Saturday, July 2, 2022
Himachal Pradesh




The Swang is a folk theatre form peculiar to the Himachal region. The Shivratri celebrations at Mandi, the Dussera festival at Kulu, the Renuka fair at Sirmaur, the Minjar in Chamba, the Jataras at Chattarahandi-Bharmaur and the Holi fairs at Sujanpur, all have Swang shows. These shows are also known as Jhankis or Dole (floats).

Some Swang plays are enacted at festivals. At the Lohadi festival, the village boys act out the Haran Ka Swang and go dancing and singing from door to door. In this a boy is dressed up as a golden deer with a pair of horns upon his head and a deer skin around his shoulders and the rest of the boys stands around him and beat drums and sing. This Swang lasts through the night. In the Kinnaur region Swang shows are organised in which demons are slain ritualistically and prayers invoking the blessing of gods are recited.

In the month of December and January, the Swang of Googa and Chandroli take place. These are full of songs and dance patterns and are mostly enacted by the weavers or the Jhirs or troupes of traditional singers. The Dandu or the Rolu who act as a clown in these, sends the audiences into gales of laughter with his antics and lessens their burdens of daily problems temporarily. The female counterpart of Dandu is Chandrauli (Chandravali) who acts alternately as a hard to get arch female and a shrew and the Rolu cajoles and coaxes her to relent. For a month, these shows are enacted in various villages by traveling troupes of performers who are presented with gifts of food and money by the villagers.

The Googa Swang is a source of amusement. The local singers who belong to the Natha sect team up and go around from village to village singing songs for a whole month during the monsoons. The Jogis go around with a large umbrella made out of bamboo and leaves which is embellished with coloured strings. Two young boys carry peacock feathers at the head of the processions and dance to the beat of the drums assuming warrior like postures. The farmers present food grains to these troupes. The grains collected thus are eventually stored in the Bhandara on Googa Navami.

The Nanoo Vinayaka dance or Jhamakada or Navami Ka Swang is also a special Swang enacted during wedding or at a sacred thread ceremony. During a wedding day the womenfolk perform behind stage, a nightlong programme of songs and dances known as 'Nautch'. In this the women dress up as men and act out many incidents of domestic life. Men are not permitted to see these and have to face hilarious punishments if they are caught peeping in.