Bhavai (meaning strolling players) is a popular
folk theatre form of Gujarat. Veshas
(costume) or Bhavai dance dramas
are also known as Swang (vaudeville
Bhavai is as much a form of entertainment
as it is a kind of ritual offering made to
the goddess Amba. In the courtyard
of the Ambaji temple near Mount Abu the Navratri
festival is celebrated with a good many Bhavai
performances. Amba (mother goddess) is the
presiding deity of Bhavai performances. According
to scholars, the term Bhavai is composed
of two words- Bhava and Aai.
Bhava means universe and Aai is mother;
together they signify the mother of the universe,
A salient feature of the Bhavai is subtle
social criticism laced with pungent humour.
Some of the Bhavai dance-dramas present a
scathing review of the caste-ridden social
structure. People belonging to divergent social
strata, from the king to the pauper are portrayed
in Bhavai. Humor plays a vital role in a Bhavai
performance, which is evident enough even
while dealing with mythological personages..
The language of Bhavai is a blend of Gujarati,
Hindi, Urdu, and Marwari.
The musical instruments accompanying Bhavai
performances are the pakhwaj (an
indigenous drum), jhanjha (cymbals),
sarangi (a stringed instrument),
and the harmonium. The music is Hindustani
classical , interspersed with local tunes.
A characteristic instrument of the Bhavai
is the bhungal – a four feet
long copper pipe, played during dance sequences
and also to indicate the entry of important
A folk dance of the same name exists in Gujarat’s
neighbouring state of Rajasthan.In Rajasthan,
this spectcular dance form consists of veiled
women dancers balancing nearly seven or nine
brass pitchers as they dance dexterously,
pirouetting and swaying with the soles of
their feet perched on top of a glass or on
the edge of a sword. There is a sense of nail-biting
susupense as the perfermance reaches a crescendo.