Indian Dance Forms – Classical , Folk and Tribal

 Dance in a simple lay man’s language is an expression of the inner feelings and emotions. Dance can convey the innermost feelings and emotions through the medium of physical postures, gestures and expressions. Without speaking a word that which enables you to convey your message is what we call the; Dance. Dance has many forms and purposes. A dancer can dance for self-contentment, for some worldly purpose or to convey a message to the mass. With every purpose, the form of the dance does change. Dance is an art, it is a dialect of the soul and it is fundamentally a discipline. People who are inclined towards and devoted to dance, they truly worship this art of dance as their God. India is a land of Art and Culture and also a land of Dance. Dance has been deeply rooted in the core of India. India possesses a variety of dances. Numerous of dance forms are performed in our country. In fact there are varied dance forms which were actually originated in India at different parts. We can divide the dance forms of India in three broad categories; The Classical Dance, Folk and Tribal Dance and Contemporary Dance.

Nearly about two thousand years, Indian Dance has been developed as one of the most established Arts in the world. Indian dance has a deep mythological significance too. In India, Lord Shiva is worshiped as ‘Nataraja’(the Lord of Dance). In the Hindu Mythology the dance is supposed to be very dear to the Deities. In fact Kali, Shiva and Krishna; the Hindu deities have been very closely associated with Dance. Shiva’s Tandav Nritya, Kali’s dance of destruction and creation and Krishna’s Raas-Leela with the Gopikas has always been acknowledged as mythological dance forms. Dance in India, is believed to be envisioned by ‘Brahma’(who is the Creator of this Universe according to the Hindu mythology). Brahma was believed to encourage the saint called ‘Bharat Muni’ who wrote the ‘Natya Shastra’; a memoir on performing arts with which with a passage of time the customs of drama and dance, got materialized.  The Natya Shastra has various important elements taken from four different Vedas such as ‘Words’ are taken from the Rigaveda, ‘Gestures’ are taken from the Yajurveda, ‘Music’ is taken from the Samaveda and finally the ‘Emotions’ are taken from the Athravaveda.

Indian dances have gone through a long chain of transition as well. However it is very tough to access the history of dance because like any other physical artifacts dance does not leave anything behind through which it can be comprehended that since when dance became a part of human culture. Indian dances initiated in the temples where dancing was a medium to epitomize and comprehend the Hindu mythologies. Dance was a performing art done by the ‘Devdasinis’ as the offering to the gods and goddesses. It was a way to depict the devotion towards the almighty. There were no theatres, no auditoriums for dance performances but it was certainly a medium of enjoyment, leisure and worship and formed an important part of religious ceremonies, festivals, rituals and celebrations. The dancers used to perform only on festivals and special occasions. But gradually when dance forms began to transit and move into the modern era, the dance was no longer remained as just a medium of worship and leisure. The dance began to manifest itself in many forms having different purposes. Dancers particularly from South India stepped out of the temples and began to dance in royal families. During the period of the Mughals and Nawabs dance fell down to a status of an unethical sensuous element associated to whores. Public performances of dance were banned under the British rule but fortunately after India got freedom in 1947, dance was luckily blessed with an atmosphere where it could win back its lost glory. The classical and regional dance forms of India got re-discovered, the ethnic facets of dance were re-emerged, fresh innovation was manifested, new talents reached out and in the precise it can be said that the old classicism of dance came forth with a new face.

Each Indian state represents a unique dance style/form. There are states which are popular for their classical dance forms and others are renowned for their folk and tribal dance styles. Let us ponder over the three broad categories of Indian Dance Forms.


Indian classical DanceThe Classical Dance forms are considered to be classical because they are performed in accordance of the Natya-Shastra of Bharat Muni (400 BC) and they are regulated by the same. The term ‘classical’ was introduced by the ‘Sangeet Natak Academy’ to present the Natya-Shastra based performing art forms. In the earlier times classical dances were performed in the temples as the devotional offering to the god. But now today the classical dance forms are performed on stage and theatres mostly accomplished by solo dancers. Learning and gaining a mastery in a classical dance form demands a rigorous training for several years under the guidance of a ‘Guru’/ Dance trainer.

The distinctive feature that distinguishes the classical dance forms from any other dance style is that, classical dance forms involve the implication the ‘Mudras’ by the dancer/artist as as a shorthand language to narrate or convey a story to the audience. Classical dance form also includes the facial expression, eye and head movement as the most essential elements to illustrate certain feelings, emotions, nature, weather and objects/concepts. The incorporation of the techniques of the Natya – Shastra is a very important factor for a dance to be considered as a Classical Dance Form. However, all the classical dance forms have two basic distinctive factors imbibed these are; ‘abhinaya’ (facial expressions) and ‘hastas’ (hand gestures).  The Sangeet Natak Academy acknowledges, Eights Indian Dance forms under the category of Indian classical dances which are worldwide popular too, those are :

Bharatnatyam (Tamil Nadu), Kathak (North India), Kuchipudi (Andhra Pradesh), Kathakali, (Kerela), Manipuri (Manipur), Mohiniyattam (Kerela), Odissi (Odisha) and Sattirya from Assam.

BHARATNATYAM : it is one of the oldest and most popular Indian classical dance forms originated around 2000 years back in the state of Tamil Nadu. This dance form is inspired by the ancient sculpture art of  temple of Chidambaram. This dance is performed by both females and the males. In the 19th century four brothers known as the Thanjavur Quartet documented and classified Bharatnatyam as a performing art. Thanjavur Quartet had given numerous of musical compositions for this dance which form a bulk of Bharatnatya collection even today. As an art form, Bharatnatyam is multi-featured. It incorporates natyam, poetry, an imitator, melody and drama. The basic postures of the dance form are balanced positions, hand positions frames the body in symmetrical lines and in geometrical patterns. This dance proposes a variety of movements which lay an emphasis on hitting the floor with the feet, jumping and turning, the footwork is quick, rhythmical and mathematical in its preciseness, above all the fundamental feature of the dance is that the movement are demonstrated in space either along straight lines or triangles. The whole dance is performed on the bent knees. The symmetrical positions executed in this dance conveys that there is an intricate relationship between the dancer and the universe around her. The costume of this dance is beautiful and elaborated the sari is specifically designed, the ornaments are traditional yet very graceful.

KATHAK : this is also a one of the oldest Indian classical dance form that had its origin in the North Indian States. In the ancient Hindu temples there were storytellers who used to narrate the stories of gods and goddesses to the audience. Traditionally these were known as ‘Kathakar’ (the ones who narrate a story or a ‘Katha’) and the dance they used to perform to convey their Katha got named as ‘Kathak’. We can trace an immense influence of ritual and temple dances and also the Bhakti movement over this dance form. That is why the themes like Krishna’s Holi or Raas-Leela and mythological characters; Radha, Shiva and Paravti are very much a part of this dance form. The 16th century onwards the Kathak dance began to absorb certain characteristics of central Asian dance and Persian dance which were basically brought by the royal courts of the Mughals’ phase.

 Kathak has three main and important ‘gharanas’ or schools of lineage these are; Lucknow Gharana, Banaras (Varanasi) Gharana and Jaipur Gharana. Kathak is featured by the rhythmic footwork and pirouettes that is amazingly fast and rigorous executed on the music played by the instruments table and harmonium, it is purely based on facial expression in which eyes play the most important role. This dance doesn’t use any extreme torso and waist’s bend. The feet are adorned with bells sprung around the ankles which give a loud, audible and cordial sound. The costume of female dancers of this this dance form is a long-flowing ankle length skirts with beautiful ethnic jewelry. The dancer tries to invoke different ‘rasa’ or moods/feelings by his/her expressions during the performance.

