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Punjabi dances are an array of folk and religious dances of the Punjabi people indigenous to the Punjab region, straddling the border of India and Pakistan. The style of Punjabi dances ranges from very high energy to slow and reserved, and there are specific styles for men and women.



Bhangra dancers in Punjab, India

Bhangra is the most popular folk dance from Punjab, originating in the Sialkot area of Punjab, Pakistan.[1][2][3][4] It is especially associated with the vernal Vaisakhi festival.[5]

Bhangra was mainly done by Punjabi farmers during the harvesting season. It was mainly performed while farmers did agricultural chores. As they did each farming activity they would perform bhangra moves on the spot.[6] This allowed them to finish their job in a pleasurable way. After harvesting their wheat crops during the Vaisakhi season, people used to attend cultural festivals while dancing bhangra.[6] For many years, farmers performed bhangra to showcase a sense of accomplishment and to welcome the new harvesting season.[4]


Folk dancers from Punjab performing at six-day Folk Dance Festival ‘Lok Tarang, in New Delhi on January 19, 2007

Giddha is a popular women folk dance in the Punjab region. Giddha displays a traditional mode of performing Punjabi femininity, as seen through dress, choreography, and language.[7] While the form of giddha was not seriously affected by Partition of India, Gibb Schreffler writes that it has been classified as the women's dance counterpart to the male form bhangra, despite that not entirely being the case.[8]

Traditionally, women used to wear salwar kameez and Ghagra in bright colours and jewellery. The attire is completed by dressing the hair in two braids and folk ornaments and wearing a tikka on the forehead.[9]

Malwai Giddha

Malwai Giddha is a male folk dance from the Malwa region of Punjab.[10][11][12][13][14] The dance was originally performed by elderly men. The dance originated in the Malwa area of the Punjab region and is associated with the districts of Muktsar, Bathinda, Faridkot, Sangrur, Ferozpur, Mansa and Patiala.[10]


Luddi is performed in cirles by both men and women while clicking their fingers and clapping hands, jumps and half-turns.[15][16][17][18][19] It is mainly performed on weddings and sports to celebrate victory.[20][21][22][23][24] It can be performed in pairs or in groups on tunes of dhol and shenayi.[25] 'Luddi hay jamalo' was a famous song sung by Noor Jehan in 1980s and often sung at weddings by women.[26][27]


Sammi is a traditional dance form originating from the tribal belt of Punjab, particularly in the Sandalbar area of the Pothohar plateau.[28] Men usually perform the Sammi dance during conventional Punjabi parties. It is also performed by women, who dress in bright colourful kurtas and lehengas, often accompanied with a silver hair accessory.[29]

Commonly, it has a slow flow and people dance in a circle. While forming a ring, dancers swing their hands from the side and bring them to the front.[29] People implement a hopping sequence, along with using sticks in their hands. The Coke Studio track ‘Sammi Meri Waar’ by Umair Jaswal and Quratulain Baloch is a popular song of this dance genre.[29]


Jhumar performed before 1947

Jhumar, also called Ghumbar in the Sandalbar area,[30] is also popular in the Sandalbar areas of Punjab.[31] It is slower and more rhythmic form.[32] The word "Jhumar" comes from Jhum/Jhoom, which means Swaying. Jhumar is performed at the wedding ceremonies usually.[33] The dance is also performed in circle, to the tune of emotional songs.[33]


Kikkli dancing

Kikkli is a popular female folk dance performed by two holding hands and twirling each other in circle and balancing their positions in circular motions.[34][35] It is generally popular in young girls and performed in pairs.[36][37] A variety of songs are used with clapping, usually with two females standing face to face close to each other and holding the hands crossing arms with the bodies inclined back;[34][35][38] in this position the arms are stretched to the maximum and hands interlock firmly.[38] Then they wheel round fast continuously with their dupattas floating in the air and anklets making tinkling sound.[37][38] It is accompanied by songs with clapping.[35] Sometimes it is done by four women.


Gatka demonstration in Bedford, England

Gatka is a form of martial art associated primarily with the Sikhs of the Punjab. It is a style of stick-fighting, with wooden sticks intended to simulate swords.[39] The other weapon used is a shield, natively known as phari.[40] The gatka is now popular as a sport or sword dance performance art and is often shown during Sikh festivals.[41] Gatka's theory and techniques were taught by the Sikh gurus, and employed in the Sikh wars and has been thoroughly battle tested.[42]


