Gangaur Ghoomar Dance Academy
The Founder Director
[Late] H.H. Rajmata Goverdan Kumari - Padma Shri
Founder Director, Gangaur Ghoomar Dance Academy
Kishangarh Princess, (Late) H.H. Rajmata Goverdan Kumari ji Padma Shri, was the daughter of Late H.H. Maharaja Yangyanarayan Singh Ji of Kishangarh (Rajasthan).
The rich atmosphere of different styles of music and art patronised by the royal court of Kishengarh, made a deep impression on her since childhood. While accompanying her brother Late H.H. Sumer Singh Ji of Kishangarh (Rajasthan), to Rupangarh and Karkeri, she was fascinated by the 'Gujar' women and their dance. These women lit fire on top of metal pots to provide light. Some of the women then gracefully danced with these fire lit metal pots balancing them on their head.
In 1960, at the Gangaur festival held at the Kishangarh Palace, she choreographed a synchronized form of the rustic Chari Nritya, which was then performed in public for the first time. Later she handed over the group to Late Phalku Bai (Raj Malan of Kishangarh) and asked her that she should keep performing at the festivities and occasion in the years to follow and make it popular.
More on the Founder Director
She was married to Late H.H. Maharaja Krishna Singh Ji of Santrampur (Gujarat) who encouraged her to pursue her love for dance and eventually turn it into a lifelong ambition to revive the Rajput folk dance to preserve its authenticity.
Seeing the Ghoomar and Naach performed all around those days, which was nowhere near to its authentic form, made her very restless as with each passing day it was getting more distorted. She finally decided she will revive this beautiful dance form to its full glory. In 1985, she formed a small group of dancers in Mumbai and started teaching Ghoomar and Naach to them regardless of their caste or community. The Gangaur Ghoomar Dance Academy was officially founded in the year 1986 to revive the dance forms.
The Gangaur Ghoomar Dance Academy and its efforts were recognised by ICCR [Indian Council for Cultural Relations] Delhi and selected the Academy to represent India in The Festival of India held in USSR to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Indian Independence in 1987.
In 1988, the NCPA (National Centre for Performing Arts) Mumbai recorded the dance form for their Archives Recording Collection.
She was honoured with several awards, to name some:
- MP Birla Award in Kolkata (1995)
- Promoting National Heritage by the Government of Nigeria (1997)
- The Dagar Gharana Award by The Mewar Foundation (2001)
- Padma Shri for reviving and preserving the dance form – Ghoomar & Naach (2007)
After her sudden demise in 2013, Executive Director of the academy Ms. Jyothi D Tommaar, along with Associate Directors, Dr Pratiba Naitthani and Maharani Mandakini Kumari, are now taking Rajmata sa’s mission ahead. The Academy conducts workshops and performances in India and abroad taking the vision of Rajmata sa Global.
A few of the performances by the Academy in India and abroad:
- Represented India through ICCR in USSR, Mauritius, West Africa, USA, Vanuezvela, Trinidad and Tobago and Middle East
- BBC Television (Jaipur)
- Apna Utsav (The Academy is a part of West zone Cultural Centre - Udaipur)
- Bharat Ek Khoj (Rani Padmini Episode no 26)
- Shilpgram Inaugural function (Udaipur)
- Sangeet Naatak Academy and Craft Music (Pragati Maidan)
- IG Stadium (In welcome reception of Nelson Mandela New Delhi)
- Celebration of 50 years of Umed Bhavan Palace (Jodhpur)
- Performed at Udaipur Palace, Jag Mandir and Bada Chowk for Millennium and Kartik Poornima celebration.
- Celebration of 50 years of Republic Day - Ganatantra Gaurav.
Lecture demonstrations and Workshops conducted at:
- Loyola University, Chicago, USA
- Merida University, Venezuela
- Christ University Bangalore
- Art of Living, Bangalore
- Rajmata Krishna Kumari
High School (Jodhpur)
- Mayo College Girls School (Ajmer)
- Organizations in Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Delhi, Jodhpur, Jaipur, and Indore.