KUCHIPUDI : this is a classical dance of South Indian state; Andhra Pradesh. Kuchipudi dance has acquired its name on the name of a village in the Divi Taluka of Krishna District that just borders the Bay of Bengal and also has the Brahimin people who practice this dance form. This dance form is much more similar to the dance Bharatnatyam in terms of the rhythmic footwork and symmetrical lines. But it also has a distinctive feature called ‘Tarangam’ that is performed by the dancer by balancing the body on the rim of a brass plate and moving it all around the stage. The movements of Kuchipudi dance are flat-footed, scintillating, rounded and quicksilver. It is performed on pure Carnatic music and it is a perfect blend of Nritta (rhythmic sequence includes a verse or song), Nritya (rhythmic body movements) and Natya (drama with a story line and characters). The costume of this dance that the dancer wears is similar to the dance of Bharatnatyam but unlike it the jewelry is made of lightweight wood called boorugu.

KATHAKALI : this is a much elaborated and highly stylized classical dance originated in the South Indian state of Kerela. This dance form is performed only by men who profoundly enact different scenes and characters from mythological stories and scriptures. Ramayana and Mahabharta are the two mostly enacted epics. Kathakali is featured by elaborate bright billowing costumes, huge head gears, colorful makeup, ornaments, long silver nails, hyper music and exaggerated expressions. The dancer of Kathakali uses a symbolic makeup and express the character or person they are representing. Various emotions and characters are enacted through fantastic costumes and makeups. This dance is moreover expressions based. The movement of eyebrows, micro and macro of face, eyeballs and cheeks play an indispensable role in enacting any role and in the overall performance. The most fascinating feature of Kathakali is the amazing dramatic quality. The dancers never speak but they dance upon the musical compositions which include dialogues and narrations. The dancers practice a glossary of well-developed hand gestures language that not only enhance their facial expressions but also unfolds the text of the drama.

MANIPURI : this is a feminine dance form that comes from the mountainous region of Manipur;  situated  on the North-Eastern border of India. The movements of Manipuri dance are very tender, lyrical and slow. The moves are not done by force but they contain force that’s a distinctive feature about it. The dancers very gently move their arms in arcs and circular motions, there are in fact no sharp edges to any of the movements. All the movements of the dance are in a flow that gives a fluidity and suppleness to the performance and make the dance quite different from the other styles which include quick and rigorous footwork and pirouettes. Even the facial expression is subtle and gentle. A Manipuri dance form has been very much influenced by the religious movements of Vaishnaivism, the Raasleelas and the worship of Lord Vishnu. A Manipuri dancer wears a long embroidered skirts with transparent veil. The male dancers play drums called as ‘pung’ and execute twirls and turns on a fast rhythm.

MOHINIYATTAM :  this classical dance has its origination in South Indian state of Kerela. It is a much mesmerizing and graceful dance form performed by females mostly solo performances. The movements are tender and exquisite, the legs are kept half-bent, the footwork is rhythmical and powerful and the arms are wide open. Mohiniyattam dance form seems to give a flavor of both Kathakali and bharatnattyam. Mohini means a seductress and a dancer who performs an enchanting dance. The dancer is accompanied with a conductor who sings and plays the handheld cymbals. There are also the drummers who play the ‘madallam’ and a wind instrument. The dancer is dressed in beautiful white costume with gold border, hair is tucked in a bun also adorned with jasmine flowers, the face is painted with a natural tint and the eyebrows are boldly outlined. Ornaments are gold plated, the dancer wears them on the neck, head and waist.

ODISSI : this dance is originated from the eastern India state of Odisha. According to the archeological surveys Odissi dance is the oldest dance form that has survived the longest till now. This dance is also known as Orissi. This dance form can be described as A visual poetry. The most interesting feature about this dance form is that, the body position/posture is not merely a part of vocabulary but it is also a statement. A body position in Odissi dance posture can convey a mood and message directly. The movements in this dance are lyrical, the limbs remain firm, the knees are bent outwards, the neck follows a natural tilt of the head, and a central line is maintained in regard of the upper half of the body. The torso movements are a special feature of this dance. The hands are moved in many different ways such as circular movements, semi-circular extensions and moving the arms in an upwards or downwards from the center of the chest to the sides. Odissi dance reflects a close relationship with temple sculptures. But the most distinctive feature that distinguishes Odissi dance from other styles of dances is its ‘Tribhanga’ form that includes the independent movements of the three body parts at the same time i.e. the head, chest and pelvis. This dance form is visually delightful and aesthetically appealing.


 These dance forms/ styles are very simple yet very expressive. India possesses an abundance of dance forms besides the classical dances and it is also world renowned for its vivid variety of folk and tribal dance forms. India is a hub of cultural diversity, each dance form reflects the ethos and culture of different regions/places/states or communities. Folk and tribal dances presented a lot variations in terms of their themes, movements, expressions, music and forms. These dance forms can be said as the dance of the common man. These dances are performed on almost every occasion, celebrations, weddings, on the arrival of a new season, on the birth of a child and festivals. Folk and tribal dances have also contributed to the growth of the classical dance forms. Folk and tribal dances are most prevalent in the comparatively less developed tribal areas, rural areas, villages where dance forms an essential part of the life. All the folk dances are very traditional and ethnic. Each dance form shows the distinctive features of the place or group it belongs to. The costumes are too flamboyant and unique, jewelry also, adds a big charm to the costumes. Folk dances are a way of bringing the people together, fill everyone with a spirit of brotherhood and happiness. These dance forms are the simplest way of expressing the joy, happiness, harmony and love for each other. They are not as much complex as the classical dances but still they do have an aesthetic significance. Folk and tribal dances also have a religious significance that is why they are mostly performed on the religious occasions and festivals.

Following are the Folk and Tribal Dance Forms in accordance to the States/Places they belong to. We shall be discussing the most popular folk dance forms in little detail at below. We shall now begin with the North Indian States :

Jammu & Kashmir

Jammu & Kashmir are not only famous for its natural beauty but also for its folk dances. A number of folk dances of J& K are popular such as the ; the Rouf Dance, Hafiza Dance, Kud Dance, Bhand Jashan Dance, Bacha Nagma Dance and Dhamal Dance.

 Rouf dance is performed by a group of ladies in which they dance while facing each other. The music played is very pleasant. This dance is particularly performed on festive occasions; Ramzaan and IDD days.

Hafiza dance; is performed by women and young girls. It is a traditional dance usually performed at the wedding ceremonies. The girls dress in purely traditional dresses of Kashmir. This dance is also performed on the boats if the wedding is taking place on the boats. The music is traditional and pleasant.

Kud dance is one of the most famous folk dance forms of J&K. It is basically a religious dance form that is performed in the honor of Lok Devtas in order to perform a thank-giving ritual. This dance is performed usually in the nights. This dance is very spontaneous and it is open for the people of all ages and sexes. The music and the instruments used in this dance are all very traditional. Drums and flutes mostly use instruments. The basic significance behind performing this dance is the thank giving attitude of the villagers towards their Gramdevta who has protected the crops, cattle and children from natural calamities. Therefore that is why this dance is performed in the rainy seasons when the maize is harvested. 20-30 members can participate at a time in the dance. Women, men and children get together, wear their best attires and perform the dance around the bonfire.

Bhand Jashan Dance is performed by a number of 10-15 members who dress in their traditional costumes. The music played on the dance is usually soft music. This dance is basically known as Kashmiri folk theatre style dance that represents a commixture of dance and play in a satirical form. This dance can be dated to 300-400 years old in Kashmir.

