Indian Dances for UPSC Examination

Indian Dances for UPSC Examination


India is known for its diversification of cultural heritages. Indian Dance is one of the cultural identities of India  which is developing since the ancient period.

Indian Dances for UPSC Examination

India is known for its diversification of cultural heritages. Indian Dance is one of the cultural identities of India which is developing since the ancient period. The Indian dance is categorized into two forms: Classical and Folk Dance forms.

Classical Dance Forms in India

Classical Dances are originated with Natya Sastra (fifth Veda) which is associated with Spirituality. There are two basic aspects of Natya Sastra: Tandava (symbolic of Masculine dance form) and Lasya (symbolic of feminine dance form). Classical dances are performed by highly professional dancers who have studied these dance forms. The dance form is performed with grace and composure. There are eight types of classical dance forms in India:

Bharatnatyam Dance (Tamil Nadu)

  • The Abhinaya Darpana by Nandikesvara is one of the main sources of textual material, for the study of the technique and grammar of body movement.
  • Bharatnatyam dance is known to be ekaharya, where one dancer takes on many roles in a single performance. 
  • The dance performance follows a regular pattern of movements.
  • The dance performance involves transitional movement of the leg, hip, and arms.
  • Expressive eye movement and hand gestures are performed to convey the emotions through dance.
  • The accompanying orchestra consists of a vocalist.
  • The person who conducts the dance recitation is known as Nattuvanar.

 Kathakali (Kerala)

  • Kathakali is a blend of dance, music, and acting and dramatizes stories, which are mostly adapted from the Indian epics. 
  • The dancer expresses himself through codified hastamudras (hand gestures), and facial expressions.
  • The weight of the body is on the outer edges of the feet which are slightly bent and curved.
  • Kathakali derives its textual sanction from Balarama Bharatam and Hastalakshana Deepika.
  • Kathakali is a visual art where aharya, costume, and make-up are suited to the characters, as per the tenets laid down in the Natya Shastra. 
  • Heavy makeup is used on the performer's face.
  • In no other dance form the whole body movement is included except kathakali.

Kathak (North India)

  • The word Kathak has been derived from a word called Katha means “a story”. And, Kathakars or storytellers are the narrators of the story.
  • The kathak dance was originated as an oral tradition. Mime and gestures were perhaps added later on to make the recitation more effective. And, gradually developed as an expressional dance form.
  • Kathak started evolving as a resultant of the Bhakti movement to a whole new range of lyrics and musical forms.
  • The emergence of Raslila was a major development in kathak.
  • With the coming of the Mughals, this dance form received a new impetus. A transition from the temple courtyard to the palace durbar took place.
  • In kathak, the weight of the body is equally distributed along the horizontal and vertical axis.
  • Usually a solo dancer performs, the dancer often pauses to recite verses followed by their execution through movement.
  • The focus is more on footwork; the movements are skillfully controlled and performed straight-legged by dancers wearing ankle-bells.
  • Kathak is the only form of classical dance wedded to Hindustani or North Indian music.
  • Lady Leela Sokhey (Menaka) revived the classical style. Some prominent dancers include Birju Maharaj, Sitara Devi.

Kuchipudi (Andhra Pradesh)

  • The dance name after a village in the Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh which was a long rich tradition of dance-drama. It was known under the generic name Yakshagaana.
  • The dance is performed in a group as well as solo.
  • Solo dancing was being presented to punctuate the presentation and to enhance the appeal. 
  • Ornaments, costumes, and jewellery occupy an important place in the dance.
  • To show the dance skill of footwork and balance body various techniques included like dancing on the rim of a brass plate and with a pitcher full of water on the head.

Mohiniyattam Dance (Kerala)

  • Mohiniyattam or the dance of Mohini is a classical solo dance form of Kerala.
  • The body movements and facial expressions are more feminine in nature and therefore are ideally suited for performance by women.
  • Mohiniyattam can be found in the texts Vyavaharamala written in 1709 by Mazhamagalam Narayanan Namputiri and in Ghoshayatra, written later by great poet Kunjan Nambiar
  • It belongs to lasya style (the feminine form of dance),
  • Importance is given to the hand gestures and Mukhabhinaya with subtle facial expressions.
  • Movements in the dance have been borrowed from Nangiar Koothu and female folk dances Kaikottikali and the Tiruvatirakali.
  • The 24 hand gestures are mainly adopted from Hastalakshana Deepika text.
  • It has some elements of Bharatnatyam and kathakali dance forms.
  • Realistic makeup and simple dressing are used in Mohiniyattam.     

Odissi Dance (Odisha)

  • Odissi dance form follows the tenets laid down by then Natya Shastra.
  • The facial expressions, hand gestures, and body movements in the dance are used to suggest a certain feeling, an emotion, or one of the nine rasas. 
  • The torso movement is very important and a unique feature of the Odissi style.
  • The dancer wears silver jewellery and a special hair-do.
  • Usually, the sari is stitched in a new and unique style.

Sattriya (Assam)

  • It was introduced in the 15th century by Vaishnava saint Mahapurusha Sankaradeva.
  • The dance form evolved and expanded as a distinctive style of dance later on.
  • Sankaradeva introduced Sattriya dance form by incorporating different elements from various treatises, local folk dances with his own rare outlook.
  • Sattriya dance tradition is governed by strictly laid down principles in respect of hastamudras, footwork, aharyas, music, etc.

