Thursday, May 7, 2009

Bach'a Nagma Dancer


The dancer is known as Bacha, the Kid - usually a lithesome (at times, effeminate) boy/man who dances, sometimes comically, always attired like a woman in a multi-colored frock-like dress. The song-dance proceeding are known as Bach Nagma Jashan - Kid Dancer's Celebration. Presently, the most popular song-dance for marriage celebrations.

In older times, another kind of  celebration was more popular - Hafiz Nagma, 'Female Dancer's Song'

In this performance, just like in case of Bach Nagma, songs were usually set to Sufi lyrics or Sufiana Kalam, but the dancer who performed on these songs was always female and known as - Hafiza. These dancers were much celebrated at weddings and festivals.

In 1920s, Hafiz Nagma was banned in Kashmir by the ruling Dogra Maharaja. The Ruler felt this dance was losing its sufi touch and was becoming too sensual, de-based and hence amoral for the society. Now, songs being the same, in an odd parody, female Muslim dancers were replaced by young Muslim boys who dressed like women. It came to be known as bacha nagma and remains a popular for of celebration at Kashmiri weddings. Hafiz Nagma also survived but in an increasingly Islamic going society, kept losing ground.

This wasn't the first time that Kashmiri people had a brush with effeminacy. Kashmiris believe that Mughal Emperor Akbar, after his conquest of Kashmir, in an attempt to counter manly valour of its people and remove any possible future trouble, decree-forced Kashmiri men to were feminine gown like dresses - pheran.

Kashmiris love their pheran. Kashmiris love Bach Nagma.

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Bach Nagma Jashan on the night of Maenzraath

in swirls





Like a singing woman


Hands up- Hands down. Shoulder up-Shoulder down. On his knees.

thumka thumka

Even some Punjabi bhangra with young guys. 

More people he manages to get on the dance floor, the more he is showered with money. When I got dragged to the dance floor, he started doing something like Kathak with his feet, really working those ghungroos. Only problem, his feet were hidden under his frock, and I had no idea what he was doing. What was I supposed to do. Made a fool of myself. I just followed his step.

Around 11:30 and already a sleepy audience.

Time to get them ladies dancing.
That what the bacha does, he is supposed to get everyone to dance. Someone from the family secretly and often overtly points him in the right direction.

In between folk song, a funny song to wake up people, it starts something like this:

Aav ai Aav ai Rajesh Khanna/Syeeth-Syeeth Dimpul Khanna (Chorus)
Aav ai Aav ai Rajesh Khanna/Syeeth-Syeeth Tinkle Khanna (Chorus)

Here comes Rajesh Khanna, Here comes Rajesh Khanna, along comes Dimple and Twinkle Khanna.

 (Then the singer say's that he has seen many beautiful woman. All of the beautiful woman, ladies and girls. But...)

Korayv kor kissai tamaan/ Korayv  kar'e bhumaye fanah 


Girls put an end to the tale/ All girls purged their brows away.

(Then the singer sings about Men and purged turbans, Daughter-in-law and purged Mother-in-law, Mother-in-law and purged Daughter-in-law, and so on. and so forth. What's Rajesh Khanna and his family doing in it all? Don't ask me! )

 Hikat.

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Video to be posted soon.
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Update
Videos of Bach Nagma dance:

Video 1, a Kashmiri love song

5 comments:

  1. One song without which maenzraath seems incomplete is ‘ maenz laejith kaman kaman maenzi naman mubarak’…timing of the song usually coincides with the ceremony in which ‘maenz tyok’ is applied to the bride/groom.

    ReplyDelete
  2. MOST IMPORTANT:

    Most of the people of Kashmir, even the cultural activists and scholars, for one reason or the other, attribute the Bach-Nagma (the kid-dance), as a mental luxury creation of Pathan Rule in Kashmir. which is quite unfounded.

    History stands testimony to this fact that the art & Culture of Kashmir had a great influence from Greeks. Many decedents of Greeks are still found in Kashmir.

    Since in Greek they used to celebrate a festival of Dionysus every year and on the occasion they used to have the most beautiful boy to dance and sing. Sophocles - the most celebrated Greek playwright, is a great reference to that creation.

    Being a protagonist propounder of performing arts of Kashmir, I am convinced by all the facets of this kid dance of Kashmir called Bach-Nagma that it is the changed style and form of that Greek dance and not the product of Pathans mental luxury.

    ReplyDelete
  3. The info. posted in this post comes from 'The new Encyclopaedia Britannica' (1974). The world today even finds those Greek philosophers and their interest in young boys more than weird. Afghans had a more direct contact with Greeks. And Kashmiris had contact with both of them so it all is interesting (I read Kashmiri 'pheren' comes from greek 'epheron'). All very interesting and full of possibilities. May be dancing boys of Dard tribes, from Gurais on the Gilgit Road to Nagar and Chitral, all get it from Greeks. Yet one can't deny that Bacha Nagma became popular during the Chak period (1530-89 AD) under Afghan rule. And it did decline under Dogra rule just as it was restricted by Russians in the Central Asia controlled by them where these dancing boys were also known as Batchas.

    "The Asiatic is naturally fond of music, and passionately adores dancing, or rather the witnessing of dancing. Twenty years ago there used to be regular dancing boys, called Batchas, but the system of these boy-dancers has been practically abolished, and very properly so, in almost every part of Russian Turkestan, by the Russians, although I believe it still exists in Bokhara."
    - from 'The Pamirs: Being a Narrative of a Year's Expedition on Horseback and on Foot Through Kashmir, Western Tibet, Chinese Tartary, and Russian Central Asia' (1893) by Charles Adolphus Murray, Earl of Dunmore.

    So it is all very interesting. Kashmiris just don't see it as a sexual thing, they just enjoy watching dance even if the dancer in not a batcha, a boy but a man dressed as a woman.

    ReplyDelete
  4. the guy (batchkot) in the picture seems to be the only one who dances in kashimiri marriages. He danced on my marriage last october and last week i spotted him in the wedding of my kashimiri friend...

    ReplyDelete

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