangra Parties.
Many university and community clubs have stated their own Bhangra teams, most of these teams have a wide variety of men and women who come from different backgrounds.
Many businesses have created Bhangra clubs with the mindset to teach younger kids Bhangra. These programs have helped young children stay healthy and connected to the culture of Bhangra.
Sarina Jain, was the very first women who created the Bhangra fitness workout, which is now known as the Masala Bhangra Workout. This workout has taught many people all over the world the basic steps associated with Bhangra, allowing them to learn Bhangra in the comfort of their own home.
Raaniyan Di Raunaq :
Raaniyan Di Raunaq is India’s first all-women’s Bhangra competition. Even with the abundance of female Bhangra performers, many see this dance form as only masculine.
Historically, women have fought for the right to perform Bhangra. Many women that compete in Bhangra shows are judged according to a criterion that is made for male performers.
Raaniyan Di Raunaq has customized a Bhangra competition just for women or for those who identify as transgender or nonbinary. This competition has coveted a safe space for women to have the ability to compete and be judged equally.