History of Choliya Dance
This folk dance form dates back to over thousand years. This is a dance form which has its origin in the warring Khasiya Kingdom of Khasdesh, when marriage ceremonies were performed at the point of the swords. They were integrated by the Chand Kings who actually arrived in the scene during the 10th century. In Nepal, the word Khasa is synonymous to Kashatrya, and in Khasdesh, too, they took on the customs of the Rajputs, who were themselves honorary Kashatryas. Keeping with the old tradition, the Rajputs perform this dance form in their wedding ceremonies led by the male dancers who go on dancing till they reach the house of the bride.
Performance of Choliya Dance
The dancers generally come from Champawat and Almora. Though dancing is not their profession, but they are trained for the occasion. The entire team consists of 22 people, eight of which are dancers, and 14 musicians. They perform this dance form with sword and shield in pairs, the drummers are usually Harijans called Dholies, while the Turi and Ransing are played by Bairagis, Jogis or Gosains. The Turi and Ransing are typical Kumaon instruments. Wonderfully harmonized, and marked with turns and jumps of the body, the dancers show several sword-fighting feats.
The dancers are dressed in the material costumes of ancient war kings, the shields and the flashing swords, along with music playing at the background which renders a perfect war like atmosphere. The atmosphere is beautifully set with huge red flag containing various symbols of animals which convey a sense of fear, joy, awe and wonder, through eyes, eyebrows and shoulders, creating at the same time, the impression of group advancing for an attack.
Costumes of Choliya Dance
The costume that the dancers wear mainly consists of Churidar Pyjama, one cross belt, one long Chola, one belt to be worn round the waist, pattis on the legs and a turban. They decorate their face with sandalwood paste, chandan and vermillion (red coloured mainly). They also wear ear rings; a bronze shield and real sword complete the ensemble.
Forms of Choliya Dance
There are various forms of Choliya Dance popular all over Kumaun. Bisu nritya, Saraanv, Rann nritya, Sarankar, Veerangana, Chholiya Baja and Shauka Shaili are some of them.