Goa has a rich cultural heritage and traditional folk songs and dances, forms an important part of this cultural heritage of Goa. Goa has many types of traditional folk dances like fugdi, lamp dance, dekhni etc. All these dances are famous and mostly practised in rural areas. Dhalo is one of these dances which is well known and is important part of the Goan culture.
Dhalo is a dance form performed by kunbis, bhandari, naik, gabit and gaudi communities. Legend tells us that Radha used to sing love songs (Dhalos) to Krishna. In the beginning the Dhalos referred only to the love of Radha and Krishna. Later people gradually developed the songs and they started to sing praises to other Gods too.
Dhalo are held to pray for divine intercession to extricate any evil, improve relations and have peace in village. Basically it’s a way of worshipping mother earth sylvan deity for protecting their house holds. This dance is performed only by women. Annual womens festival is celebrated as per the Hindu calendar, during the month of pausha and magha on the moonlit night. This dance is performed during the week long festivities are held at night time. It is mostly celebrated for 5, 7 or 9 days. It extends from Goa to Konkan.
For performing those dance, women of any age can participate however the widows do not participate in the dhalos. Compared to fugdi dance, this dance is slow. Normally 12-24 women assemble after the dinner to perform Dhalo. They form 2 parallel rows or semicircle of 12 facing each other. All women in a row in a tribal fashion form a link within themselves with an arm- around the back arrangement. Normally, two rows of women confront each other by prancing forward and backward while singing the stories of their life and the contemporary society.
The place where Dhalo is performed isreferred to as “dhalyacho mand”, an open place, where the village folk gather to sing, dance or play music as a part of ritualistic performance. The mand is considered to be a sacred place and wearing footwear in “mand” is not allowed. The ladies dress up as men where the rituals demand originally the theme of the songs sung during the dhalo were about Krishnas romance the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Howeverof late Marathi and Konkani songs were included in the repertoire. They sing in unison while dancing.
On the day the Dhalos start, either on a wednesday or a Sunday, the women decorate with rangoli and angod (open space in the house, where the tulars is installed) and also near the temple. The women offer talli (rice, moog and jaggery), which is then cooked and served to those present. Around midnight, the various dances and games start. Stories are narrated and many events are described through the songs and dances. These dances are performed on the first six nights of Dhalo.
The festival begins on a full moon day which is called as “dhalyachi poonav”. The leader locally known as manelkann invokes a salutation to the divinity, the mother earth and seeks blessings for the whole village and for the festival rituals. The women sing about the clothes, ornaments and the looks of god. The songs are typical but sometimes they are simple and spontaneous additions. They are mostly dedicated to nature and often refer to the flora and fauna. The songs sometimes also reflect the stories of their day to day life and their affection with nature. On the concluding day, women sport all sorts of fancy dresses and even caricature menfolk. The Dhalo comes to an end with an event called ‘mand shimpani’ which means sprinkling water on the “mand”.