Ms. Jyothi D Tommaar (National Awardee)
Jyothi D Tommaar is a trained Kathak dancer, who started training in Kathak at a tender age of four. She was a regular compere of Hindi Yuvadarshan on Mumbai Doordarshan from 1985 to 1994 and now acts in TV serials. Though she has a Master’s degree in Hindi and a diploma in Fashion Designing, she chose to follow her heart – Dancing.
In the year 1987, she was introduced to the world of professional dancing by Vasundhara Mehta when she joined Gujarati folk dance group Varnam. Later, she got selected for the Gujarati musical play “Eva Mumbai Ma Chaal Jaiye” [एवा मुंबई मा चाल जइये] directed by Feroz Abbas Khan. She was the lead lady and sang live in every performance of the play. It was the first Indian play to be performed on Broadway Street, New York, USA. While she was doing this play, Director Kundan Shah saw her and selected her to play character “Sharon” in his movie “Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa”. In year 1988, her sister introduced her to H.H. Rajmata Goverdan Kumari, and she started learning the authentic dance form of “Ghoomar” and “Naach”. In the year 1990, under her Guru Rajmata Goverdan Kumari's guidance she conducted the First Ghoomar workshop in Kolkata. Apart from performing with the academy, teaching several students in workshops held in India and abroad, she also wrote Script and dialogues, Designed Sets and Lights for the Rajasthani Dance Ballets staged by the Academy. She assisted Rajmata sa in Direction, Choreography, Costumes and Jewellery for the ballets- Koyaldi, (कोयलड़ी), Maa Karani (माँ करणी), Suraj Tharo Mukh Dekhyan Sukh Paaun (सूरज थारो मुख देख्यां सुख पाऊँ), Meera (मीरा) and Ganga (गंगा), which were performed by workshop students and academy members.
Honouring the promise her Guru made to Sanjay Leela Bhansali in 2003, she trained Deepika Padukone in Ghoomar for the film Padmaavat and choreographed the song “Ghoomar” with Kruti Mahesh. She received the National award for Best choreography for the song Ghoomar, along with Filmfare Award, Star screen, Zee cine, Times now Journalists Power brand critic award and Indywood academy award. She also received Kala Sarathi award from World forum for art and culture-2023, Art of living for being consistent in trying to preserve and revive Indian folk form Ghoomar.
Dr. Pratiba Naitthani
Dr. Pratiba Naitthani holds a PhD degree and currently is Associate Professor and Head of Department of Political Science, St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai.
She holds a Sangeet Visharad in Hindustani Classical Vocal from Bharitya Vidya Bhavan, (Affiliated to Bhatkhande Vidyapeeth, Lucknow). She joined the academy in 1988, and is the lead singer of the academy. She has been tutored in Rajasthani Folk songs by H.H. Rajmata Goverdan Kumari ji. Her 1st album of Rajasthani Folk songs “Royal Rajasthan” was released in year 1998 and in year 2003 “Rajwadi Lok Geet” was released by Virgin Music Company. She has recorded the State Anthem of Udaipur for the Maharana Mewar Foundation Archives headed by Shree Arvind Singh Mewar of Udaipur.
Some Honours and Awards accorded to Dr. Naitthani for her social work:
-Felicitated by Mayor of Mumbai as “Outstanding Woman of Mumbai City”
-Panna Dhai Award by Maharana Mewar Foundation, Udaipur for ‘going beyond the call of duty’ (Social Service) to make television safe for children and to protect the dignity of women in media.
-Listed among 29 Most Powerful Women of India- as “Power Goddesses” by India Today.
She is Member of the ‘Save the Face’ project of Reconstructive Surgery Foundation, offering reconstructive surgery and medical help to Acid Attack Victims. She campaigned for stringent laws to prevent acid attack and for the welfare of the Acid attack Survivors and for reservation in jobs and educational institution for these survivors in the Disabled Category, which has now become a legal provision.
She successfully campaigned for stringent laws to prevent acid attack, for the welfare of the Acid attack Survivors, for reservation in jobs and educational institutions for these survivors in the Disabled Category. This has now become a legal provision thanks to her perseverance and diligent efforts.
