Himachal Pradesh

Neelam and Group

Folk from the Hills


Gaddi community has both lower and higher castes. They follow a very different culture and traditions making them different from the other communities. They have a beautiful culture of folk songs which is divided according to the occasions that occur in ones’ life. They are mostly found in the Indian states of Himachal Pradesh. They follow Hindu religion and belong to several castes like Brahmin, Rajput, Dhangar, Khatri, Rana and Thakur. They have preserved their traditional culture in the original form till date. Gaddi music can be divided into various categories like marriage songs, festivity songs, love songs, historical songs, and religious songs.


Dhud wo dhud

Dham wo dham

Banjanda kai aaya amma meriye maaya

Gaura asks about the sound she could hear approaching

Chai wo chakk bajda kai aaya

What is this sound of chhai and chakk approaching

Chai wo chakk bajda nagada

The sound chhai and chakk approaching is of a Nagada

Dhiye laadliye

My dear daughter

Chadi diye amadi reh heja

Leave all the pampering by your mother

Dhiye laadliye

My dear daughter

Chadi diye baapuyeri goda

Leave the comfort of your father’s lap

Dhiye laadliye

My dear daughter

Jaliye dhara kheriye dhuriye

There is fog in the valley

Hari bhala Vishnu

Help us oh Lord Vishnu


Neelam and her group are fabulous performers on one side while they sit and sing on the other the dance performers present a beautiful dance with lovely synchronizations and choreography. While singing these songs they dressed up in their traditional costume which is quite unique. The men wear a frock like a cloak of white called ‘Chola’, which is secured around waist with many woollen sashes. They wear a high peaked cap which is pulled down over the ears in severe winter. The female dancers wear the traditional Himachali dress while performing, which is specifically worn by brides at the time of marriage. The flaring bottom gown is called Nuachadi; the covering dupatta is called ‘reeda’; and the black ‘dori’ tied on the waist, which is said to be worn by Lord Shiva when he became a ‘Jogi’. The accessories used for ‘Shringaar’ are Chidi and Maang Teeka (the head accessory), Chandrahaar (the silver necklace), Gojri (silver bracelet), Nath (a big nose ring).

Amrit Dhara Group

Keeping Tradition with Faith


Gaadi community has a culture filled with various types of beautiful traditions residing in the valleys of Chamba and Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh. In this serene land, we met this group that consists of 12 women singers, and 2 male singers accompanied by 8 female dancers. They perform the rare art form ‘Nuvala’, in which the community singers depict the folklores of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati’s marriage rituals. The songs are about the various events of that wedding. Most of the young girls of the group have learnt singing and dancing from their Guruji, Janme Jai Singh Guleria Ji who has performed for Dharamshala radio station also in recent years. The group is extremely talented and thus are professionals in the art forms like Nuvala (marriage of Lord Shiva), Jamkaara (fun moments at the time of marriage: songs about teases and taunts about the bride and bridegroom), Suhaag (girl’s marriage) and Sehra ( boy’s marriage). They also sing devotional songs of Baba Ji (a local deity bhajan) at ‘Jaagrans’ in Dharamshala.

The group strictly follows the traditional folk song like – Shiv Kailasho ke Vaasi, Bhole balle shaami ka byaah, Jaanni Shiva teri hanjue bo hoi, Mahadeva o mahadeva paanch abe vo kara jo jaanda mere dhudua (other names for Lord Shiva), Sanja riya bela mera day, siddh bo jogi aaya, aaya bole lallariya laal chidi, etc. Their art form includes the Nuvala adance forms which include the female dancers too who wear the traditional Himachali dress while performing, which is specifically worn by brides at the time of marriage. The flaring bottom gown is called Nuachadi; the covering dupatta is called ‘reeda’; and the black ‘dori’ tied on the waist, which is said to be worn by Lord Shiva when he became a ‘Jogi’. The accessories used for ‘Shringaar’ are Chidi and Maang Teeka (the head accessory), Chandrahaar (the silver necklace), Gojri (silver bracelet), Nath (a big nose ring). The group gets around 1 to 2 shows per month but that too usually varies according to seasons. They perform at the time of Baisakhi (besoa) and Lohri (khichdi), and in marriages. Average payment received per show is never fixed payment and sometimes they also perform without charging any fees. For their performances, they use instruments like Dholak, Ghartaal and Kaansi. The songs are played in a particular style which is highly appreciated by the locals over there. The melody of the songs is so catchy and attractive that one automatically starts swaying with the tunes of it.