  1. ^ "Bhangra – dance".
  2. ^ Dhillon, Iqbal S. (1998). Folk Dances of Punjab. Delhi: National Book Shop.
  3. ^ Ballantyne, Tony. Between Colonialism and Diaspora: Sikh Cultural Formations in an Imperial World [1]
  4. ^ a b Singh, Khushwant (23 May 2017). Land of Five Rivers. Orient Paperbacks. ISBN 9788122201079 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ Manuel, Peter (2001). doi:10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.47339. ((cite web)): Missing or empty |title= (help); Missing or empty |url= (help)
  6. ^ a b Pandher, Gurdeep. "Bhangra History". Retrieved 28 November 2019.
  7. ^ "Giddha Origin and history". Retrieved 9 March 2017.
  8. ^ Schreffler, Gibb (2004). "Vernacular Music and Dance of Punjab". Journal of Punjab Studies. 11 (2): 197–214.
  9. ^ "Giddha Dress Code". Retrieved 9 March 2017.
  10. ^ a b Walia, Aarohi (2008). Folk Dances of Punjab. Unistar Books. pp. 64–65. ISBN 9788171426027.
  11. ^ Roy, Anjali Gera (April 2020). "Gendering Dance". Religions. 11 (4): 202. doi:10.3390/rel11040202.
  12. ^ David, Ann R. (10 December 2015). "Embodied cultural memories of the Punjab: Giddha dance and song in migrant London space". Traditiones. 44 (2): 149–171. doi:10.3986/Traditio2014440208. Retrieved 29 March 2023.
  13. ^ Singh, Nahar; Gill, R.S. (2004). "Folk Practices in Punjab" (PDF). Journal of Punjab Studies. 11 (2): 171–196. Retrieved 29 March 2023.
  14. ^ Mooney, Nicola (September 19, 2008). "Aaja Nach Lai [Come Dance]: Performing and Practicing Identity among Punjabis in Canada". Ethnologies. 30 (1): 103–124. doi:10.7202/018837ar. Retrieved 29 March 2023.
  15. ^ "Luddi - Kalapeet". 21 April 2021.
  16. ^ Post, Like This. "Luddi Dance – Punjab". School Chalao.
  17. ^ Service, Tribune News. "Non-stop luddi by folk society enters Int'l Book of Records". Tribuneindia News Service.
  18. ^ "Luddi Dance". Indian Classical Folk & Tribal Dance. 12 March 2012.
  19. ^ "luddi | Pakistani folk dance | Britannica".
  20. ^ Kundi, Asma (15 April 2017). "Punjabi Sufi singers enthral visitors". DAWN.COM.
  21. ^ "The Most Popular Dances of Pakistan". DESIblitz. 21 August 2018.
  22. ^ Reporter, A. (21 May 2015). "Culture of Punjab celebrated". DAWN.COM.
  23. ^ Shahid, Jamal (31 March 2008). "Performing arts group brings smiles to Islamabad". DAWN.COM.
  24. ^ Correspondent, The Newspaper's (6 October 2013). "Lok Rahs drama festival". DAWN.COM.
  25. ^ Ahmed, Shoaib (12 January 2017). "Beating the drum for her art". DAWN.COM.
  26. ^ Khan, Sultan Arshad (4 August 2019). "SOUNDSCAPE: THREE GENERATIONS OF SONGMAKERS". DAWN.COM.
  27. ^ "COVER STORY: Mega mutiars". DAWN.COM. 17 December 2008.
  28. ^ "Culture". Archived from the original on 2020-04-28. Retrieved 2016-07-24.
  29. ^ a b c Manga, Dhiren (2018-08-21). "The Most Popular Dances of Pakistan". DESIblitz. Retrieved 2023-05-16.
  30. ^ Dhillan, I. S. (1998). Folk Dances of Panjab. National Book Shop. p. 55. ISBN 978-81-7116-220-8.
  31. ^ Punjab District Gazetteers: Shahpur District. 1897. p. 93.
  32. ^ "Jhumar Dance - Folk Dance Performed on Marriage Ceremonies by Men". Archived from the original on 2015-08-29. Retrieved 2015-01-16.
  33. ^ a b Manga, Dhiren (2018-08-21). "The Most Popular Dances of Pakistan". DESIblitz. Retrieved 2023-01-16.
  34. ^ a b "Kikli". Archived from the original on January 23, 2013. Retrieved March 19, 2012.
  35. ^ a b c Singh, Durlabh (2011). In the Days of Love. p. 155.
  36. ^ Kohli, Yash (1983). The Women Of Punjab. p. 120.
  37. ^ a b "Kikli dance". Retrieved March 19, 2012.
  38. ^ a b c "Kikli". Retrieved March 19, 2012.
  39. ^ Donn F. Draeger and Robert W. Smith (1969). Comprehensive Asian Fighting Arts. Kodansha International Limited.
  40. ^ Sadaqat, Muhammad (March 17, 2019). "Gatka a centuries old art of self-defence". DAWN. Retrieved October 7, 2021.
  41. ^ Sikh martial art `Gatka' takes the West by storm. (Press Trust of India). The Hindu
  42. ^ Singh, Pashaura; Louis E. Fenech (March 2014). The Oxford Handbook of Sikh Studies. OUP Oxford. p. 459. ISBN 978-0-19-969930-8.
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