|Regions with significant populations|
|• India • Pakistan • Nepal|
|• Urdu • Hindi • Kashmiri • Punjabi|
|• Islam 100% •|
|Related ethnic groups|
|• Naqqal •|
Bhānds (Devnagri: भांड, Urdu: بھانڈ, Gurmukhi: ਭਾਂਡ) are the traditional folk entertainers of India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal. In India and Nepal, the Bhand are now an endogamous Muslim community, which is no longer involved in their traditional occupation of folk entertainment. They include actors, dancers, minstrels, storytellers and impressionists.
Payment for performances is usually voluntary: often, one performer goes around the audience collecting money on a "pay-what-you-can" basis while the others continue to perform. While most bhands belong to families that are engaged in folk entertainment as their hereditary profession, their specific art forms vary greatly by region, community and language. The term bhand itself can also mean both a specific dramatic story or an entire form/school of drama.
Bhand of Uttar Pradesh
In Uttar Pradesh, the Bhand are an endogamous Muslim community. Their ancestors were employed at the court of the various local rulers as folk entertainers, in particular at the court of the Nawabs of Awadh. Most Bhand in Uttar Pradesh are no longer involved with folk entertainment. What now binds the community is a sense of stigmaticism attached to the community on account of their ancestral occupation. They are now mainly involved in wage labour, many Lucknow city are rickshaw puller. Little is known about the origin of this community, other than the fact that their ancestors were bhands. The community has now been granted Other Backward Class status, which gives the community some benefits with regards reservation in public sector jobs. They are Sunni Muslims, and speak Urdu, and rarely dialects of Hindi. The Naqqal sub-group has done better, and now prefer the self-designation Kashmiri Shaikh. They are now a community of successful businessmen.
Bhand Pather of Kashmir
Bhand Pather is a bhand of the Kashmir region in which stories commemorating the lives of reshis (Islamic sages, or rishis) or more contemporary real or fictional figures are enacted. The storylines (or pathers) are often humorous and satirical, and farce is an essential component of the plays.
Naqal of Punjab
Naqal (mimicry) is a strong bhand tradition in the Punjab region. The naqalchi (mimic, sometimes called the bahrupiya) adopts the persona of a well-known person or character and improvises, using satire and farce extensively, to entertain the audience.
The Ustad and jamoora format
The ustad-jamoora format (ustad means master in Hindustani, while jamoora is an assistant or follower who is usually younger than the ustad) is a popular one in Hindi-speaking regions and involves only two bhand actors. Usually, the storylines consist of the ustad tutoring the jamoora to do or say something, and the jamoora responding with mechanical obedience with a subtle variation thrown in that creates a strong comical or satirical effect.
- Manohar Laxman Varadpande, History of Indian theatre, Abhinav Publications, 1992, ISBN 978-81-7017-278-9, "... The most popular of the medieval folk entertainers who still linger on the Indian scene are the Bhands. In Sanskrit Bhand means jester ... Bhands were patronised by the people and royalty alike ... small skits with extempore jokes, humour laced with social criticism ..."
- Sir Henry Miers Elliot, Supplement to the glossary of Indian terms, N.H. Longden, 1845, "... Those also are called Bhand who without reference to caste follow the occupation of singing, dancing, and assuming disguises ..."
- Don Rubin, The world encyclopedia of contemporary theatre, Volume 3, Taylor & Francis, 2001, ISBN 978-0-415-26087-9, "... one actor goes around collecting money (pay-what-you-can) from the audience ... In the swang tradition is the naqal of Punjab: farcical in nature, it relies heavily on improvisation by the naqalchi ... The bhands are itinerant clowns. It is a centuries-old tradition in the villages, and very popular at marriages. It may be a solo performance, or a troupe may have two or three people. Dressed in rustic clothes ..."
- People of India Uttar Pradesh Volume XLII Part One edited by A Hasan & J C Das pages 261 to 262 Manohar Publications
- Peter J. Claus, Sarah Diamond, Margaret Ann Mills, South Asian folklore: an encyclopedia : Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Taylor & Francis, 2003, ISBN 978-0-415-93919-5, "... At the heart of the form, though, is the broad, farcical playing of the maskharas, or clowns ..."
- "The Bhand Pather of Kashmir".