Dance Forms of India – Classical, Folk Dances of India State Wise List

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

Dance Forms of India: Some dances are native to their respective states, while some are performed in all parts of the country. The dances in India symbolize the various cultures of the different parts of the nation. The national academy which administers all these dance forms in India is the Sangeet Natya Academy.

Dances in India can be classified into two styles: Classical dance forms and Folk dance forms. The folk dance forms originate from the local traditions of a region and are closely related to the regional cultures and festivals, whereas classical dances of India are regarded as a discipline and a method to dedicate yourself to God through skill. Below you will learn about the different Dance Forms of India (Classical and Indian folk dances) and their respective states.

Dance Forms of India

Whether it be folk or classical dance, India has diverse dance forms based on different traditions. India is home to some of the world’s most diverse civilizations and customs. Also, the country experiences four seasons, and there are dances for each.

Dance Forms of India PDF

For the harvest season, practically every state has its dance. Many folk dances of India vary from each other based on geographical regions, ethnicity, and respective state while the classical dances are mostly related to Hindu spirituality.

Dances of India: Origin

The dance forms of India can be traced back to ancient times. The dancing figures have been captured in the cave paintings of Bhimbetka rock burrows in Madhya Pradesh. Even the sculptures of the Indus Valley Civilization show dancing figures.

The text concerning the dances of Indian origin is the Natya Shastra. The text composed by sage Bharata dates back to the 2nd century AD (some sources say 500 BCE), which gives recognition to Lord Brahma for the invention of Indian dance forms taking wisdom from the 4 Types of Vedas.

Types of Indian Dance Forms

India is known for its richly diverse cultural heritage. In India, every state has its form of dance enriching the idea of unity in diversity. There are broadly two different dance categories in India:

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

Different Dance Forms of India with States

Dancing is an integral part of India’s rich cultural legacy and heritage. It has been a celebrated art form since prehistoric times and is a simple demonstration of joy and human expression. Since India is an extremely culturally diverse land, it’s no surprise that the dance forms are equally diverse and unique.

Every state in our country has a distinct culture and identity, reflected in the different food, language, clothes, and dance form of India. Let’s look at the different dances of India from various states that mirror their local customs and ethnic identity. Here is a list of the 29 Indian states and their respective dance forms:

Number of States Indian States Dances of India state-wise
1 Andhra Pradesh Kuchipudi
2 Assam Sattriya, Bihu
3 Arunachal Pradesh Bardo Chham
4 Bihar Bidesia
5 Chhattisgarh Karma Naach
6 Gujarat Garba
7 Goa Dekhni
8 Haryana Saang
9 Himachal Pradesh Nati
10 Jammu and Kashmir Rouf
11 Jharkhand Paika
12 Kerala Kathakali
13 Karnataka Dollu Kunitha
14 Manipur Manipuri dance (Jagoi)
15 Madhya Pradesh Maanch
16 Maharashtra Lavani
17 Meghalaya Laho
18 Mizoram Cheraw
19 Nagaland Chang- Lo
20 Odisha Odissi
21 Punjab Bhangra
22 Rajasthan Ghoomar
23 Sikkim Singhi Chaam
24 Tamil Nadu Bharatanatyam
25 Telangana Dandari
26 Tripura Hojagiri
27 Uttarakhand Choliya Dance
28 Uttar Pradesh Kathak
29 West Bengal Chhau

Classical Dance of India with States

As per 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
Bharatanatyam Tamil Nadu
Kathak Uttar Pradesh
Kuchipudi Andhra Pradesh
Kathakali Kerala
Odissi Odisha
Manipuri Manipur
Sattriya Assam
Mohiniyattam Kerala

1. Bharatanatyam

It is one of the most popular classical dances in India. It is almost 2000 years old. It is believed that Lord Brahma revealed Bharatanatyam to Bharatamuni 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 Bharatanatyam dance flourished in the Hindu temples of south India.
  • The temple dancers were called Devadasis or servants of god.
  • The present form of Bharatanatyam dance was evolved by Poniah Pillai of Tanjore and his brothers.
  • Formats of Bharatanatyam 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 and finally the Thillana (again pure dance).

2. Kathak

Kathak is one of the major classical dances of India. It is the dance form of Uttar Pradesh, whose origin is attributed traditionally to North India. The term ‘Kathak’ is from the word ‘Kathakar’ which means storyteller. In ancient times, wandering storytellers told stories from the epics through song and dance.

  • 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 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 recital
  • expressive dance

3. Kuchipudi

The Kuchipudi dance form of India originated in the village of Kusselavapuri or Kuchelapuram, Andhra. It is a dance with drama act & has its roots in “Natya Shastra”. This dance of India runs on the theme of Bhagwata Purana but has a secular character.