Bacha Nagma Dance is performed by the young boys and this is also called the kid dancer’s celebration. The young kids dress like women in multi-colored frocks. And it is performed in the harvest season.

Dhamhal dance is performed by only menfolks of the Wattal tribe on the specific occasion especially to invoke the blessing of the gods and goddess. The dancers dress in colorful robes and conical shaped caps. The costumes and caps are studded with beads and shells. The menfolks sing aloud in a chorus and use drums to be in a rhythm with the song. The performers of the group dig a banner on the ground and dance around this banner in a ritualistic way. This is another very famous dance form of Kashmir after the Kud dance.

 Himachal Pradesh

 Himachal Pradesh represents a highly vivid variety of folk and tribal dances. These dance forms are purely traditional and depicts a cultural variety. There is rarely any festival and auspicious occasion that goes without celebrating without dancing. There are few most prevalent dance forms in Himachal Pradesh such as the Mala Dance, Dalshone and Cholamba Dance, Keekali Dance, Demon Dance, Shan and Shabu Dance and Karayila Dance.

Mala dance is also known as kayang mala dance in which the dancers hold/weave their hand in a criss and cross manner that gives them a look like they are the beads of a garland or mala.

Dalshone & Cholamba dances belong to the Ropa valley of Himachal. In the Dalshone dance the dancers are formed in a pattern that gives the look of a dragon/serpents. The Chambola dance is performed when a tiger is killed. The skin of the dead tiger is then stuffed and a gold ornament is placed on the nose of it.

Keekali dance is performed by the young girls as couples. The girls wrap woolen shawls and wear the colorful headgears called as Dhatu. They dance in a circular form while holding handkerchiefs in their hand. Then three of the dancers come in front at the center and flaunt their swords. The music is played with the instruments; dholak, small clarionets, karnal and ran singha.

Demon dance is performed by wearing demon masks. This dance shows the attack of the demon on the crops and how those demons are chased away by the divine power. This dance form comes from the areas of Kimmaur in Himachal. The men dress in the costumes of demon with masks.

Shan & Shabu dance are the two famous dance forms which come from the Lahaul valley of Himachal Pradesh. Shan dance is performed in the memory of the Buddha. Shan basically stands for a song of a prayer in the memory of the Buddha. Shabu is purely a tribal dance performed by women on the occasion of completing the harvesting the crops. Musical instruments played in these dances are shehnai, drums and a stringed instrument that looks and sounds like a violin.

Karayila dance is basically a folk drama performed in Himachal Pradesh. These plays are kind of a satire about the social issues of the society like corruption, race discrimination, bureaucracy and etc these plays possess humor as their significant feature. The traditional significance of this play form dance is that the devotee pays back his gratitude towards the deity for fulfilling the wish or desire the devotee asked for. The performers of the dance are basically from the lower middle castes like sanhal, sehsi, cobblers and weavers. The performer wears wigs, and apply the kohl powder and jewelry. The themes of these plays can range to mythological to contemporary issues. This dance is usually initiated with the manglacharan in which the three deities are invoked—Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh.

Uttar Pradesh

Uttar Pradesh depicts a variety of traditional dances which have a deep mythological significance attached to them. Most of the famous folk dances of Uttar Pradesh are Charkula Dance, Swang, Nautanki, Khyal and Rasleela.

Charkula dance is the most famous and traditional folk dance coming from the Braj Bhoomi where Radha ji was born. It is mainly conducted in the Brahmins community of the Braj. This dance is performed after three days of the festival Holi. This dance is performed by a group of women in which each woman puts a multi-tired circular wooden pyramid on their heads and having108 oil lamps placed on the tiers of the pyramid. The beauty of this dance is the balancing of the multi-tiered pyramid and simultaneously dancing swiftly and beautifully on the Rasiya songs of Lord Krishna.

Swang is basically a folk-drama accompanied with songs. It is considered to be a folk art form that aspires to invoke the religious sentiments of the people/audience. There three most famous swang groups prevailing in Uttar Pradesh such as PuranNath Jogi swang, Gopi Nath and Veer Hakikat Rai swang. These swangs present the incidents of detachment in life, love of religion and a spirit of sacrifice. This is enacted by amateur and sometimes new performers.

Nautanki is basically consists of folklore and mythological dramas accompanied with folk dances and songs. It can be described as street play or a skit. However this dance form counts its origin in the Punjab but one cannot find any trace of Punjabi language in this dance form. Nautanki spread its roots mainly in two places; Hathras and Kanpur. These performances take place in the midnight time and continue till the next morning of the day. it is performed upon a stage and the music is a perfect blend of classical and folk elements. Saarangi and Harmonium are the two basic instruments. The dialogues are usually taken from poetries and dohas/verses. After the completion of each verse the instrument called Nagada is played. The performers of nautanki are vivacious and have a great voice quality. The themes of nautanki holds a satire over the social and contemporary issues of the society.

Khyal has been yet another very popular folk art form whose origin has not been fixed but still it is believed to be a most famous art form of Uttar Pradesh. These plays are basically based upon the mythological themes/events of Puranas. The content of these plays is very rich in emotions, feelings and sentiments. Khyal is basically known for the speciality it has. There are many kinds of khyal and each has been known by the city it belongs to, the style of acting and the author for instance; Jaipuri Khyal, Abhinaya Khyal and Ali Baksh Khyal. Dholak, drums, cymbals and harmonium are the prime instruments used to play the music in khyal. There is always a guide/Ustaad who directs the play and instructs the performers.

Raasleela, is a theatrical dance form of Uttar Pradesh. This dance form represents the events of life of Lord Krishna and particularly the event of Krishna dancing with the gopikas on the bank of the river Yamuna; that is known as Raasleela. The dance movements are very traditional and also have a classical touch. Dance is performed by fast footwork, facial expressions, spins, pirouettes, mime and music. This dance form surely requires the skills of the dancer. The dancers present many events and situations and  enact the characters Radha, Krishna, GOP-Gopikas. Since this dance form requires skills and lots of flexibility of the body hence it is usually performed by young boys in 13-15 years.

Ramlila is purely a traditional dance art form. This is performed in the form of a play/story/skit that represents the life events of Lord Ram. Ramlila usually performed for ten days and end on the day of festival Dussehra. In the enactment the victory of goodness over the evil, is depicted. The music, costumes, dialogues and acting is purely dramatic. The performers enact the character to their best talent. Ramlila is a commixture of music, mime, verses, poetry and abhinaya. Ram, Sita, Laxman and Ravana are the most prominent characters of Ramlila. Every year in Ramanagar of Varanasi this Ramlila is organized at a grand level that is inaugurated by the local Maharaja. He offers prayers to the lord Rama everyday at the beginning of the Ramleela.


 Uttaranchal is a land that celebrates the dance. Here, the people truly believe that dance has the power to influence and please the gods and goddesses. The famous dance forms of Uttaraanchal are; Langvir Dance, Barada Nati and Pandav Nritya.

Langvir dance is performed by only men since it is an acrobatic dance form. This folk dance is famous in Tehri Garhwal in Uttaranchal. In this dance, a wooden pole is fixed in the ground and the performer climbs up the pole. On the top of the pole the performer balances his body on his stomach and rotates his body. Under the pole the musicians play Dholl and Damana.

Barada Nati dance is performed by both men and women who dress in their conventional and beautiful attire. This dance is famous in the Jaunsar Bhawar region of Chakrata tehsil of Dehradun and performed prior to any festive and religious occasion.

Panda Nritya is famous in the Pauri Garhwal region and Chamoli district of Uttaranchal. This dance form basically depicts the events of Pandavas in Mahabharata. It is performed mostly on the occasion of festival Dussehra and Diwali, by ladies.


