A communal folk play that releases energy in an open space. Performed under the full moon, Ganggangsullae is a fascinating performance where people form a circle holding hands under a full moon. This festive event signifies cooperation, collaboration and unity among village people. The circle signifies openness and creativity. It’s a specific artform performed during harvest season.
It has been marked as the eighth important intangible cultural properties of Korea. During the Joseon dynasty, this seasonal ritual was only performed by women. This art form can be mostly seen in the south-west province of Jeollanam-do, in Haenam and Jindo provinces. The elegance and grace have been passed down many generations by skill holders as Yang hong do and Kim Gil In to keep the tradition alive.
The lyrics of Ganggangsullae differs according to its lead singer. The lyrics consist of women singing about their harsh labour, sadness and hope for happiness.
It starts from Gin ganggangsullae, Jung to Jajeun ganggangsullae. The dance includes the formation of the chain, tying and untying herrings, disassembling and forming circles, rolling straw mats, stepping on roof tiles and forming doors imitating formation with the lyrics.
The performance starts with slow Gin ganggangsullae with slow singing and footsteps and reaches to Jung where pace started to increase slowly and reaches its climax with Jajeun ganggangsullae where the steps become faster and the lead singer starts to jump.
Ganggangsullae once performed to bridge the gender gap is now played to bridge the generation gap between people.
A similar art form could be found in Indian folk dance performed during harvest season. The circle formation and jumping in unison while holding hands is commonly seen in Indian tribal folk dances of Tarpa in Maharashtra, Karma folk dance of Jharkhand, Nocte tribe’s Chalo Loku of Arunachal Pradesh etc., with similar simple and elegant steps to match the beat of drums while reciting folk songs about harvest and happiness.
The Indian subcontinent is known to be one of the oldest civilizations in history, home to many ancient and extinct cultures, languages and tribes. With no prominent religion of some states ( later adapted to Christianity ) and farming as their main occupation the big festive gatherings were organised for celebrating harvest where they sang folk songs to praise nature and their ancestors. People sing and dance alongside a huge bonfire prepared with the harvested crops to mark the celebration of a good harvest.
There have been a lot of modifications in these dance forms over time and new generations seem to leave its tradition behind. With the changing scenario of fast pace life such art forms have yet to find its own space. With even less effort visible to keep the tribal folk culture alive, it’s feared to vanish over time with future generations not knowing about it.
Indian tribal people have forever been oppressed and have crisis about their identity in this heavily populated country with lots of other traditions and religion. It has been really difficult for them to portray what is called “Indian” in the actual sense. Traditions make us realise our roots so it’s necessary to feel connected with the soil which is slowly seemingly decreasing day by day.
Korea being a homogeneous country with little distinction in dialect, clans and social and economic status, no prominent characteristics make them apart from each other. Korea with a similar traditional background and history has over the years found ways to restore its cultural heritage which we can learn from in future.
Tell us what you think about this similarity. Is there something else you would like us to know about your culture? You’re welcome to share your views below.
Author- Smriti Ekka