The 9 Dance Forms of India

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Written By Santana

Unveiling India's Treasures from the eyes of an insightful author

Lord Shiva’s NATARAJA (Lord of the Dance) image is one of India’s most recognizable icons. Shiva’s cosmic dance, according to Hinduism, involves the processes of creation, preservation, and destruction, and this notion has been rooted in Hindu philosophy and ritual since the dawn of civilization.

India is well-known for having a diverse and rich cultural history. The country’s identity is based on its ability to diversify. Indian dancing is one of our culture’s most cherished symbols and one of its most important.

Generally speaking, dancing forms in India may be divided into two categories: Classical and folk.

According to local legend, these dance styles have developed in various regions of India and spread worldwide. This article will briefly overview the different Indian classical and folk dance styles.

India’s Dance Forms

Classical and folk dance are India’s two most popular types of dance. The origin of the dance is the most significant distinction between classical and folk dance. Classical dance has a long and continuing connection with the Natya Shastra, which describes the unique characteristics of each classical dance style.

On the other hand, folk dance originates in the local traditions of the particular state, ethnic group, or geographic area in which it originated.

Classical Dance in India

India is a culturally varied country, with unique languages, cuisines, and dance traditions in almost every area. The country has a population of 1.2 billion people. There are many different kinds of dance in India, all magnificent.

Classical, folkloric, and tribal forms are examples of this. India’s Bharatanatyam dance style, the world’s oldest and most famous classical dance form, was created during ancient times.

International Dance Day is celebrated by taking a virtual tour of India’s world-renowned classical dance traditions, which you may see here.

The Natya Shastra is the source of today’s traditional dance styles. There are eight traditional dance styles in India. The Indian Cultural Ministry has added Chhau to the list of classical dances, bringing the country’s total number of traditional dance forms to nine.

The following are the 9 fundamental technicalities (Navarasas) that are portrayed in classical dance:


The following is a list of Indian classical dances:

Origin State India’s classical dances
Andhra Pradesh Kuchipudi
Assam Sattriya
Jharkhand Chhau
Kerala Kathakali
Kerala Mohiniyattam
Manipur Manipuri
Odisha Odissi
Tamil Nadu Bharatnatyam
Uttar Pradesh Kathak

1. Kuchipudi | Andra Pradesh

Kuchipudi is an Indian dancing form with a long history. The art style is named for where the artist was born in Andhra Pradesh’s Krishna district. Siddhendra Yogi created the Kuchipudi style of Yakshagaana in the 17th century.

Kuchipudi - Dance Forms of India

Siddhendra Yogi is believed to have had a dream in which Lord Krishna requested him to compose a dance-drama based on the legend of the Paarijaata flower being brought to Sathyabhaama, Krishna’s most adored queen.

Siddhendra Yogi wrote the Bhaamaakalaapam in response to this instruction. The form’s originator staged a dance drama with young boys from Hamlet. Techniques like dancing on the rim of a brass plate and with a pitcher full of water on the head were introduced to demonstrate the dancers’ skill in footwork and their control and balance over their bodies.

Kuchipudi was firmly acknowledged as a distinct classical solo dancing form by the middle of the twentieth century.

2. Sattriya | Assam

sattriya - Dance Forms of India

The ‘Sattras’ created by Mahapurush Srimanta Sankardev in the 15th and 16th centuries gave birth to Sattriya Dance. The Sattras were founded to spread Vaishnavism and eventually evolved into a religious, cultural, and social center for the people of Assam.

The famous Vaishnavite Saint created this dance style, and its fundamental origins are similar to other forms of Indian classical dance. This dance style got its name from the word “Sattra” and was originally a component of the “Ankia Naats.”

Male Bhokots initially performed this dance style in the Sattras and Namghars as part of religious ceremonies to promote the Vaishnavism ideology. It was restricted inside the four walls of the Sattras for many centuries.

3. Chhau | Jharkhand

The royal family of Saraikela, an ancient state in Jharkhand, has preserved the chhau, a unique form of masked dance. The performer takes on the character of a god, an animal, a bird, a hunter, a rainbow, a night, or a flower.

Chhau - Dance Forms of India

He presents a short topic and a series of stories during April’s annual Chaitra Parva event. The term ‘Chaya’ refers to the Chhau Dance. Chaya translates as “shade.” Energetic martial arts moves characterize Chhau Dance.

Serpent Dance and Peacock Dance are two examples of Chhau Dance narrations. Mayurbhanj Chhau Dance does not include the usage of masks.

Chhau Dance has been inscribed on UNESCO’s Representative List of Humanity’s Intangible Cultural Heritage.

There are three kinds of Chhau Dance:

  • Saraikella: This Chhau Dance is famous in Jharkhand
  • Mayurbhanj: This Chhau Dance is famous in Odisha

4. Kathakali | Kerala

Kerala is home to various traditional dances and dance dramas, the most famous of which is Kathakali. Kathakali is an old art form developed from different social and religious theatre traditions that flourished in the southern region.


