Folk Songs PDF Print E-mail

Still wild, remote and lonely, the hills are inhabited by a largely aboriginal population, Baiga and Gond, Agaria and Dhoba, Pradhan and Bharia. These folk songs and poetry forms a clearly defined block of literature is still little influenced from outside, still preserving much of its freshness and beauty.

It is possible to speak of this poetry as a whole. In the Maikal Hills all different tribes mix together and share each other’s recreations. The remotest Baiga villages do indeed have their own special movements in their dances and their own emphasis in the songs. The Agaria have their own technical songs about their craft. The Pradhan have their own long narrative poems about epic character which are not shared by other tribes. The following songs are common to all and the simplest reference to these can be by calling them ‘Gond songs’.

It is generally said that anyone born in the Maikal Hills will never be content to die elsewhere, that those who have once slipped in the mud of Maikal will want to live there always. The beauty of the countryside, the charm of the climate, the friendliness of the people is reflected in the songs. Their poetry is often very beautiful both in form and content, in image and symbol. It is impossible to reproduce in a foreign tongue the delicate artistry of the originals.

Many of the songs have a severely condensed form, the obscure reference and the unusual symbolism that is often characteristic of a riddle. The task of translating is thus difficult enough, that of interpretation is impossible without a wide knowledge of the social background.

The neglect, both by scientists and artists of the Indian folk song is astonishing. For a long time only religious and didactic verses were recorded. Over thousands of pages of the great volumes of ethnographic survey – Thurston, Risley, Iyer… and yet the light of the moon of verse does not shine through them.

Yet, the songs are important not only because the music, form and content of verse is itself part of people’s life but even more in songs, in charms, in actually fixed and established documents we have the most authentic and unshakeable witness to ethnographic facts.

The songs are not all the evidence, but they are an important part of it. They round off and complete the picture. They are much nearer real life than the folk tales for these seem to represent an escape from life rather than a reproduction of it.

In Mandla the song is often used as itself an instrument of seduction and elopements are arranged and assignations made by what we may call code messages sung in the form of song type ‘Karma’ or ‘Dadariya’.

In most of these songs, verse is wedded to the dance and to some extent depends on it. But today, in the hills, though the song remains, the dance is largely dying out. There is now a good deal of confusion about what song should be sung to what dance and the dance songs are already being sung by the fireside or by lover to lover in bed rather than on the public-dancing ground.

This we feel, is one of the most tragic things about the contact of the aboriginal with civilization – the destruction of art and culture that always follows…

The Baigani Karma

Dukh sahi nahi jay

Ye dai bapana ke moi nohar re.

Kahndeke dhotiya mudhe ma daheru

Ohi laike jahu sasura ghare


Meaning –

I cannot bear this sorrow

I am the very life of my mother and father

The cloth that used to be over my shoulder

It is over my head now

That is what I will take to my husband’s house

(A girl is going to her husband’s house for the first time, she will take for him her maturing youth symbolized in the cloth flung over her head)


Ho-o-o hay.

Patareli hai jaman dekhanima lagao suhapn re

Das rupaiyake bindiya

Sadesat ke hawal

Pach rupaiyake sakhuri

Hay sakhuri to chumai gal

Dekhani ma lagai suhapan re.

Meaning -

She is graceful,

My young darling

It is delight

To look at her

She has a bindiya worth ten rupees

Her hawal is seven eight

The chains are five rupees

The chains kiss her cheeks

What a delight it is to see her!

(the bindiya is a beautiful silver ornament tied across the head. The hawal is a necklace made by stringing rupees on a decorative cord)

Riddle Songs

The ‘Dhanda Saila’ is a very interesting type of dance. The song consists of a riddle which is sung over and over again until the village challenged can answer it! After this, the answer is often embodies in the song. The dance is of the basic ‘Saila’ type but includes movements to illustrate the riddle. The dance thus becomes a sort of a charade.

1.Tari nake na mor nanare nana

Tari nana mor nana

Kari chirai ke kari khodro kari charan bar jay

Patthar chadke pani piwai dola chad ghar ay

Janamina lethai nauwa ghar tura ay

Meaning -

The black bird has a black nest

It feeds on the black grass

It climbs on a stone to drink water

It comes homes in a litter

In a barbers house it is born as a boy.

(the answer to this is – a razor)


2. Tari nake na more nanare nana

Tari nana mor nana

Jangal chad bukulaya bina jibh ke chara charai

Pani piyat mar jay

Janamina lethai mor pawak deo ay

Meaning and Answer -

The crane climbs up the mountain

And feeds on grass without a tongue

It dies when it drinks water

It is the god Fire.

3.The hill is very steep

Whence pure water comes

Like mist the water

Comes to Earth from heaven

There is a wonder we have not seen before

Bullocks are coming. On four pillars are four horns.

Wise man, solve this riddle!


There is another wonder we have not seen before

A jogi is coming. Without hands or feet

He does a thousand kos.


There is a third wonder we have not seen before

A deer is coming. It jumps north south east west

In a moment, it jumps.


There is a fourth wonder we have not seen before.

An elephant is coming.

It eats from its backside.


Wise man solve the riddle. If you’re really wise, you’ll answer

If you’re stupid get up and go away

Salute the poet, our Sahib is very learned

From the beginning we sing his name!

The answers to these four wonders are not given in the song. Unfortunately, as is the case with many of the riddles that are used as songs rather than simply as a test of wit, no one can remember what the answer is!


4.In Chunukpur there was a theft

In chutukpur the theif was caught

In Gaddipur the thief was tried

In Nakhunpur he was executed


Chunukpur is the hair in which the louse is stealing. Chutukpur represents the two fingers within which it was caught. ‘chutuk’ is the noise made while catching it. Gaddipur is the palm of the hand. Nakhunpur stands for the nails between which the thief was squashed to death.


“A man in love with his environment is the happiest man in the universe.”