Mani Sankar Barik was born in a family of Musicians near Calcutta in West Bengal (India) He started learning Sitar at the age of six. He received talim from his father, well-known Vocalist and from renowned Sitarist Pandit Manilal Nag of Bishnupur Gharana. Mani Sankar has established himself as a talented and promising young Sitarist of present generation. He has performed in a number of prestigious Music Circles and Conferences throughout India. He has been awarded Sangeet Praveen by the Prayag Sangit Samiti, Allahabad and Sangeet Ratna by the Bangiya Sangeet Parishad, Calcutta. He is a regular artiste of the All India Radio (AIR) and Doordarshan. He has credit to release audio cassette & CD “Rejoice” from Rageshree Music Institute Inc., New York, USA. At present he is serving as a Teacher in The Lawrence School, Sanawar of Himachal Pradesh (India). email:


Folk Music Tradition of Himachal Pradesh
Mani Sankar Barik

Himachal Pradesh is situated in the northern region in the heart of the western Himalayas. The word Himachal means the land of the snows. This state is bordered by Jammu and Kashmir in the north, Uttar Pradesh in the south-east, China in the east, Haryana in the south and Punjab in the west and south-west. The state of Himachal Pradesh is divided into twelve districts consisting of Bilaspur, Chamba, Hamirpur, Kangra, Kinnaur, Kullu, Lahul Spiti, Mandi, Shimla, Sirmaur, Solan and Una.

About 90% population of the state comprises of Hindus. The major communities include Brahmins, Rajputs, Kannets, Rathis and Kolis. The tribal population comprises the Gaddis, Gujjars, Kinnars, Lahaulis and Pangawals. Most of the people are dependent on agriculture. With the diversity in cultural heritage, the use of language in Himachal Pradesh generally differs from district to district. Some of the commonly spoken languages are Hindi, Pahari, Kangri, Kinnauri, Punjabi, Dogri and Gojri. This multiplicity has been a very fine example of unity in diversity.

Himachal Pradesh has its own identity for its rich culture of music and dance. It is the integral part of the life of Himachalis. There is no classical form of music in this state but plenty of folk music can be heard which are best performed by the people of a particular area. The folk songs of Himachal Pradesh lure through the green valleys. They are indirectly around daily chores and are a retreat after a hard day’s work. The state of Himachal Pradesh encompasses, within its vicinity, many remote areas. Such areas use traditional ways of living far from the modern day hustle and bustle. For these simple people, simple are the ways of life, simple is their music. Most of the Himachali folk songs require no such instruments to accompany. They are sung to the heart’s delight that renders the uniqueness. The emotions burst out in them for making the songs soul-touching.

The music and dance of the state is mainly religion-oriented where gods are invoked during the festivals by singing and dancing. This practice has continued since ancient times. The subject matter of the folk songs of Himachal Pradesh varies largely of romance, chivalry and changing seasons but loves, separation, eagerness for one’s love are common themes. Sometimes the songs are accompanied by dance which may mean community dances too. Important festivals, rituals, fairs and onset of seasons are perfect reasons for the beautiful rendering that is so peculiar to Himachal Pradesh. The tunes and melodies blend perfectly with the people and places as it reverberates through the mesmerizing landscape. The folk songs are full of charm. People gather in a circle in village fairs and dance to the tune of these songs.

Himachali Folk Songs

The Himachal folk music is the greatest solace to the poor people living in the remote areas. The Junju Sukrat Bhunkh and Roopshu songs echo through the Chamba valley. The Mohna of Bilaspur, the Jhoori of Sirmaur, the Laman of Kullu, Gangi, Tappe are commonly sung as love songs. Dholru is a seasonal song. Bare-Haren is ballad about warriors. Soohadiyan are songs sung at Childbirth. Losi and Pakkahad and Suhaag songs are all family songs. Karak are songs of praise in honour of the deities and Alhaini is a song of mourning. All these songs follow a specific style of singing and the geographical facts have a deep effect on these. The songs are sung in harmony and the singer decides the way the notes and syllables are to be pronounced. They make changes in lines and substitute or replace words. No matter what it is, the folk songs of Himachal Pradesh ultimately come out from the core of the heart of these simple people.

