Indian classical dance | All type’s of dances of India

Indian classical dance | All type’s of dances of India
All type’s of Dances of India

Versatile dance forms – both classical and regional – have evolved in India since ancient times. Indian dance has permeated all forms of art, which is found in other places including poetry, sculpture, painting, music and theater. Dance of India is a composite art of distinct characteristics, reflecting the Indian worldview of philosophy, religion, life cycle, weather, and environment. As a dynamic art, dance forms continue to develop, with the imagination of creative artists. The images found in the caves, Mohan Jodaro’s ‘dancing woman idol’, evidences found in the Vedas, Upanishads and other epics clearly attest to India’s rich tradition of performing dances. The Natya Shastra of Bharata Muni is considered to be the first authentic book of dance. It is also called Panchaveda. With its roots in Hinduism, for centuries dance art has inspired artists of sculpture, whose influence can be clearly seen on our temples. The best example of this is the brilliantly complex and symbolic depiction of Shiva as ‘Nataraja’.

Indian classical dances are governed by aesthetic principles codified in the Natya Shastra. According to the theory of Natyashastra, there are two types of dance – Margie (Tandava) and Lasya. The Tandava dance was performed by Lord Shankar. This dance is performed with utmost virility and strength. Lasya on the other hand is a gentle dance which Lord Krishna used to perform with the gopis. Here are some more distinct differences –

Nritta or pure dance, it is performed on abstract gestures and rhythms.

Dance, or expression dance, involves organs, facial expressions, and hand gestures to convey the meaning of a song.

Natya or drama, in which the four elements of acting are used to communicate a theme. The four elements of acting are: Angika or physical activities; Vachika or speech and conversation; Aharya or costumes, stage positions, and qualities; And sattvic or mental conditions.

Natyashastra divides all human expressions into nine juices – Shringar (love); Veer (valor); Rudra (cruelty); Fear; Bibhatsa (hatred); Humor (laughter); Karun (compassion); Amazing (surprise); And calm (peace).

The purpose of any dance is to produce rasa, which according to the sentiment is a state of emotion created by the dancer in the audience.

Most of the classical dances were related to religion, so the material of the dance was usually related to the goddess deities. The dance in the temple is now banned, the spirit of devotion (devotion) pervading classical dance has always been awakened by extraordinary dancers. Bharata Natyam is the oldest classical dance form, but along with it, seven other regional styles have emerged:

Kuchipudi (South East Coast); Kathak (answer); Kathakali, Mohiniattam (south west coast); Odyssey, (East Coast); Manipuri (Northeast); And Sattriya Dance (Assam, North East).


It is the oldest of all dances, which is also seen in Mohan Jodaro’s ‘Dancing Woman Idol’. Bharatanatyam represents lasya, in which a dancer displays 10 or 12 expressions. Bharatanatyam flourished in South India, where the Pallava and Chola kings built magnificent Hindu temples for their sculpture, painting and devotion to the gods. The Chola kings kept hundreds of devadasis (services of gods) in their temples. This tradition continued till the end of the nineteenth century by the Pandya, Nayaka and Maratha rulers. Devadasis performed their dances at rituals and other religious events in temples and they also enjoyed the patronage of Brahmins here. The British rule and Christian missionaries felt that the Devadasi tradition had by that time been reduced to mere prostitutes. The Devdasi Act in 1927 banned all forms of dancing in temples in Madras (Tamil Nadu).

In the early decades of the twentieth century, Rukmini Devi Arundel, an upper-class Brahmin woman, studied Bharatanatyam and attempted to revive it. During the session of the Indian National Congress in Madras in 1927, E. Krishna Iyer, a lawyer and freedom fighter, organized the first All India Music Conference. The Sangeet Academy was established in 1928 and the dance of two devadasi dancers was presented on its platform. Rukmini Devi also performed before an international gathering at the Theosophical Society in Madras in 1935. He also established the Kalakshetra Academy, a training institute in Bharata Natyam in 1936. From then on, the stigma against it began to wane, and within a few years Bharat Natyam gained unprecedented popularity.

The technique of Bharata Natyam consists of 64 principles of coordination of hand, foot, mouth and body movements, which are performed with the dance curriculum. Bharata Natyam is a comparatively new name. It was earlier known as Sadir, Dasi Attam and Thanjavuranatyam.

