Dances of India - List of Dance Forms in India

By K Balaji|Updated : September 6th, 2022

Dance of India includes the numerous dance firms of India. Some are native to their states, while others are performed in all parts of the country. The Indian dancing traditions are not only restricted to India but are highly influenced by South Esat Asian countries. The dance in India symbolizes the various cultures of the different parts of the nation. The national academy administers all these dance forms for dancing in India, Sangeet Natya Academy.

Dance of India is an important UPSC exam topic with equal emphasis on UPSC Prelims and UPSC Mains exam. So, it is important to have a detailed knowledge of the topic (particularly on the Classical dance forms of India. Below you will learn about the different dance forms of India, a List of the Classical forms of India and the Indian folk dances, and their respective states. Also, you can download the pdf with the link at the bottom.

Table of Content

What is the Dance of India?

India is home to some of the world's most diverse civilizations and customs. Whether it be folk or classical dance, India has diverse dance traditions. Also, India experiences four seasons, and there are dances for each. For the harvest season, practically every state has its dance. There a many folk dances that vary from each other on the basis of geographical regions, ethnicity, and respective state while the classical dances are mostly confined to Hindu spirituality.

Different Dance forms of India

India is known for its richly diverse cultural heritage. Dance is one culture with a rich form all across the nation. In India, every state has its form of dance enriching the idea of unity in diversity. It is divided into two different forms-

  • Classical Dance Form- There are 8 classical forms of Indian dance.
  • Folk Dance Form- There are more than 30 popular folk dance forms of India.

List of Classical Dances of India

As per the source and scholars, there are 8 types of classical dances in India. Classical dance is said to be originated from Natya Shastra. Legends like Shanta Rao and Birju Maharaj are known for their excellence in these dance forms. Here is the list of the classical dance of India, along with their basic technicalities and the states-

Classical Dance of India

State of Origin

Bharatnatyam

Tamil Nadu

Kathak

Uttar Pradesh

Kuchipudi

Andhra Pradesh

Kathakali

Kerala

Odissi

Odisha

Manipuri

Manipur

Sattriya

Assam

Mohiniyatta

Kerala

Bharatnatyam

It is one of the most popular classical Indian dances. It is almost 2000 years old. It is believed that Lord Brahma revealed Bharatnatyam to Bharata, a famous sage who codified this sacred dance in a Sanskrit text called the Natya Shashtra. Natya Shastra divides dance into two distinct forms – nritta and nritya. The Bharatnatyam dance flourished in the Hindu temples of south india. The temple dancers are called Devadasis or servants of god.

The present form of Bharatnatyam dance was evolved by Poniah Pillai of Tanjore and his brothers. Formats of Bharatnatyam consist of Alarippu(invocation), Jathi Swaram(note combinations), Shabdam(notes and lyrics), and Varnam(a combination of pure dance and abhinaya) lighter items like Padams and Javalis (all erotic) and finally the Thillana(again pure dance).

Kathak

Kathak is one of the major classical dance forms of India. It is the dance form of Uttar Pradesh, whose origin is attributed traditionally to ancient Pakistan and North india. These were popularly known as the storytellers or the Kathakars. The term Kathakars refers to the people who tell a story. But, the dance form of Kathak developed in India during the Bhakti movement and the Mughal period. They used to depict the stories of lord Krishna through their dance.

Kathak is a particular dance form of India that has survived a significant period as an oral tradition. It is passed on from one generation to the other orally and via practice. The modern form of Kathak has three main sections-

  • the invocation
  • the abstract (pure) dance rectical
  • Expressive dance

Kuchipudi

This dance originated in the village of Kusselavapuri or Kuchelapuram, Andhra. It is a dance with drama act & has its roots in “Natya Shastra” (Literary comprehensive, and vivid work on the various facets of Indian classical dance by Bharat Muni). It runs on the theme of Bhagwata Purana but has a secular character.

Kathakali

is the oldest dance form of India and a native of Kerala (particularly in the southwestern region). Kathakali is another dance form that includes the genre of Story play art. It is distinguished from the other dance forms based on its appearance. In Kathakali, the performers use bright costumes with colourful make-up and great face masks. The face masks are restricted to the male Kathakali performers only.

Odissi

It is a dance-drama genre traditional/classical dance of India, also referred to as Orissa ( as per India’s old literature). Its origin happened in history as a dance form in the temples of Odisha. It includes the parts of the eastern coastal Indian states as well. In Odissi, the dance performers and musicians play a spiritual message, a historical story, or a devotional poem from the Hindu culture. This dance form is famous for its mudras, abhinaya, body movements, and symbolic costumes.

Manipuri

Manipuri Raas leela or manipuri dance is a classical dance form of Manipur. This dance form involves the devotional stories of Radha Krishna of the Madhura raas. The performers have gentle eyes, and their body movements and facial expressions are soft and peaceful. The soft and peaceful movements symbolise the emotions of devotions (particularly emphasising the Bhakti Rasa). Though Manipuri is a dance form based on Vaishnavism’s Hindu Shastras, this dance form is not only restricted to the Hindus.

Sattriya

Inspired by the Bhakti movement, it depicts mythological stories of Vishnu. Shankaradeva, in the 15th century A.D, introduced its modern form. It is a classical dance form of Assamese. It originated from Vaishnavism (this was Krishna-centred) and was attributed to the 15th century by the saint Mahapurush Srimanta Sankardev and Scholars of the Bhakti Movement. It is mostly played in the dance community halls of temples. It is a mixture of dance, drama, and ballads. The form includes expressions of virtues, spiritual ideas and scripture’s essence.

