Top 10 Classical Dance Forms of India: Exploring Rich Cultural Heritage

Explore India's Top 10 Classical Dance Forms: A Journey Through Culture, Tradition, and Artistry

India is a land of cultural diversity. Each state has their traditional dance form. There are several dance forms in India, deeply rooted in history, mythology, and spirituality, reflecting the country’s vibrant cultural heritage and regional diversity. Each dance form in India tells a unique story of their region. Today, we bring you a list of the top 10 classical dance forms of India, showcasing the beauty and diversity of Indian dance traditions.

  1. Bharatanatyam
  2. Manipuri
  3. Odissi
  4. Kuchipudi
  5. Kathak
  6. Kathakali
  7. Sattriya
  8. Mohiniyattam
  9. Bihu
  10. Yakshagana

 

 

1. Bharatanatyam

Bharatanatyam:

Bharatanatyam is a classical dance from Tamil Nadu. It is one of the oldest and most revered dance forms in India. It is characterised by its intricate footwork, graceful movements, and expressive storytelling. It is a classical dance which can be performed by male or female dancers with rigorous training under a Guru (teacher). The key point of the Bharatanatyam dance is its precise technique, elaborate costumes, and emotive facial expressions which make it impactful for the viewers. The Bharatanatyam word originated from the two Sanskrit words – Bharata and Natyam. Where BHarata means mnemonic with emotion on the rhythm and Natyam means dance.

 

 

2. Manipuri

Manipuri:

Manipuri dance is the classical dance of the northeastern state of Manipur. It is Rooted in Vaishnavism and the devotion to Lord Krishna, performance in the temple and special occasions like marriages. Manipuri dance is performed on traditional Manipuri music, including classical ragas, devotional songs, and rhythmic beats. pung (drum), Kartal (cymbals), and flute, etc are the commonly used instruments to enhance performance. Manipuri dance Dancers perform delicate footwork known as “chilli,” which involves gentle gliding and intricate patterns on the floor. While performing, dancers wear traditional attire such as the phanek (wrap-around skirt) for women and dhoti-kurta for men, which enhance the performance more.  

 

 

3. Odissi

Odissi

Odissi is a classical traditional dance from the eastern state of Odisha. It is Inspired by temple sculptures and the ancient texts of Natya Shastra. Hence Odissi dance features distinctive postures (bhangis), sculpturesque poses (abhinaya), and intricate footwork (tandava). Kavichandra Kalicharan Pattanayak is responsible for this dance form and named it the Odissi dance. It is related to the dance performed in the northern temples of India.  It often depicts stories from Hindu mythology and is characterised by its use of hand gestures (mudras) and facial expressions. This dance is mostly devoted to Lord Jagannath. Dancers wear traditional attire to perform for the Odissi dance. 

 

 

4. Kuchipudi

Kuchipudi:

Kuchipudi is a classical dance from the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, India. It is named after the village of Kuchipudi, where it originated. This dance form is a combination of dance, music, and theatre to create captivating performances. This dance form is a combination of tandava and lasya elements. A professional dancer needs at least 2-7 years of practice to master it. Kuchipudi dance is performed on the rhythmic syllables (Kolkata) and intricate rhythmic patterns (tala), which are synchronised with the movements of the dancers to create a mesmerising effect.

 

 

5. Kathak

Kathak

Kathak is originating from the northern regions of India, particularly in the state of Uttar Pradesh.  The word “Kathak ” means “storyteller,” which is a Sanskrit word which reflects its emphasis on narrative elements. Kathak dancers also known as Kathakars dance the tabla, sitar, sarangi and other classical instruments. Kathak is known for its rhythmic footwork (tatkar), fast spins (chakkars), and graceful hand gestures (mudras). Kathak dance form combines elements of pure dance (nritta) and expressive storytelling (nritya), poetry, and music. It features both fast-paced compositions (tukras) and expressive storytelling (abhinaya). There are kathak costumes to perform the kathak dance. 

 

6. Kathakali

Kathakali is a highly stylized classical dance-drama from the southern state of Kerala. The name Kathakali is derived from the two Malayalam words, “katha” meaning story and “kali” meaning performance. The Kathakali dance is characterised by their dramatic portrayals of mythological stories mainly from the Ramayana and Mahabharata. This dance-drama is known for its elaborate costumes, colourful makeup (chutti), and expressive facial expressions. It is a combination of dance, music, mime, and theatre based on the Ramayana and Mahabharata. The makeup of Kathakali is special and known as “chutti” which adds different types of impact on the performance.

 

 

7. Sattriya

Sattriya dance form belongs to the northeastern state of Assa, It is classical dance rooted in the Vaishnavite tradition and the practices of the Satras, or Vaishnavite monasteries, of Assam. It is one of the classical dances recognized by the Sangeet Natak Akademi, India’s national academy for music, dance, and drama. This dance is performed by male and female dancers, who are known as Sattriyas. It is a difficult dance form, that needs to be trained and practised to be a professional. Sattriyas wear ankiya (silk cloth) for women and dhoti-kurta for men while performing.

 

 

8. Mohiniyattam

Mohiniyattam is a classical dance belonging to the southern state of Kerala. Its name Mohiniyattam is derived from the “Mohini” which means a female avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu and “attam” means dance. This dance form is based on the stories of Lord Krishna and the Radha-Krishna love story. Mohiniyattam performances are accompanied by traditional Kerala music, including classical ragas and rhythmic compositions. There is a special costume too to perform the Mohiniyattam dance. It is an off-white or cream-coloured saree with golden borders with traditional jewellery and makeup.

 

 

9. Bihu

Bihu is a traditional folk dance and festival from the northeastern Indian state of Assam. It is quite popular among the Assamese people. This is not just a dance form, it is an integral part of Assamese culture. Bihu dance is also known as Bihu Naas, which is popular during the Rongali Bihu festival.  It is a very vibrant and energetic folk dance.

 

 

10. Yakshagana

Yakshagana is a traditional folk dance from the coastal regions of Karnataka. It is highly popular in the districts of Dakshina Kannada, Udupi, and Uttara Kannada. The Yakshagana is derived from the two Kannada words- “Yaksha”, which means celestial beings and “Gana”, which means song. The Yakshagana performance involves a troupe of artists, including actors (known as “Bhagavatam”), musicians, and dancers.

 

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