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.
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.
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 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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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:
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