Jhoori Song

It is a typical song of Himachal Pradesh and is sung with fun, joy and merriment. It is basically a theme of extra-marital romance. The word ‘Jhoori’ itself literally means lover, beloved or sweetheart. These folk songs are very popular in Mahasu and Sirmaur. Jhoori is accompanied by a folk dance form called Jhoomar and are entirely danced by women only. Though Jhoomar is danced only by the women folk, both men and women together sing Jhoori. The songs and dance are performed only in the open space and attracts lot of gathering as the people assemble together to enjoy the interesting subject.

Each piece is sung in four lines and the last syllable of the first line is pronounced in a long-lasting fashion. This is a peculiarity of Jhoori songs and this part of the songs is greeted with cheer among the spectators and rhythm invariably plays the most important role in such songs.

Jhanjhoti Song

The Jhanjhoti songs are based on Ragas like Brindabani Sarang, Durga, Tilang and Desh. The Gidda songs are based on Raga Durga. The songs sung by professional singers have very attractive classical overtones. The famous love-lyrics in Himachal areas are Phulmu-Ranjhu, Kunju-Chanchalo and Raja-Gaddan. The Phulmu-Ranjhu lyric tells of a tragic episode. In Kunju-Chanchalo the song takes the form of a conversation between the lover and his sweetheart. The Raja-Gaddan song records the wooing of gaddan Nokhu by Raja Sansar Chand of Kangra.

There are also songs which recall some important historical events like the sacrifice of Rani Suhi for a public cause, like bringing drinking water to Chamba town. The song called Sukrat is soulfully rendered and depicts the great story of the sacrifice of the Rani, famous for her feeling of love for the people and her deep human sympathy for them. Another tragic story telling the love of a brother who takes upon himself the blame for the murder his brother committed and thereby goes to the gallows in Bilaspur is depicted in one of the saddest song called Mohana.

Ceremonial lyrics such as Bhayi, Suhag, Suhagare and Vidayi are sung on special occasions like birth, betrothal and marriage. Seasonal song like Chhinj is sung only in Chaitra (March).

Laman Song

Laman singing is popular in the Kullu valley. These songs are related with the romantic love between men and women. The first line is only for rhyming with the second and it is the second line which furthers the theme. Syllables like Oa, Aa form the ‘Tek’ or the note which is prolonged at the end of the line. These syllables help the singers to create a certain resonance and a definite rhythmic pattern.

SAMASKARA SONG: The Samskara songs are folk songs of the state of Himachal Pradesh with the distinct tune that is reminiscent of a distant mountainous land. These songs are mainly sung at family festivals, gatherings and other similar moments for celebration. The Samskara songs of Himachal Pradesh have their base in classical Ragas. This bound the songs by intricate detailing that needs a considerable amount of expertise on the part of the Samskara singers. They are sung with great fervour by women who only belong to certain higher castes.

The Samskara songs are sung either in the morning or may be at the fall of night. Samskara songs that are enjoyed as morning songs usually bear traces of Raga in them. Samskara songs can also be sung in gatherings that centre on weddings. In such instances the songs are set in old Indian classical Ragas like Durga, Malkauns, Bhoopali etc.


These are religious songs popularly sung with great gusto in the state. These songs are similar to ballads in essence. Though they are religious songs, they are sung centering a family that has recently been through marriage ceremony. The custom of singing Ainchali or Ainchaliyan of Himachal Pradesh in the house of the bride is common in farming society.

The singers comprising of males visit the house of the newly married couples and sing the Ainchaliyan songs. The subject matter usually centres on the auspicious marriage of Lord Shiva and Lord Rama. They are romantic songs depicting stories from the conjugal life of these two stalwarts of the Hindu pantheon. The Ainchaliyan singers also sing songs from episodes in Ramayana and Mahabharata. String puppets are common and are very attractive as accompaniments to these types of songs.

The professional singers of Ainchaliyan are accompanied by drum sounding in a particular way. When Ainchaliyan is sung by the womenfolk, it is usually in the home of unmarried girls that are bride-to-be, immediately preceding marriage. Tambourine or Khanjari, as it is locally called, are common musical instruments used along with the songs. The people flock around to listen to these romantic songs as they continue to enjoy the way Gods are presented as enjoying the marital pleasures just like the human beings. Sometimes these songs become means of spreading awareness as to the needs of life. During the singing of this song, often a pitcher is placed on a platter and played with an iron bangle to give a typical metallic sound. On such occasions, khadtal or wooden castanets along with the sounds of bells are also used in conjunction. Together the musical instruments complement and supplement each other to bring out the music that is so unique to Ainchaliyan songs.

Musical Instruments

The Musical instruments which are frequently used by the folk artists of Himachal Pradesh are Ranasinga, Drums, Karna, Turhi, Flute, Ektara, Kindari, Jhanjh, Manjara, Chimta, Ghariyal and Ghunghru.

Drums: This is one of the main instruments for the Himachalis. A variety of drums are played like Dhol, Dholku, Dolki, Nagara, Damama, Damanght, Nagarth, Gajju, Doru, Hudak and Dhaunsa. In the Kinnaur, Lahaul, Pangi, Sirmaur and Kullu areas, drums of different shapes and sizes are played at different festivals. These are stored with great care in holy spots especially in temples, Gomphas and Madhis. Before they are played, flowers, turmeric paste and rice is offered to them and prayers are chanted. In the plains large drums known as ‘Tamaka’ are played at fairs. People belonging to the Bharai community perform the ritual playing of this drum at the fair site and then all the young ones sing and dance together to the beat of these drums. Playing upon these instruments it gives the signal to the beginning of a fair or a festival. 

Among the Gaddis small round drums known as Dafale are played at weddings. These are slung round the necks of the players and rhythms like Dhamal and Lahauli are played upon these. 

Drums are made with locally available material. Their shapes and the methods of playing upon them reveal local traditions. The Dhol of Kulu, the Damangtu and Nagartu of Sirmaur are all played differently in the tribal areas. As soon as the drums sound, the entire community gathers together and lose itself in vigorous singing and dancing. Earlier the Baren (martial ballads) of Ram Singh Pathania were sung to the accompaniment of Dafale by singers known as Adavale. These songs are sung in the Sirmaur area. The largest of the drums is Dhaunsa which is played standing. Tung Yung is a similar instrument.

Percussion Instruments: Percussion instruments like Jhanjh (large cymbals), Manjira (small cymbals), Chimta (tongs). Ghanta (gongs), Ghariyal (large gong), Thali (platter), Ghunghru (bells), Kokatha Murchang (a stringed instrument played with a bow with bells) are very popular in folk dramas like Jagarata, Bhagat and Kariyala etc. The folk singers of the Chamba valley known as Ghurai sing to the accompaniment of cymbals.

Wind Instruments: Rana Singha, Karnal, Turhi and Flute or Bishudi, Algoja (twin flutes), Shehnai or Peepni are popular wind instruments. Rana Singha, Shehnai and Bin are usually played at wedding and on the beginning of any auspicious occasions. At the time of ritual at the temples, Rana Singha, Karnal, Conch shells and Shehnai are played. These instruments accompany the processions of Gods at festivals.

String Instruments: Ektara, Kindari Davatra, Gramyang or Rabab, Sarnagi, Jumang and Ruman are some stringed instruments, commonly used by professional singers. Gramyang, Rumals, Jumang are tribal instruments of the Lahaul and Kinnaur areas.
Lyrics of a common Himachali Folk song:

Gaddi Folk Song of Kangra
(Kunju- Chanchalo)

Kapade dhovan nale ronvan, Kunjua
Mukkhon bol jawani, ho
Hattha vich reshmi rumal, Chanchalo
Vich chhalla nishani ho
Meriye Jinde, vich chhalla nishanai, ho
Kapde dhovan nale ronvan, Kunjua
Vich baton nishani ho
Gori Gori bahin lal chuda, Chanchalo
Vich gajara nishani, ho
Meriye jinde, vich gajara nishani, ho
Addhi addhi rati mat aunda, Kunjua
Panj bhariyan bandookan, ho.......

Gaon Ri Pinkieye
(a romantic Nati Lokgeet)

Bolo gaon ri bolo pinki do
Mere dile bi na chuto
Gaon ri bolo pinki do mere
Dile bi na chutoooo............
Bolo bato jani bato
Da mera dildu luto
Gaon ri bolo pinkiye
Aare dildu lutoooo..........
Kini aachi layi di twen
Pyar r ri bato
Gaon ri bolo pinkiye
Aare pyar r ri batoooo.............
Bolo ek na chode pinkiye
Mere pyar r ra sath
Gaon ri bolo pinkiye aare
Pyar r ra sathhhh...............
Bolo tut oh holi mere
Pyar r ri rani
Gaon ri bolo pinkiye
Aare pyar r ri raniiii...........


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© Author
(Published in Kafla Intercontinental - Summer 2015)