She filed a petition in the Rajyasabha Committee on the issue of easy accessibility of Child Pornography and other forms of pornography and its impact on young minds. She is the Vice President of Hamari Sanskriti, an organization taking up the issues of representation of women in the media. She started a campaign against telecast of adult, i.e. violent and vulgar content on television, and filed a PIL in Bombay High court in 2004, as a result of her efforts many directions and orders were passed by Honourable Bombay High Court to make television safer for family and children.
She is a regular trekker in Uttarakhand and Nepal, and is the first woman to complete the 22 days long Nanda Devi Raj Jat, in Uttarakhand, in which the pilgrims have to walk 280 km, crossing rivers, glaciers, forests in hostile conditions and go up to the height of 17,500 Ft above the sea level. The significance of completing the Raj-Jat is that since centuries no women were allowed to go for it. It was due to her efforts and perseverance that now women can go for the Nanda Devi Raj-Jat.
Books authored by her:
- Dr. D. V. Rangaraj & Dr. Pratiba Naitthani (2022) “Dynamism in Indo-US Relations, Publisher The Write Place, Mumbai
- Naitthani P. (Ed) (2022) “The Geopolitical Challenges of India”, Ketaki Prakashan Pvt Ltd, Mumbai.
Maharani Mandakini Kumari
H.H. Maharani Mandakini Kumari is the daughter in law of Late H. H. Rajmata Goverdan Kumari of Santrampur, Gujarat and endeavours to carry forward the legacy of this regal dance form.
She is a keen homemaker, having restored the Shri Joraver Vilas in Santrampur (Gujarat) which is now run as a boutique homestay. She is now working on restoring and preserving other heritage palaces belonging to the family, as well as heritage buildings and temples in and around Santrampur. She is also reviving a rural print “Chheent” under her brand named Ambarhue.
Maharani Sa is keen to carry on the legacy of this graceful dance form, passed on by Rajmata Saheba to the next generation. She believes that ‘Ghoomar’ is not merely a dance form, but a ‘Living Cultural Heritage’, which needs to be conserved and propagated in it’s authentic and graceful form as taught by Rajmata Sa to her students.
[Late] Gavari Devi ji
Gavari Devi was a renowned Maand gayika of Rajasthan. and was known as Marwad ki Maru-Kokila ['मारवाड़' की मरु-कोकिला]. Her parents were Rajdarbari gayaks [official singers of the Royal Courts] of Bikaner Royal family. She was famous for her unique style of singing Maand, Bhajan, Thumari, Folk song and Gazal. After her marriage she settled in Jodhpur where H.H. Ummed Singh ji, Jodhpur, patronised her skills. She travelled extensively in India under cultural exchange programs conducted by the Indian govt. At a time when recording a single song was considered a big achievement, Gavri Devi recorded more than one hundred songs, which is a record by itself. She was felicitated by former President of India Dr R. Venkatraman with Sangeet Natak Academy Award. The Sangeet Natak Academy of Chennai also felicitated her with Rajat Puruskar, apart from this she received many awards in Rajasthan. Rajmata Sa was spellbound with her singing and included her in the academy, as she was the perfect singer who not only knew all the Rajwadi songs of Ghoomar and Naach but understood the nuances as well. She travelled with Rajmata Sa to the Festival of India held in the USSR in 1987. Gavri Devi left for the heavenly abode in 1988. Few years later she was honoured posthumously with the Rajasthan Ratna award.
Lakha Khan Manganiar - Padma Shri
Padma Vibhushan [Late] Komal Kothari ji of Jodhpur, helped Rajmata sa, when she was establishing her academy. She wanted traditional singers and musicians. He introduced one of the finest artists for the academy Lakha Khan as Singer and Sarangi player. Lakha ji is from Raneri - Jodhpur, and travels in India and Abroad for his performances. He has been showered with many awards world wide. Greatest living exponent of Sindhi Sarangi, he received Padma Shri in the year 2021 for his mastery in singing and sindhi sarangi. He travelled regularly with the academy, and helped the new non Rajasthani singers understand the nuances of singing. In Spite of his busy schedule of his singing shows, he tries his best to travel with the academy when needed.