The credit for giving it its present form is to Tanjore Chatushtaya i.e. Paunnaiah, Pillai and their captives. It was revived in the 20th century under the patronage of artists like Rabindranath Tagore, Uday Shankar and Maneka. Rukmini Devi Arundale has been India’s first renowned dancer, and among her contemporaries were artists such as Ram Gopal, Mrinalini Sarabhai, Shanta Rao, and Kamala. Other prominent actors include Yamini Krishnamurthy, Sonal Mansingh, Padma Subrahmanyam, Malavika Sarkar. Artists like Chandralekha tried to give it a new look by adding martial arts to the emotional themes.


Kathak means ‘Katha’ means a dance that describes a story. Kathak grew and refined over the centuries mainly in the sacred Hindu temples in north-India, and it enriched itself with various colors of the culture here. The references to Kathak are also found in epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata. Along with the development of the Bhakti period in medieval India, Kathak was also exhibited in the temple premises in the form of dance-dramas such as Akhyana, Pandavani, Harikatha and Kalakshapam etc. Kathak evolved into a solo dance. The great Mughal emperors patronized Kathak artists, but the content of the dance changed dramatically here. Now the emphasis was on dancing pure and abstract, depicting the love stories of Radha and Krishna. The dance also had a Persian cultural influence under the patronage of the Mughals. The Hindu kings of Rajasthan also patronized Kathak dancers of mythological Hindu stories. Kathak is a very systematic and pure classical dance style, in which all attention is paid to the rhythm. In this dance special attention is paid to the movement of the feet (tatkar) and revolving (rounding). Most Kathak dances depict the love stories of Radha-Krishna, the spring of their lives. This art reached its climax during the time of Wajid Ali Shah, the last Nawab of Awadh, Lucknow, and it also attempted to adjust ghazals and thumri. Kathak was performed in the temple courtyards for rich landlords, so it was gradually condemned as indecent dance of prostitutes.


Maneka, a high-class Brahmin dance artist, embraced Kathak dance and introduced many reforms and refinements. He helped a lot in bringing social approval for Kathak and removing its stigma. Kathak got protection from the government after independence. There were new experiments and adjustments in the theater with its performances and it became more prosperous.

Beautiful dancer of Indian dance Bharatanatyam

Sitara Devi, Birju Maharaj, Roshan Kumari, Durga Lal Rohini Bhatai, Kumudini Lakhia, Uma Sharma, Urmila Nagar, Ram Mohan, Saswati Sen, and Rajendra Ganagani are all famous artists of this art.

Kumudini Lakhiya introduced innovations on contemporary themes in Kathak.


Kathakali is a dance-drama form of the state of Kerala. Kathakali is the culmination of a long process of development which is made up of the assimilation of Koodiyattam (a type of high-style drama) and Kalaripayattu (a type of martial art). The most supernatural and mythological aspects related to the life and works of divine beings, gods, demons, and saints are displayed as the contents of Kathakali. Koodiyattam has been in existence since the ninth and tenth centuries, contemporary Kathakali, independently emerged in the seventeenth century as a highly formalistic and elaborate dance-drama. In Kathakali, the dancers do not speak anything, and its theatrical song goes to Manipravalam, a type of Malayalam rich in Sanskrit. Kathakali is displayed with elaborate hand gestures and popular postures. During the monsoon months, its dancers massage oil etc. to make the body more flexible.
The training of Kathakali is very difficult, and after ten years of hard work, an artist is given a small role. Kathakali costumes and makeup reflect the symbolic nuances of the Kathakali performance. The main feature of Kathakali is the various movements of the facial muscles. Apart from Kathakali, no other dance uses eyebrows, eyes and lower eyelids. In this dance, the face becomes a playground of various conflicting emotions or emotions. Elaborate makeup is done to identify the individual characters. The singing style of Kathakali music has evolved into a distinct stair style, which has a very slow tempo. There are two main composers in Kathakali, with the main composer being known as ‘Ponani’ and the other as ‘Cincidi’. Two other musicians play chenda and madalam (a type of drum). In Kathakali, mostly men play the role of women, but for some time women have been included in Kathakali. Kalyan Saugandhikam, Bali Vijayam, Lavanasuravadham, Nal Charitam and Sita Swayamvaram are among its famous dance plays.

The Kerala Kala Mandalam Sansthan was founded by poet Vallathol Narayan Menon in 1936 to revive Kathakali. The institute invited renowned artists like KP Kunju Kurup, T Chandu Panikkar, T Ramunni Nair, Guru Gopinath, V Kunchu Nair, Chengannur Raman Pillai, M Vishnu Namboodari, and Kalamandalam Krishnan Nair to teach here.

