28-year-old Radha Prajapati started her dance group 3 years ago to pave the way forward for Rai, a traditional dance form from Bundelkhand. She takes great pride in her culture and believes it is crucial to promote the traditional art forms of her region as they aren’t held in high esteem in popular opinion. She dreams of bringing Bundeli folk art to the mainstream and giving it the visibility that Punjabi and Haryanvi music enjoy today.
Rai, in particular, has been commonly associated with the Bedia tribe and is known for its sensational lyrics, suggestive dance and revealing clothing. Radha and her dance group are working to change that perception and revive the dance in its original form, which was performed by the people to celebrate the beauty of life. Women would dress in ornate clothes, sing about the rains and harvest, and praise Lord Ram and Goddess Sita. Women dance to Rai wearing overlong ghagras measuring 10-12m long and are a prominent and recognisable feature of the art. The dresses create a beautiful pattern when the dancers twirl to the music, resembling milk being churned. Rai derives its name from that, as the churn is called Rai in the Bundeli language.
Rai also involves singing and percussion instruments to support rhythmic dancing. For Radha, Rai best represents the spirit of Bundelkhand, which is about celebrating the joy of life, and entertaining the audience with energetic dancing and singing. Radha Prajapati’s troupe is only 3 years old, but they are already immensely popular, having performed at Namaste Trump! and Dubai Expo. They were the only Bundeli performers at both events. Radha believes her group’s commitment to authenticity and attention to detail – be it in the costumes, the dance or the choice of lyrics for their songs – that sets them apart. They remain committed to presenting respectable, family-friendly performances that celebrate Bundeli culture.