Shakira, Beyonce are household names these days. They are flaunting hip dancers of 21st century. Their skills of belly dancing and hip movement have made us idolise them. But, don’t you think our own cultures have something in them to be appreciated of? Well, this is a story about a traditional hip dancing which has been in the Tripuri Hills for centuries and has been celebrated by the tribal cultures due to its uniqueness.
Hojagiri dance is one of the famous dances of Tripura. The dance is performed on the occasion of Hojagiri festival or Laxmi Puja, held in the following full moon night of Durga Puja .The goddess Mailuma or Laxmi is worshipped with full reverence and devotion on this day. The Riang clan of Tripura are known to be the best performers of this world renowned rare dance form. Riangs are known to be fond of dancing. They have performed the Hojagiri folk dance almost all round the globe and have bagged critical acclamation.
The ancillary logistics required for the dance are — a Baling, which is a wide circular rice cleaning article made up of cane, a pitcher or Kalash, a bottle, a household traditional lamp, a plain dish, a handkerchief for each member. This dance is a reflection of the age-old culture. In this form, only lower half of the body is moved. It is done to create special rhythmic movement. For precise body movements and accurate gestures one has to undergo severe training and regular rehearsal for this dance. It is a slow hip and waist manoeuvring dance. It takes about 30-40 minutes to finish the sequence of Hojagiri dance. It tries to bring out the day to day life of the Jhum cultivators in various phases i.e. from the day of sowing to the harvesting day.
The dance is performed only by women, of about 4 to 6 members in group. The male members are not kept aside, they participate in singing the lyrics, and playing the ‘Kham’, the Kham is actually a drum with skin surfaces on both the sides. The membranes are usually made of goat skin that is tied to each other on both sides with leather strings. Some women also form the team chorus, in the singing group. The lyrics used are very simple but penetrative and have metaphoric meanings, though the dance is unparallel with the Hojagiri dance.
Any information on Hojagiri dance will always be incomplete without mentioning the name of Shri Satya Ram Riang. He can be considered as the pioneer in promoting Hojagiri dance in all over the world and one of the most celebrated Riang sons. He was awarded with the Sangeet Natak Academy award by government of India for his relentless effort to preserve and promote this rare dance form not only in India but also in abroad. But, due to lack of awareness and interest Hojagiri dance has not yet been able to reach its expected position.