India is a land of rich culture and heritage. And what better feature of the country could depict this than the Indian dance forms. The traditional dances of India have different styles. This is so because the dance forms belong to varied parts of the country – they originated there and then developed with all the cultural elements.
There are a great many folk dances that belong to separate regions of the country and are mainly performed by the local people of that particular region only. The Indian film dances also hold a significant spot in the culture of the country.
Origin of Indian Dance Forms
The dance forms of India have their origin since the ancient Vedic period wherein people used to indulge into singing and dancing for entertainment and recreational purposes. The Vedas hold an elaborate mention of performing arts. The Hindu text Natya Shastra includes all the earliest compilations of the ancient dance forms.
From these ancient dance forms have been derived the classical dances of India. Let’s get an insight into the popular dances of the country.
Originated in 1000 BC, the Bharatanatyam dance belongs to Tamil Nadu in South India. This is mostly performed on Carnatic music. Earlier, the dance was performed only in Hindu temples and at other religious places. Bharatanatyam used to be a solo dance form performed only by women and depicted religious ideas and spiritual themes. During the British era, this dance form was suppressed and ridiculed. However, it went on to become one of the most famous traditional dances of India.
This is the most stylized dance form (basically a dance drama) that belongs to Kerala. Kathakali is a 17th-century dance form which is performed like a story-play and has very colourful and elaborate costumes, makeup, as well as face masks. Unlike other Indian dance forms, Kathakali is performed mainly by men. It was also traditionally performed in temples and religious chambers. The dance movements are incorporated from the ancient athletic traditions and martial arts of South India.
This dance form belongs to North India, and the name ‘Kathak’ has been taken from the Sanskrit work ‘katha’ which means ‘story’. Hence, Kathak is ‘the one who tells the story’. It majorly consists of passionate and childhood stories of Lord Krishna. Kathak has three different forms which belong to, and are also named after three North Indian cities – Lucknow, Banaras and Jaipur. Ghungroo (small bells) is the main element and involves rhythmic body movements with facial expressions.
Kuchipudi is a dance form of Andhra Pradesh. Like other major classical Indian dances, Kuchipudi also has its roots and developed as a religious performing art. According to history, this dance was originally performed by Brahmin males, but now both men and women perform this dance. This is a pure dance form that includes expressions and sign languages.
This dance belongs to Odisha, the coastal state of Eastern India. Odissi is a dance-drama style performing art, practiced traditionally by women to express spiritual themes and religious ideas. The dance is accompanied by musicians, wherein they narrate mythical stories, and the dancers perform wearing symbolic costumes with rhythmic movements, facial expressions and gestures.
As the name suggests, this dance form is from the North-Eastern Indian state of Manipur. This dance form takes its inspiration from the Raslila of Radha-Krishna and depicts such love-inspired dances. Manipuri is performed in a group and has a very unique and special costume called Kumil, which is a beautifully decorated skirt in the shape of a barrel. This is a very graceful dance which majorly involves movements of the upper body.
This dance form of Kerala takes its name from the seductress avatar of the Hindu God Vishnu, Mohini, who lured the evil demons to help good prevail over the bad. Mohiniyattam is a Lasya style dance which is feminine in nature and comprises delicate body movements. This is a slow dance solo performance by women.
So, these were the famous traditional dances of India and a little history about their origins. Other than these, there are other tribal and folk dances too that mark the significance of Indian culture.