The Nati folk dance of Himachal in a painting by K.K Hebbar

Folk theatre, music, dance and traditions are a central theme of K.K Hebbar’s paintings. In this painting, created in 1945, he captures the Nati Dance – the traditional folk dance of Kullu (Himachal Pradesh). This community-dance is usually performed open-air during festivals like Dussehra. 

The musicians at the center of the painting draw you in; they are known as Tunis and use instruments such as the flute, dhol, nagara, narsingha, karnal, and a shehnai. Traditionally, the dance was performed by men; though that has changed now. The performers arrange themselves in a circle and dance to the beats.

The men wear a traditional chola (a swirling tunic) with pleated sashes, a pattu called dabba-chitra (checkered sash) on the upper half of the body, a topa (decorated cap) with a kalagi (ornament). 

Festival Dance, Kulu Valley 1945 / Ink, watercolour and gouache on paper

Festival Dance (Kulu Valley) first appeared at the Bombay Art Society’s 55th Annual Exhibition in 1946. In this second painting, you can get a closer look at women wearing the traditional red ‘dathu’ (head cover) and a ‘Pattoo” – a woollen fabric worn over long kurtas (look at the women in the distance). Can you spot these women in the larger painting? 

Manali Mela, 1945 / Gouache on paper

Both the paintings were part of an auction by Pundole’s in December 2023. The dance continues to mesmerise audiences even today.

Share your reaction!

Loading spinner