Folk Dances of India

Performed for any societal celebrations in villages, for any harvests of food or any celebrations. No particular complex steps to dance. A person without any particular knowledge  on dance can also perform it

Mathuri (Koppu) – Andhra Pradesh

  • Performed by the inhabitants of the Umji and Indravelli forest areas
  • Traditionally performed during Krishna Janmashtami celebrations
  • Themes are mainly taken from the Mahabharata
  • Though both men and women perform this dance, the pace is different
  • Women dance in slow rhythmic movements, while the men dance at a more vigorous pace
  • The Nagara is the main instrument used

 

Bihu (Assam)

  • One of the most colourful folk dances of India
  • An integral part of the Bihu Festival celebrated to mark the advent of Spring & Assamese New Year
  • Bihu ushers in sowing time which is also the season of marriages

 

Garba (Gujarat)

  • The word “Garbo” has originated from Sanskrit word “Garbhdeep”, means an earthen pot with circular holes
  • The pot is the symbol of the body and the lighting lamp inside the pot signifies the divine soul
  • Linked with the worship of “Shakti” – performed during Navratri & during weddings
  • Either a lamp (Garba Deep) or an image of Goddess Durga is placed in middle of concentric rings
  • People dance around the centre clapping their hands to the beats of the Dhol

 

Dandiya Ras (Gujrat)

  • Its origin has been traced to Lord Krishna, dancing with Gopis in Vrindavan
  • Prominent feature → Circular movements with speed and grace, roar of the Dhol, & the colourful gorgeous costumes
  • Depict scenes of Holi and leela of Krishna & Radha, during Navaratras

 

Daang (Gujrat)

  • Hail from South Gujarat on the border of Maharashtra
  • Usually performed during Holi and other festivals
  • Centers around the social life, feasts, fairs, festivals, ceremonies and rituals connected to worship
  • It is vigorous, as most tribal dances are, and highly rhythmic
  • Interesting circular formation is created centering around the accompanists who stand in the middle of an open space

Daang (Gujrat)

  • The men hold their arms round the women’s shoulders and women clasp the men by their waists. The dance builds up gradually and acquires a fast tempo in the end
  • The women climb on the shoulders of men and form a human pyramid

 

Siddhi Dhamal (Gujrat)

  • The Siddhies migrated to India from Africa about 750 years ago.
  • They settled in the coastal parts of Gujarat like Bharuch, Bhavnagar, Junagarh and Surat.

Siddhi Dhamal (Gujrat)

  • They follow Muslim religion and dance to the beat of drum on the eve of the Urs of their Prophet Baba Gaur
  • Just like their ancestors from Africa, Siddhies are master of rhythm dancing to the tune of huge drums

 

Jhijhia (Bihar)

  • Usually performed by a group of young women dancers
  • Portrays offering of prayers to Lord Indra for a good monsoon & a rich harvest

 

Gaur Maria (Chhattisgarh)

  • Basically performed on the occasion of marriage
  • Resembles a hunt-dance → imitation of the frisking & jerking movements of the animals

Gaur Maria (Chhattisgarh)

  • However, a sense of ritual and deep sanctity underlies the perfect synchronization of the dance.

 

Kaksar (Chhattisgarh)

  • To seek the blessings of the village deity Kaksar for a good harvest
  • Performed by a group of young boys and girls dressed in their best
  • Provides a platform to young people for choosing their life partners

 

Chholiya (Uttarakhand)

  • Has elements of martial craft and is associated with the Kirji Kumbh celebrations
  • Kirji Kumbh is a poisonous flower which blossoms every 12 years

Chholiya (Uttarakhand)

  • Villagers march in a procession to destroy the flower before it sheds its poison into the mountain streams

 

Samay or lamp dance (Goa)

  • Performed with traditional metallic lamps or deepaks
  • The men and women balance the samai on their heads and perform various movements

Samay or lamp dance (Goa)

  • During religious gatherings the dance is performed to the accompaniment of slow singing

 

Ghoomar (Rajasthan – Haryana)

  • Performed by girls of border areas of Rajasthan & Haryana at various festivals like Holi, Gangaur Puja and Teej
  • The girls form semi-circles and start singing and clapping
  • The dancers then form a circle and the tempo of the dance is accelerated

Ghoomar (Rajasthan - Haryana)

  • The movements are made by holding body weight on one foot and moving forward
  • As the tempo increases towards the end, the dancers whirl around in pairs
  • Accompanying songs are full of satire and humour and refer to contemporary events

 

Kinnauri Natti (Himachal Pradesh)

  • Important amongst the dances of the Kinauris is Losar Shona Chuksam
  • It takes its name from LOSAI meaning new year
  • Kinnauries music echoes the sound of the breeze blowing through forests
  • Dancers recreate movements of all the agricultural operations of sowing & reaping ogla (barley) and phaphar (a local grain)
  • Slow movements with soft knee dips with accentuation of torso are the key step of this dance.