Punjab is an agriculturalist state of India and it represents a versatile and traditional culture. Punjab is also famous for its folk dance forms which are full of variety and energy. The folk dances of Punjab are purely energetic and vibrant. The most popular folk dances of this place are; Bhangara Dance, Jhummar Dance, Gidda, Sammi Dance, Kikli Dance, Dhamal Dance, Jaggo and Luddi Dance.

Bhangara dance is considered to the king of Punjabi folk dances. It is performed mostly on the occasion of Baisakhi to show the joy of the success of the harvest. It is performed in a group of girls/boys/both girls and boys. The costumes for bhangara are lacha or lungi, as the upper; a long tunic accompanied with a waistcoat, patka for tying on the head and ghungroos for ankles. The dancers dance in a circle or semicircle. Music is played with loudly played Dholl. There dancers dance on the Punjabi boliyaan/verses/songs. It is a dance of expressing the joy and thankful attitude towards the nature and gods to protect the crops and having a good harvest.

Jhumamar dance is an expression of joy and happiness. However it is originated in Sandalbar now in Pakistan but it has become one of the prime folk dances of Punjab. Jhummar dance represents the ecstasy and performed on a specific jhumar rhythm. This dance is usually performed by only men on the occasions of weddings, big celebrations and during Mellas. There is a person who plays the dholl and all the dancers encircle that drummer while singing in a soft and audible chorus. The songs invoke the emotional sentiments. Moving the arms tenderly is considered to be the main dance movement of this dance. The costumes are same colorful and vibrant like in the bhangara dance.

Gidda is performed by a group of girls/ladies. This dance form shows a feminine grace and elasticity of women. Quick footwork along with loud and fast claps and singing are considered to be the forte of this dance. When the dance catches its pace and well performed it leaves the spectators stunt and mesmerized. It is performed in a semi-circular form in which two girls come in front or the center of the stage and sing Punjabi traditional verses. The rest of the girls later join them with loud clapping and quick foot movements. Dholak is the main instrument played in gidda. The costumes of ghagra and choli/Salwar and Kameez are colorful and graceful.

Sammi is a traditional dance coming from the tribal community of Punjab. It was originated in the Sandal bar region of Pakistan. Sammi is performed by Punjabi damsels who can even mesmerize gods by their energetic and brisk movements during this dance. The ladies dance in a circle and swing their hands and arm from sides to right in front. They basically dance like drunken maniacs. Their costumes; long kurtas with lehengas are colorful and graceful.

Kikli is a very informal kind of folk dance specially performed by the young girls. It is performed in pairs, each pair of girls swirls fast and sing Punjabi rhyming lines. Salwar kameez along with an ‘orhni’ or dupatta makes a flamboyant attire of the girls.

Jaggo dance is performed at night prior to the occasion of wedding. Jaggo basically means to wake up. This dance is performed to keep the family members awake when there is a wedding is in a process. The ladies of the family put the pots filled with jiggery on their hands. Candles are also placed upon those pots. The ladies chant the jaggo tune in a loud sound and walk through the streets of the village.

Luddi dance is a local folk dance that is performed to celebrate the victory in any field. It is performed by men folks who dress in simple kurtas and loincloth, some tie turban or plain cloth on their heads. The men put their one hand on the back and the other before the face then they act like a snake moving his head. There is a drummer who plays the drum and the dancers match their foot movements with the rhythm of the drum.


 the folk dances of Haryana are performed usually on every occasion and festival. Be it a childbirth, wedding, festival people of Haryana celebrate each of them with full energy, enthusiasm and by the means of dances. A few most popular folk dance forms here are; Swang, Chhathi Dance, Khoria Dance, Dhamal Dance, Loor Dance and Gugga Dance.

Swang basically means to impersonate. In this dance the male performers dress like women and enact the characters. Swang depicts the religious and mythological stories. Around 10-15 members can perform this folk art form at a time. It is believed that this dance and art form was originated by Kishan Lal Bhaat in 1750 AD. It is performed in an open space or on a stage usually the performance lasts for 5 hours.

Chhathi dance is performed by the ladies of the family in order to express  and share the joy and happiness of the birth of a child in the family. This dance is performed on the sixth day of the birth. Traditional songs are sung and accompanied by an instrument called dholak. After the ceremonial dance boiled rice and Chana are distributed among the members who are present for the ceremony.

Khoria dance is yet another traditional folk dance which is performed by the ladies on the special occasions like harvesting, agricultural works and also for weddings before the bridegroom arrives at his home with the bride. The ladies dress in long bright colored skirts or lehangas, short Kurtis along with an embroidered chunries and also the gold rustic jewelries.  The ladies sing traditional folk songs and dance in circular patterns. Foot movements are fast, swirls and claps are also important movements of the dance.

Dhamal dance is believed to have its origin from the days of Mahabharata. This dance is practiced by a group of menfolks at the time of moonlit nights in the month of Phalgun. When the crop is ready for harvesting this dance is performed. In the beginning of the dance the ‘Been’ (musical instrument) is played. And then the Dhol, Tasha and Nagade follow the music. Few members of the group also keep a Dhap or dhaplis with them and other carry sticks which are decorated with tinsels and tassels at both of the ends these are called shuntis. Lord Ganesha and goddess Bhavani are worshipped by the dance group in  order to invoke their blessings.

Loor dance is performed by the group of young girls in order to welcome the season of spring or Phalgun. The girls dress in their traditional ghagra and choli along with chunri and chunda. They sing traditional songs which are surprisingly in a question answer format.

Gugga dance is performed by the menfolks. Gugga is basically the name of a saint who was born in the Dadreva village of Bikaner on Bhadon Naumi. Gugga is a very famous saint or Pir in the states like Haryana, Rajasthan, Punjab and Himachal. This dance is usually performed by the devotees of the Gugga saint to invoke his blessings for the welfare of all. This is a very simple yet a very religious act. Instruments played during this dance are the Deru, Chimta and Thali. Prior to a week of Gugga Naumi the five devotees known as the Panch Vir perform this dance while playing the manjiras, dholak, deru, chimta and cymbals. The devotees pray and sing in the praise of the saint Gugga.

Now we are heading towards the East Indian states to explore their folk and tribal dance forms.


Assam is a colorful and traditional state where dance plays a very important role in the lives of people because they attach a cultural and religious and devotional significance with it. There are few very popular folk dance forms in Assam such Bihu Dance, Satriya Dance and Tea Folk’s Jumur Dance.

Bihu Dance is performed by young girls and boys in the Bihu festival for the arrival of the Spring season in the Assamee new year. It is a very energetic and eye capturing dance. The movements are just so beautiful which include the brisk stepping, heaving of hands and swaying of the buttocks which give a sensuous and heart warming feeling to the spectators. Bihu dance basically represents the expressions of joy, energy and youthfulness among people. It is a way to welcome the spring into the lives of people. The music of the dance is a feast for the ears. Dhol, manjire and tokka and many other instruments play during this dance.

Satriya Dance has many elements of Indian classical dance. It is basically performed by the male monks in monasteries but now it is also performed on stage by men and women both. This dance requires an intense practice. The music includes the instruments like khol, violin, flute and cymbals. Dancers dress in purely distinctive Assamee costumes and jewelry.

Tea Folk Jumur Dance comes from the tea tribes of Assam. This dance represents the enthusiasm and great spirit of tea tribal people. It is usually performed by both men and women and sometimes by women alone. The brisk footsteps are the forte of this dance and it is performed in a semi circle pattern by clasping tightly the waists of  each other.


