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Lavani- The Pride of Maharashtra


Lavani is one of the most dynamic, robust, sensual and popular folk dances of the Indian state of Maharashtra as well as the surrounding areas in Konkan or coastal region of India. It is a combination of song and dance. The most common themes of this folk dance are feelings like heroism, love, sorrow, devotion and different aspects of social life such as religion, politics etc.

Maharashtra was once a battle torn state and lavani dance served as a morale booster and a mode of entertainment to weary soldiers during the 18th and 19th centuries. This dance form reached the peaks of popularity during the rule of the Peshwa Dynasty that was seated in Pune, during which Lavani was given support by the ruling elite. This folk dance was originally performed by ‘Dhangars’ or shepherds living in the Sholapur district of Maharashtra. They were inspired by nature and the dance form contains tales of the birth of their deity. Lavani has come a long way since then and has been adopted as an integral part of the culture of Maharashtra. 

The word Lavani is derived from the word ‘Lavanya’ which means beauty. The dance is mainly performed by women. Often, male dancers called ‘Nat’ or ‘Kinnar’ join the female dancers in a lavani performance. The dance is performed to the beats of ‘Dholki’ [a percussion instrument] and is noted for its powerful rhythm. The tempo of the music and the dance is quite fast.

Lavani performance can be broadly categorised into two parts- ‘Nirguni Lavani’ and ‘Shringari Lavani’. Nirguni Lavani deals with philosophy and the devotional music of the Nirguni cult and is popular all over Malwa. Shringari Lavani deals with sensuality. In this, the dancer expresses her feelings towards her lover. Long performance of Lavani depict various situations such as the passionate endeavours of soldiers or the separation of a husband and wife etc. Shringari Lavani is very popular and is performed in theatres as well as in Bollywood movies. In Bollywood, Madhuri Dixit’s ‘Main Kolhapur Se Aayi Hoon’ and Vidya Balan’s ‘Mala Jau De’ songs have depicted the Lavani form of music. 


Lavani Dance on Bollywood Song- Mai Kolhapur Se Aayi Hoon

Lavani is said to have developed into two different performance types: ‘Phadachi Lavani’ and ‘Baithakichi Lavani.’ The lavani performed in front of a huge audience is called Phadachi Lavani. It makes use of folk, classical and semi–classical tunes. It has a theatrical atmosphere. On the other hand, Baithakichi Lavani is performed by sitting in one place. In this, the dancer only makes use of her upper body. The expression of the dancer’s eyes and face depict her feelings. This lavani has a selective audience and is mostly performed to classical tunes and nodes.


Phadachi Lavani
Baithakchi Lavani

During a lavani performance, the female performers wear a nine-yard long saree commonly known as ‘Nauvari’ saree’. The saree is wrapped around in a ‘kashta’ drape referring to the saree being tucked at the back. The dancers’ hair are tied a bun called ‘juda’ or ‘ambada’. The dancer may also wear ‘gajra’ [flower garland] in the hair. The accessories worn by the dancers include ‘kamar patta’ (waist-band), earings, necklace, anklets, bangles, and a nose ring called ‘nath.’ The dancers also put a large bright red colour ‘bindi’ on their forehead. 


Over the past few years, Lavani has tremendously evolved as a dance and a musical form. It is often performed on lyrics related to modern times, thus giving it a universal and contemporary appeal. Lavani is truly a graceful dance form with a deep and rich cultural history. 


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