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Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Folk Dances of India - Indian Art & Culture

Folk Dances of India

The multitude of folklore, legends, and myth pervasive in various parts of India, combined with local song and dance traditions, results in a rich mix of composite art. The dance forms are generally spontaneous, crude, and performed by the masses without any formal training. The simplicity gives the art form an inherent beauty. However, these art forms have remained confined to a certain set of people or at a particular locality, to whom the knowledge has been passed down ages. Some of the customary folk dances of India are:


  • The word Chhau emerges from "Chhaya" meaning shadow. 
  • It is a form of mask dance that uses vigorous & energetic martial movements to narrate mythological stories.
  • Some chronicles also use natural themes such as Sarpa nritya (serpent dance) or Mayur nritya (peacock dance).
  • Mayurbhanj Chhau artists do not wear masks.
  • In 2010, UNESCO stamped Chhau in the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
  • Saraikella Chahau- in Jharkhand
  • Mayurbhanj Chhau - in Odisha
  • Purulia Chhau - in West Bengal.
Fig: Chhau dance


  • It is a popular folk dance of Gujarat, which is held at the time of Navaratri.
  • It refers to "Garbha deep" - an earthen pot with holes, in which a lamp is lit and women dance around it in circular movements with rhythmic clapping.
Fig: Garba dance

3. Dandiya Raas:

  • It is an energetic, lively dance form in which polished sticks or dandiya are used.
  • It represents a mock fight (sham fight) between Durga & Mahishasura.
Fig: Dandiya Raas dance

4. Tarangamel:

  • It is the folk dance of Goa that celebrates the youthfulness (zestfulness) of the region.
  • It is performed during Dussehra & Holi.
  • The use of rainbow-like costumes with multi-colored flags and streamers make is a visual spectacle.

5. Ghoomar or Gangore:

  • It is a traditional folk dance performed by the women of the Bhil tribe in Rajasthan.
  • It is characterized by pirouetting (whirling) movements of the women, which brings into prominence the multi-colored vibrancies of the flowering Ghaghra.
Fig: Ghoomar dance

6. Kalbelia:

  • It is a sensuous folk dance performed by the women of the Kalbelia community of Rajasthan.
  • "Been" = wind instruments played by snake charmers, is the popular musical instrument of this dance form.
  • In 2010, UNESCO has inscribed these songs & dances in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Fig: Kalbelia (Snake) dance

7. Chabra:

  • It is a popular dance of Himachal Pradesh, performed during the Dussehra festival.
Fig: Chabra dance

8. Bhangra/Giddha:

  • It is a highly energetic folk dance of Punjab.
  • It is accompanied by infectious and catchy drum beats, which is a popular form of celebration during the festive season.
  • Giddha is the female counterpart of the male Bhangra.
Fig: Bhangra & Giddha dance


  • It is the semi-classical form of the dance form popular in Uttar Pradesh, which is accompanied by the music of the same style.
  • It is extremely popular among the courtesans of the Lucknow region.
Fig: Dadra dance

10. Jwara:

  • It is the harvest dance popular in the Bundelkhand, Madhya Pradesh region.
  • It includes balancing a basket full of jawar on the head and is accompanied by heavy instrumental music.
Fig: Jawara dance

11. Matki:

  • It is performed by the women of the Malwa region on the occasions of the wedding and another festival.
  • It is mainly performed Solo while balancing several earthen pots on the head.
  • Aada & Khada Nach are popular variants of the Matki dance.
Fig: Matki dance

12. Gaur Muria (Bison Horn):

  • It is an important ritualistic dance form of the Muria tribes who live in Bastar, Chattisgarh region.
  • The dance imitates the movements of a bison and is performed in the group by both men and women.
Fig: Gaur maria(Bison horn) dance

13. Alkap:

  • It is a rural dance-drama performance prevalent in the Rajmahal hills of Jharkhand and Murshidabad & Malda regions of West Bengal.
  • It is performed by the troops of 10-12 dancers, accompanied by one or two lead singers known as gayens.
  • The troops perform popular folklore and mythological stories, win which the dance is interspersed with comical sketches known as kap.
  • The dance is associated with the Gajan festival of Shiva.
Fig: Alkap dance

