Natural Rhythms Of Bagurumba

Inspired by the movements in nature, this strikingly vivid dance form is an expression of joy, like the bursting colours of spring
Dancers mimic butterflies while performing the Bagurumba. Photo by Surajit Sharma
Dancers mimic butterflies while performing the Bagurumba. Photo by Surajit Sharma

Watching the Bagurumba dance is a hypnotic experience. One of the traditional dance forms of the Bodos, it resembles the gentle, rhythmic flapping of butterflies. On a sunny day when the dancers sway and move in circles against the lush green landscape of the foothills of the Himalayas, it is a moment to behold. Believed to be influenced and transpired by the elements of nature, this dance form is over a thousand years old.

Accompanying the graceful movement of the hands, the flapping of the &lsquojwmgra&rsquo (stole) like the wings of a butterfly are the beating of drums played on traditional Bodo instruments. It is hard not to join in to the gentle swaying beat and rhythm of the &lsquokhaam&rsquo (a long cylindrical drum) that accompanies the Bagurumba. The melody is orchestrated on a bamboo flute called the &lsquosifung&rsquo and a round violin-like instrument called the &lsquoserja&rsquo. Other instruments include the &lsquojota&rsquo- made of iron/tama and the &lsquogongwna&rsquo- made of bamboo. Along with a singer, the dance and music is an &lsquoinvite&rsquo to young people to join the festivities or celebrations that occasions the performance of Bagurumba.

Bagurumba is performed during any celebration or festivity of the Bodos. The best time to catch it is during the Bwishagu festival in April, during the same time as Bihu in Assam . This is when the air in Bodoland is filled with the beating drums of the khaam, and people troop out in their bright traditional attires to sway to the pulsating newness of spring.

It is mesmerising to see the dancers fall exactly in step with each other so seamlessly to create patterns seen in nature (flow of wave, flapping of wings). The vibrant and colourful attire worn by the dancers, comprising of dokhna, jwmgra (fasra) and aronaia, makes the dance a visual delight.

The rhythmic notes to which Bagurumba is performed are

&ldquoJat nongabwla
Cool nongabwla
tabwrwm homnanwi-
bamnanwi lagwomwnka
hai lwgw lagwomwnka&rdquo

It translates as the girl saying to the boy &ldquoHad you not been my relative, I would have married you.&rdquo The playfulness of the words is matched by the simple rhythm of the music that often compels onlookers to join the dance. The steps are easy to follow and draw on patterns found in the surrounding evergreen forests. For instance, the dance movements might be inspired by plants, animals, birds, butterflies, waves of flowing rivers or wind. Believed to be centuries old, Bagurumba honours the sense of love, attraction and belonging among young people. It honours human relationships as it does the relationship between humans and nature.

Like everything else in Bodoland, this too is a reflection of the Bodo people&rsquos deep connection with nature. Through the rest of the year, Bagurumba is performed in almost every Bodo celebration or cultural occasion. More than just a dance form, Bagurumba seems like an expression of joy.

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