According to Hindu Mythology, Lord Krishna’s beloved Radha was born on the third day after holi. To commemorate her birthday the inhabitants of Braj region of Uttar Pradesh perform this dance every year. The native women with colorful outfits move rhythmically to the tunes of Lord Krishna’s songs or ‘rasiyas’.
The moves look extremely graceful even though the performing women balance large multi-tiered circular wooden pyramids on their heads lighted by 108 oil lamps arranged in a spiral.
Legend has it that Radha’s grandmother ran out of the house with the charkula on her head to announce her birth. Ever since, charkula formed a popular dance form of Brajbhoomi, performed during various festivities. It is also believed that charkula dance celebrates the victory of Krishna and the cowherd community of Braj over Indra. This dance form became a symbol of happiness as well as joyful rapture.
Another legend says that milkmaids of Mathura re-enacted the scene where Krishna held Govardhan hillock on his finger to save people from the rain. So, girls started raising Charkula over their head in order to symbolize the hill. Women are dressed in long skirts that reach up to their toes. There is a colorful blouse and the dancer covers her body and face with the veil.
However, the movements of the dancers are limited due to the heavy load on their head. They can neither bend their body nor can they move their back. In spite of all these limitations the dancers dance gliding, bending, and pirouetting to the tune of the Krishna song.