Percussionist - Nagarah
Umar Mohammad is the 6th generation serving the Jodhpur Royal family as Raj Nagarchi. Rajmata Sa selected 15 year old talented Umar Mohammad for her newly established academy. He is one of the few Nagarchis of Rajasthan who are multi-talented and can play Nagadah and sing at the same time. Nagarah is the main percussion instrument to accompany Ghoomar. In his glorious journey of being Nagadchi for Jodhpur Royal Family and an esteemed part of Gangaur Ghoomar Dance Academy, he has received many awards. To name a few he has been honored with Bhuvalka Jankalyan Trust Award- Kolkata, Desi Culture Award- Abudhabi, Pashchim Rajasthan Udyog Hastshilp Utsav, Veer Durgadas Rathor Samman, Marwar Rajput Sabha, Akhil Bhartiya Maheshwari Award, Honored by former Chief Minister of Rajasthan Vasundhara ji. When you visit Mehran Garh fort in Jodhpur Rajasthan, you will always find Umar Mohommad at the gate of the fort welcoming you with his melodious voice and rhythmic Nagada.
Nandini, born and brought up in Mumbai was attending a month long workshop in Ethnomusicology at the NCPA [National Centre for the Performing Arts] Mumbai, where she met Rajmata sa for the first time who at that time was working on archiving and promoting Rajwadi Ghoomar. Trained in classical vocals, Nandini was teaching Sociology at the Elphinston college and was also learning semi classical vocals from Smt. Shobha Gurtu especially Thumris, Chaities etc. One day while in the washroom, Rajmata Sa heard Nandini humming, she complimented her, and asked if she would be interested in participating in her Academy’s Ghoomar presentations as a singer, since Gavari Bai, the legendary singer affiliated with the academy, was not keeping well. Rajmata sa said, "Why don't you watch my Academy's performance on TV. It is scheduled for tomorrow night on the "National program of Dance'. Once you see it you will say yes, because I know you will like it." As expected, Nandini was really impressed with the unique dance style, the songs that went with it and was sure that she wanted to be a part of the academy which presents the most authentic form of Ghoomar. This is how her unique journey started in 1988. Rajmata sa gave her the cassettes of Gavari Bai and made sure that Nandini sang exactly the way it was sung traditionally. Being an Uttarakhandi her pronunciations were different which Rajmata sa herself would correct and trained her to perfection. Nandini Mahesh, along with her husband is currently Director of two companies Ninaad Music which is among the best in alternate music, producing Indian Classical, Semi Classical, Authentic folk and World music and, Banyan Tree which is a premier promotion body known for its world class presentations of the intangible heritage of India.
Nishtha hails from Uttarakhand and joined the academy as a singer in 2003. She has a master's degree in English literature from Mumbai university. She is a corporate trainer and has worked for various corporate houses in Learning and Development. Along with that she has also been a Dubbing artist and a Radio Jockey with Radio Mirchi. Currently, she is living in London, U.K. as a full time parent and a Youtube content creator.
Asin is a vocalist and plays sarangi along, in the traditional way. He got the opportunity to learn from Legendary Lakha Khan ji for a brief period. He has been performing with the academy since 2009. He has been part of many world music shows and recordings. Apart from other awards he was felicitated with Bismilla Khan Yuva Puruskas.
Percussionist - Dhol, Dholak
Niyaz ji became a part of the academy in 1994. He belongs to Badmer, Jodhpur and is a part of a family which has devoted their life to Rajasthani Music. He plays Dhol, Dholak and Khadtaal. He has travelled with the academy extensively for shows, workshops in India and abroad. His elder son Swaroop Khan is a well known singer, and his younger son Zaheer is a percussionist and plays for the academy.
Percussionist - Dhol, Dholak, Hartaal, Morchang
Zaheer is the younger son of Niyaz Khan. Music flows in his blood. He learnt playing Dhol, Dholak, Khadtal, Chung and Morchang immaculately merely by observing elders in the family. He was guided and trained by his father to ace the art. He started performing with the academy in 2018. Apart from this he accompanies his brother Swaroop Khan for the shows.