14. Birha:

  • It along with its variant, Bidesia, is a popular form of entertainment in rural Bihar.
  • It is a portrayal of the pin of the women, whose partners are away from the home.
  • However, this dance form is practiced solely by males, who play the role of the female characters as well.
Fig: Birha dance

15. Paika:

  • It is a martial folk dance performed in the southern parts of Odisha.
  • The dancers are armed with wooden spears & shields and show their skills and agility in infantry like formations.
  • It has a martial art character.
  • The wood Paika signifies - battle.
Fig: Paika dance

16. Bagurumba:

  • Bagurumba is a folk dance performed by the Bodo tribe of Assam and is related to nature & the environment.
  • Musical instruments that accompany Bagurumba performance are Sifung, Kham, Serja, etc.
Fig: Bagurumba dance

17. Jat-Jatin:

  • It is popular in the parts of Bihar, especially in the regions of Mithila.
  • This dance form is unique in its representation of the tender love and quarrel of a married couple.
Fig: Jat-Jatin dance

18. Jhumair:

  • It is a popular harvest dance, performed by the tribal people of Jharkhand and Odisha.
  • It has two variations: Janani Jhumair- performed by women and, Mardana Jhumair- performed by men.
  • It is the major attraction at many fairs & festivals.
Fig: Jhumair dance

19. Danda Jatra:

  • The Danda Nata or Danda Jatra is one of the oldest folk art of India, mainly popular in Odisha.
  • It is a unique blend of dance, drama & music.
  • It mainly narrates stories and lore about Shiva.
  • The theme is generally social harmony & brotherhood.
Fig: Danda Jatra

20. Bihu:

  • It is a popular dance of Assam, performed in a group by both men and women.
  • The dancers are dressed in colorful traditional dressed to celebrate the pomp and gaiety.
  • The dance performance includes group formations, rapid hand movements, and brisk footsteps.
Fig: Bihu dance

21. Thang Ta:

  • It is an exclusive dance form of Manipur.
  • Thang = sword, and Ta = spear.
  • The dance performance is a unique display of skill, creativity, and agility in which the performers enact a mock fight sequence- leaping to attack and defend.
Fig: Thang-Ta martial art 

22. Rangma:

  • It is the war dance of the Nagas
  • They dressed in colorful costumes, jewelry, and colorful headgears.
  • The dancers enact mock war formations and traditions. 
Fig: Rangma dance

23. Singhi Chham:

  • The Singhi Chham is a popular mask dance of Sikkim.
  • The dancers are dressed in furry lion costumes symbolizing the snow lion and pay tribute to Khang-Chen Dzong Pa (Kanchenjunga Peak).
Fig: Singhi Chham dance

24. Kummi:

  • Kummi is a popular folk dance in the region of Tamilnadu & Kerala.
  • The dance is performed by the women, standing in a circular formation.
  • A unique feature of the dance performance in the absence of any accompanying music. The beats are generated by the rhythmic clapping.
  • The dance is generally performed during Pongal and, other religious festivals.
  • Kolattam & Pinnal Kolattam are close variants of this dance form.
Fig: Kummi dance

25. Mayilattam (Peacock Dance):

  • Mayilattam is the folk dance of Kerala and Tamilnadu in which young girls are dressed as peacocks, with colorful headgears, beaks, and feathers.
  • Similar dances include Kaalai (bull dance), Karadi Attam (bear dance), Aali Attam (demon dance) & Pampu Attam (snake dance). 
Fig: Mayilattam (Peacock) dance

26. Butta Bommalu (Basket toys):

  • It is a popular dance form of the West Godavari, Andhra Pradesh.
  • The dancers wear masks of the different characters, resembling toy-like shapes, and entertain through delicate movements & non-verbal music.
Fig: Butta Bommula dance

27. Kaikottikali:

  • It is a popular temple dance of Kerala.
  • It is performed by both men & women at the time of Onam to celebrate the rich harvest.
  • Airukali & Tattamakali are similar forms of this dance.
Fig: Kaikottikali dance

28. Padayani:

  • It is a martial dance performed in the Bhagvati temples of Southern Kerala.
  • It means rows of infantry, and it is a very rich and colorful affair

  • The dancers were huge masks known as kolams and present interpretations of divine and semi-divine narratives.
  • Some of the popular characters are Bhairavi, Kalan (God of Death), Yakshi, and Pakshi, etc.
  • It is performed to worship Goddess Kali. 
Fig: Padayani dance