4. Kathakali

It is native to Kerala. 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 themes of the dance are Hindu epics and Puranas. Kathakali has movements greatly inspired by the ancient martial art of Kerala, Kalaripayattu.

5. Odissi

It is a dance-drama genre traditional/classical dance of India. It originated as a dance form in the temples of Odisha.

  • In Odissi, the dance performers and musicians play a spiritual message, a historical story, or a devotional poem from the Hindu culture.
  • This dance of India is famous for its mudras, abhinaya, body movements, and symbolic costumes.

6. 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 symbolize the emotions of devotion (particularly emphasizing 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.

7. Sattriya

Inspired by the Bhakti movement, the Sattriya dance depicts the mythological stories of Vishnu. Shankaradeva, in the 15th century A.D., introduced its modern form. It is a classical dance form of Assam.

  • It is mostly played in the dance community halls of temples.
  • This Indian dance is a mixture of dance, drama, and ballads.
  • The form includes expressions of virtues, spiritual ideas, and scripture’s essence.

8. Mohiniyattam

Mohiniyattam is a dance of India that originates in Kerala. It was named after the historical enchantress avatar of Lord Vishnu – Mohini. Mohini was a symbol of a woman who, with her feminine powers, helped in prevailing good over evil. Largely performed by women, there are a handful of male dancers as well.

Components of Classical Dance Forms of India

Modern styles of classical dance in India have developed from the sangeet-natak or musical plays performed from the 12th to the 19th centuries. Movement and rhythm or Tandava and Lasya are the two basic components of the Indian classical dance form. The three fundamental elements are:

  • Natya (Dramatic element)
  • The Nritta (Basic forms of dance movements)
  • Nritya (Component of expressions i.e. gestures or mudras)

Bharat Muni authored The Natya Shastra which Indian aestheticians use to describe the dance features. The nine fundamental emotions, known as Navarasas, that are portrayed in the classical dances of India are listed below.

Navarasas Meaning in Classical Dance
Adbhuta Wonder
Bhayanaka Fear
Bibhatsa Disgust
Hasya Humorous
Karuna Compassion
Raudra Anger
Shaant Tranquillity
Sringara Love
Veera Valour

Folk Dance of India State Wise

Folk Dance forms represent the culture of a particular area or community from where it originated. Some Indian folk dances are listed in UNESCO’s list of intangible cultures. A list of important folk dances of India with their states is mentioned below:

State Folk Dances of India
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, Giddha, 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

Difference Between Folk Dance and Classical Dances of India

You will find two broad categories of dances in India – classical and folk. And the significant difference in these dance forms is their origin. While classical dances originate from Natya Shastra, the ancient text for drama and theatre, folk dances usually come from different communities as they are created for celebratory purposes.

Both of these categories include a wide range of dance forms that make our culture even more beautiful and distinctive. Find out some critical differences between classical and folk dance in the table illustrated below.

Folk Dance of India Classical Dance of India
Folk dance is associated with social gatherings and celebrations of agricultural harvest and more. Different communities perform these dances on happy occasions. Classical dance is believed to be spiritual in nature. These are formal dance forms that take immense precision and discipline to learn.
Folk dances can typically be performed by ordinary people and symbolize liberation and happiness. Classical dances are challenging to learn and usually take years of training as they include many technical components and postures. Hence, they are performed by experts.
Folk dances are known for their joy, strength, and vigour. Classical dances are known for grace, precision, and poise, as well as technique.
In India, around 30 different types of folk dances are performed in different regions and states. There are mainly eight different classical dances that are performed in India.
Some examples of folk dances from different states include:

Ghoomar, Kalbeliya – Rajasthan

Bhangra, Giddha – Punjab

Bihu – Assam

Bidesia – Bihar

Garba – Gujarat

Lavani – Maharashtra

Nautanki – Uttar Pradesh

The eight classical dances of India are:

Kathak – Uttar Pradesh

Odissi – Odisha

Bharatanatyam – Tamil Nadu

Kathakali – Kerala

Kuchipudi – Andhra Pradesh

Sattriya – Assam

Manipuri – Manipur

Mohiniyattam – Kerala

Dance Forms of India UPSC

There are a wide variety of dances in India. Dances of India UPSC is an essential topic for the IAS Exam with equal emphasis in the UPSC Prelims and Mains. You can learn about this topic and all the related topics by going through the NCERT Books for UPSC.

Learning about the dances of India is of cultural and traditional importance. It is a vital section of the UPSC Exam. You can memorize the topic well and review your level of 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 follows:

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

Options: Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, 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?

Options: 1 only, 2 only, Both 1 & 2, Neither 1 nor 2

Answer: 2 only

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

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