- List of Indian folk dances
Indian folk and tribal dances are simple dances, and are performed to express joy. Folk and tribal dances are performed for every possible occasion, to celebrate the arrival of seasons, birth of a child, a wedding and festivals. The dances are extremely simple with minimum of steps or movement. The dances burst with verve and vitality. Men and women perform some dances exclusively, while in some performances men and women dance together. On most occasions, the dancers sing themselves, while being accompanied by artists on the instruments. Each form of dance has a specific costume. Most costumes are flamboyant with extensive jewels.
While there are numerous folk and tribal dances, they are constantly improved. The skill and the imagination of the dances influence the performance.A good example is the Haka.
Bardo Chham (Arunchal Pradesh)
A folk dance of
Sherdukpens, a small community of West Kameng Districtof Arunachal Pradesh, Bardo Chham depicts the victory of good over evil. The dance has an interesting background. According to the local beliefs, forces - both good and evil, rule mankind. The folks believe that in one year, twelve different types of stupid things , representing evil forces, appear each month and get together. The sherdukpens mask themselves representing the different animals and dance to the accompaniment of drums and cymbals as an act of fighting the evil forces.
The dance known as
Bhangrais one of Punjab's most popular dances and the name of the music style. Bhangra is done with classic style Punjabi dresses, and with instruments including a Dhol, Chimta, Tabla, etc. Bhangra is a very popular style of music and dance in Punjab, but is also very popular in U.K., Canada, and United States where many Bhangra competitions are now held. Creating Bhangra teams has become very popular and influential with teenagers. Some of the best Bhangra Teams include: Harmeet & Manu Foundation, PAU Bhangra, Budda Junction, Nachdi Jawani, Sher Foundation, Lethal Bhangra Crew, UBC Girls, Punjabi Soormay, GTA Bhangra, Duniya All-Stars, Apna Bhangra Crew and many more. There are also popular collegiate teams such as Davis Di Dynasty (UC Davis), Rangla Punjab (UC Irvine), Rochester Bhangra (University of Rochester), Texas Bhangra (UT Austin), and UCLA's Bruin Bhangra.
Chang Lo (or) Sua Lua (Nagaland)
This dance of the Chang tribe of
Nagalandwas performed to celebrate the victory over enemies in the earlier times. Presently, it forms a part of all the community celebrations, such as Poanglem, a three day festival preceding the harvest season. There are dramatic costumes of the traditional Naga warrior and finery of womenfolk.
Charkula (Madhya Pradesh)
This dance is performed in the Braj region of
Uttar Pradesh- the land of Krishnaand his consort - Radha. Veiled women balancing large multi-tiered circular wooden pyramids on their heads, alight with 108 oil lamps, dance to the strains of 'rasiya' - songs of Krishna. Charkula is especially performed on the third day after Holi - the day, which Radha was born. According to legend, Radha's grandmother ran out of the house with the charkula on her head to announce the birth of Radha, since then, Charkula has formed a popular dance form of Brajbhoomi, performed during various festivities.
Cheraw Dance (Mizoram)
Cheraw dance is a combination of rhythm and skill. Four people hold two pairs of long bamboos across one another on the ground. As the bamboo sticks are clapped together, the main dancers in traditional attires weave patterns through them in time to the rhythm. Cheraw is a major attraction during all festive occasions in
Mizoram. Cheraw is believed to have a foreign origin. Similar dances are popular in the Far East and the Philippines. The Mizos may have brought the dance with them when they migrated to their land in India.
The Dalkhai dance is performed by women of some of the tribes in Sambalpur district in
Orissaat the time of seasonal festivals. The dance is quite vigorous, and is accompanied by a set of particular musical instruments, played by men, of which the drummers often join the dance.
Devarattam (Tamil Nadu)
Devarattam or ' the dance of the gods' is the dance of the Kambala Naikar community of
Tamil Nadu, who believe that they are the direct descendants of the 'devas' or gods. Fast and fluent movements to the rhythmic sound of ' Deva Thunthubi' - a drum-shaped percussion instrument, make this dance truly enjoyable. The dance is performed during festivals, marriages and other social occasions.