Manipur is considered to be the state that has given birth to the most popular Indian classical dance. The dances of Manipur aspire for the spiritual and religious experiences. The famous dance forms are  Pung Cholom, Khamba Taibi Dance, Ras Leela, Maibi Dance, Nupa Dance.

Pung Cholom dance is performed by only menfolks as as an integral part of the Nata Sankirtan and this is also known as Mridanga Dance. The main instrument of this dance is Mridanga; a drum. Minimum two members and maximum 15 members can perform this dance form in which they represent almost 40 complex talas and sanchars on the musical composition. The movements of the dance begin with a slow speed but later on they become fast and rigorous. Mridanga plays another important role because the different moods are presented only through the sound of mridanga. This dance form requires acrobatic skills as well because the movements are truly fast and tough. The modulation of sounds played by mridanga and that accompanied with dance movements makes this dance really eye capturing. The costume of the dance is simple white dhoti and a turban tied in a different style.

Khama Taibi Dance is performed by men and women both. The men choose their partners for dancing on the spot and the girls get ready to dance with that man and dresses in a colorful dress and a flower in her hand. This dance depicts the story of a clan lad (khamba) and a clan girl (thoibi) who had to face many troubles in their love life but they finally considered to be the incarnation of Shiva and Pavarti. This dance is also a devotional dance dedicated to the clang deity Thangjing of Moirang. The mothe dance movements are initially slow but sooner the dancers raise their tempo. Beating the feet on the ground and accompanied with the slow movements of hands compose a rhythm of the dance. The dancers bow down while dancing in front of the deity to whom the dance is dedicated.

Ras Leela is basically a traditional folk art form that depicts the life events of Radha Krishna and Krishna’s famous dance with the Gopikas. The Manipuri Ras Leela specifically present the pure connection of the soul with the supreme almighty. Through graceful facial expressions, slow hands movements the dancers try to convey the eternal knowledge that the soul and the Supreme Being share an eternal relationship. The Manipuri dance is considered to have five different kinds of Ras Leela those are; Maharas, Vasantras, Kunjaras, Divaras and Nrityaras. The costumes are rich the cultural versatility.

Maibi dance is performed during the Lai-Haraoba festival. This is an annual festival of the inhabitants of the valley of Manipur known as Meitis. The maibis are the priestesses who are considered to be the spiritual medium. And this feeling/sentiment is presented through the way of dance by the Meitis’ people. In this dance the dancers depict the creation process since its beginning and how the houses and temples were constructed, it is a way of re-living the old ways of life.

Nupa dance is also known as Kartal Cholom or Cymbal dance. This dance presents the versatility of Manipuri music. It is a group performance conducted by only the menfolks. This has a religious significance and usually performed as a ritual. The dancers dress in white dhoti or pheijom and white turban. All the dancers dance to the tune and the rhythm of the mridanga.

West Bengal

 dance has always been considered as a medium of entertainment in the ancient Bengal. Many dance forms have been prevalent in West Bengal such as Chhau Dance, Brita Dance, Bura Dance, Kali Dance and Gambhira Dance.

Chhau dance is performed to celebrate the sun festival. In this dance form the dancer puts masks on their faces and that is why this is also known as the mask dance. This depicts the primitive features and rituals of dancing. This dance is primarily based upon two great epics – Ramayana and Mahabharata. Few performers of the dance enact godly roles and a few play the demonic characters from the epics. This dance usually needs a huge area to be performed, because the dancers need a free space in order to perform freely. The colors used for the costumes are generally red, yellow, green and black while the dancers who play the good characters wear green, red and yellow colored costumes and the dancers who play the demonic roles dress in black colored costumes. This dance represents the victory of good over the evil.

Brita dance is also known as Vrita dance and for the people of West Bengal this is more than a mere dance form. They associate a religious significance with this dance. It is a way of thanking the almighty and a dance that shows the thankfulness towards God.  This is dance is in a famous trend in the rural Bengal. The barren women primarily perform this dance to please the god for fulfilling her wish to become a mother. When that woman is blessed with a child the lady again dances in the temple to thank the deity for fulfilling her wishes. Brita dance is also performed to pray the god for recovering from dangerous health diseases like small pox and chicken pox.

Bura dance is performed by a pair in which the lady depicts the old woman and the men enacts an old man. This dance basically represents the journey of a happy married life of an old couple. The dancers dress like an old couple to show an older age. This dance also shows the harmony, cooperation of the couple to make their married life blissful and happy.

Kali Dance is another very famous dance of Bengal that is performed during the festival Gajan that is held in the month of Chaitra. In this dance the dancer is dressed like the Goddess Kali. The dancer enacts the goddess Kali and shows how did Kali terminated the demons and brought peace and prosperity for the world. The music is comprised of mantras and loud drums.

Gambhira dance is performed by the devotees of Shakti and specially conducted in the dance hall of the Chandi temple; Gambhira. This is one of the most devotional dances of Bengal. There are two main dancers of this dance who are accompanied by a chorus of other dancers. Out of these two main dancers one enacts a grandfather and the other enacts a grandson. The two dancers in the dancing express their concern for social, economic, political and other issues of the society and culture.


Tripura is a land of multi-cultures and languages. And this is also a place where many festivals are celebrated. Dance is an integral part of each festival and few famous dances of Tripura are Garia Dnace, Lebang Dance, Bizu dance, Hai-Hak Dance, Wangala Dance.

Garia dance is the prime dance of Tripura. The Lord Shiva is also known as Garia in Tripura and only Shiva/Natraja is believed to be the originator of all the dance forms hence the Garia dance is also said to be the origin of all the dance forms in Tripura. Garia dance is comprised of 108 mudras in actual. The young girls and boys of the village dance all through walking down their whole village. They begin this dance on the first day of the Garia Puja and they continue this till the last day of the puja. They place an idol of the deity Garia in the middle of the courtyard of the house and dance around the deity in an anti clock direction. Then they sing devotional songs.

Lebang dance, after the festival Garia people of Tripura have little time to rest and or wait for the monsoon to come. And during this time the colorful insect ‘Lebang’ visits the hill slopes of Tripura. The menfolks make a very unusual sound with bamboo chips to attract the hidden Lebang insects while the ladies go to the hill slopes to catch these insects. The ladies get dressed in beautiful traditional attire and wear flower jewelry. This dance basically depicts the merry making process.

Bizu dance is most prevalent in the Chakma community of Tripura. Chakma actually denotes the Chaitra-Sakranti that is the end of the Bengali year calendar. The Chakma community people sing and dance to bid goodbye to the past year and to welcome the new year with all enthusiasm and joy. Two different kinds of flutes are played for the music of the dance known as Khenggarang and Dhukuk respectively. The lady dancers wear a flower and metal jewelry.

Hai –Hak Dance is performed by the Halam community people whose livelihood resolves around the jhum cultivation therefore after the harvesting season the people of the community truly adore the goddess Laxmi. The music and rhythm of the dance is truly a feast for the ears and shows the glimpse of distant music.

Wangala dance is performed after the harvesting is done. Afterwards the rice eating ritual is conducted by all the families of the village. The head of the community goes into each home of the village and cut the pumpkin as a rite of ceremony. Then the dance is performed by men and women folks. In  Wangala dance the dancers enact the preparation for a war. The lady dancers dance to the rhythmic beats of the instruments ‘Aaduri’ and ‘Dama’ which are made up of the buffalo’s horns.


 dances of Mizoram reflect the beauty of the nature that it has been blessed with. All the dances of this place glorify the nature and its natural possessions. Few of the famous folk and tribal dance of Mizoram are; Khuallam dance, Cheraw dance, Chawnglaizawn dance, Sarlamkai dance.

