Dhangari Gaja is a folk dance of Maharashtra that is played by the shepherds, buffalo keepers, cowherds and blanket weavers belonging to Sholapur district. These shepherds and farmers are known by the name Dhangars; hence the name Dhangari is given to this artistic dance from. In fact, "Dhangar" is derived form "Dhenu" which means a cow. Rearing sheep and goats is the major occupation of these shepherds who spend most off their time in natural surroundings and are inspired by them. Theses shepherds are also known by other names like Dhangad and Dhanpal.
The dance is accompanied by a famous poetry called "Ovi" which is in the form of couplets. The poems are dedicated to the shepherd-god "Biruba". They comprise of the recitals that are based on the tales of this god. As Biruba is their deity, the shepherds sing songs to praise him and get his blessings. Dhangari Gaja also celebrates the return of these simple people to their families. As they return only after a year, the celebrations have immense importance in their lives.
The dancers wear ethnic dresses like Dhotis, Phetas, and Angarakhas. Use of several handkerchiefs is also popular among them. The drums are played and dance movements are in rhythm with them. The most prominent feature of Dhangari Gaja is the circular jumps that the artists do while dancing. The turbans wore by them are quite long and colorful. The dances are performed with handkerchiefs of different colors in both hands. Their swaying movements are appealing to the eyes of the audience. The stage is decorated with art works. Some of the artists stand with colorful "Chatris" or umbrellas in their hands and rotate them in circular motion.
Dhangari Gaja is a traditional dance form that reflects the essence of the shepherd community. Their simple lifestyle is enamored with Customs, rituals and other aspects of a rustic life. This meaningful dance has immense importance in their lives and revolves around their religious faiths.