Dances of India

Classical Dance of India

Bharata Natyam : Bharatanatyam is the most popular of Indian dances and belongs to the South Indian state of Tamilnadu. Its antiquity is well established. In the past it was practised ad performed in the temples by a class of dancers known as the devadasis. It was a part of the religious rituals and has a long and hoary past.

Chakiarkoothu : This dance form is believed to have been introduced to Kerala by the early Aryan immigrants & is performed only by the members of the Chakiar caste. A highly orthodox type of entertainment, it can be staged inside temples only & witnessed by the Hindus of the higher castes. The theatre is known as Koothambalam. The story is recited in a quasi-dramatic style with emphasis on eloquent declarations with appropriately suggestive facial expressions & hand gestures. The only accompaniments are the cymbals & the drum known as the mizhavu, made of copper with a narrow mouth on which is stretched a piece of parchment.

Chhau : With origins shrouded in mystery, the Chhau dancer communicates inner emotions and themes through cadences of body flexions, movements and kinetic suggestions. The word Chhau is interpreted differently by scholars. Three styles of Chhau exist born from the three different regions of Seraikella (Bihar), Purulia (West Bengal), and Mayurbhanj (Orissa).

Kathak : Prevalent in the North (Uttar Pradesh) as a classical dance form, Kathak has a long history. Nurtured in the holy precincts of the Hindu temples, Kathak has over the centuries attained refinement and enriched itself with various hues and embellishments.

The themes of Krishna, Radha, Shiva, Parvati and mythological characters find a prominent place in the Kathak dancer’s repertoire. Both men and women perform Kathak which is also used to present dance dramas of historical tales and contemporary events.

Kathakali : Kathakali means a story play or a dance drama. Katha means story. Belonging to the South-Western coastal state of Kerala, Kathakali is primarily a dance drama form and is extremely colourful with billowing costumes, flowing scarves, ornaments and crowns. The stories from the two epics, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, as well as the Puranas constitute the themes of the Kathakali dance dramas.

Koodiyattam : Practised and preserved by the Chakyar community in Kerala, Koodiyattam is the oldest
surviving link with ancient Sanskrit theatre. A precursor of Kathakali drama, Koodiyattam has several conventions which reflect the aesthetic conventions of the Natyashastra. Performances are traditionally held in the Koothambalam which are special theatres attached to temples. Female dancers called Nangiars deliver the invocatory songs and also participate.

Krishnattam : It is intended for presentation on eight successive nights to unfold the entire story of Lord
Krishna, the style is almost akin to Kathakali.

Kuchipudi : Kuchipudi, like Kathakali is also a dance-drama tradition and derives its name from the vilage of Kuchipudi in the Southern State of Andhra Pradesh. In recent years, it has evolved as a solo dance for the concert platform and is performed by women, though like Kathakali it was formerly the preserve of men.

Manipuri : Manipuri dances originate from the North Eastern state of Manipur and derives its name
from its native state. Intensely devotional in mood, the Manipuri dances are a part of the daily life of the Manipuri people.

Mohiniattam : Mohini Attam as a dance form has developed in Kerala. Performed by women it has graceful, gentle bobbing movements. Mohini means an enchantress and a dancer with enchanting movements, dressed in a typical white saree with gold border, hair gathered in a bun on one side and with golden jewellery epitomises the image of a beautiful maiden. Apparently it resembles the Bharatanatyam dance form but is quite distinct in its execution of movements, usage of hand gestures and its stark, simple costume.

Odissi : Odissi has been revived in the past fifty years and can be considered as the oldest classical
Indian dance on the basis of archival evidence. The form belongs to the East Indian state of Orissa. Odissi has a close association with the temples and its striking feature is its intimate relationship with temple sculpture. Tribhanga, the three-body bend characterises this dance form. It has a vast range of sculptural body movements which gives one the illusion of the sculptures coming to life.

Ottan Thullal : It is performed solo & because of its ready mass appeal, it is also known as the poor man's Kathakali. Kunjan Nambiar evolved it & brought out the social conditions of his time, the
distinctions of class & the weakness & whims of the rich & the great. The dialogue is in simple Malayalam & therefore ensures mass appeal.

Yaksha Gana : This belongs to Karnataka & has a rural origin. It is an admixture of dance & drama. Its
heart lies in Gana meaning music. The language is Kannada & the themes are based on Hindu Epics.


Folk Dance of India

  • Dances of Rajasthan
    - Kalbelia Dance
    - Chari Dance
    - Ghoomar Dance
    - Fire Dance
    - Kachhi Gori
  • Dances of Gujarat
    - Garba Dance
    - Dandiya Dance
  • Dances of Punjab
    - Bhangra
    - Gidda
  • Dances of Manipur
    - Manipuri Dance
  • Dances of Maharashtara
    - Tamasha/Lavani Dance
    - Dindi Dance
  • Dances of Assam
    - Bihu Dance