In pictures: Chhattisgarh’s tribal folk dance Gaur Maria inspired by the wild bison

In pictures: Chhattisgarh’s tribal folk dance Gaur Maria inspired by the wild bison

In pictures: Chhattisgarh’s tribal folk dance Gaur Maria inspired by the wild bison dance drum headdress 30stades

The highlands of Bastar in southern Chhattisgarh hide within their forests a culturally rich Gond tribe called the Sing (Bison horn) Maria or Tallaguda Marias. They also inhabit the Gadchiroli district in Maharashtra and parts of Madhya Pradesh.

Almost cut off from the rest of the world, they have managed to retain their unique rituals and culture for hundreds of years.

Kosh

The tribe derives its name Bison Horn Maria from the headgear worn by men while performing their traditional dance on social occasions, festivals, harvest time etc. 

The tribal folk dance Gaur Maria or Bison dance is inspired by the movements of the wild bison. The headgear was traditionally made with the horns of wild bison, now deemed as vulnerable according to the IUCN list. 

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So, horns of wild buffalo and spotted deer are used instead. They are placed on a bamboo frame, with feathers of peacock or jungle fowl, while stringed cowrie shells hang down from it, almost covering the face of the dancer.

The headdress is a family heirloom and passed on from father to son.

Women also participate in the Bison dance, wearing colourful clothes and ornate metallic headdresses. The dance is rhythmic with easy steps as men and women go around in circles.   

The bison horn headdress is passed on from father to son. Now, horns of wild buffalo and spotted deer are used instead of the bison. Pic: Flickr 30stades
The bison horn headdress is passed on from father to son. Now, horns of wild buffalo and spotted deer are used instead of the bison. Pic: Flickr

The invitation for the dance is announced through a bamboo trumpet. Male dancers enter with flutes and large cylindrical drums, which hang from their shoulders. The drums are mostly played with hands though wooden sticks are also used sometimes. These cylindrical drums are heavy and made from hollowed tree trunks about three feet in length.

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A single 3-feet log of wood is smoothened out without cracking to make the drum.

The drums earlier helped to round up the animal before killing it but are now only used while performing the Bison dance.

Women sing songs and carry sticks called tirududi in their right hand and tap them on the ground in rhythm with the drumbeats. The Bison dance combines music with fun, frolic and teasing, which keeps alive the spirit of life. More pictures here:

Bison Horn Maria men play 3-feet drums which they make themselves. Pic: Flickr 30stades
Bison Horn Maria men play 3-feet drums which they make themselves. Pic: Flickr

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The headdress is decorated with feathers and stringed cowrie shells, which almost cover the face of men. Pic: Flickr
The headdress is decorated with feathers and stringed cowrie shells, which almost cover the face of men. Pic: Flickr
Women wear colourful, mostly red and orange sarees and wear metallic headgear. Pic: Flickr 30stades
Women wear colourful, mostly red and orange sarees and wear metallic headgear. Pic: Flickr

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Women wear colourful, mostly red and orange sarees and wear metallic headgear. Pic: Flickr 30stades
Bison dance or Gaur Maria dance is held on all social occasions like marriage, harvest etc. Pic: Flickr
Women sing songs and carry sticks called tirududi in their right hand and tap them on the ground in rhythm with the drumbeats. Pic: Flickr
Women sing songs and carry sticks called tirududi in their right hand and tap them on the ground in rhythm with the drumbeats. Pic: Flickr

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Men play the drums with hands or using wooden sticks. Pic: Flickr 30stades
Men play the drums with hands or using wooden sticks. Pic: Flickr
Women also wear headgear decorated with cowrie shells and jungle fowl or peacock feathers. Pic: Flickr 30stades
Women also wear headgear decorated with cowrie shells and jungle fowl or peacock feathers. Pic: Flickr

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