Charkula is a dance form that owes its birth to Krishna era. It is therefore not surprising that it is so popular in Braj region of Uttar Pradesh. The dance has many legends attached to it. One legend goes by that the mother of Radha, consort of Krishna, ran outside to deliver the news of her birth carrying Charkula or oil-lamps on her head. Since then this became a tradition to perform this dance on auspicious occasion but primarily on the third day after Holi, the day Radha was born. The other legend says that milkmaids of Mathura re-enacted the seen where Krishna held Govardhan hillock on his finger to save people from the rain. In the process of acting, girls started raising Charkula over their head in order to symbolize the hill.
Charkula is a popular folk dance of Uttar Pradesh. This Uttar Pradesh dance form has its origin in the Braj region of the state and therefore is predictably connected to the myths surrounding the life and times of Krishna. The dance is performed by women who carry lamps on their heads. The lamps are pyramidally arranged on structures specifically made for the purpose. This structure of multiple lamps, the number of which can go from 51 to a staggering 108, is called the Charkula, which is from where the dance derives its name.
The origin of Charkula of Uttar Pradesh is shrouded in legends and folklore. But there is a common element in all of them. They are all connected to one or another significant episode of the life of Krishna. Some say that after the birth of Krishna, his mother went out with a lamp to spread the news, which is where the dance have its origins. Other theories state that this is an imitation of Krishna hoisting the mountain on his little finger as enacted by his gopinis, some say it is a celebration of Krishna's victory of Indra, the king of the gods, which are variations on the same myth.
Although the reason behind the origin of Charkula is uncertain, there is not a shadow of uncertainty about its endearing appeal. Performed by women wearing colorful skirts which reach down to their ankles and equally ornate blouses, carrying lamps on their heads and indulging in short charming movements, is one of the most charming scenes in the Uttar Pradesh dance forms. Typically this dance of Uttar Pradesh is performed to the tune of the 'rasiya' a folk song celebrating love. The performance ends in a musical crescendo where the singers and musicians join in and creates the most exhilarating experience for the audience.
Women are dressed in long skirts that reach up to the toes. There is a colorful blouse and the dancer covers her body and face with the veil. These women carry a large multi-tiered circular wooden pyramid having 108 oil lamps on their heads while dancing. They perform their dances to the tunes of Rasia that is the song of Lord Krishna. The dance has synchronized steps to the beats of the drum. The movements of the dancers are limited due to the heavy load of stuff on their head. They cannot bend their body nor can they move their back. In spite of these limitations the dancers dance gliding, bending, and pirouetting to the tune of the song.