Article | Blog | Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, Ministry of Culture, Government of India


Dances of India

By : Dances of India

December 16, 2022

Bronze Sculpture of Nataraja

Performing arts have been a part of Indian cultural history since ancient times. Wall paintings, excavated artifacts, memoirs, and inions have vividly mentioned various dance forms. As per texts, the first dance drama was performed in the court of Lord Indra. Natyashastra documents all the performing arts extensively and as per the text the art forms can be characterized in three categories – Nritta (movement of the body to music without any expressions or abhinay), Nritya (confluence of nritta and abhinay), and Natya (use of dialogues along with music and dance).

The dance forms are mainly categorized as – Classical dance or Folk dance. However, irrespective of the category, the majority of dance forms are devotional and connected to religion in some ways. A few of the many dance forms performed in India are:


Bharatanatyam Dance

One of the oldest classical dance forms, Bharatanatyam is performed in Tamil Nadu, India, and has evolved from a dance form to theatre art. The themes depicted through the dance are mainly love and bhakti. ‘Tanjore Quartet’ of the 19th Century can be credited to have inspired the present-day recital of Bharatanatyam.


Kathak Dance

Kathak is a popular dance form majorly performed in the northern part of India (Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, etc.). The performance is immensely inspired by scenes from epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata. The exclusivity of the dance form comes from the elegant and rhythmic footwork and graceful pirouettes.


Odissi Dance

Odissi dance was initially performed in the temples of Odisha by the ‘maharis’. The divine love story of Radha and Krishna and themes from Vaishnava traditions accentuated the theatric performance. The hand and feet gestures are soft and elegant and depict the sculptural marvel of Odisha through the dance.


Manipuri Dance

From the beautiful valleys of Manipur, their traditional dance form Manipuri is a real marvel. What makes it unique is the restrained gestures and expressions of the dancers. Throughout the performance, the dancers do not establish eye contact with the spectators. The two subcategories of the dance form are Jagoi (gentle form) and Cholom (dynamic form).


Mohiniattam Dance

This dance form of Kerala takes its name from the goddess Mohini. Mohiniattam is highly feminine with graceful movements. The artist while performing seems to be gliding on the stage with gentle foot movements. The dance form continues to be associated with the temples of Kerala.


Chhau Dance

Performed majorly in the eastern regions of India, Chhau dance is a cultural amalgamation of various art forms such as martial arts, temple traditions, and folk and vernacular performing arts. The themes of this dance form are inspired by either scene from the epics – Ramayana and Mahabharata or from local and folk traditions of the region. The artists perform to the beats of traditional drums and folk music.


Kuchipudi Dance

This dance form emerged as the result of the Bhakti Movement of the 7th Century AD in present-day Andhra Pradesh. It is a union of all three categories mentioned in the Natyashastras – Nritta, Nritya, and Natya. The dance form is a highly expressive form of theater wherein the artist performs multiple characters on the stage.