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Traditional dance of pashtoons

Posted by russiantahara on February 10, 2009

Traditional Dances of Pashtoons

ده پشتنو روايتي اتنړ

With Credits to Pashto Academy

Pashtoons possess a rich culture with all the ruggedness on the one hand and all the softness, romance and beauties on the other. The Pashtoon dances have been defined as a symbol of courage and heroism and present the desire and readiness of a tribe to go into a battle field for Jehad. With heavy and insistent drumming, the dancers who are always male move with uniform rhythm and steps. They dance usually in circles or columns holding different items of daily life (swords, guns, handkerchiefs, etc.) in their hands and mix the crude sounds of their possessions with the rhythm of drums and surnayi (flutes).

Among the dozens of different folk dances known as Atanrh, some are as follow.

Khattak Wal Atanrh

This is a dance of the Khattak tribe and now it is the Pakistan national Dance. It is completely men dance. It is originated from the ancient war exercises by the Khattak tribe. Before going to the battlefield the warrior, Khattak used to dance as their warming up. It is danced with the drumbeat in a particular rhythm. First, the drummer starts with a slow tune, and the dancers hawing swords in their hand come and start dancing in a circle slowly. After some time one large circle is formed, or two circles, whirling swords in their hand and step on according to the beats of the drum. They step on in a circle. It requires the highest skill. The sword of the nearby dancer can injure anyone. As the circle completes, the beats of the drums raise high and the steps and movement gets momentum in the second phase of the dance. In the third phase, The beats go fast and high and so is the dancer till the time of a wonderful jubilation. Then both the teammates sit on ground and the saraki or captain of a team starts running in along circle. He is chased by two players of the opponent DANGAI and try to catch him and make him fall. If they succeed in making fall the running player, he is given out. During the running, the first running player tries to hit the chasing player with his hand. If he succeeds in touching the chasing player, then they are given out, by successfully completing his running to the place where his teammates are sitting. Another of his team player starts running the same way. In the game one of the team losses all the players in this way. Those who get out one by one are the losers and the other is winner. It is a very interesting game and requires complete physical fitness. Elderly people and the persons with less stamina are withdrawn one by one, to the outer circle they retire and the dance is going on. Those who can step properly to the beat of the drum in fast moving and can artistically move back and forward and get round about remains. After getting tired, this practice is not carried on further and the person sits and is replaced by the other. It is an artistic as well as exertion game, requiring dance and needs complete command on foot and hand and head. Because rhythmic movement of the head is also part of the dance.

Zulfiqar Khan of the Daily Dawn Islamabad describes the Khattak Dance in a very interesting manner in his article which was published in a special edition of the newspaper.

Mahsood Wal Atanrh

It is too a warrior dance and is special among the hard Mahsood tribe. Originally it is used to dance at the time of war, but latter on became a cultural dance. They dance empty handed and require only large drums. The dancer shows a tremendous jubilation while dancing. Nowadays it is danced with the guns in the dancers hand; loaded guns are taken in one hand, up to the beat of the drum the dancers move forward in a circle. After taking two and half steps each dancer return go turn about, and make up the gun and is caught with the other hand. All the dancers do this in a uniform manner and by completing the turning steps they fire in the air simultaneously. The sound of each of the guns goes on one time and seems to be single big bang. It is a thrilling dance and requires complete skill and practice for stepping as well command on rifle or gun, otherwise humiliation is faced by those who are unable to go with these thrilling sounds.

Shah Dola

Shah Dolla is the name of the dance specified for the Pashtoon tribe of Yusufzai. It is purely a dance for happiness and merriment, often danced at some happy occasion. It is too danced in a circle around the drummers. According to the beats of the drum the dancer move forward in a circle. With the first beat they open the hands and bring one foot back, with the succeeding beat both the hands are brought together, so is the back foot. With the third beat of the drum the hands clapped and head bowed to the inner side of the circle. The clapping of hands and putting the foot back are done together, so that to make a tune with the sound of the clapping and drum beat. It is too an artistic dance and requires complete timing of the clapping.