Percussionist - Nagarah
Younger son of Umar Mohammad, Aadil is a graduate from Jodhpur and has been learning Tabla, Dholak and Nagada since childhood from his talented father. While studying he accompanies his father for shows and also plays for the academy whenever needed. He joined the academy in 2018, to play Nagadas. He is one of the few youngsters in Rajasthan who have opted for old instruments like Nagada, to keep the family's traditional trend alive and preserve the traditional instrument alive.
Been, Algoja, Bansuri, Morchang
Achar ji started his journey with the academy in 1994. He plays Murli [also known as Been] Flute, Algoja and Morchang. He is from Khiyan, Jaisalmer and travels with the academy for shows and workshops till date.
Ms. Hetal C Joshi
Hetal hails from Gujarat, she joined the Academy in the year 1988 as a dancer. Apart from dancing, she sings for academy when required. She sings devotional Gujarati songs, is a painter and has done acting projects as well.
Ms. Hemani Pandya
Hemani joined the academy in 1988. Hemani is a Gujarati born and raised in Mumbai. She is very passionate about environmental issues, natural farming and sustainable living. She specializes in Russian language, teaches Russian as a foreign language to corporate companies and works as an interpreter. She makes sure she has the time to grow fruits and vegetables, and teaches Yoga (focusing on women's issues ). Throughout all these activities she dances for her happiness, and joins academy activities as and when required. Currently she is Director, Spaces Learning PVT LTD.
Ms. Divya Naithani
Divya’s first exposure to Late H.H. Rajmata Goverdhan Kumariji and her academy was when she was in the 10th std. She casually started picking up the melodious songs unknowingly but being a Science student in college, didn’t formally join the academy till her graduation.
Mumbai University Gold medalist in Botany-Biochemistry, Divya started formally learning in 1994. Rajmatasa was very happy when Divya took to Yoga and Personal Counselling and always encouraged her to continue doing the same. Divya was the Yoga Teacher and Personal Counsellor at Anupam Kher’s Actor Prepare for 7 years and currently is with Terence Lewis Professional Training Institute since last 12 years. She is also an empanelled examiner for certifying teachers under Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Modiji’s initiative and is a senior teacher with the over 100 years old Yoga Institute, Mumbai.
She has travelled across the world with the academy spreading the authentic Ghoomar and continues doing the same at any possible opportunity.
Ms. Rachna Minawala
Rachna was blessed to be Rajmata sa's neighbour. Her aunt would go to learn ghoomar from Rajmata sa and she would go and sit for the rehearsals. Coming from a Gujarati family, the Rajasthani Rajputana culture and dance form mesmerised Rachna too. At the age of 12, she too started learning Ghoomar along with her aunt. Her first international trip with the academy was in 1997 to West Africa, where the Academy was selected to perform for the festival to celebrate 50 years of Indian independence. She continued her journey with the academy. Currently she runs two home grown brands called “The Wishing Tree “ ( gift curation - custom made gifting solutions and corporate gifts) and “Chatter Platter” (food curation related and grazing tables, cheese hampers and multi cuisine platters and celebratory platters). With all the activities she travels with the Academy when possible.
Ms. Bhakti Bhukhanwala
Bhakti Bhukhanwala has been a part of academy since 1997. Being Rajmata Sa's neighbor, she was blessed to witness the rehearsals and the activities of dance and the preparing for the shows and travel. Belonging to Gujarati family, watching Rajmata Sa's student rehearse Ghoomar and Naach, the music, dance, culture and colorful poshaks attracted her to the dance form and the culture of Rajasthan. A commerce graduate from Mumbai University, her dance journey began at the age of 18 with the academy and still continues. She currently lives in Goa and manages an Airbnb, and travels with the Academy.
Ms. Trupti Dave
Mumbai born and brought up Trupti, hails from Rajasthan and joined Academy in the year 1999. Trained Bharat Natyam dancer she was enthusiastic to join the academy and learn the authentic style of Ghoomar and Naach of her own Rajasthan. A commerce graduate, she deals in stocks as a freelancer. She is currently based in Ahmedabad, and joins the academy for workshops and shows.
