In Indian tradition it is a dance dedicated to the Gods of Rain, imploring them to bring the monsoon to India’s fields, so its farmers can reap a bountiful harvest. It is performed in the fifth month of the Indian calendar year – known as the Saawan month – which is usually around July. This year, the Saawan month began on 13 July, and six days later, on 19 July, an overwhelming crowd of 700 girls and women got together for a Teeyan West Deeyan (meaning girls/women of the west) show of the traditional rain-dance in the Wyndham area of Melbourne.
The event was organised at the Mossfield Primary School at Langridge Street, Hoppers Crossing. This school has in a way become the hub of Indian community activities with many events happening here every year, largely due to the growing Indian population in the Wyndham area. The special guest of the evening was Federal Member for Labor, Joanne Ryan, who is known for her work in preventing toxic dumping in the Werribee area. Ms Ryan replaced Julia Gillard as Member for Labor when she retired from active politics last year.
This massively successful event was not run by any major event management company but by four enthusiastic mothers — Shama Bhangu, Dolly Rai, Ruby Kaur and Navneet Kaur — who worked day and night for four months to see the dance show to fruition. The organisers joked that Ruby and Navneet’s homes had become theatre workshops and mini childcare centres with young girls practising there several weekends in a row.
“We wanted to give women a platform to excel and feel confident. I also feel it is a great achievement that we got the youth reconnected with their roots,” said Shama Bhangu.
The event began with a shabad – a tribute to the Almighty – sung by girls aged between five and eight, with Ruby assisting them on the instruments. The young girls, who performed the traditional Punjabi gidha dance — with the youngest being just five years old – was stirring to say the least. Other events included Maar Udari (the group dance), a skit themed on dowry, a solo dance performance, a Rajasthani dance, a bhangra performance, and a lively Bollywood number. Among other highlights were the mimicry performance by Amrinder Kaur Toor and “Bhand-comedy” by Roop and Simrat’s energetic group.
The guest of honour was Jasmeet Sangha, a multi-talented young girl. Ayurvedic practitioner Soma Nair was honoured by Ms Ryan, who called the event “simply wonderful”. “It was great to meet so many people from the Indian community. I loved the music, dances, dresses and food. I congratulate the organisers,” said Ms Ryan. She also thanked the organisers for giving her an opportunity to meet with the local community and spoke about the significance of rains in Indian culture.
As is the case with every traditional Teeyan, it was the vibrant gidha that ended the evening’s proceedings.
Published in The Indian Sun (Indian magazine in Melbourne)