Hidden Tragedy. Musical Dance. Mysterious Language
Dance is an art. It is a form of expression. It is a heritage. It is a reflection of history. Nepal, a country rich in arts, culture and heritage is filled with majestic dance forms of all kinds and sorts.
One such iconic and one of the popular traditional dances of Nepal is the Ghatu dance. Ghatu dance, a dance indigenous to the Gurung community of Nepal brings many cultures and languages together across the mountains of Central Nepal. It is one of the most complex forms of musical performances by the Gurung community of Nepal, with the complete performance lasting up to “three days and three nights”.
Here are some amazing facts about Ghatu: The Musical Dance-form of Nepal. It is unique and iconic in many aspects:
1. The Hidden Tragic Story
Ghatu is a musical dance form that depicts the tragic love story of the king of central hills: King Pashramu and Queen Yambawati. Pashramu is believed to have gone hunting, where he falls in love with Yambawati, and they get married. They have a child, but in course of another hunt, King Pashramu is killed.
There is no better time to narrate this tragedy on a full moon night and in line with the beats of the madal, another Nepali folk musical instrument.
The climax of the dance is Yambawati’s tragedy and pain, where she is drowned in grief leaving behind everything: her kingdom, her son and ultimately her life.
Dancers tremble as they perform for hours. They are dressed in traditional Gurung costumes and the rituals begin as early as in January, corresponding to the festival of Shree Panchami, which marks the onset of Spring in Nepal.
The main dance begins in Buddha Jayanti and goes on for up to a week.
2. Majestic Musical Performance
The Ghatu is performed by the male chorus, three to four male madal drummers and two to three young female dancers. The style of singing includes vibrated style of singing. The undulating voices and heterophony style of group singing provide a characteristic and unique sound quality to the Ghatu.
The slow and subtle motion of Ghatu makes it even more interesting providing the audience an opportunity to internalize and enjoy the performance.
Interestingly, since the Ghatu comes from an oral tradition and is not in the form of a play, the leader is expected to know the whole story by heart.
3. Mysterious Language and Origin
The language in which the Ghatu is sung is unknown and mysterious. It is neither Nepali nor the Gurung language. So, people prefer to call it “Ghatu” language.
When the Ghatu is being performed, the audience rarely understand the meaning of the words, but they can grasp what is going on.
What is even more interesting is that the singers also don’t understand it word by words, but can explain the meaning of the sentences if asked.
So, the Ghatu is a dance with unknown origin, performed in a mysterious language but connects people so strongly that dancers begin to tremble with audience fully immersing themselves in melody!
Perhaps this is an epitome of how music, dance and art are beyond words and trends the boundaries of time and borders.
4. A Bond of Unity
During ancient times, the Ghatu dance provided an important social setting for the Gurung community to get together. Children, the elderly, the young, the old, the rich, the poor, people across all age groups and classes got together to rejoice the Ghatu.
Ghatu is the heritage that binds the Gurung people together. A dance that strengthens their social fabric across the rank and file, between the hills and beyond.
5. The Gurung Heritage and Identity
Music, art and culture are a vital part of one’s identity. Ghatu dance is a special dance that provides uniqueness to the Gurung community of Nepal. Along with Krishna Chaliltra, Sorathi and Rodhi, the Ghatu is a musical and ethnic heritage of that holds a special place in the Gurung culture in Nepal.
It is one of the intangible heritages of Nepal, which reflects the rich musical diversity of Nepal. It is subtle, mysterious, melodious has a story of tragedy embedded in it.
Here are some glimpses of the Ghatu dance: