The Mizos, blessed as they
are with a beautiful environment and rich culture, are a vibrant and
sociable society. They love to dance and sing. As a result of which a
number of folk and community dances have been handed down from one
generation to the other through the ages. The dances are the
expressions of the gay, carefree spirit of the Mizos. It should be
mentioned here that these dances are not intended for stage
performances, rather, they have been evolved for community involvement
The most colourful and distinctive dance of the Mizos is called
Cheraw. Little is known about the origin of Cheraw. Possibly the
forefathers of Mizos brought it with them when they left their homes
in far-east Asia. Cheraw is performed on any occasion these days. But,
as the legend goes, it used to be performed in earlier times only to
ensure a safe passage for the soul of a mother who died at childbirth.
Cheraw is, therefore, a dance of sanctification and redemption
performed with great care, precision and elegance.
Long bamboo starves are used for this dance, therefore many people
call it 'Bamboo Dance'. The dancers move by stepping alternatively in
and out from between and across a pair of horizontal bamboos, held
against the ground by people sitting face to face on either side. They
tap the bamboos in rhythmic beats. The bamboos, placed horizontally,
are supported by two bases, one at each end. The bamboos, when
clapped, produce a sound which forms the rhythm of the dance. It
indicates the timing of the dance as well. The dancers steps in and
out to the beats of the bamboos with ease and grace. The patterns and
stepping of the dance have many vibrations. Sometimes the steppings
are made to imitate the movement of birds, sometimes the swaying of
trees and so on
Khual, in Mizo language, means a guest, lam means dancing. So,
Khuallam is the dance of the guest. The Mizos, in the pre-Christian
days, believed that the soul, after death
went either to 'Pialral' or paradise, or 'Mitthi Khua', a land of
sorrow and misery. To have a place in Paradise, one had to prove one's
mettle either in war or in hunting or by being a man of distinction in
society. To claim a distinguished place in society, one had to perform
various ceremonies which included offering community feasts and
dances. These ceremonies performed together, were known as 'Khuangchawi'.
While performing Khuangchawi one was obliged to invite relatives from
nearby villages. The guest entered the arena of the Khuangchawi
dancing Khuallam- hence, Khuallam is the dance for the visitors or
The dance is normally performed by men dressed in Puandum (traditional
Mizo clothes with red and green stripes) to the accompaniment of a set
of gongs known as Darbu. A group dance, the more the merrier, they
dance to the tune of gongs and drums.
It is the dance over a round of rice beer in the cool of the evening.
The lyrics in triplets are normally fresh and spontaneous on-the-spot
compositions, recounting their heroic deeds and escapades and also
praising the honoured guests present in their midst.
Joie de vivre would be the appropriate term to describe Chheih lam, a
dance that embodies the spirit of joy and exhilaration. Chheih lam is
performed to the accompaniment of a song called Chheih hla. The song
is sung to the beats of a drum or bamboo tube or clapping of hands.
People squat on the floor in a circle while a dancer stands in the
middle reciting a song with various movements of limbs and body. An
expert Chheih dancer performs his part in such a manner that the
people around him leave their seats and join the dance. Any one can
try this dance, for it has no specific choreography. All that one has
to do is to get into the mood and live up to it. Chheih lam is
performed on any occasion normally in the evenings, when the day's
work is over.
Chai is a festival dance. It is a community dance with men and women
standing one after another in a circle, holding each other on the
shoulder and the nape. The dancers
sway to and fro and swing their feet to the tune of the song, sung in
chorus by all of them, while a drummer and gongman beat their
instruments used in the dance. Chai presents a grand show, but it is
not exactly suitable for performing on the stage. In olden days, the
Chai dancers used to consume rice-beer continuously while dancing,
they did not know when to stop.
Strictly speaking, Rallu lam is not a dance as such. It is rather a
celebration or a rite in honour of a victorious warrior. When a
warrior comes back after a successful campaign, he is given a warm and
colourful reception by the village Chief. The celebration consists of
a re-enactment of the warrior's heroic exploits. The mode of
celebration, however, varies from village to village.
Originally, the dance used to be performed mainly by the people of the
Maras and Pawi communities of Mizoram. They remain the best exponents
of the dance to-date. Like Rallu lam, Solakia was also performed in
earlier times to celebrate a victory in war. Marked with five
principal movements, the dance seeks to recapture the actions of a
hero at war. Men and women stand in profile, while the hero,
brandishing a sword and a shield, dances in the middle to the
accompaniment of gong beats.
One of the most impressive Mizo community dances, Sarlamkai is a
variation of Solakia. The two dances are almost identical. The only
difference lies in the dress and tempo. No song is sung, only gongs or
cymbals or drums are used to beat time. Sarlamkai has been taken up by
most of the schools in Mizoram for cultural activities these days. »
The land of enchanting hills has yet another dance, the Par lam. Girls
attired in colourful dresses, with flowers tucked in their hair, dance
to the tune of songs sung by themselves. The principal movement in the
dance involves the waving of hands. A couple of boys lend musical
accompaniment by playing guitars. Comparatively, this is a new dance.
Nevertheless, it has become a part of the Mizo culture.