A ghungroo ( or Chilanka or Silangai in Malayalam & Tamil respectively) is an ankle belt with about 50-200 brass bells sewn into it. This musical ornament is worn exclusively by Indian classical dancers of Kathak, Bharatnatyam, Odissi, Kucchipudi, Mohiniattam, among others. The number of bells varies on the basis of the dancer’s experience and mastery of the dance. The number of bells also change the pitch and magnitude of the sound produced. Ghungroos are an integral part of a classical dancer’s costume as it not only helps emphasise the rhythmic facet of the classical dance but also highlights the complex footwork performed by the dancers.

Around 800 to 900 families are engaged in making bells not only for temples, but also animal bells and anklet bells/ Ghungroos worn by dancers across India. A hereditary profession, they use the most basic of tools – Batta Bidinia (Grinder) Reta (File), Dabar, Farma (Die), Nihai, Sandyasi (Tongs), Pahiya (Circles), Pankhia (Fan for stoking), Cheni (Chisel), Hathida, Para, Gharia, Kothali, Suhaga, Kauli, Patta reti, Kharat, Badami Reti, and Silli (slab) These tools are made by the local lohar or ironsmith.

Many women, especially from royal families found ghungroos fascinating, however, owing to the exclusive and sacred nature of the ghungroo, they were not allowed to wear them. Hence, inspired by the ghungroo, payals were introduced, which were more beautified and delicate anklets with bells. 

V. Anuradha Singh, a renowned Indian classical kathak exponent, has created a music style called Ghungroo Vadan. She pioneered the use of bells as a primary musical instrument, and regularly performs at music festivals where dancing is prohibited. Ghunghroo vadan is a percussive art form that focuses solely on foot movement. A variation of ghungroos called chaap is also worn in Nepal by folk dancers.




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