Another form of popular folk dance, the dekhni represents an attractive mixture of folk culture and Western music, danced mostly by Christian girls in fully Indian dress.
The gestures in the dance appear to have been borrowed from the Kathak and Bharata Natyam.
Dekhni in Konkani language means “bewitching beauty”. This song-cum-dance performed only by women to the accompaniment of folk drum “Ghumat”, displays a rare blend of Indian and Western cultures. The dance enacts the life of a “Devdasi” (literally meaning servant of God) girl whose job is to perform dance in temples and social ceremonies like weddings.
The theme is of a Devdasi girl who comes to a riverbank to take a ferry to reach the other side where she has an appointment to dance in a wedding. She requests the adamant boatman for a favour and is even ready to offer him her golden earring for taking her across urgently.
The dance set to western rhythms and Indian melody, is livened up by the conversation between the girl and the boatman in the form of a lilting song, which lingers in the mind for a long time.
The dancers carry pantis (small clay lamps with a wick floating in oil) or artis. Only two or three dekhni songs, composed and scored a long time ago, are extant.
It is surmised that the dance form owes its birth to devdasis singing and dancing for their visitors. The song Hanv sayaba pailtadi vaita, popular for its attractive tune, is perhaps the most well known dekhni song.