Contemporary Kathakali artists include Ramanakutty Nair, K.K. Artists like Chatunni, Panikkar, Kalamandalam Padmanabhan Nair and Kalamandalam Gopi are included.


According to Kerala tradition, King Kulasekhar Varman (900 AD) practiced this dance with his Brahmin minister Tollan. He introduced the use of Malayalam language of Kerala on the stage where only Sanskrit of North India was used. Four classical stages (ashrams) of Hindu life are used in it. Koodiyattam offers immense possibilities of aesthetic bliss. In this, a dance-drama can last for eight to nine days, which is practiced for months. Its plays present the audience with humor, humor, and satire in superb Malayalam. The dance begins at the end of the introduction and the rhythm verses in Sanskrit are spoken by the characters. The role of women is played by naked women. Nambyar plays a large copper drum called Mizhawa. Generally, this art is staged in the Natyagrahs associated with a temple called ‘Kuttampalam’.

Four methods of acting are used in Koodiyattam – ‘Aangik’, ‘Vachik’, ‘Satvik’ and ‘Dietary’. In Koodiyattam, vivid acting is done using the handmudras. Special acting practices like Ilakiyattam, Pakarnattam, Irunnattam etc. are also adopted in it. It is also educational as well as didactic. In this, the role of the jester who preaches is very prominent, which points towards social evils. It is presented by the people of the Chakyar and Nampiar communities. The first 18 families of Chakyaar used to stage it, which has now been reduced to 6 families and their number is decreasing. Ammanour, Kitannur, and Panakulam are famous Chakiar families. Ram Chakiar, Chachu Chakiar, and Mani Madhav Chakiar were great artists of the past. Ammanour Madhav Chakiyar, G. Venu and his daughter Kapila are the heritage of the younger generation of this art.


According to ancient beliefs, in Kuchipudi village in Andhra Pradesh, Yogi Siddhendra, who was a devotee of Lord Krishna, composed this dance, and vowed to uphold the Kuchipudi tradition with some Brahmin male actors. This dance is mentioned in many inscriptions and literary sources of the sixteenth century, which probably evolved from Yakshagana. When this dance was performed in 1668 in front of Nawab Abdul Hasan Tahnishah of Golconda, he was very impressed by it, and he gave this village to the Brahmins who participated in this performance. After this, the descendant families of those Brahmins carried on this tradition.

The most popular Kuchipudi drama is the story of Satyabhama, the most jealous wife of Lord Krishna, who hates sharing her divine husband with her sixteen thousand wives and vows to lock herself in a closet and never leave. Madhavi then plays the role of a good and intelligent intermediary to reconcile between Satyabhama and Lord Krishna. Traditionally, the role of women has also been played by men, of which Satyabhama’s role is the most prestigious. It is a drama known as the most popular dance drama of modern India, called Bhamakalpam. Other popular Kuchipudi plays are Usha Parinayam, Prahlada Charitram, and Gola Kalapam. It contains a song for each actor to enter, through which he introduces himself. This tradition is still alive and members of the society in Kuchipudi village demonstrate it every year. Lakshminarayan Shastri is a great performer of this dance. He started new acts like dancing individually, by balancing on the rim of a brass plate, which he called Tarangam. His disciple Vempati Chinna Satyam has also done good work for this tradition.

Vedantam Satyam is known for traditional female impersonation, but this tradition is also slowly fading. Yamini Krishnamurthy, Shobha Naidu, Raja Radha Reddy, Swapna Sundari, and Mallika Sarabhai are some of Kuchipudi’s well-known artists.


Manipuri is a centuries-old tradition of dance and music, which has developed into a close coexistence with religious life. No social festival is celebrated in Manipur without dance and music. The ancient Hindu festival of Manipur is Lai Haroaba (Sports of Gods), which is dedicated to Hindu deities. Mabis or priests invoke the total deities of the village. Their traditional dance describes the universe, creation of the world, human body and human activities.

The fifteenth-century Bengali Vaishnavas, a devotional cult of Hinduism, found expression in Manipur and became a state religion in 1764 during the reign of King Bhagyachandra. Hence the Vaishnavite religious themes, such as stories of Krishna’s childhood mischiefs and divine love with Radha, are found in the subject material of Manipur’s two dance forms, Sankirtana and Raslila.

