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Images: details from painting by Allah Baksh (1936). Courtesy: Davinder Satyarthi and the Amarjit Singh Chandan Collection.


Giddha as Dance Therapy





Giddha is a form of folk dance from the Punjab.

Punjabi culture is filled with vibrancy and fun loving, loud people. They believe in expressing themselves with full power and intensity.

Punjabi dances are based around energy and happiness. Giddha’s form has freedom, expression, dramatic voice, facial and body dialoguing. It is a kinaesthetic and muscular activity with elements of clapping and voicing emotions. Thus, it is an act of body, mind and emotions.

Clapping helps to release toxins and also can be related to acupressure, as this triggers the points that effect major inner body organs. This form of movement exploration is therapeutic and has the ability to heal from a holistic perspective. Healing here is not when one goes into hospital and finds external source of therapy but from this perspective it simply means uniting the wholeness of being.

This supports body, mind and spirit energy, bringing many people together to perform in a sacred circle; thus helping socialising to become artistic and motivational. It allows women of small knit family structures, villages and controlled environment societies to voice their inner feelings and releasing painful toxins through singing, dancing and bodily expression. It gives time to people to release everything in a joking, fun-loving manner and especially in a non-judgmental circle.

This form of dance has its rituals like the sacred circle, the authentic movement of women or men who form that circle in a to-fro manner, expressing movement and supporting movers within the circle. It also allows women or men to dress up and look beautiful for a social occasion and this gives them a great sense of empowerment and feel-good factor.

Giddha is somatic (“of the body”) in nature. Somatic dance therapy practice resonates with these principles. It is dance of embodied consciousness that awakens feelings, sensations, visions, perceptions, dreams and freedom through the moving body experiences. It values body; mind and soul connect through body awareness and release of inner emotions and toxins.

Somatic dance practice has a wider context but Giddha resonates with its vital principles of Authentic Movement Practice, which was started by a Somatic dance pioneer, Mary Starks Whitehouse.

Some examples of boli-s (songs and poetic expression) with translations:

ᴥ  The expression of a daughter’s love and expectations from her brothers regarding taking care of her father and giving her token of love. This is also very heart touching and emotional:

harrey harrey ghaah utey sapp fookan maarda ...
harrey harrey ghaah utey sapp fookan maarda ...
bhajo veero ve baapu kallha majhan chaarda ...
bhajo veero ve baapu kallha majhaan chaarda ...
harrey haarey ghaah utey udan bhambhirian ...
harrey haarey ghaah utey udan bhambhirian ...
bhajo veero ve bhaina mangan janjirian ...
bhajo veero ve bhaina mangan janjirian ..


Dear Brother, please bring your awareness to the beautiful green meadow in the tropical rich land of our father’s village. Look at the beautiful black snake with silver texture releasing its tongue outward and kissing the air, feeling the taste of the scrumptious atmosphere. There is a beautiful bird who dances with the same atmosphere, making music in solace. Look at our Father working very hard day and night just for us, giving fodder to the animals in need. You must go and help him now as he is getting older. Dear brother, also if you can please gift me some ornaments that make me look beautiful for my lover as well.

ᴥ   This is a celebration of dance, urging one to enjoy life … before wedded life comes along:

Nach lo ni kurriyo,
Huss lo ni kurriyo,
Nach lo ni kurriyo,
Huss lo ni kurriyo,
Nachna khedna reh jaouga,
Koyi gabhru shaukeen munda lai jaouga ...
Koyi gabhru shaukeen munda lai jaouga ...


O beautiful women, dance with all your innocence, laugh with all your purity, these are the days at your parents’ house where you can enjoy the flower of freedom in childhood. As you grow older, a young handsome man will sweep you off your feet and take your hand in marriage one day. After that you will have so many responsibilities that you will have no time for this.

ᴥ   This is an expression of every woman's dream to have an independent home of her own where she can rule:

Assaa(n) ta mahiya ghar de samne, ucha chaubara pauna ...
Asaaa(n) ta mahiya ghar de samne, ucha chaubara pauna ...
Vakhre ho ke marzi karni, apna hukam chalauna ...
Vakhre ho ke marzi karni, apna hukam chalauna ...


Dear lover-husband, we must design a big house outside our family house. I want it to be unique and royal and I will live like a queen in my house and my rules will be obeyed in this space where I get empowered and feel important as well.

ᴥ    An expression of woman's love for the man in her life:

Jogiyan de kanna vich kach diyan mundrãn,
Mundrãn de vichon tera muh dikhda,
Ve mein jehrre pãse dekhan meinu tu dikhda.


