Bhopis

Bhopas use the Ravanhatha to help them sing of Pabuji's trials, using a painted scroll to point out relevant incidents from his life. they are assisted in their performances in their wives, called Bhopis.

Rajasthan's folk music, dances and per forming arts reflect the Indian way of life which bases itself on a composite view of things. The cosmos, the environment, the weather; one's beliefs and traditions; and life and death itself: every philosophical, spiritual and physical plane merges into the cultural expression to shape an entity that continues to remain alive and vibrant. The state's geographical boundaries touch those of Punjab, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh in India, and Sindh in Pakistan. It is hardly surprising that the varied cultural segments of its neighbours have combined imperceptibly into the music and dance of Rajasthan to enrich it. Rajasthan represents that vital reality of the Indian way of life where the past exists and lives in the present.

In the villages of Rajasthan, as in other parts of India, the people base their festive calendar on the movement of the moon. Their music, songs, dances and associated festivals are all nature-bound: celebrating the elements and the environment around them.

In this arid zone, it is natural that the season of the rains is celebrated with rather more zest than most. In the rich repertoire of Rajasthani songs, even birds find a reference as friends and messengers. The peacock and the crow inspire village bards to create songs that epitomise romance. Similarly, the vegetation, the trees, the sun, the moon, and the clouds have become folk idioms that are used to express everything from the loneliness of a young beloved pining for her lover, their union, inter-personal relationships, laughter, faith and happiness.

The extensive variety of folk songs come under many categories: there are those sung by women, such as Panihari, that describes the daily chores of fetching water from the well and a chance encounter with the beloved who comes riding on a camel. Still another song. Dal badli ro pani, expresses the preoccupation of a village belle with water which, in the desert, is such a rare commodity. No wonder water has acquired myriads of creative connotations in imagery as expressed in the folk songs of Rajasthan. And in Chirmi, a plant becomes the friend to the young child bride who uses it as a confidante for her nostalgic emotions. In the myriads of other songs sung by women on the birth of a child, or on the occasion of a marriage in the family, familial relationships form an important part.

Strong religious beliefs in turn have given rise to songs dedicated to family deities, gods and goddesses. There are religious songs in the folk idiom, as well as those composed by saint poets such as Surdas, Kabirdas, Meerabai, Malukdas, and Dadu. These songs are heard at ratijagas, the night-long soirees of devotional songs which sometimes induce a trance-like spiritual milieu. In this particular cultural aspect of music, the division between classical and folk music begins to blur the same devotional songs, as sung by village folk singers, form a vocal as well as a dance accompaniment to the classical form when sung by a classical singer.