Incredible Dance Forms of India – Indian Dances (with states and pictures)

One of the first things a foreigner notices about India is its colourful tradition and vibrant culture. In addition, a great part of it is occupied by the folk dance forms which you will find nowhere else.


Moreover, it’s so captivating and interesting that more and more people are learning them everyday. Not many are familiar with all the different types of folk dances that are performed on different occasions, in India.


Though, all the folk dances of India are equally attractive, these are 9 Dance Forms of India that a foreigner must watch.

1.     Chhau (Jharkhand, West Bengal and Odisha)


Chhau is a very popular folk dance in the states of Orissa, Jharkhand, and West Bengal.


The brightly attired dancers blend both the dance and martial arts, performing many mock combats during the performance. Also, it involves imitation of animals, birds, and chores of village housewives.


Unlike other dance forms, this particular folk dance is passed on from the family of dancers who are trained to perform it in perfection. The dance is often based on a theme taken from either Ramayana or Mahabharata, though it may have other folklore or abstract themes as well.

2.     Bhangra (Punjab)


Though the title given to this folk dance is quite new, the dance of the Punjabi’s celebrating the harvest is quite ancient.

Moreover, this dance form has gained immense popularity. It has incorporated steps not only from other Punjabi traditional folk dances but also western and other cultures as well.


In fact, the passionate and relaxed robust movement of these dancers appeals to each and everyone. Today, the dance form has entered the fitness industry as well.

3.     Ghoomar (Rajasthan)


Ghoomar is the folk dance of Rajasthan performed by women dressed in long full flowing skirts and veils. These dancers are accompanied by men and women who lend music to the dance.


Recently, the dance has gained popularity worldwide, making into the lists of top local dances of the world. The graceful swirling dance of ghoomar has aesthetic, as well as spiritual appeal to it.

4.     Bihu Dance (Assam)


Bihu dance is perfomed celebrating the festival of Bihu. Both males and females performs a very aggressive Assamese dance.


Decked in traditional Assamese clothing, the dancers express their joy through brisk steps with equally fast hand movements to match them. Bihu music enhances the dance.

In fact, traditional musical instruments such as xutuli, taal, gogona, and dhol are used to compose the music.

5.     Garba (Gujarat)


Garba is the folk dance of Gujarat, usually performed to mark the celebrations of Navratri. This celebration lasts nine nights. Also, it is performed during marriage ceremonies.


The dancers wear bright coloured costumes made of mirror embroidery and jewelry.  The dance honours the deity Durga.


Furthermore, Raas is said to be the energetic and frenzied form of garba dance performed in honor of deity Krishna.

6.     Yakshagana (Karnataka)


Yakshagana is the folk dance that is very popular even to this day in the Malenadu and coastal region of Karnataka. The amazing on stage performance of artists with unique make-up is usually carried on from dusk to dawn. In fact, the costume, dance, and music of Yakshagana is completely independent of influences from any other art forms of India.

7.    Bharatnatyam (Tamil Nadu)


This is perhaps the most popular dance in India.

Essentially, a South Indian dance style, practised extensively in the state of Tamil Nadu, Bharatnatyam is a graceful expression of ten activities and nuances of human life namely-

  • Javaha (Agility),
  • Sthirathvam (Steadiness),
  • Rekha (graceful lines),
  • Bhramari (balance in pirouettes),
  • Drishti (glance),
  • Shramaha (hard work),
  • Medha (intelligence),
  • Shraddha(devotion),
  • Vacho (good speech), and
  • Geetam (singing ability).


To perform the above types, a Bharatnatyam dancer resorts to 108 kinds of poses and transitions called the Karanas. Not to mention they are very exotic hand movements named Hasta Mudras.


Moreover, the costume used by the dancers signify the materialistic world and it is usually performed at the beats of the classical Carnatic music which includes the flute, veena, mridangam (drum) and the nagaswaram (long pipe horn made from a black wood).

8.     Kathakali (Kerala)


You might be familiar with the painted faces of the Kathakali dancers with supernatural eye expressions with a huge gown-like costume.


A symbolic representation of the ethereal state of Kerala, Kathakali dance is all about “mudras” or expressions that range to more than twenty five.


Moreover, the musical parts covering vocals enhances the performance of Kathakali.

Some of them are – Chenda (Drum played with sticks),

Maddalam (Drum played with fingers),

Chengila (Gong) and Ilathalam (Cymbals).


Not to mention, the most interesting fact about Kathakali is that it is a conglomeration of literature (Sahithyam), music (Sangeetham), painting (Chithram), acting (Natyam) and dancing (Nritham).

9.     Kathak (North, West and Central India)


From down South, let’s move up Northern India and experience another classic dance form- Kathak.

Even though the etymological meaning of the word ‘Kathak’ means ‘to tell a story’, the story telling part is done in close coordination with the fine dance movements.


In this dance forms of India, the emphasis is much on the feet movements than the hand gestures.

Moreover, the performer ties ankle bells (known as ghungroos) around the feet and creates a synchronized sound as she steps in the stage with a master’s control.

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