Ms. Kashmira Dhanjani
MBA in marketing, Media professional, General Manager with Network 18 Group, Kashmira; is born in a Marwari family. A folk-dance enthusiast since childhood, she found her true love for dance in Ghoomar. She joined the Academy in 1999. Being a National Judo player, Ghoomar brought in a lot of grace, poise, discipline, elegance, and positivity in her. Kashmira has performed several shows across various parts of the world and participated in training new learners in workshops.
Ms. Shetal Lotia
Shetal hails from Gujarat and joined the academy in 1999. She has done her Masters in Science (Biochemistry), and is working in the HealthCare Industry. For her dancing is like Fish in water, and can pick up any folk form in a beat. While learning the authentic form of Ghoomar may have looked a little difficult, she made sure she learnt all the intricacies in no time. She continues to be with the academy as it gives her ample possibility to balance between her work, family and passion.
Ms. Tanvi Bhatt
Tanvi, with a MBA in Marketing, worked for 8 years with HDFC Bank in the corporate office. She joined the Academy in 1999. Visharad in Bharat Natyam, she found Ghoomar as a logical extension to her dancing. Post marriage, she quit her corporate job to cater to her family duties. Presently she has established and is successfully running a charitable diagnostic and pathology centre in Mumbai.
Ms. Jalpa Mehta
Jalpa, a graduate from Mumbai University hails from a Gujarati family. She is trained in Bharatnatyam and joined the academy in year 1999. Post marriage she shifted to Surat, and is regular in joining the academy for workshops and shows whenever needed. Currently a homemaker, she is pursuing further studies and doing B.Ed.
Ms. Jigna Mehta
Mumbai born and brought up Jigna Mehta, currently lives with her husband and son in Seattle, USA. A trained Bharatnatyam dancer, she got associated with Academy in 2001. Which opened the world of Rajasthani Folk dance and Culture. Today she participates, directs and choreographs small cultural dance shows and skits, representing our country India, for a non profit organization called Gurukul in Seattle.
Ms. Mansi Trivedi
A Rajasthani mumbai born and brought up Manasi, joined Academy in the year 2004. She is a qualified Chartered Accountant, and currently working in A listed company in Mumbai as a HOD-Domestic Marketing & Client Services. She took Bharat Natyam training for 8 years and 5 years training in Hindustani Classical Vocals from AJIVASAN. She joins the workshops organised by the academy at every given opportunity.
Ms. Neelu Bhargav
Coming from a Gujarati family, Neelu is part of the Academy since year 2000. She runs a boutique in Mumbai, which specializes in Indian traditional wear and western wear. She makes costumes for Academy's stage performance. Neelu is a fantastic Garba dancer, which helped her in adapting to Ghoomar with ease. She travels with the academy for the shows.
Ms. Tejaswini Tomaar
Tejaswini has been traveling with her mother for academy workshops from the age of two years and learnt the dance form in the most authentic way of watching, becoming part of the group dancing and learning. Rajmata Sa gave her the opportunity to perform on stage at the tiny age of 2 years two months in dance ballet Maa Karani. An English literature graduate from Mumbai university, she is an aspiring actor. She has worked with Feroz Abbas Khan for 4 years as backstage manager for his play Mughal E Azam, and worked as AD in pre production of Sanjay Leela Bhansali's web series Heera Mandi. She travels with the academy when required.
Ms. Padmini Tomaar
Trained Katthak dancer Padmini has been travelling with the academy from the age of 4 months. It won't be an exaggeration if said that she learnt to dance before walking. Looking at her dance during workshops, Rajmata sa was so delighted that she let her perform on stage with the academy dancer at the age of One year and five months, in dance ballet Suraj Tharo Mukh Dekhyan Sukh paaun. An English literature graduate, she has taken brief training in Odissi and Kuchipudi as well. While trained in Indian classical dance form Katthak, she got a diploma at Terence Lewis's dance academy. She travels with the academy for workshops and shows.