Khuallam dance is performed in the ceremony known as Khuangchwai. The khuallam dance signifies and means the dance of the guests. Basically in order to attain a higest place in heaven and reputed title in the clan that is called the ‘Thangchhuah’ the community people invite the other people from distant villages as their guests and perform this Khuallam d acne. The dancers of this dance get dressed in traditional woven hand made cloth that is draped over the upper and lower parts of the body called as Puandum. This puandum has stripes of different colors like red, yellow and green.

Cheraw dance is believed to be the oldest dance forms of Mizoram that is around centuries old back. The dance is performed with long bamboo sticks which are used in a very unique way by the men folks. The menfolks sit on the ground and tap the long bamboo sticks in an open and close rhythmic sound/beats. The girls dance over the rhythmic beats of the bamboo sticks and slightly jump in between the space of the sticks. The girls dress in the traditional costumes such as vakiria, puanchei, kawrchei, and thihna.

Chawnglaizawan dance most prevalent in the Pawi communities and it is performed on two specific occasions. One is the occasion in which a husband mourns or shows his grief for his late wife. He dances till he gets totally tired and then his relatives and friends do join the dance on his behalf. Secondly this dance is performed to celebrate the success of the hunters who bring the trophies for the clan and community. The boys and girls dance in a row on the beats of the drums. The drum is the only instrument used in this dance.

Sarlamkai dance is most prevalent in the Mara and Pawi communities. This dance basically depicts the victory of a tribe that is held among many tribes. The victorious tribal men disdain the conquered beheaded skull of the enemy and perform this ceremonial dance to ensure that the conquered soul remains a slave of the victor even after the death. The girls and the boys dance in an alternate position and dance over the beats of the drums. No songs are sung. The lead dancer dress as a warrior while the other dancers dress in traditional costumes.


 the population of  Sikkim can be categorized in three major parts or groups ; the Bhutias, Lepchas and the Napalese. And each of the group possesses its own language, traditions and different folk and tribal dance forms. Few, very famous folk dances of Sikkim are Chu faat dance, Yak dance and Maarooni dance.

Chu faat dance, is performed to give the regard and honor to the Mount Khangchendzonga four other peaks which are associated, such as Mt. Kabru, Mt. Simbrum, Mt. Pandim and Mt. Narshing. These peaks are given so much regard and honor because these are the bestower of natural resources like salt, minerals, food grains, medicines and sacred books. While performing this dance the dancers sing devotional songs, carry bamboo leaves and butter lamps. Every year on the fifteenth day of the 7th month of the northern Buddhist calendar this dance is performed.

Yak Chaam dance is a Tibetan folk dance form of Sikkim and it’s dedicated to the animal found in the high altitudes called as Yak. The dance is performed by the Bhutias who are entirely dependent on this animal for their survival. They depict the life of this animal and the herdsmen that how do they manage to live in the mountains and how this animal help them immensely in this struggle.

Marooni dance is an oldest dance form of the Nepalese culture and traditions. The dance and the music of Marooni dance depict a vivid variety of mythological events like that of Lord Krishna, Rama, Shiva and other Hindu deities. In the dance the dancers place copper thalis in their palms and lit diyas over it. They have to maintain a fine balance between their dance movements and the thalis they are handling. In earlier times this dance used to be performed in a little different way in which the boys used to get dressed as girls. It was conducted with a pair while one played the mridanga other used to enact like a prankster.


Odissi dance itself has been renowned as one of the seven Indian classical dances. Besides this there are folk dance forms which are also quite famous in Orissa such as Ghanta Patua dance, Animal mask dance, Kela keluni dance, Dalkhai dance and Dhanu Jatra dance.

Ghanta Patua dance is an acrobatic dance that is performed by placing a ghanta over the head. This dance is conducted in the month of Chaitra. The dancers are divided into two or four groups, among which one member dresses like a girl and put a ghanta over his head by tying it with a black colored cloth. Balancing the ghanta without touching it with hands is the rare skill of the dancer he also dances barefoot with the ropes. Placing this ghanta on the head signifies the yogic posture. This ghanta is adorned with flowers, sandal paste, vermilion and colored threads. The other group dancers sing and play the mridangas.

Animal Mask dance is very popular in the south region of Orissa and specifically in the district of Ganjam. During the Thankurani Yatra when the idols of the temple were brought out particularly at that time this animal mask dance is performed. It is also conducted during the wedding ceremonies when the bride groom proceeds towards the bride’s home/wedding venue then this dance is performed lavishly. There are three main dancers who wear the masks of a tiger, horse and a bull. Since these masks and the whole costume of the animals are quite huge there are two persons who represent one animal.

Kela Keluni dance is performed by the Kelas that is a wandering tribe in Orissa. This class of tribal people wanders around the country to earn their livelihood by catching birds and snakes. This dance movements are really very fast comprising of swaying movements of head, buttocks and legs. The girls are predominantly active in this dance and the music is full of variety and pinch of love and humor too.

Dhalkai dance is performed on various occasions such as Phagun Punei, Nuakhai and Bhaijiuntia. It is one of the most famous folk dance of western parts of Orissa. This dance is performed by the ladies and the men folks join them as musicians and drummers. Various instruments are played during the dance such as dholl, tamki, tasa, nisan and mahuri.

Dhanu Jatra dance is conducted in the small town Bargarh of Orissa that has a mythological reason for its celebration. It is basically performed to represent the life events and activities of Lord Krishna and particularly to depict the event when Krishna visited Mathura. Besides this the Putna event, termination of Kaliya Daman naag and other significant events are depicted through this dance. This dance is performed in a huge open space that looks like a theatrical presentation. All the local zones and areas even the rivers become the part of a big acting zone.

Folk dances of West Indian States are as follows. Folk dance forms of Goa, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Maharastra are covered in the following points:


The Goan folk dances are a perfect blend of cultures and traditions. Goan dances presents the faith in different cultures that shows the broad-mindedness and cultural lifestyle of the Goan people. The famous Goan folk dances are, Ghode Modni dance and Kumbi dance.

Ghode Modni dance is a warrior dance in which the victory of the Ranes and the Marathas rulers over the Portuguese is represented. The major dance movements of this dance are like horse’s movements. Godhe means the horse and modni means horse like movements. The dancers enacting Maratha rulers dress in purely Rajputani costume with Peshwai puggrees. The costumes of the dancers playing the Kshatriyas are also very colorful, their headgears are made up of flowers and on the waist there is a fixed dummy of a horse beautifully embellished. The dancers move in a forward and backward direction while keeping the bridle in one hand and moving the sword in the air from the other hand. The major instruments of this dance form are dholl, drums, Tasha and cymbals.

Kumbi dance is one of the primitive dances of Goa. Kumbis were basically the earliest settlers of Goa and they began the tradition of this dance. This dance is usually performed by ladies. The dance movement is really fast and quick. The attire of these women dancers is purely traditional. Kumbi dance depicts the social elements through its procession.

Lamp dance is one of the beautiful folk dance form of Goa that requires utmost balancing skills of the dancer. In this dance the dancers put brass lamps on their heads, the music is conducted by Samael, cymbals, Harmonium and Ghumat instruments. The dancers have to keep a very fine balance hence their dance movements are slightly slow.


Gujarat is a colorful and traditional state. Full of vibrant customs, people and dance forms. Every festival is much celebrated in Gujarat. People in Gujarat are very much keen in dance and music that is why the most famous folk dance forms come from this state. Some of the famous folk dance forms are Garba, Bhavai and Dandiya.