Mohiniyatta

Mohiniyatta is a dance form that was restricted to Kerala. It developed and remained in the state despite its popularity all over the south. It was named after the historical enchantress avatar of lord Vishnu- Mohini. Mohini was a symbol for women who, with her feminine powers, helped in prevailing good over evil. It is a dance which depicts feminine, delicacy and eros filling. Initially, it was a woman's dance, but later, it was adopted by men.

List of India Folk Dance

Folk Dance forms represents the culture of a particular area or community from where it originated. Some of the India Folk dances are listed in UNESCO's list of intangible cultures. A list of different dance forms of India with their states is as under-

State

Dance

Andhra Pradesh

Kuchipudi, Kolattam

Arunachal Pradesh

Bardo Chham

Assam

Bihu dance, Jhumur Naach

Jharkhand

Karma/Munda

Chhattisgarh

Panthi, Raut Nacha, Gaur Maria, Dekhni Dance

Goa

Koli, Dashavatara, Dekhni, Dhalo, Ghodemodni, Romta Mel, Divlyan Nach (Lamp dance)

Gujarat

Garba, Raas, Tippani Dance

Himachal Pradesh

Kinnauri Nati

Haryana

Saang, Ras Leela, Ghoomar, Jhumar, Teej, Phag, Dhamal

Karnataka

Yakshagana, Bayalata.

Kerala

Mohiniyattam, Kathakali, Koodiyattam, Thirayattam, Thitambu Nritham, Aravanmuttu, Padayani.

Madhya Pradesh

Jawara, Maanch, Grida, Tertali, Phulpati Dance, Matki Dance

Maharashtra

Lavni, Tamasha, Dangi, Pavri Nach, Povadas, Koli, Dindi

Manipur

Thang-Ta, Dhol Sholom

Mizoram

Cheraw Dance

Nagaland

Chang Lo or Sua Lua.

Odisha

Ghumura Dance, Ruk Mar Nacha (& Chhau dance), Goti Pua, Nacni, Odissi, Baagh Naach or Tiger Dance, Dalkhai, Dhap, Ghumra

Punjab

Bhangra, Giddh, Jhumar, Karthi, Ludi

Rajasthan

Ghoomar, Kalbelia, Bhavai, Kachchhi Ghodi.

Sikkim

Singhi Chham

Tamil Nadu

Bharatanatyam, Kamandi or Kaman Pandigai, Devarattam, Kummi, Kolattam, Karagattam or Karagam, Mayil Attam or Peacock dance, Paampu attam or Snake Dance

Tripura

Hojagiri

West Bengal

Gambhira, Nacni, Alkap, Domni, Chow

Dance of India UPSC

There are a wide variety of dances in India. Dance of India UPSC is an essential topic for the IAS Exam with equal emphasis in the UPSC Prelims and UPSC Mains. You can learn about this topic and all the related topics by going through the NCERT Books for UPSC. You can also check your preparation by solving the UPSC Previous Year Questions.

Dance of India UPSC Questions

A few of the Dance of India UPSC Questions for UPSC Prelims and UPSC Mains are as under-

Questions for Prelims- Luddi dance is a dance form from which Indian state?

(a). Andhra Pradesh

(b). Bihar

(c). Rajasthan

(d). Punjab

Answer- Punjab

Question- Consider the following statements concerning Indian Classical dance forms:

  1. Tandava and Lasya are two basic aspects of Indian classical dances.
  2. Nritya is a dramatic element of the dance, i.e. the imitation of characters.

Which of the following given statements is/are not correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 & 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Answer- 2 only

Question for Mains- Explain the different aspects of India’s traditional dance system.

Dance of India UPSC Notes PDF

Dance of India UPSC is of cultural and traditional importance. It is a vital section of the UPSC Exam. You can download the Dance of India UPSC Notes PDF from the link below-

Other Important UPSC Notes
Good GovernanceSocial Empowerment
Public Distribution SystemAyushman Bharat Scheme
Wetlands in IndiaSpecial Economic Zone In India
National Commission for WomenZero Coupon Bond
Black CarbonPermanent Settlement
Aspirational District ProgrammeCitizenship Amendment Act (CAA 2019)

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FAQs on Dances of India

  • In India, there are two types of dance forms. These are Classical dance forms and Folk dance. These dance forms originated because of the local tradition in different parts of India.

  • The oldest form of dance in India is Bharatnatyam. It is a classical dance of Tamil Nadu, Southern India. It is a temple dance of women characterized by bent legs and wider feet to keep up the rhythm while hands are used for creating mudras (to tell a story)

  • Chhau is the recently added dance form to the classical dance list of India. It is a semi-classical Indian dance form that depicts martial and folk traditions. It is found in the states of Odisha, Jharkhand, and west Bengal.

  • Kathak and Kathakali are usually considered to be the same but are quite different from each other. Both these dance forms are based on story play dance art. However, in Kathakali, there is a strong use of mudras, and stiff body expressions and the male member of the dance wears a fancy and colourful mask.

  • There are eight classical dances in India. The traditional dances in India include Odissi of Odisha, Kuchipudi of Andhra Pradesh, Manipuri of Manipur, Kathakali of Kerala, Kathak of Uttar Pradesh, Sattriya of Assam, Mohiniyattam of Kerala, Bharatnatyam of Tamil Nadu, and Chhau of eastern India.

  • In Uttarakhand, different types of dance forms include Barada Nati, Bhotiya Dance, Chancheri, Chhapeli, Langvir Dance, and Langvir Nritya.

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