 

Paika (Jharkhand)

  • Typical dance of the Munda community, representing rituals connected with preparations for war
  • With chest blades, multi-colored headgear, anklets, bows, arrows, spears, swords & shields the dancers enact battle scenes
  • Symbolizes the great war of the Mundas against the Britishers
  • Though performed on various occasions, the Paika dance is most readily associated with the Dussehra celebrations
  • The fast beat of the madal along with dhol, nagara, shehnai, & ranbheri make Paika dance performaces truly captivating

 

Rouff (Jammu & Kashmir)

  • Most popular dance in the Kashmir Valley and is performed by the women folk
  • Performed during harvesting season but the most important occasion is the month of Ramzan
  • The girls wear colourful Phirans-Kashmir cloaks and Kasaba-the head gear
  • The girls form two rows facing each other and putting their arms around the waist of the next dancer
  • They start with rhythmic movements of the feet and weave a few patterns swaying and swinging backward

Rouff (Jammu & Kashmir)

  • Traditionally, no musical accompanies Rouff songs as they are sung while doing the daily chores
  • The folk instruments like noot, tumbaknari, rabab etc. are used when it is performed on the stage or in some gathering

 

Jabro / Losor (Jammu & Kashmir)

  • A community dance of the nomadic people of Tibetan origin living in Ladakh
  • Jabro is performed by both men & women during Losar- the Tibetan new year celebrations- and also on other festive occasions
  • Because of the extreme cold, the dancers wear heavy gowns made of sheep skin, lamb skin caps and long leather shoes
  • Performers stand in two facing rows, holding each other’s hands, and dance gracefully with slow, gentle movements
  • Jabro songs are sung to the accompaniment of the Damien-a stringed guitar-like instrument and flute

 

Veerbhadra (Karnataka)

  • Veerbhadra is performed on Chaitra Purnima and Dhalo festival
  • The person enacting the role of Veerbhadra is dressed in a warriors costume & wield swords as he dances

Veerbhadra (Karnataka)

  • According to legend, Veerbhadra is supposed to get possessed by a divine spirit
  • The invocation of Veerbhadra is recited in Kannada even today

 

Dholu Kunitha (Karnataka)

  • A drum dance performed by the men folk of the shepherd community known as Kurubas

Dholu Kunitha (Karnataka)

  • Noted for its powerful drumming & vigorous dancing which is filled with acrobatic elements

 

Oppana (Kerala)

  • A bridal dance performed by Muslim girls of North Kerala and Lakshadweep on wedding occasions
  • Brides and grooms are mentally prepared for marriage & nuptial night by their close friend through a sequence of dance and music

 

Purulia Chhau (Orissa, Jharkhand, WB)

  • Emanating from martial practice Chhau dance of Purulia draws its themes from the two great Indian epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata
  • Masks and elaborate head gears are the ornamental apparels of the Chhau dancers
  • Commences with an invocation of Lord Ganesha before movements begin as per the story

Purulia Chhau dance

  • Vocal music replaced by Instrumental music and a variety of drums
  • In Chhau dance, the fight between good and evil always culminates in the triumph of good over destructive evil

 

Badhai (Madhya Pradesh)

  • Badhai is performed to thank Goddess Sheetala for safeguarding people from natural calamities & ailments and to seek her blessings on happy occasions like weddings & childbirth
  • Accompanied by folk musical instruments, the performers dance gracefully to a rhythm, creating a lively and a colourful spectacle.
  • Animals also take part in Badhai Nritya and in many villages, mares (female horses) are seen at such performances.