Dharamshala Folk Group

A Rendezvous of Tradition


There is a small village in the Dharamshala known as Chinmay Mahila Mandal. The group consists of all women who sing beautiful traditional folk songs sung during different occasions based on different situations like – weddings, birth, etc. The songs are they sing are very enjoyable and definitely, an add-on to the fun. Something very unusual and wonderful about the group is that they don’t have any group leader. It’s all the ladies who decide the things together and perform at different locations. They have been invited to various location to showcase their performances. We asked them that what is the best venue they feel is to document their songs, all together they told the same – a nearby temple. Indeed it was an exotic location as there was a temple at the bank of river Beas with a huge Banyan tree alongside making it worth watching.


The group performs at all the functions held at the village. They are simply women who are all housewives and are passionate about the songs they sing and write too. They are not very literate but still manage to write in their language and compose. Their songs are about making fun of the groom or bride before their wedding. They only sing in the Kangri language. All the ladies have children and husband at home but it is really appreciable that all of them lend their support to what their wives or mother want. Once the set up was done the ladies began to sing and the songs were so entertaining and go so well with simple instruments like dholak and manjira. They don’t want to be very famous or known by all they have a simple dream in which they see themselves earning something out of their music so that they too could take care of their families.

Uttam Chand Dholru

Beating Drums Down the Hills


When we first encountered the word Dholru we wanted to know more about it as it sounded like an instrument. After asking the locals we got to know that it is a festival which is celebrated in the month of Dholru where people from a particular community sing songs of this season going from one house to another in the entire village. For people of the region, they consider it very auspicious to listen to the songs sung but the Dholru community. While getting to know more about the song we met a couple who belonged from the same community. Their names were Uttam Chand and Ikko Devi.  They both sang songs of the harvest during the month of Dholru. Uttam is into full-time music whereas his wife takes care of the house and follows her tradition also. Uttam performs Kangra folk music with his wife, Ikko Devi. The music that they play is indeed very different from the ones played by the others in that region. Uttam plays the instrument Dholki whereas Ikko Devi simply sings with her Manjra.


They were afraid to sing for us their special songs as we had gone to meet them in the month of September. So we had to take them to a place where no one comes and that place was in the middle of gushing of river Beas which was flowing all in her glory. We requested the hesitant artists to sit on the rock in between the river and thus with our wireless recording setup they started with their music. The couple is one of the only few lefts who perform the traditional Hindu new year folk song of the month of ‘Baisaakh’ or Dholru. They are an old couple who earn their living mostly by performing at marriages and festivals. The couple is said to perform a unique song which is sung when someone is facing difficulty in getting married; statues of Lord Krishna and Radha are married in a small ceremony and then floated away in a water body. The song is sung during that ceremony. They also sing songs about Rain, Marriages, local deities, new year, and other folk songs with their signature instrument Dholaki.  Upon asking we got to know that all they get from their music is varying number of shows with a payment of Rs 3000 to Rs 4000 for each. Clearly the amount is not enough to run their family in today’s time but still, they prefer not to quit their traditional music and still follow it for their living.

Mahendro – Veena

A 42 Years Old Musical Bond


In the middle of the mountains, the peace one feels is equivalent to the one that you feel after listening to the Mahendro and Veena’s melodious voice and rhythm. Mahendro belongs from Gaddi community and his music as sweet as his nature. He has beautiful stories of Chamba and Palampur from where he belongs. He was doing a job as labour until he was 20 but after that, the Gaddi music pulled him and he became engrossed in the sweetness of it from where his musical journey began. Chirping and down to Earth Mahendro shyly told us that he is married to Veena for 42 years and from that time ever since they have been singing together. When you see the duo you could see only two people but they are playing the role of five. Mahendro plays Rubab, Khanjira and Dhol together simultaneously with his singing whereas Veena plays Majira and sings too. To document them we reached a place in the beautiful mountains of Dharamshala. We had to make it special for the duo and there we chose a place which was at the edge of the mountain in between a river valley going down the hills. The place was just perfect to record them as it signified its serenity and beauty together with the music of this couple.


After making them settle down and wiring them up with our equipment when they went ahead and started singing, everything came together in the picture. They started with a song dedicated to their Lord Shiva describing his life with both his wives Gauri and Parvati, leading to another which stated the tale of Lord Shiva’s marriage. The music was so sweet in the rhythm that it bound us for the entire time and it felt like they should never stop. Mahendro and Veena hail from Palampur and have been their ever since they got married. About the Gaddi folk music they told us that it is a culture which is different and beyond from the world, and thus comparing it with something else is just they can’t even think of. They would do anything but never leave their music. They have two children together, both are married and the condition of their living is also doable but still never thought of retiring from the music that they play. Because for them their love for music is nothing less than their love for their children and their families. On this note, Veena tells us that, its passion for her which she would never let go off and it is the dearest thing in her life. They can’t imagine their life without it.