India is the land of unique and exquisite culture. Right from its dance to music to art, every aspect reflects the depth of culture and heritage of its long history.
Let’s take a look at the wide range of cultural dance forms of India.
Bharatanatyam or Bharathanatiyam is one of oldest dance form of India. It is a major genre of Indian classical dance that is known to originate in the Hindu temples of Tamil Nadu and then spread its roots in the neighbouring areas. The form revolves around the Hindu religious themes as well as spiritual ideas, particularly of Shaivism, but not restricted to it. It also spreads out to Vaishnavism and Shaktism and in the modern times’ various other themes.
The next in the list is Kathak which too is one of the major dance forms of India. As the history of the dance form goes, Kathak originated from the traveling bards of ancient North India which is known as Kathakars or storytellers. The name ‘Kathak’ is rumored to have been originated from the Sanskrit word Katha, which means story. Kathak evolved mainly during the Bhakti movement, and mainly revolved around the childhood and stories of Hindu Lord Krishna. It was also independently featured in the courts of North Indian kingdoms.
Another major Indian Cultural Dance form is Kathakali. This too is “story play” genre of art. However, this form distinguishes itself from the other dance forms with its elaborate and colorful make-up, costumes and the highly decorated face masks wearing actor-dancers. Kathakali primarily originated as a Hindu performance art in the southwestern region the Country where the dominating language is Malayalam.
Mohiniyattam is one of the two classical dance forms that originated and still remains popular in the state of Kerela. The name Mohiniyattam is derived from the word ‘Mohini’ which literally means celestial enchantress. This form of dance includes delicate body movements along with subtle facial expressions. It is feminine in nature and therefore is best suited for performance by women.
Manipuri, named after the place of its origin is one of the major Indian classical dance forms. This form is known for its Hindu Vaishnavism themes with its gleeful, exquisite performances of love-inspired dance drama depicting the love story of Radha-Krishna, Raslila. However, this dance form is also performed to themes related to Shaivism, Shaktism and other regional deities such as Umang Lai during Lai Haraoba.
Odissi dance form originated in Orissa and remains popular in the state. As the history depicts, Odissi have been performed predominantly by women in the Hindu temples and expresses religious stories and spiritual ideas, especially of Vaishnavism. The form also shows tribute to Hindu gods such as Shiva and Surya, and Hindu goddesses (Shaktism).
Originating in the Krishna district of modern India’s Andhra Pradesh, Kuchipudi is one of India’s top 10 major classical dance forms. It is a dance-drama performance art which is rooted in the ancient Hindu Sanskrit text of Natya Shastra.
- Sattriya Nritya
Sattriya also known as Sattriya Nritya is another dance form of north-east India. In the year 2000 Sattriya Nritya was recognized as a classical dance by Sangeet Natak Akademi of India. A modern form of Sattriya explores many themes and plays and has spread its wings worldwide.
Bihu is a form of folk dance that originated and still remains highly popular among the mass of Assam. Performed by both men and women, the dancers wear traditional colorful Assamese clothing. The form is characterized by brisk dance steps accompanied by rapid hand movement.
- Raut Nacha
Raut Nacha is performed by a caste that considers them to be descendants of Krishna. They are called yadava/yaduvanshis. This is a way for them to worship Krishna. They perform this form at the time of ‘dev udhni ekadashi’.
Dandiya synonymous to Raas or Dandiya Raas is Gujarat’s traditional folk dance and is associated with scenes of Holi as well as Lila of Krishna and Radha at Vrindavan. Along with Garba, this dance form is the featured dance of Navratri evenings in Gujarat and other parts of Western India.
- Dollu Kunitha
Dollu Kunitha is a popular drum dance form practiced in the state of Karnataka. This form demonstrates spectacular variety accompanied with a complexity of skills. The dancers form a semi-circle and involve in extremely swift and supple movements. The beat of the dance is controlled and directed by a leader with cymbals who is at the center.
Lavani is a popular folk dance of Maharashtra. This form is a combination of traditional song and dance. It is performed to the beats of Dholki, a percussion instrument. Lavani is famous for its powerful rhythm with captures the very attention of the audiences. The form has contributed substantially to the development of Marathi folk theater.
Cheraw dance form performed in Mizoram, India is a ritual dance form. It consists of four people who hold two crossed pairs of bamboo staves. Traditionally the male dancers move these bamboo staves in rhythmic beats while the female dancers perform in the same rhythm by stepping in and out of the bamboo blocks.
Zeliang is a form of folk dance popular in the northeastern state of Nagaland, India. The dancers usually wield weapons like spear, dao and sword. The dancers dance in accordance to the tone and rhythm of the music. The form of dance is extremely beautiful and they are perhaps the only community to allow women to participate.
This is one of the most popular folk dance forms of India and is loved all around the country. The origin of this form can be traced back to Majha area of the Punjab region. The free form of traditional Bhangra originating in Punjab, India and the modern Bhangra has been developed by the Punjabi diaspora.
Ghoomar is a gift of Rajasthan, a state rich in culture, to the entire of India. This is a highly interesting form of folk dance. It is practiced widely in Rajasthan, India and Sindh‚ Pakistan. Ghoomar has been developed by the Bhil tribe and was then adopted by the other Rajasthani communities.
Chhau is also spelled as Chau or Cchau. It is one of the major dance forms of India. The origin of this form can be traced back to Jharkhand, West Bengal, and Odisha. This is one of the most difficult forms and follows various themes like Shaivism, Shaktism, and Vaishnavism.
Being the most culturally diversified country of the world, India has many more dance forms to offer. However, the 18 dances mentioned above are the most popular forms prevailing in the country.