 

Baredi (Madhya Pradesh)

  • Closely related to the cattle-farm culture of the country, especially of the Bundelkhand region
  • Baredi folk songs and folk dances are presented during the fortnight commencing from Deepawali (Kartik Amawasya) to Kartik Poornima
  • One of the performers sings two lines from the poem called Baredi with a rhythm & the other participants present a vigorous performance, the Baredi dance

Baredi (Madhya Pradesh)

  • This dance is presented with a worship of Govardhan Parvat. It is believed that the Lord Krishna himself participate in these Baredi dances alongwith his gwal mates

 

Raee (Madhya Pradesh)

  • Raee folk dance is Popular in Bundelkhand regions of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh
  • Originated during ancient times for celebrations when the armed forces returned victorious after war
  • It is primarily, a female dance, where the dancers with veils on their faces, move their feet and whirl their body in rhythm to the accompanied music
  • Algoza, mridanga and dhapali are the main musical instruments used in this dance.

 

Lavani (Maharashtra)

  • Traditionally an integral part of the Tamasha folk theatre of Maharashtra, Lavani is the most popular and best known folk dance form of the state
  • This art form is at its best when dealing with themes of bravery, pathos, love and devotion, Music, poetry, dance and drama intermingled with perfection

 

Dhol or Pung Cholom (Manipur)

  • Performed usually on religious occasions to the accompaniment of songs and dhol (large drum)
  • Usually performed during the Yaoshand festival (or the festival of colours)

Dhol or Pung Cholom (Manipur)

  • Expresses love and creativity, with an intricate interplay of dhols and fireplay
  • Dhol Cholom belongs to the Manipur Sankirtana traditions

 

Lezim (Maharashtra)

  • Have base in a Akhada (Martial Art) tradition of Maharashtra – performed by the artists on religious and social events
  • Lezim Dance includes Ghuti Lezim, Ghoongroo Lezim, Dakhani Lezim and Palita Lezim
  • This dance is occasionally performed in Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat also

 

Lewatana (Meghalaya)

  • Lewatana is a folk song and dance of Hajong tribe of Meghalaya
  • Lewatana is usually performed by the Hajong during the Diwali festival
  • Young men and women form a group and while dancing & singing various folk songs, they compare man with nature

 

Cheraw or Bamboo (Mizoram)

  • Also known as the Bamboo Dance, as bamboo forms an integral part of this folk form
  • Two long bamboo staves are kept crosswise and horizontally, parallel to ground
  • Male dancers clap the staves, resultantly producing a sharp sound setting the rhythm for the dance

Cheraw or Bamboo (Mizoram)

  • The female dancers, attired in colourful traditional costumes step in and out between bamboos with precise skills
  • In addition to the musical pattern created by the clapping of bamboo staves, drums and gongs are also used for effect

 

Gotipua (Odissa)

  • Young boys dressed up as girls sing devotional love songs of Radha-Krishna and perform Gotipua dance
  • The repertoire of the dance includes vandana-prayer to God or Guru
  • Gotipuas dancers compose themselves in different acrobatic yogic postures creating the images of Radha-Krishna
  • Musical accompaniment is provided by Mardala-a pakhawaj, Gini-small cymbals, Harmonium, Violin and flute

 

Ranappa Chaddhaiya (Odissa)

  • Ranappa is a martial art form of dance where the dancers walk and dance on sticks (Ranappa) with special gestures on rhythms of drums
  • Ranappa is popular in the coastal areas of Ganjam district of Odisha – Basically an imitation of mock fight
  • Chaddaiya is a part of the famous ‘Danda Nata’ of Odisha – Performed in the month of Chaitra, associated with the worship of Shiva

Ranappa Chaddhaiya (Odissa)

  • Worshipers participate in the dance holding a ‘Danda’ (Pole) and a ‘Pasa’ (Knot) symbolic of a devout Shaivite
  • They dance vigorously to the accompaniment of drums and ‘Mohri’ displaying various elements of martial practices

 

Bhangra (Punjab)

  • Most popular folk dance of Punjab, performed by men on festive occasions & to celebrate Baisakhi or the harvest festival
  • Featured dress → Bright coloured plumed turbans, traditional tehmats, kurtas and waistcoats

 

Giddha (Punjab)

  • Women dance of Punjab at happy occasions – consists of singing, clapping, enacting the Boli as well as pure dance
  • Dancers form a circle and participating in pairs, take turns to come centre stage and perform a Boli
  • Towards the end of the Boli they dance vigorously in sheer abandon, while those in the circle sing and clap in unison.
  • The refrain is sung 3-4 times, then the performers withdraw to be replaced by another pair and a new Boli
  • Giddha is accompanied by a Dholak (drum) or Gharah (earthen pot)

 

Kalbelia (Rajasthan)