Kerala’s ceremonial performance arts, such as Chakiarkoothu, Koodiyattam, Krishnattam, and Ramanattam, have directly affected Kathakali’s form and technique.

Kathakali dance sequences may be found in Kerala temple sculptures and murals from the Mattancheri temple, which dates from the 16th century.

It is a “story play” art form, but it is differentiated by the traditionally male actor-dancer’s lavishly colorful make-up, costumes, and face masks.

5. Mohiniyattam | Kerala


Kerala’s ancient solo dance form, Mohiniyattam, is rightly translated as the dance of ‘Mohini,’ the Hindu mythical heavenly enchantress.

According to a Puranic legend, Lord Vishnu masked himself as a ‘Mohini’ to attract the Asuras both during the churning of the ocean and the slaying of Bhasmasura.

Its roots may be traced back to Kerala’s temples. Flexible, swinging body movements characterize Mohiniyattam.

The lasya style is feminine, delicate, and beautiful. The toe glides and up and down movement emphasize the soft body movements, recalling the swaying of coconut, palm, and paddy fields.

6. Manipuri | Manipur

Manipur Rasleela dances

Manipuri is an Indian classical dance style that originates in the state of Manipur in India’s northeastern corner, both picturesque and secluded. Manipuri dance has its roots in the ancient past.

Traditionally, the dance has been linked to religious rites and festivals, including stories about Shiva, Parvati, and other deities dancing. Manipuri dance has many styles, although the Ras, the Sankirtana, and the Thang-Ta are the most popular.

The popular Manipur Rasleela dances date back to King Bhagyachandra’s reign in the 18th century. According to legend, the King dreamed up this dance style, complete with a distinctive costume and original music, during a sleepless night. Radha, Krishna, and the gopis are central characters in Manipuri Ras.

7. Odissi | Odisha

Odissi Dance

Odissi, an Indian classical dance style, originates in the eastern seaboard state of Odisha, known as Odissi.

This dancing style has been documented as far back as the 2nd century B.C. in the Bhubaneshwar caves of Udayagiri and Khandagiri.

The temple dancers, known as Mahari, have been the primary keepers of this dance for hundreds of years. The dancer is dressed in ornate silver Odiya jewelry and a unique hairstyle.

Each time they perform, even a contemporary Odissi dancer reinforces the devadasis’ or Mahari’s belief in dancing as a means of freedom or moksha for themselves.

Robust and explosive footwork (tandava) combines graceful, elegant female postures and motions, resulting in a highly stylized dance form (Lasya). Odissi focuses on spirituality and dedication since it has been passed down from teacher to student for thousands of years.

8. Bharatanatyam | Tamil Nadu

The term ‘Bharatanatyam’ is derived from three fundamental concepts: Bhava, Raga, and Thaala, which are all related. This is the basic interpretation of the name Bharatanatyam – BHAva (expression) + RAga (music) + TAla (rhythm) + NATYAM (dancing)  


Hindu temple dancers in southern India used to practice Bharatanatyam, a traditional Indian dance style with origins in the Tamil Nadu region. Initially performed in Hindu temples in Tamil Nadu, south India, Bharatanatyam is an old classical dance style.

Bharata Natyam is used to express Hindu religious concepts and devotions. Its techniques and language may be traced back to ancient texts written by the Brahman sage and priest Bharata, such as the Natya-shastra.

Bharata Natyam was initially only performed by female temple dancers, and it wasn’t taken to the stage for public performances until around 1930.

9. Kathak | Uttar Pradesh


‘Kathak’ comes from the term ‘Kata,’ which means story/tale in Sanskrit. Kathakars, also known as storytellers, tell tales heavily influenced by epics, myths, and legends.

The recitation became more powerful via mime and gestures, which may have originated as an oral tradition. As we know it now, Kathak is rooted in this basic style of expressional dance that evolved through time.

Traditional Hindustani music and dance are entangled in this style of north Indian dance, which features agile feet and an instrument called pakhawaj. Kathak emphasizes feet rather than Bharatanatyam’s hasta mudras or hand motions.

These dances have no hip movements; the dancers rely on their ankle bells (ghungaroos) to keep time with their steps. In terms of clothing and ideas, these dances frequently resemble miniature paintings from the Mughal period.

Indian folk dances 

Folk dances in India reflect the culture and history of the community from whom they originated. The performance of folk dances often marks births, festivals, weddings, and other community festivities. In India, there are many distinct kinds of folk dances are there.

The following is a list of Indian folk dances:

Origin StateIndia’s classical dances
Andhra PradeshKuchipudi
Tamil NaduBharatnatyam
Uttar PradeshKathak

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