Garba comes from the cultural land of Gujarat. It is the most popular folk dance form of Gujarat and it is celebrated during the nine days of worship of Shakti known as Navraatri. The word Garba has actually come from the Sanskrit word ‘Garbh’ that means the womb. Both men and women very excitedly take part in this ceremonial dance. Girls/women wear the traditional attire ghagra choli/Chaniya choli adorned with beads, mirror and embroidery. They also put beautiful jewelry comprised of jhumkas, kamarbandh, mojiris, kangan and chudas. Menfolks wear kafni pyjamas and a kediyu that is a short kurta. They also tie bandhani duppattas on their heads. Everyone dances in a big circle play Dandiya and dance over the catchy tune of songs. Usually there is a singer present who sings garbha songs for everyone and then everyone dances on the beats of the drums and dholl.

Bhavai is basically performed by the professional dancers usually in the villages and temples of north Gujarat. The word bhavai is actually derived from the Sanskrit word ‘bhava’ that means the expression of feelings and emotions. This dance requires balance while performing. The women are generally not allow to perform this dance form hence only men can perform this dance. They dress like women that adds a pinch of excitement in the dance for the spectator. The dancer places a row of clay pots that generally has 6-8 pots, on her head. He slightly begins his dance and performs on the tune of traditional songs.

Dandiya Ras is much awaited and extravagantly celebrated ceremonial dance of Gujarat. This dance is performed during the Navratri. This is also known as the stick dance because sticks are the prime prop that the dancers use while dancing. Girls and boys beat their wooden sticks on the beats of dholl, drum and traditional songs. It is done in a big group of people there is no restriction or groups, anyone can join the groups and enjoy the dance. This dance signifies the joy and happiness among each other and that which brings everyone close and together.


Rajasthan is most famous for its cultural dances and traditions. Folk dances are the main features of any festival and celebration in Rajasthan. Each dance form of this place presents royalty, grace and cultural beauty that is very unique. Some of the popular folk dance forms of Rajasthan are Ghoomar, Kachhi-Ghodi, Kathputli dance, Sapera dance, Terah Talli dance, Chari and Gair dance.

Ghoomar is a very vibrant folk dance form performed by beautiful and bold women of Rajasthan. The costumes and jewelry worn by the dancers are just so flamboyant. The ladies dance with a group of minimum 10-15 members. They all dress in same colored costumes which are usually the bright colors. Short kurti along with a ghagra that has huge and long. Footwork is fast and the music is purely traditional the songs sung during this dance are typical and based on local language.

Kachhi –Ghodi is basically performed for the entertainment purposes of the bridegroom’s party. This dance comes from the bandit regions of Shekhawati . The dancers are dressed in colorful elaborated costume with red turbans and dhotis and that is also comprised of dummy of a horse as well. At the waist of the dancer a dummy of horse is tied. The dancer imitates as if he is riding the horse and this becomes his dance movements. There is a singer who narrates the story of the Bavaria bandits of Shekhawatis and the dancer dances to the tune of the drums.

Kathputi dance is the puppet show that is very much famous in Rajasthan for a long time back. Kathputli dance began with a purpose of entertainment. It is a theatrical art form in which a story is narrated through the medium of puppets. There is a puppeteer who controls these puppets from the backstage. One or two men/women are also present to give voice and music to the puppets. These puppets are made to dance and sing during the performance.

Sapera dance is performed by the Kalbeliya the snake-charming community of Rajasthan. This dance is performed by women whose dance movements show the utmost flexibility of their bodies. The move like snakes and bend backward on their back. They are dressed in long black colored skirts. This dance also needs some acrobatic skills. The music is given by dholak, traditional songs and a long flute used to charm a snake called the Been.

Terah Telli dance is predominantly performed by lady dancers. Through this dance form the ladies convey the poems of Sant Kabir, Meera Bai and Ram Dev Babaji. The dancer ties thirteen cymbals on their bodies and after & during singing the verses and quotes they make sounds of those cymbals. The bell like sounds coming from the cymbals give a very soothing effect and raises the excitement in the heart of the viewer.

Chari dance is primarily performed by the Gujjar community of Kishangarh in Rajasthan. This is also conducted by female dancers who put brass pots on their heads. Under these pots there is cotton that is dipped in oil and set to fire. It is skillful dance, keeping a pot having fire into it require a lot of concentration and practice. The dancers move slowly and make hand movements by swaying them slightly upwards and backwards. Costumes of  the dancer are colorful and traditional comprised of short kurtis with long skirts called ghagras. Music is also slow and made by playing dholak, harmonium and cymbals.

Gair dance signifies a circle or round dance. It is conducted in a circle always and both men and women folks do participate in this. This is basically a tribal dance form of Rajasthan. The costumes comprised of long tunic that wide open while doing the pirouettes.


Dances in Maharashtra are performed as a way of social entertainment. Various kinds of folk dances are performed during festivals and auspicious occasions. Some of the very famous folk dances of Maharashtra are; Lavani, Povadasi and Koli dance.

Lavani , the word lavani is borrowed from the word Lavanya that means the Beauty. This dance depicts many shades of beauty in romance, music, religion and even the politics. The dance is performed by lady dancers who are very attractive and beautiful they get dressed in typical Maharashtrian saris. The jewelry especially the big nose pin is the central feature the catches the eyes of the spectators. The hair is tied into a bun that is adorned with flower garlands. Dholak and Harmonium are the main instruments along with this there is also a singer who sings traditional lavani songs and the dancer dances on the beats of the music. The dance movements are fast basically involves the footwork and swaying of hands on both sides. Sensual expressions given by the dancer is also an attractive trait of this dance.

Povadas dance basically depicts the life incidents of the great Maharashtrian leaders like the Chhatrapati Shivaji. This dance is performed in a ballad form that reminds the people/viewer of the great deeds of the great leaders in the history of Maharashtra. Through the medium of this dance the dancers glorify the life of those leaders.

Koli dance is a very famous dance among the Koli fisherfolks of Maharashtra. This community possesses its own unique ways of living and dancing. This dance is performed by both men and women. The male dancers enact the fishermen who try to catch the fishes and the fisherwomen encourage the menfolk to act well. Dancers move their hands depicting the waves of the ocean. This whole scene of catching the fishes is enacted during the dance.

South Indian States are basically famous for their classical dance forms but they serve many folk dance forms which also show the local traditional ways of dancing in the states. Following are the folk dance forms of South Indian states. Folk dances of  Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh are covered at below :


 Karnataka has given many ancient forms of dances and its tribal dance forms have succeeded in surviving for so long that has maintained the integrity of Karnatic Culture. A few famous folk and tribal dance forms of Karnataka are; Dollu dance, Bhootha Aradhane and Yakshagana.

Dollu Kunitha is one of the prestigious dances among the folk dance forms of Karnataka. It is basically a drum dance conducted with singing. This dance is primarily performed by the shepherd community known as Kuruba. It is a dance that seeks synchronization of the group dancers, they dance to the tune of drums beats. The dance movements are quick and vigorous.

Bhoota Aradhane means to worship the devil himself. This is a dance that shows amazing spectacle and ritualistic spells to be protected from the evil by worshipping the evil himself. This dance is visually magnificent. The idols are painted in a very traditional manner and a scary feel is intentionally bestowed to the idols. The idols are taken to a distant place where the final ritual/rites have to take place. The procession is followed by loud sounds of drums and fire crackers are also burnt during the whole journey.

Yakshagana is a commixture of drama and dance. This art form has a ritual origin and usually performed by professional actors. The word Yakshagana basically means the angelic music. This dance is conducted after the crops have been reaped generally after the winters. This is a purely theatrical form that represents a fine glimpse of music, dance and drama. The events are usually taken from the epics like Ramayana, Puranas and Mahabharata. The dance begins after offering prayers to the Lord Ganesha. Traditional musical instruments are played by three menfolks, such as  Chande, Maddale (both a kind of drums) and Tala (the cymbals).  There is also a singer who narrates the story in a song like form. The actors enact the song and acts according to the story being narrated by the singer.