29. Kolkali-Parichakali:

  • It is a popular martial art dance in the areas of Southern Kerala & Lakshadweep.
  • Kol = stick, Paricha = shield. 
  • The dancers use mock weapons made of wood and enact fight sequences.
  • The performance starts at a slow pace, but slowly builds up the tempo, and reaches a climax in a frenzy.
Fig: Kolkali-Parichakali dance

30. Pata Kunitha:

  • It is a popular dance form in Mysore, Mandya districts, Bengaluru.
  • It is a religious dance performed by men who use long bamboo poles decorated with colorful ribbons, known as pata.
  • The colorful exuberance makes it a visual spectacle and is extremely popular among the masses of all religions.
Fig: Pata Kunitha dance

31. Chakyar Koothu:

  • It is an art form of Kerala
  • It is a solo performance, where the performer dresses as a snake.
  • It is a combination of prose & poetry and is the narration in Malayalam.
  •  It has been traditionally performed by the Chakyar community = priest caste.
  • The performer wears colorful headgear, a large mustache, and red spots all over his body.
Fig: Chkyar-kothu dance

32. Jhoomer:

  • It is performed by tribal Sikhs in Punjab and adjoining areas during the harvest season.
  • It is performed in a circle.
  • Movements of arms are the most important part, on the tune of the drums.
  • Costumes are the same as in Bhangra. It was carried to India by the traders from Balochistan.
Fig: Jhoomer dance

33. Karma Naach:

  • It is performed during the tribal festival of "Karma" utilizing tribes of Eastern India, especially in the Chota Nagpur Plateau.
  • Dancers form circle and dance with arms around each other's waist.
Fig: Karma dance

34. Raut Naach:

  • It is performed in Chhattisgarh by the Yadav community, especially during the festival of Diwali.
Fig: Raut Nacha

35. Dumhal:

  • It is performed in Jammu & Kashmir by the Wattal tribe.
  • It involves colorful costumes with a tall conical hat for men.
  • Performers dance and sing to the drum beats.
Fig: Dumhal dance

36. Fugdi:

  • It is performed in the Konkan region of Maharashtra & Goa during festivals by women.
  • The dance is varied formations, in circles or rows
  • It has many sub-types as per local customs.
Fig: Fugdi dance

37. Cheraw:

  • It is the fork dance of Mizoram and is performed using bamboo sticks.
  • It is likely to have a foreign origin.
  • Men tap long pairs of bamboo in rhythmic beats, and girls dance to the beats of bamboo.
Fig: Cheraw dance

38. Dalkhai:

  • It is mostly performed during the Dussehra in Odisha.
  • It is performed by the tribes and many musical instruments are used.
  • Events from Ramayana & Mahabharata, stories of Lord Krishna, etc. are represented.
Fig: Dalkhai dance

39. Hulivesha:

  • It is performed in Karnataka.
  • It involves male dancers painted like the tiger who dance and portray an angry tiger to honor Goddess Durga whose favorite animal is the tiger.
  • It is performed during the Navaratri festival.
Fig: Hulivesha dance

40. Tippani:

  • It is originated in the region of Gujarat.
  • It is performed by women who beat the floors with tippani (two long wooden sticks joined by square wooden or iron black) on the beats of a folk song.
Fig: Tippani dance

41. Garadi:

  • It is a famous folk dance of Puducherry and is performed to celebrate the victory of Lord Rama over Ravana.
  • The dancers distinguished as "Vanars" = Monkey, celebrate this victory. 
  • Dancers wear 10 "Anjalis" = iron rings on each of their legs.
Fig: Garadi dance

42. Terah Tali:

  • It is performed by the "Kamar" tribe of Rajasthan.
  • Women sit on the ground while performing Tera Tali and cymbals (Manjiras) are tied to different parts of the body of a performer, which is quite unique.
Fig: Terah Tali dance

43. Hojagiri:

  • It is a famous folk dance of Tripura.
  • It involves the movement of only the lower half of the body by a group of four to six women or young girls.
  • It is performed during Lakshmi puja.
  • The female dancers balance earthen pitchers as well as other props while dancing.
Fig: Hojahgiri dance


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