Object: Dancing Bells

E/1954/9/48
Hindu: Dancing Bells
Asia: India
20th Century
Materials: brass, fabric, woodwork

This string of bells belongs to a category of dance bells called ghungharu in the Hindu religious tradition of India. Ghungharu are usually worn by a dancer, and can vary in style. Most commonly the bells are attached to a strip of fabric or leather and are then tied around the dancer’s ankles or wrists; this particular ghungharu is attached to a bow and is held in the dancer’s hands. Bright colors and tassels often adorn the object to which the bells are attached. Sometimes, too, the bells will be attached to another instrument, such as the tabla, in order to create a richer sound.

The use of music and dance in Hindu religion is incredibly important.  The performer uses the beat to focus their attention, entering into a meditative state called Dhyana, which has an etymological link to the Buddhist term zen, the practice of gaining insight and wisdom from direct experiences rather than written creeds or scriptures. This complete singleminded focus allows the performer to feel connected with the spiritual plane. The ghungharu then transcend mere musical accompaniment to become a devotional tool for the wearer. A video of a dancer using ghungharu can be seen here.

[Daniel Gonzalez]

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