Taleban Atanrh

Nowadays the tradition of dancing by the Taleban has reduced to a considerable extent. The religious students studying in the religious schools perform a dance which they called the Atanrh of the Taleban. Those Taleban who lived in the boarding houses in religious schools used to have this dance for entertainment, before going to bed. With rhythmic clapping of hands they used to dance together disorderly or in order. This was just like exercise but had rhythm in it specially the clapping of hands and foot work.

Waziro Atanrh

Waziristan is a large area and has particular Pashtoon culture. Wazir dance is popular among the Wazir who are warrior-like tribe but Wazir dance is beautiful cultural phenomenon. Two drummers and a flute player play a particular tune. All the Wazirs standing around them. Two persons leave the circle; go dancing towards the drummers, and come back dancing in the same manner. During performing both the persons turn around two times at a time once towards each other facing face to face and once keeping faces in opposite direction. After doing this separately they march while dancing to the assembled crowd. As they reach the circle another pair of the performers start and moving forward in the same fashion.

Logari Atanrh

Logaray is a very artistic dance one person or two or more can dance together to the tune of orchestra. Actually Logaray is the name of the area in Afghanistan where this special tune is played by a large traditional orchestra. Boys or girls dance to this tune. It is a beautiful dance because so many variations occur in it in the drum beat. The moment the drum and other instrument are given a pause the dancer sits, by starting again slowly. The dancer slowly rises from the ground and again starts dancing with the tune. Sometime abruptly sitting and abruptly starting of the tune gives appears attractively. Besides the drum beat the harmonium is also used to provide tune to the dancing.

The dance of the Logar Valley is renowned throughout the Pashtoon lands. It is famous for its shy yet coquette nature in which the dancers freeze suddenly during the dramatic stops in the music. The main musical instruments are the stringed Rabab and the ceramic chalice drum Zerbaghalai. The rhythm is sometimes accentuated by bells on the ankles of the dancers.

Marwat Wala Atanrh

Marwat too is a large tribe of the Pashtoons. They have a particular cultural dance of their own, very much resembling the Wazir dance but can be dance for played one by one and by a large number of participants in a circle. The participants grow their hair long enough so that they can be tossed from side to side while they are turning their heads around in violent jerks. This is also done by the Wazir and the Mahsud tribes.

Bhittani Atanrh

The Bhittani Tribe’s dance is truly a sight to see due to the colorful jackets with gold embroidery and the white clothes that the dancers wear. The Shirt is a long gown which is like a swirling top when the dancer turns around and around. In his hands, the dancers will hold red, green or blue clothes. Bhittani Tribesmen dance in round circles with elegant footwork combined with colorful wavering of their large colorful clothes.

Chitrali Atanrh

Chitralis love to sing and dance. Though ethnically not Pashtoons, they have adapted their own form of Atanrh known as the Chitrali Atanrh. Any Chitralis can sing and dance but there are also some “experts ” that form a group and gather whenever there is an occasion. These people are not professional musicians but mere music lovers. Usually the group consists of 8-10 persons: one or two singers that sing the verse alternatively, a sitar player and a jerrican player. The rest will clap their hands and dance one by one.

Whenever a song starts, a dancer steps in the middle and starts to dance. He will dance very slowly taking small steps and arms spread wide. Gradually, the steps increase speed and finally he will spin round and round encouraged by the clapping of the hands and enthusiastic shouts made by the audience. The dancer is empty handed most of the time but on special occasions, he might be brandishing a sword. The Chitrali Atanrh is very focused upon the movement of the shoulders and the elegant moves of the wrists.


Balbala is a Pashtoon cultural dance and common every where but is mostly played and danced in southern tribes. Drummers and flute players in the center play a particular tune and the persons go dancing around them. In the start it is slow but gets moment fast with the drum beat. They whirl and move fast in the circle. It is a cultural dance and performed by the youth on some happy occasions. Apart from these dances, which are called Atanrh, other cultural dances are also performed by the professional or non-professional dancers. One or two professional female dancers dance on different occasions. The times for different dances are specified.

Spin Takray

Speen Takray is a dance performed by a single professional female dancer. In this dance, a special tune of orchestra is played on. This is a saz particular for Pushto cultural folk songs. The dancer wraps with shawl and hides the face and head. Then he dances like a newly wedded bride.



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