Vidyapat is an ancient cultural dance of the Gangai community. The dance is performed during the marriage ceremony of the Gangai community and other festivals. Elders of Gangai say that the cultural dance is based on mythological stories.
Entertainment is the main goal of this dance that lasts for four hours. The household going to organize a marriage ceremony usually sends a formal invitation for the Vidyapat dance group. And the same team of dancers accept the invitation and come to the marriage and entertain the people with their dances.
“This dance is being performed since our childhood. Now, I am 65 years old. The dance is actually performed during our marriage and festivals like Chhat in a compulsory manner,” says Baldev Mandal, Chairman of, Nepal Gangai Welfare Council, Morang.
The dance team comprises of two males dressed in female costume known as “Natwa”, one joker known as “Victa” in Gangai language. One leading singer is called “Mulgen”. Two persons play Jhyali and one person plays Mandal.
The dance that comprises seven persons at the maximum is limited to only six persons this time as the role of the lead singer and joker is played by one person. Actually, this dance is related to Hindu God Lord Krishna and his dramatic events, although it not only involves the life cycle of Lord Krishna, but also includes traditional myths of the Gangai community.
The dance begins with a prayer to the Guru. Then prayers are offered to the local deities and then begin the dramatic mode of the dance. However, the myths about the social aspects of Gangai are also narrated during the dance. The dance shown here depicts a husband who has returned from abroad is asking for water from his wife by hiding his own identity.
At the end of this dance, the household in a happy mood bids farewell to the team of dancers by giving away “Dali”. The Dali consists of clothes, edibles, and money. In recent times, the practice of fixing the amount of money before the dance is increasing. RanjitMandal, who has been one of the main singers of Vidyapat dance says, “I have been performing this dance for the last 30/40 years.”
The dance is usually performed during the marriage in Madhesh. It is on the verge of extinction these days. In the earlier days, it was compulsory to play tomtom (Dhol) along with this dance, but these days band music is used. Band parties and Maruti are showcased in marriage these days.
Shyam Prasad Mandal, who represents, Natwa-Bariyati Dance group says, “I have been dancing for the last 14/15 years disguised as a female. The dance is performed in Madhes as traditional dance. I dance for marriages and I like dancing too.”
Mandal also says, “Now, the boys are not willing to take part in this dance. I am too feeling shy. No one wants to take my role. Educated youths feel shy to take part in this dance. There is no one to replace us in this dance. No one wants to dance like a female.”
Gangai is one of the marginalized indigenous nationalities of the Terai region in Nepal. The population of Gangai especially found in Morang and Jhapa is also spread in Sunsari, Saptari, Siraha, Dhanusa, Rautahat, Navalprasi, and Rupandehi.
The population of Gangai is estimated to be 36,988 according to the latest national census conducted in 2068 B.S. of which 18603 are females and 18,385 are males. Gangai as indigenous nationality worships nature. They have their own distinct language, culture, and traditions. Although, Gangai people have come under the influence of the Hindu religion, yet their festivals are observed according to their own traditions.
However, the dance associated with the identity of the Gangai community is on the verge of extinction due to the young generation’s interest in modern music and songs. The new educated generations of youths do not want to play the role of female dancers in this dance and the tradition to invite the dancers during the marriage is on the decline.
Gangai elders are concerned about the gradual extinction of this cultural dance. Nepal Gangai Welfare Council has been formed to protect and conserve the Gangai language and culture.
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