Manipuri Dance (Manipur)

  • The Manipuri dance is associated with rituals and traditional festivals due to its isolation from other parts of the country.
  • Lai Haraoba is the earliest form of dance which forms the basis of all stylized dances in Manipur.
  • With the arrival of Vaishnavism 15th century, new episodes of Radha and Krishna was started introducing.
  • Manipuri dance incorporates both the tandava and lasya
  • The facial expressions are natural and not exaggerated and the use of the whole body conveys a certain rasa.
  • The Manipuri style of music known as Nat which is different from South and North India Music Styles.

 Folk Dance Forms in India 

The folk dance is also known as regional dance because it is developed regionally. It represents the tradition and culture of a community. This is not done by professional dancers because these are the common people dance forms that are associated with agriculture harvesting, wedding, etc. It is a kind of dance form which reflects people’s lives. There are more than 30 folk Dances in India. But not all the regional dance form known as folk dance such as ritual dance is done at a specific region but it is not a kind of folk dance.

Some of the important folk dance forms in India:

A. Chhau Folk Dance (West Bengal, Jharkhand, and Orissa)

  • The Chhau dance form has derived from the two epics themes: Ramayana and Mahabharata
  • In this dance form, it is always shown that the good triumph over the evil.
  • Vocal music has been replaced by the Instruments and a variety of drums
  • Ornament wears are Masks and elaborate headgears in the Chhau dance.

B. Bhangra (Punjab)

  • This is the most popular dance form in Punjab which is performed by the men on Baishaki or Harvesting festival
  • Dressed in Bright colored plumed turbans, traditional tehmats, kurtas and waistcoats

C. Bihu (Assam)

  • This is performed to celebrate the advent of Spring and the New year of Assamese
  • This is a most colorful folk dance form in India
  • It celebrated during sowing season which is a marriage season in Assam.

D. Garba (Gujarat)

  • It is usually performed during the Navratri and the wedding
  • Either a lamp or Durga goddess image put in the concentric rings
  • And, people clap and dance on the beat of the drum

E. Dhamal (Gujarat)

  • 750 years ago, Siddhies migrated to India from Africa and settles on the coast of Gujarat.
  • They follow the Muslim religion and dance on the beat of the drum
  • The dance form is presented on the eve of Urs of the Prophet Baba Gaur

F. Lavani (Maharastra)

  • This is the most popular folk dance form of Maharastra
  • The dance is performed to show the devotion, bravery, love, music, poetry, dance, and drama.

Below is the list of all the folk dance forms perform in India:

State of Origin

List of Folk Dances in India

Andhra Pradesh

Vilasini Natyam, Bhamakalpam, Veeranatyam, Dappu, Tappeta Gullu, Lambadi, Dhimsa, Kolattam

Arunachal Pradesh

Buiya, Chalo, Wancho, Pasi Kongki, Ponung, Popir


Bihu, Bichhua, Natpuja, Maharas, Kaligopal, Bagurumba, Naga dance, Khel Gopal


Jata-Jatin, Bakho-Bakhain, Panwariya.


Gaur Maria, Panthi, Raut Nacha, Pandwani, Vedamati, Kapalik


Garba, Dandiya Raas, Tippani Juriun, Bhavai


Tarangamel, Koli, Dekhni, Fugdi, Shigmo, Ghode, Modni, Samayi nrutya, Jagar, Ranmale


Jhumar, Phag, Daph, Dhamal, Loor, Gugga, Khor

Himachal Pradesh

Jhora, Jhali, Chharhi, Dhaman, Chhapeli, Mahasu

Jammu & Kashmir

Rauf, Hikat, Mandjas, Kud Dandi Nach


Alkap, Karma Munda, Agni, Jhumar, Janani Jhumar, Mardana Jhumar, Paika, Phagua


Yakshagana, Huttari, Suggi, Kunitha, Karga


Ottam Thullal, Kaikottikali


Lavani, Nakata, Koli, Lezim, Gafa, Dahikala Dasavtar

Madhya Pradesh

Jawara, Matki, Aada, Khada Nach, Phulpati, Grida Dance, Selalarki, Selabhadoni


 Dol Cholam, Thang Ta, Lai Haraoba, Pung Cholom


Ka Shad Suk Mynsiem, Nongkrem, Laho


Cheraw Dance, Khuallam, Chailam, Sawlakin, Chawnglaizawn, Zangtalam


Rangma, Zeliang, Nsuirolians, Gethinglim


Savari, Ghumara, Painka, Munari


Bhangra, Giddha, Daff, Dhaman, Bhand


Ghumar, Chakri, Ganagor, Jhulan Leela, Jhuma, Suisini, Ghapal


Chu Faat, Sikmari, Singhi Chaam or the Snow Lion, Yak Chaam, Denzong Gnenha, Tashi Yangku

Tamil Nadu

Kumi, Kolattam, Kavadi



Uttar Pradesh

Nautanki, Raslila, Kajri, Jhora, Chappeli


Garhwali, Kumayuni, Kajari, Jhora, Raslila