A traveler who is very handsome and loving walks the lonely sacred path of life, he is wearing a beautiful glass ear-ring that is round in shape. As I look into the  ornament, I see the reflection of your face. Clearly, the truth is I love you so deeply that wherever I look, I only see you, my dear lover.

ᴥ    These are blessings of a sister to her brother and his wife:

Chunn wargi bharjayi meri veer vyah ke leyaya ...
Hathee ohde chhaapan challe ...
Mathhey tikka laaya ...
Jug jug jee bhabo, tenu veer vyah ke leyaya ...
Jug jug jee bhabo, tenu veer vyah ke leyaya ...


My sweet loving brother has married a beautiful woman. My sister-in-law‘s face is as beautiful as the moon and her forehead has a lovely golden tikka and her fingers are adorned with rings and trinkets. Blessings and prayers shower you,  O sister-in-law, forever.

ᴥ    A daughter-in-law’s feelings about her mother-in-law , as she expresses it to her husband:

Teri maa barri kappati
Mainu paoun na dendi jutti
Mein vi jutti paani hai
Mundiya tu raazi reh ya gusse
Teri maa kharrkaani hai.


Dear Husband, your mother is very mean to me. She does not let me wear my favourite sandals. I feel that she should not stop me. You like it or not, I don’t care, but I wish to fight with her, as I am upset.

ᴥ    A woman is explaining to a man that if he wants to live with her, then he should no longer be subservient to his mother:

Je mundeya ve meinu naal le-jaana,
Maa da dar tu chak mundeya,
ve meinu reshmi rumaal wangu rakh mundeya ...


O lover, if you want to marry me and take me with you, you must get over fearing your mother. Treat me like a precious silk scarf. Then only will you deserve me … and get me. You will need to learn to keep me like a queen.

ᴥ    The daughter-in-law is complaining to her mother-in-law about her husband’s affair and misbehaviour:

Sussey ni samjha-lai putt nu,
Ghar ni begaane jaanda,
Ni ghardi shakkar boore wargi,
Gurh chori da khaanda,
Ni chandre nu ishq bura,
Bin poudi churrh jaanda …


O mom-in-law, you should teach your son that it is not good to go to another woman’s house. For him, as I am available like a servant, he takes no notice of me and is interested in a woman outside. He is interested in having an affair with another woman; his attraction towards her is bad for me and your family.

ᴥ    A woman is explaining sadness in her life, after her husband has left her:

Ungli meri, mundri teri,
Utte tera naawa,
Ve hijjar gumma ne khaa leya meinu,
Sukkdi sarhdi jaawa(n),
Ve dukhaan vich peh gayi jindri,
Kaddey takkey taan haal sunaawa(n).


Dear lost love of my life, on my finger I have a ring of your name. Sadness has eaten me since you left me alone in this world. I feel weak in my body and bones and deep emptiness in my heart. Since you’ve abandoned me, I can only tell you of my woe if I can meet you again.

ᴥ    This talks about changes in society:

Oh zamaaney gaye jadon si chaa di reet nyari,
Mauraan wale sandook hundey si, rangle palang niwari,
Hatheen dariyan bunn-ke kurriyan, kardiyaan si tyari,
Chaadran uttey totey kadney, laundey si udaariyan,
Hun taan sab kuchh artificial, kehda bootiyaan paawey,
Sab kuchh mul vikda, kehda reejhan laawey ...!


Those times are gone when tea was served with sacred emotions, peacock-design suitcases were woven and beds were stringed with care. Mattresses and carpets were also crafted and created by women for their families. Beautiful crows were embroidered beautifully with creativity and artistry. But now everything is artificial and everything is bought and sold in a market of selfish energy.

*   *   *   *   *

The above Giddha poetry, boli-s and translations demonstrate feelings, emotions and sensations. These are but a few examples that show a diverse variety in Punjab’s rural human relations, politics and societal set-up. This is best expressed through movement creativity, released through dance in a playful manner. It further leads to letting go of inner feelings that lead to serious illnesses if they become toxic and start by affecting the stomach as it is sensitive.

This dance is therapeutic and healing in nature. It is somatic due to its body consciousness and awareness that comes to light in this process. Dance that fuses with life and meaning gives rise to stronger forces of art and creativity.

Giddha folk dance is one fine example of this nature of dance art. It is embedded in the roots of our culture, society and creativity.

The author is trained in Dance, Therapy and Healing Arts, with a degree from the University of Derby, United Kingdom.
July 23, 2014

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