Khattak dance (Bangarah)

The Khattak dance or the Attan of Khattaks in the past was essentially a war-dance, which would be performed as a warm-up exercise before taking on their enemies in a battlefield or after scoring a victory over the enemies. It is still preserved with the original essence of a war-dance and is performed with swords. The performance of Attan with swords was once a custom of many other Pashtun tribes, but they did not preserve it.

The traditional dance of the Khattaks which is performed with swords is usually referred to as a Khattak Dance in English but among the Khattak themselves it is known as the “bangarah” (not to be confused with Bhangra of Punjabis), and the entire performance consists of three separate phases. The performance commences with the “bangarah”, which is performed with swords, followed by the “derabi”, also performed with swords, and as the finale, the “bulbullah”, without swords.

The “derabi” is followed by the “bulbullah”, a dance somewhat in style to the movements of the “bangarah”, only the swords are discarded and instead, after a twirl, the dancers clap their hands in unison. This dance is commenced by two of the dancers singing a love song in a high falsetto voice as they circle slowly round the fire.

Buster Goodwin writes:

A “bangarah” is seen at its best when performed on a dark night with a large bonfire of logs and brushwood flaming in the center of the dancers. Swords which flash in the firelight when whirled are necessary. Brushwood is thrown on the fire, which, bursting into flame, sends sparks high into the air, the sparks looking like a swarm of fire-flies. An important item is the orchestra — two flageolets and two drums. The flageolets when played sound something like the pipes of Scotland. Unless all these conditions are fulfilled, the dance is a tame affair.

Reference: “Life among the Pathans (Khattaks)” by Buster Goodwin

Khattak dance
Bangarah or Khattak dance performed by the Khattak soldiers of 20th Punjab Infantry at Bala Murghab (Herat) on New Year’s Day , January 1, 1885. From The Illustrated London News
khattak dance
Khattak dance around fire in camp of 72nd Highlanders, Kohat, Second Anglo-Afghan War, illustration from magazine Graphic, January 4, 1879
Khattak dance
The Attan of Khattaks, 1920 (c). Photo by R.B.Holmes. Original caption: “A Pathan sword dance”
Khattak tribe
A Khattak sword dancer, 1909.” Among the Wild Tribes of the Afghan Frontier” by Theodore Leighton Pennell.


 Khattak dance (Youtube video)


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