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Ghumura Dance: Enthralling the Soul

Odisha has always managed to captivate with different types of dance forms and folk music that were established ages ago in ancestral lineage. The Kalahandi district of Odisha that literally translates to a ‘pot of arts’ is the home ground of Ghumura dance form. Ghumura folk dance is a fine combination of classical and folk lore. Ghumura signifies ‘a pitcher of soil or clay’, which is utilized as a significant prop. It is performed during festivals and other religious congregations across the district.

An ancient war dance, today Ghumura has become the symbol of unity and brotherhood among the varied communities that live in the district. Recognized for its ancestral costume and accessories and set apart by traditional mudras, Ghumura envelops an immaterial social legacy of India.

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Majority of the dance moves and actions of Ghumura have resemblance to many classical dance forms of the country. As the dress of this dance does not co-relate it to the folk soul of the dances, Ghumura dance is slightly isolated by the present tribal community.


Ghumura dance dates back to thousands of years as many mythological legends have proven its existence. The Ghumura Janma Bidhan was composed by the poet Kandarpa Panda in the year 1954 which potrayed the dance form. Ghumura dance has both legendary just as traditional beginnings. In his piece Ghumura Janma Bidhan, Kandarpa Panda makes reference to that Ghumura is a kind of drum. It was a blend of Lord Shiva’s ‘damaru’ and Goddess Sarawati’s ‘veena’. This Ghumura was utilized by Maa Durga to murder the evil spirit Mahishasura.

Ghumura at the State Tribal Museum, Bhubaneshwar (courtesy @Anonymous8D, Twitter)

It was likewise utilized as an instrument by the Gods and the Goddesses in the two legends of Mahabharata and Ramayana. Artistic creations in the caverns of Kalahandi and inscriptions on the caves of the Sun sanctuary of Konark demonstrate the recorded birthplaces of Ghumura dance and its different structures. It is a conviction that the first performance of the Ghumura dance occurred on the banks of the Indravati river and from that point it had spread to the neighbouring towns.

Evidences from Archeology

The cave paintings showing the Ghumaru dance in the caves of the areas of Kalahandi and Nuapada mark its initial presence. These cave arts date back 8000 years. It is accepted that the Ghumaru dance was first performed in the waterway valley of Indravati and spread to the nearby villages from that point. There are a few etchings at the Sun Temple of Konark, demonstrating the exhibition of Ghumaru dance in the bygone eras.

There are numerous varieties or forms of the Ghumaru dance, for example, Ghumura-Ladhei, Badi-Ghumura, Go Spada dance, Mesha Yudha dance, Chaki dance, Go Chanda dance, Kakuta Yudha dance and so on. The dance form is totally male oriented and there is no participation of female dancers.

Inclusion in Folk Culture

This dance is one of the most famous dances of the Kalahandi area and it has now grabbed its place in the folk tradition. This issue is as yet the subject of different discussions that at first this dance form promoted caste biasness, the reason being different tribes of the region perform this dance since ages.

Ghumura Dance during Odisha Tribal sports meet
Ghumura Dance during Odisha Tribal sports meet, 2018 (courtesy Wikipedia)

With the improvement of social qualities, this dance is broadly being acknowledged in different parts of the state regardless of the origin of the dance. Rather than being called a group dance, Ghumura has been always a mass dance since there is no limit on the number of participants performing.

Music and Performance

Ghumura dance is a chivalrous dance performed to the tune of composed melodies alongside the consistent beats of the Ghumura. Performed generally by men, it was created as a sort of war music of the Gods. Ghumura was a ‘darbari’ or a dignified war dance of the royal province of Kalahandi and is performed during war times. The tune and the dance were intended to help the soul of the warriors during the pre–freedom period.

Today, the Ghumura is a method for amusement, love and commitment for the dance as a workmanship, a wellspring of unwinding for the brain and advancement of fellowship. It is mostly performed during the celebration of Nuakhai and Dassahara.

Instruments Used

Artists stick the Ghumura to their chests and beat it while performing the dance. Thus, Ghumura is the instrument significant for the presentation of the dance and the sound. Nishan, Dhol, Taal and Madal are the other customary instruments utilized.

Costumes Worn

Costumes adorned by the participants while playing out the Ghumura takes after that of the ancestral old stories. It comprises of a bright dhoti or a fold over the waist, a hood like cloth embellished with motifs and a colourful shirt. Moreover, the performers have a Ghumura hanging from their neck.


Ghumura as a traditional dance has not gotten the attention it deserves from the common population. Without any government support, this venerable dance form is kept alive only through the efforts of passionate artistes and enthusiastic people. There needs to be wider support for this war-like folk dance, and for that mass awareness is required. Let us help in our own little way, by spreading the word.

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