Yalang or Paddy Dance in Limbu culture
-Bikram Kangbha Subba
As Limbu is one of the main ethnic groups of Nepal, it has its own distinct culture. Paddy dance is considered to be one of the most popular of their customs and is a historical dance which represents an intrinsic entity of Lumbu culture. The literal meaning of Paddy dance in Lumbu is Yalang formed by the Yoke of two distinctly separate terons. �Ya� means paddy, and �Lang� means dance. So, it is harvest dance. The essence of Yalang is palam - a poetic expression which synchronizes with the dance. The dance steps and the ways of traversing are carefully structured in Yalang. Yalang can be danced following the rhythm of Palam without any accompaniment of musical instruments. Both sexes, from teenagers to adults, participate in the dance with great zeal as it is regarded as a perfect means for healthy entertainment as well as a means of exchanging romantic feelings among the familiar ones or newly introduced.
According to some Limbu scholars, it is said that this dance originated as people threshed the grains from dried paddy plants. In the past, there was no custom of using oxen to thresh rice grains as is done today. So, young men and women peasants from the village had to group together and thresh the grains by trampling on them. As it was a hard and tedious job, taking up the whole day and night, they used to sing to drive away their weariness. Their way of trampling turned into a form of Paddy dance - Yalang. This is how the step of Paddy dance resembles the step of trampling paddy. Thus, the custom of singing when crushing the paddy, subsequently, transformed itself into a way of exchanging feelings.
Gradually, it became so significant among the Limbu community that it turned into a tradition. In the past, as there were no ways of taking recreation, people led a boring life. So, Yalang happened to be their only outlet for merrymaking and love affairs. Mostly, the first half of a Limbu�s life is passed by indulging in Yalang. And it could really seed an unforgettable moment which could be recollected in the second half of their life.
Yalang is performed by men and women clasping hands in a circle or line and each has to choose his or her partner among them, and then each has to approach one another. The introductory part commences among the participants before the dance, because it is against the custom to dance to a love song among relatives.
After the introductory discussion, they turn the themes of their conversation towards love and life through formal and tactful expressions. They use symbolic and metaphoric language respectfully to win the hearts of each other. They compare their love to flowers using alluring and stimulating words. Similarly, they compare their life with birds, rivers, waterfalls, nature, wind etc. Their uninterrupted poetic expression could last for 3/4 days and can form an epic. Their innermost feelings about love and life are elevated to an extreme at the climax. As a result, the two different souls and bodies may lose themselves in the imaginative world they create. The involved pairs in Yalang do not feel the passing of days and nights. They become oblivious to the rain, sun, heat, cold and storm. This dance is usually arranged at evening in the markets and fairs or to entertain guests. They are not supposed to taint their sacred and immortal love by their sexual desire. They pay a high value to spiritual love than lust.
At first sight, Yalang doesn�t look appealing and exciting to the spectators. But it is really enchanting to those who are involved in the dance. The ecstasy of Yalang lies in Palam. The presentation of the Paddy Dance harmonises the beauty of nature which becomes intensely real. It is not so easy to display this dance, since rhythmic and melodious tones are required, so only the experts can show its art to the fullest. There are mainly two stages of Palam - Mayapi and Semmui. Mayapi is the classical discussion of a love relationship. It is usually full of delight and romantic discussions between sweet hearts. They both feel the responsibility of caring for their eternal love - the love that generates a profound feeling of integration and intimacy. Semmui, on the other hand, is usually sung at the end, just before they part and is full of the pathos of separation, frustration and the uncertainty of love and life. They also bitterly express their fears of adverse situations that may be fatal to their newly bloomed love, because they may not meet again. Thus, it becomes really hard for them to endure the affliction caused by their parting. And often, tears are shed as the candle melts and they depart with moist eyes as well as aching souls.
But nowadays, it is not taken as seriously and is not celebrated as exuberantly as before. So, the significance of Paddy dance is fading, day after day and it is up to us to preserve the glory of this culture.