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Folk Art as Livelihood
Culture is a great enabler. It fosters social inclusion. We use culture both as a product and as a process. Culture is innovatively used for skill empowerment at grass roots level to build micro enterprise. Cultural traditions are revitalized through training, exposure and promotion. New markets are created and new brands are developed to promote traditional performing and visual arts. Culture thus offers new options for livelihood. Our motto is “To preserve art, let the artists survive”.
  • 1 Art Exhibitions
  • 2 Art for social change
  • 3 Creating identity for heritage traditions
  • 4 Developing Folk Tourism
  • 5 Training Programmes
  • 6 Folk artists perform at a programme on Climate Change
  • 7 Folk for the Urban
  • 8 Innovative Designs
  • 9 Pater Gan
  • 10 Preserving Traditional Skills

AFL in Punjab

Developing culture heritage policy and heritage action plan.

Punjab is a land of diverse culture. It bears testimony to several foreign invasions. Influences from European, Middle-eastern and Central Asian countries flowed into India through Punjab. The history and geography of the region thus resulted in a rich tangible and intangible cultural heritage. Ballads of love and war, fairs and religious festivals, dance, music, rural sports, martial arts and literature are among the characteristic expressions of the state’s cultural life. Punjab’s culture has always maintained immense popularity for its vibrancy and liveliness.

Government of Punjab has planned to promote the folk art forms and use the rich tangible and intangible cultural heritage of Punjab and its potential to contribute to the development of the state.

We as a Thematic group on Intangible Cultural Heritage and Traditional Cultural Industries, assigned by Punjab Govt. undertook a study in 8 districts of Punjab to assess the condition of ICH. The aim was to mobilize the cultural strengths of the people of Punjab to ensure sustainable development via cultural assets, promote social cohesion and most importantly, foster an equitable economic growth. The study was conducted in the districts of Patiala, Chandigarh, Amritsar, Gurdaspur, Kapurthala, Ludhiana, Sangrur, Ferozepur, Fazilka and Hoshiarpur. The study participants included the folk artists and crafts persons and their support network like makers of instruments, promoters, patrons and support institutions (both Governmental and Non Governmental). During the study our team was exposed to the unique heritage assets of Punjab, its rich tangible and intangible cultural heritage of archaeology and architecture, as well as rich philosophy, poetry, spirituality, crafts, artistry, music, cuisine and manifold traditions.

Art Forms


Folk songs of Punjab are the traditional musical forms. There is a great repertoire of music from the time of birth through the different stages of joy and sorrow till death. The folk music invokes the traditions as well as the hardworking nature, bravery, birth of a child, marriage, relations and others. As per the researchers of folk music it is known that previously women used to sing while preparing food or even lighting the chullah. With time,Punjab folk songs have become popular across the country through film and television. There is a wide variety of lok geet like suhag, ghorhian, bolian, tappe,lambe gaunh, sithnian, chhand, heara, lorian, thal, kikali, kirahne, alaunhiya, and tumbealgozedi gayeki etc.

Sufiyana and qawaal
Qaul’, an Arabic word, is an utterance (of the prophet), and a Qawwāl is someone who often repeats (sings) a ‘Qaul’. Qawwāli is what a Qawwāl sings. It is a form of Sufi devotional singing with various accompanying musical instruments by a group with chorus as one of the key driving forces of the element. The idea of Qawwali is epitomised through the uniqueness of music, which blends together the mysticism of Hinduism and Islam and creates an aura of spiritual oneness. The songs which constitute the Qawwali repertoire are mostly in Urdu and Punjab although several songs are in Persian, Braj bhasha and Saraiki. The content includes verses by Bulleh Shah, Shah Hussain, Sachal Sarmast, Baba Farid and others.
Naqal Shaili
It is a form popular in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh is a popular and preferred way of entertainment. It is not only enjoyable but also provides an opportunity to deal with several issues. It presents subtly and sarcastically the streamy shadow spread in our life. Naqal is form of mimetic art that allows the actors to exploit dramatic irony for stage effect, and bring on costumed stage actors for the presentation of various theatrical or dramatic situations. It seems to be the precursor of proscenium comedy or the comedia del’arte. The Naqals are quick-witted and have well adjusted skills developed in them for years. The common man is generally the central theme around which the performance develops. Mummers and comic wits, they exploit all the tricks of exaggeration, absurdity, malapropism, comic gags, and lewd references. In the performance of a Naqal (comic sketch), two people constitute a troupe. The leader holds a leather folder and slaps his foolish partner, who leads his master to a hilarious situation through absurd replies.

It is the best known dance of Punjab. Bhangra and its music originated from farmers in Punjab where agriculture is the prime profession. The songs are those that the men would sing while tending to their fields, sowing the seeds and harvesting crops. Traditional Bhangra movements reflect the many aspects of tending to the land and growing crops. Since agricultural work was done mainly by the men and young boys, the dance steps are boisterous and manly. The Bhangra is perhaps the most virile form of Indian Folk Dances. Instruments used include Algoza, Tumbi and Dhol. The dancers begin to move in a circle around the drummer, who now –and- then lifts the two sticks, with which he beats the drum, to beckon the dancers to a higher tempo of movement. They start with a slow movement of their feet. As the tempo increases, the hands, and the feet and in fact the whole body comes into action. They whirl round and round bending and straightening their bodies alternatively, hopping on one leg, raising their hands, clapping with their handkerchiefs and exclaiming, ‘Balle Balle! Oh Balle Balle’, to inspire themselves and others to the abandon of the dance.

It is performed by women and girls. The dance is derived from the ancient ring dance. One of the girls plays on the drum or – Dholki- while others form a circle. All of them clap their hands and sing small couplets or boliyan or bolis. Then, two or three of them come to the centre and perform the dance. These boliyan cover a variety of themes such as excesses committed by husbands and mother-in-laws. Particular Khalla movement is clapping by the two dancers with each others’ hand while making foot movements facing each other. Sometimes even the Dholki is dispensed with. While moving in a circle, the girls raise their hands to the level of their shoulders and clap their hands in unison. Then they strike their palms against those of their neighbours.. Giddha is a very vigorous folk dance and like other such dances it is very much an affair of the legs.

The Bhands are comic characters wherein two artists jesting together makes the crowd laugh spontaneously. They always perform in duos or at most, trios. They specialize in slapstick—an Abbot-and-Costello like comedy act. The usual performance format consists of a “straight man” that receives wacky retorts to his questions, which he puts to a “funny man.” Whenever the funny man makes a clownish remark, the straight man slaps the other’s hand with a piece of rolled “up leather (chamot)”. The sound of this constant slapping—the “slapstick” as it were—gives a sort of rhythm to the routine. In the traditional context, such duos or trios entertain at childbirth and wedding celebrations, along with other social gatherings.
Musical Instruments

Punjabi folk music instruments and percussions infuse energy to the songs and dance of the region. The land resonates with sounds and beats of dhols, nagaras, tumba, vanjali chimta, been and others. The traditional folk instruments of Punjab are Sarangi, Algoza, Chimta, Rabab, Pakhawaj makers.

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