Tonya Mell                                                                                     

The etymology of the name of the folk dance Tonya Mel comes from two words-‘Tonyo’ or ‘toni’ which means a stick, and ‘Mell’, which means a collection of  dancers. Although this dance is a popular dance form of the Kulmi community, members from other communities gaily take part in it. The Tonyo or stick is carefully looked after to by the dancers as they accord a lot of respect to it. They will not allow it to fall onto the ground or touch anyone’s feet. When they hold the tonyo, the person removes his footwear as a mark of respect.

The folk dance Tonya Mel of the Goans, bears a striking resemblance to a Gujarati folk dance. The dress of the dancers also resembles those worn in Kathiawar, a place in Gujarat.

There is an interesting legend as to why the dancers wield a stick in their hand when they dance. The legend has it that God planted the seed from which grew the khair tree. Each leave that the tree bore resulted in a new form of life on earth. It is said that the much revered toni or stick came from this life giving tree.

The dancers in the tonya mel, hold a pair of sticks in their hand. As the music plays, the players thump one stick against the other. The tonya mel is a vigorous dance requiring a lot of stamina. As the dancers sing a song, they break into movements like jumping, squatting and bending the knees.

Providing the music to the tonya mel are musicians playing various instruments. The shamell is a percussion instrument which is struck with cane sticks. Khair wood forms the frame of the bottom of this instrument. This frame is roofed with the skin of a goat but there are also wind instruments.

Dr. Pandurang Phaldesai: “In Goa we have very limited number of wind instruments. There are two main instruments which were used in all temples, in all rituals: “soor” and “shenai”.
“Soor” is an instruments that provides drol. Shenai cannot be played alone. There should be drol provided, continuous sound in required. “

Often this dance is compared with the Dandia, a folk dance of Gujarat, but folk researchers point out that the tonya mel is more rigorous. Also, in the tonya mel, only males are allowed to dance unlike in the dandia where a pair comprising a man and a woman dance. The dance which begins on a slow beat quickens as the dance progresses. This is a challenging moment for the dancer who has to achieve a perfect harmony and synchronization of his footwork. 


Talgadi is a folk dance which has been passed on since generations.  The name Taalgadi can be broken into two parts for us to understand its meaning. Taal means rhythm while gadi means man..

The dancers are clothed in a tight dhoti and a turban decorated with flowers. Most of the time, these flowers are the locally called aaboli. Three branches are attached to this head gear.

As the music is played, the dancers form a circle and dance all along waving a colorful cloth. Various actions are mimed such as the wearing of a blouse, an anklet and playing the flute etc. With time, many more such activities have been choreographed and assimilated into the dance by the dancers.

One of the musical instruments accompanying the taalgadi, also present in Tonya mell is the ‘shenai’, which is a tubular structure made of wood. It is wider towards the lower end, which has metal bells fixed on it. Around eight to nine holes are created on the shenai. From these, the upper seven are used for playing.

The taalgadi is a ritualistic dance which is performed by the males at the mand or in front of the village deity.  The dance is accompanied by the constant clamour of the beats of the dhol, with pauses in between.

Go back to Traditional Dances of Goa

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