Children’s songs and dances from rural India

 In this selection from our archives, young children and teenagers share some of the songs and dances they have learnt. Here you can find deep poetry about equality and freedom, a song on a potato and the beat of heavy drums that are calling out patriarchal stereotypes.      

Curated by Priti David


‘We are the children of the earth’

by Samyukta Shastri
Students of the zilla parishad primary school in Nandgaon village in Pune district sing a poem of equality and freedom, written by D. N. Gavankar (1915-1971), poet and photographer, and a member of the Lal Bavta Kala Pathak (Red Flag Cultural Squad) set up in 1942-44. “None are servants here ... We are the children of the earth. The fortunate children of the earth.”
Pune, Maharashtra

Skipping rope, songs and game of cricket

by Namita Waikar
At the zilla parishad primary school in Yeole vasti, songs and games are shared moments of lunch time breaks. The school draws students from Malthan and neighbouring Mugaon villages.
Pune, Maharashtra

The potato song

by P Sainath
Adivasi girls at the Integrated Tribal Development Project school in Edalippara, sing a unique song. Unique, because it is in English, a language they don’t speak, and in honour of the potato which they don't eat. Located in Kerala’s remotest and only tribal panchayat, Edamalakudi, it is run by one teacher, where classes 1-4 are combined in a single room.
Idukki, Kerala

Dancing to the dollu in Hesaraghatta

by Vishaka George
Dollu kunitha is a popular folk dance in Karnataka. Dollu refers to drums, while kunitha means dancing. Young women on the outskirts of Bengaluru excel at this drum-and-dance form long thought to be a skill for burly men. In this video story, watch the group perform with extraordinary energy and rhythm. The drums weigh 10 kilograms and must be strapped around their waist as they move.
Bangalore Urban, Karnataka

A different kind of drumbeat

by Namita Waikar
Not often do you see women playing the mridangam, but at Kattaikkuttu Gurukulam in rural Tamil Nadu, two 14-year-old girls play it with ease and elan. In this video, A. Sangeetha and A. Srimathi offer us a sound bite of their culture.
Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu

Kali dances

by Aparna Karthikeyan
Watch Kali Veerapadran, perhaps the only male dancer who has mastered the classical dance form Bharatanatyam, as well as three ancient Tamil folk dance forms: Oyilaatam, a folk dance from the southern regions of the state, Karagattam - an ancient folk dance performed by both men and women with a heavy pot balanced on their head and Thappattam, performed by dancers who play the thappu - hand-held drums.
Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu

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