Manipuri dance is a night-long performance in the temple premises. Sankirtana is performed on occasions of ear piercing, marriage ceremony, funerals, when the child is born or for the first time giving food to the child. The gurus of Manipuri dance have made their music more rich and attractive by developing their own rhythm. It consists of songs by two groups of women called Nupi Bhakshak. It is used by translating the original compositions of Vaishnava poets of medieval period such as Chandidas, Vidyapati and Jayadeva into Meitei language (Manipuri language). Manipuri dances are mostly performed in groups, but some dances of Raslila are also performed solo. Natsankirtan is performed before Raslila. Basantras, Kunjaras, Maharas and Nityaras are the various forms of Raslila, which are displayed on specific festivals.

Chotombi Singh has danced Cabul Lamjao about the disappearing species of deer in Manipur. Preeti Patel has also combined Thanga-ta, a type of martial art, in traditional Manipuri dance. Guru Amobi Singh and his disciples

Mahabir, Jamuna Devi, Ojha Babu Singh, Rajkumar Singhjit Singh, his wife Charu Sija, Priya Gopal Sana, Guru Bipin Singh’s wife Kalavati Devi, their daughter Bimbavati, Jhaveri sisters and Preity Patel are all well-known artists of Manipuri dance.

Mohiniyattam or Mohini Attam

Mohiniyattam means “The Dance of the Magician”, which is a solo dance form of Kerala performed only by female dancers. Devadasis of Tamil Nadu performed dances in temples, but in Kerala women dancers were associated only with the Suchindram and Tripunithura temples. The mention of this dance is found in the Nedumpura inscriptions dating back to 934 AD. Two dance gurus and brothers Sivanandam and Vadivelu received royal patronage in the court of King Swati Tirunal, a nineteenth-century poet, and contributed significantly to the development of a solo performance of Mohiniyattam, similar to Bharata Natyam. The beautiful landscape of Kerala, coconut waving trees , The boats navigating the waters of its lagoon are reflected in the gentle dance pattern of Mohiniyattam. The Mohiniyattam dance begins with the singing of Cholkettu. Traditionally, Mohiniyattam dance involves staging the story of Lord Vishnu’s Sagar Manthan, in which he takes the form of Mohini during Sagar Manthan and destroys Bhasmasura.

When Kala Mandalam was established by the poet Vallathol in 1936 for the training of Kathakali, he also kept the tradition of Mohiniyattam alive with it. Artists like Kalyani, Madhavi, and Krishna Panikkar trained here. Shatna Rao, Satyabhama, Kshemavati and Sugandhi are well-known artists of this dance. Artists like Kanak Rayle and Bharti Shivaji gave new popularity to it by using scientific approach.


In the early stage of development of Odissi in Natyashastra, it was called Odra dance. The sculpture of the Ranigumpha cave in the Udayagiri hills of Odisha in the first century BC shows the performance of this dance of a dancer. Odissi dance was developed both in Hindu temples and in the royal court. An important tradition of Odissi dance is revealed from the numerous temples of Odisha and the Natyamandapa built in the thirteenth-century Konark temple. The epigraphical evidence of the eleventh-century Brahmeshwar Temple in Odisha, mentions the dedication of maharis or dance maidens (devadasis of Odisha) in Orissa at that time. They are also mentioned in the thirteenth-century Anantavasudev temple. The Odissi dance was performed in the inner sanctum of the Jagannath temple in Puri only for the deities.

Chandrika, a fifteenth-century acting text composed by Maheshwar Mahapatra, mentions the characteristics of Odissi dance. Odissi dance has a remarkable sculptural quality.

The dance was also banned during the British rule, but after independence the Odyssey was revived by its gurus, prominent among them Pankaj Charan Das, Kelucharan Mohapatra, and Deba Prasad Das. Sanjukta Panigrahi, Priyambada Mohanty, Kumkum Mohanty, Minati Mishra, and Sonal Mansingh are well known performers of Odissi dance.

Apart from this, the Chakyarakuntu dance, which only Savarna Hindus could see, the Ottanattullu dance, the Krishnattam dance or the Krishnaattam dance, which depicts the story of Krishna, the Kuttiyattam or Kutiyattam dance are also famous dances of Kerala.

Yakshagana is a folk dance of the state of Karnataka, which is accompanied by traditional music with war-related themes taken from great texts like Ramayana and Mahabharata. It is usually displayed at night in paddy fields.


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