The Gatka dance is probably one of the most important performing arts of the Sikh community. The word ‘Gatka’ may be roughly translated to the ‘Sword Dance’. The Sikhs originate from the state of Punjab, the North Western region of India and are well known for martially oriented religious principles and the general society. The founder of the community – Guru Nanak – was from a martial caste in the Hindu community and after he founded the Sikh religion, almost all of his followers were also from the ’Kshatria’ or the warrior caste.

The Gatka dance was formally established after the heroic sacrifice of the Fifth Guru of the Sikhs (Guru Arjan Dev), who emphasized the martial values and armed combat training, since then the Sikh people have been sought after, for their martial skills in armed and unarmed combat even today. The Gatka dances are performed on the day of the ‘Hola Mohalla’ festival and during various social gatherings and main festivals of the Sikh community.

Dance Form

The Gatka dance is performed using various weapons, principally swords like the iconic Khirpan which is a short sword and a symbol of faith for the Sikh. These dances often involve athletic and acrobatic feats. Typically the tempo of the music is fast and there is no singing involved. The performers are only men and each of them displays his mastery over his weapon of choice. Many breathtaking stunts are performed that are extremely dangerous and require great skill and practice to pull off.

Married couples sometimes perform a Gatka dance during their wedding reception, but these swords are made out of wood. This is perhaps the only time that the women in the community are involved in this dance

Musical Instruments

The chief musical instruments are the percussions of small and large drums that represent a masculine nature.

Dhol: It is the common North Indian drum that is used for fast paced rhythm.

Nagara: It is probably the largest drum used all over India and has a low sounding bass that is extremely loud and can be heard from far. It may have been developed from the war drums of the ancient warrior castes.


The Gatka has a special place in the Sikh culture and the Indian heritage as a whole. These dances performed as a practice of the Gatka martial sport that has become a way for the Sikhs to preserve their warrior legacy and propagate a glorious tradition.


The forms of the Gatka dances vary widely as per the weapons used and the family and teacher’s traditions of the performers.

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