That Padmavati is controversy’s favourite child is well established. Ghoomar exponents feel that the dance form, a legacy that was passed on by the Rajput royalty, is getting negative publicity because of wrong movies.
Controversy isn’t always a bad thing. It’s because of the movie Padmavati that Ghoomar, a traditional folk dance, is grabbing the headlines. Recently, the Rajput Karni Sena objected to Aparna Yadav, daughter-in-law of Samajwadi Party’s Mulayam Singh Yadav, dancing to the song Ghoomar from the film Padmavati during her brother’s engagement party.
Ghoomar exponents feel that the dance form, a legacy that was passed on by the Rajput royalty, is getting negative publicity because of wrong movies. They say that the problem arose as people are making it commercial.
“Ghoomar is a graceful dance form. It’s delicate and expresses shraddha and lajja (respect and shyness). Rajasthani women use their ornaments to express their feelings. I’ve been associated with Ghoomar since 1959 and have seen it evolve, but even today, Shraddha and lajja is part of it,” says Hari Dutt Kalla, an international choreographer, who specialises in Rajasthani folk dances. He has choreographed Ghoomar for around 2000 girls during the 1982 Asiad Games.
“The dance is performed by a group of ladies with the audience mostly comprising of women,” says Karni Sena spok-esperson Vijendra Singh Kaly-anwat. He adds, “It all started from the movie. It’s misleading. The steps aren’t from Ghoomar. The traditional dance form, invented in the 18th century (much later than Rani Padmini’s time) had no lataks and jhataks. It’s a very systemic form. Never in history did rajas and ranis performed a dance.”
Ghoomar is performed on many occasions, especially at weddings in Rajput families. Pankaj Sharma, chief curator, MSMS II Museum, The City Palace, Jaipur, says, “Maharanis never performed the Ghoomar in Darbars. The controversy began because the dance didn’t exist during the Rani’s time. And the dance isn’t Ghoomar.”
Queen Harish performing the Ghoomar
Not just inaccuracies, even the dresses and environment in which it is staged has raised questions. “We spoke to women in Jaipur as to what problem they had. Turns out, there’s an issue with her not wearing a ghoonghat while dancing and her torso is seen. Even today, Rajputi Poshak consists of a long tunic-like garment called the fatui which goes on top of the small blouse (kaanchli) making the torso covered. Padmini holds a goddess- like stature and such a portrayal is seen as an insult. But then, it’s a movie and I think we should be tolerant towards creative expressions. I really enjoyed watching the song and was impressed with Deepika Padukone for executing the Rajasthani body language perfectly,” says Sashi Nahata, an entrepreneur, who organises Rajasthani dance workshops.
So, why the hue and cry when Deepika herself learned the steps from Ghoomar expert Jyoti D Tommaar, who also runs a Ghoomar school in Rajasthan. “I think it’s unnecessary. In fact, I am proud that Ghoomar has been popularised through this movie. Like the folk tunes of Rajasthan, the dance forms also are important. It’s very flowy and graciously done,” says Rekha Lahoti.
Ghoomar is a ritual in marriages when a bride does the dance after being welcomed to her husband’s home. The dance form, which was developed by the Bhil tribe, connects different Rajasthani and Rajput communities. “It is perhaps most popular for its attire — a Chaniya Choli and translucent veils that cover the face. It is one of the most beautiful forms of dance,” concludes Pradhyuman Detha, Assistant Tourist Officer, Ajmer.