Tamil Nadu

Most of the rural folk dances of Tamil Nadu are like street plays and some other dance forms are performed by the tribal people. The famous folk and tribal dance forms of this state are; Karagattam dance, Kummi dance, Maiyattam dance, Devarattam and Kali Attam dance.

Karagattam dance signifies the ultimate art of prasing the goddesses and to please the rain and deities of rivers. The women place pots filled with water on their heads. This dance shows the balancing art of the women dancers who handle the pots with their utmost concentration and also offers the puja to the deities in the form of their dance.

Kummi dance is actually a village/rural dance. Surprisingly this dance came in a form when there even was not present any musical instruments. Clapping was used as a mere tool of giving beats and rhythm. This dance is performed by women who stand in a circular position and clap their hands in a rhythm. There is a leading woman who sings the song and the rest of the members give chorus and clap. During the temple festivals, family functions, harvest festivals and Pongal Kummi dance is primarily performed.

Maiyattam dance is a religious and creative dance form of Tamil Nadu. This dance form is performed in the Hindu temples for giving regard to the Lord Subrahmanya. The costume or the dress up of the dancers is just so unique. The dancers are dressed in a dress of Peacock, from head to toe he looks like a peacock. A thread is tied with the feathers so that the dancer can easily open and close them during the dance. The dancer’s feet are attached with a tall piece of wood on which he has to dance. This dance form requires a lot of practice, devotion and training.

Devarattam dance is practiced by the community known as the Kambala Nayaka live in the Silavaar section in Tamil Nadu. This dance is really a feast for the eyes of the viewers. There are no specific songs sung during the dance but the dancers dance only on the beats of few famous instruments like Thappu Melam and Urumi Melam. The dancer is dressed with a mask an puts up a fake beard, fake teeth are also made by using the shells. This dance form is usually conducted during festivals, wedding ceremonies and other social occasions.

Kali Attam dance is a dance that expresses fun and games. This is also known as kolattam dance. This dance is performed by both men and women folks who hold the painted and adorned bells known as Kol. This dance includes many quick movements like twisting, turning and swinging. The dancers need to be very careful, alert and quick in order to perform the dance well. It is practiced on the special occasions like festivals and wedding ceremonies. Dancers also wear ankle bells and there is no specific costume fixed in this dance form.


 Kerala possesses a cultural and art heritage. The most graceful and beautiful dance forms have come from the land of Kerala only. We can broadly divide the dance forms of Kerala in three broad categories folk, drama and semi-classical dance forms. Some of the famous folk dance forms of this place are; Theyyam dance, Duffmuttu dance, Maargamkali dance and Kaikottikali dance.

Theyyam dance is most prevalent in the Kolathunadu area in the Kerala state that represents a form of worship of the Hindu rituals. However this dance is performed by the dancers belonging to the lower class and community still this dance grip all the old traditions, rituals of almost of the classes and castes of the Hindu religion residing in the region. Theyyam dance is performed either in front the village shrine or in the ancestral house where the worship with rituals can be conducted. There are no special efforts made over the makeup or costumes, dancers only wear a simple red headdress. The dance is devotional and more of a ceremonial dance.

Duffmuttu dance is practiced by the Muslim community residing in Kerala to solemnize their rites and festivals for the social recreation. The major instrument used in this dance is the Duff that is played by palms or fingers. The leader of the group sings and the other members give the chorus and drum the duffs. The dance is performed in a circular motion while the dancers dance and sing facing each other.

Maargamkali dance is practiced by the Syrian Christians of Kerala state and represents the Christian community. The word Maargam has been profoundly used in Buddhism meant as the ‘inquiry’ or ‘path’. In earlier times this dace was only performed by menfolks and their costumes were used to be very simple but nowadays women have also begun to practice this dance form thereby the costumes are now little bit update. Women wear white saris with golden border and also wear the coin necklace around the neck, bangles, anklets and earing are also worn by them. The palms are reddened by Aalta that is a red colored power to color the hands and feet.

Kaikottikali dance is performed only by ladies and young girls. Generally it has eight to ten female members who dance in a circle. They clap upwards and downwards and twist in sideways. The dancers sing traditional songs and move in either a clockwise or anti-clockwise direction. This dance reflects a greater co-ordination among the dancers of the dance form.

Andhra Pradesh

some of the most beautiful dance forms have also come from the state of Andhra Pradesh. The dance forms present a variety of costumes, musical instrument, colors and patterns. Few of the famous folk and tribal dance forms are Burrakatha dance, Dappu dance, Lambadi dance and Banalu dance.

Burrakatha dance is basically a story narration art most prevalent the villages of Andhra Pradesh. It is a very traditional art form that is meant for the entertainment purposes of the rural people. The dance group is mainly comprised on three menfolks out of which one is the lead performer and the other two are supporting performers. This art form consists of many elements like drama, songs, poetries and prayers. The narrator or the lead performer will present either a mythological story or a story based on contemporary issues of the society. The costume of the lead performer is quite compelling, he wears a long angarakha, ties a turban, as a lower he wear a tight fitted payjama or dhoti and also ties a waistband.

Dappu dance is drumming instrument. In the coastal Andhra it is also known as tappet. This instrument I played by beating it with two wooden sticks one is thicker and another is thinner. Dappu dance entirely belongs to the Harijans. A group of ten to twenty menfolks perform this dance form usually on auspicious occasions like wedding, festivals and car festivals. The dance movements show a variety of many kinds of steps such as tiger movements, birds and  horse movements are performed in the dappu dance.

Lambadi dance is primarily practiced by the Lambadi tribe of Andhra Pradesh. The Lambadi tribal people are renowned as Sugalis or Banjaras. In order to rejoice a good sowing season this dance is actually performed. The dancers are dressed with brass bangles, anklets and glass beaded jewelry. Lambadi dance represents the whole process of farming that how does the farmer sows, plants, reaps and harvest the crops. Specially on the festive occasions like Holi, Diwali and Dussehra , the Lambadi dance is performed. The surprising fact about this dance form is that it is dominated by women of Lambadi tribe.

Banalu dance is most famous in the Telangana region. Banalu is actually a short term of the word ‘bhojanalu’ that means the food.  This dance is practiced in the month of Aashadha that comes in the month of June or July according to the Hindu calendar. The women folks put embellished pots or ‘Ghatams’ on their heads which are filled with flowers, they also carry brass pots which adorned with neem leaves and  filled with cooked rice. The women join the procession and during which the menfolks accompany the ladies by playing drums. Women very efficiently balance their pots placed on their heads and while walking or going to the place where the local deity is placed, they sing devotional songs in the glory of the village deity called Mahankali. The male dancers who lead the procession are known as the Potharjus.

Dance is not just a medium of entertainment. If it was then it has not been developed into such an accomplished and magnificent art form. In fact dance is the best medium to convey the innermost feelings and to imitate the hidden emotions. Dance can bring change and be the change. Today the cultural heritage of Indian dance has somewhere lost its significance but it is the utmost responsibility of the youth and amateur dancer to embrace this long established heritage of Indian dance. Bharat Muni in his Natya-Shashtra himself had stated that Natya (dance) teaches to be dutiful who go against it, it teaches love to those who aspire for it, it preaches self-control who are undisciplined and it bestows enlightenment to the poor intellects and wisdom to the learned.

Posted by Jyotsna Gandhi


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