  • Performed by the women of the nomadic Kalbelia community whose primary occupation is rearing snakes and trading in snake venom
  • On festive occasions, traditional songs are sung to the plaintive notes of the ‘been’; and the dancers dressed in their traditional black swirling skirts, perform this dance

Kalbelia (Rajasthan)

  • The dance highlights the unparalleled virtuosity of the dancers often reminiscent of the graceful and supple movements of the snake

 

Chakri (Rajasthan)

  • Chakri dance is performed by the women of the Kanjar community of Rajasthan
  • The dancers whirl around in circles in colourful skirts which resembles spinning tops & thus named Chakri
  • Usually performed at weddings and on festive occasions, Chakri is accompanied by the rhythm of daph, manjira and nagara

 

Tamang Selo (Sikkim)

  • Folk dance of the Tamang community; also known as Damphu as it is performed to the accompaniment of a native musical instrument called damphu
  • Usually performed during Dussehra by both men & women; depicts the colourful lifestyle of the hill people

 

Kavadi (Tamilnadu)

  • This dance was supposed to be performed by a giant named Idumban – with a pole slung across his shoulder
  • At the two ends of the pole he was supposed to carry the hills of Murugan, the popular deity of Tamil Nadu
  • The carrying of Kavadi by pilgrims is symbolic of Idumban with the hillocks poised on the pole
  • Accompanying the music, the devotees proceed to the shrine by singing the song “Kavadi Chindu” with quick and vigorous movements.

Kavadi (Tamilnadu)

  • Basically performed by the devotees during the ceremonial worship of Murugan the Tamil God of war.
  • The Kavadi is never touched by the dancer while dancing.

 

Kadagam (Tamilnadu)

  • Originated as a ritual dedicated to the worship of Mariamman, the Goddess of rain and health
  • The ritual is performed during the month of August when the idol of Mariamman is carried in procession
  • A ritual pot filled with water is adorned with beautiful decorations, several feet high, and is carried by the priest
  • The colourfully attired performers carry decorated vessels vertically on their heads and dance to the tune of accompanying music
  • Kadagam dance is very popular in Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

 

Mayilattam (Tamilnadu)

  • Performed in Hindu temples
  • Dancers wear peacock dress

Mayilattam (Tamilnadu)

  • Dances on tall woods attached to performers feet

 

Hojagiri (Tripura)

  • Women folk dance of the Reang community of Tripura performed on Mailuma and Maiktah festivals
  • Mailuma signifies the festival of new harvest & and Maiktah, worship of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity
  • The Reangs believe that when the goddess is pleased by entertaining with dance and songs, she blesses them with bumper crops

Hojagiri (Tripura)

  • The theme of this dance is mostly connected with cultivation
  • Standing on the pitcher, they move the metal plates in hand; & keep a bottle on the head – atop which is an oil lamp alight

 

Dhobia (Uttar Pradesh)

  • Popular among the dhobi (washermen) community of eastern Uttar Pradesh in which only male dancers participate
  • Performed on the occasion of birth, marriages and festivals like Dusshehra and Holi
  • The dance is basically in the form of a dance-drama which usually begins with the recital of a couplet in praise of the almighty
  • Amongst the dancers, one person wearing a royal costume enters the arena riding a dummy horse followed by other dancers
  • The group of musicians also stand behind the dancers playing their instruments
  • The dance begins with the music provided by drums, cymbals and ghunghroos which are tied on waist and ankles
  • A traditional wind instrument, called ransingha, plays a significant role in boosting up the tempo of the dancers
  • The dance is accompanied by Bhojpuri and Awadhi folk songs

 


Some other folk dances of India

Folk Dance Place
Mask Ladakh
Dhumal Kashmir
Jhoomar Punjab (Slower and more rhythmic form of Bhangra)
Pandavanis Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Aandhra Pradesh
Changu Orissa (women, in a half sitting position dance on drum (Changu) beatsDerived its name from a kind of drum called Changu, which invariably accompanies the dance
Koli Fisherman dance of Maharasthra
Pongal Tamilnadu
Kummi Tamilnadu (Performed by Women)
Bhutia/Lepcha Sikkim
Wangla Meghalaya

Martial Dances of India

Martial Dances Place
Gatka Punjab
Cholia Uttarakhand
Paika Odisha
Kalaripayattu Kerala
Pang Lhabosol Sikkim
Thang – taa Manipur
Lazim MH
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