Dol cholam (Manipur)
The drum, by itself, enjoys a privilege in the dances of
Manipur. There are several kinds of drums, each intended for a particular occasion. The festival of Holi, in spring, is the real time for drum dances, such as Dhol Cholom.
Dollu Kunitha (Karnataka)
The Dollu Kunitha is a popular drum dance of
Karnataka. The vigorous drum dance performed by the men of the shepherd community known as ' Kourba'. Powerful drumming, acrobatic movements and attractive formations are the notable highlights of the dance. The men have large drums, decorated with colored cloth, slung from their necks, and they beat the drums as they dance with nimble movements of the feet and legs. The dance is at times accompanied by songs, which are either religious or in praise of war.
Dumhal is a dance performed by the men folk of the Wattal tribe of
Kashmiron specific occasions. The performers wear long colorful robes, tall conical caps that are studded with beads and shells. The party moves in a procession carrying a banner in a very ceremonial fashion. It is dug into the ground and the men begin to dance, forming a circle. The musical accompaniment comprises a drum and the vocal singing of the participants. Dumhal is performed on set occasions and at set locations.
The famous dance of
Pondicherryis believed to have a purely mythological origin. As the legend goes, when Rama - the epic hero of Ramayanadefeated Ravanathen the vanars (monkeys) performed this dance to celebrate his victory. Garadi is performed during all festivals and usually continues for five to eight hours. The dancers are disguised as 'vanars' and carry sticks in their hands as they dance to the beat of two big drums, called ' Ramadolus'. A distinctive feature of this dance is the iron rings called 'anjali' which dancers wear on their legs - ten on each leg. As the dancer proceeds, these rings produce a melodious sound.
Garbais customarily performed by women, the dance involves circular patterns of movement and rhythmic clapping. It popularly performed during Navratri. The word comes from "garbha deep" which is translated as either light in the inner sanctum of the temple or lamp inside a perforated earthen pot (which is often used in the dance).cite web | url=http://www.bestonhealth.com/travel/india/gujarat/Dances/dances.asp?id=9 | title=Dances of gujarat | work= [http://www.bestonhealth.com Best on Health] ] cite web | url=http://www.webindia123.com/GUJARAT/ARTS/danmusic2.htm | title=Arts | work= [http://www.webindia123.com/ WEBINDIA123] ]
Ghoomar (Rajasthan, Haryana)
Women dressed in multi-hued skirts swirl gracefully in a circle during this lively dance.
Ghoomaris performed by young women and girls during various festivities like Holi, Gangaur Puja, Teej, etc. In Rajasthan, Ghoomar is performed to the songs of valor and victory. In Haryana, the songs sung for Ghoomar are high-pitched and rich in humor and satire
Goti Pua (Orissa)
The goti puas are boy dancers who dress up as girls. They are students of the
akhadas, or gymnasia, established by Ramachandradeva in Puri, in the periphery of the temple. As they were offshoots of the akhada system, goti puas also came to be known as akhada pilas - boys attached to akhadas. Another reason often given to justify the emergence of the goti pua system is that some followers of the Vaishnava religion disapproved of dancing by women as a pretext for worship - they introduced the practice of dancing by boys dressed as girls.
The word goti means 'one', 'single' and pua, 'boy', but the goti puas always dance in pairs. Boys are recruited about the age of six and continue to perform till they are 14, then become teachers of the dance or join drama parties. Goti puas are now part of professional teams, known as dals, each headed by a guru.
The boys are trained for about two years, during which, after having imbibed the basic technique, they learn items of dance, ornamental and expressional. The goti puas, being youngsters in their formative years, can adapt their bodies to the dance in a far more flexible manner as opposed to the maharis.
A goti pua presentation is ably supported by a set of three musicians, who play the pakhawaj, the gini or cymbals and the harmonium. The boys do the singing themselves, though at times the group has an additional singer.
Hojagiri is a reflection of the age-old culture and the unique style of dance of the Reang community of
Tripura. Only lower half of the body is moved to create rhythmic movements. Dancers performing unusually amazing acrobatic feats is the main highlight of the dance. Reang girls twist and turn and dance in time to the compelling rhythm, sometimes dancing on an earthen pitcher or balancing a bottle on the head with a lighted lamp on top of it.
Jawara (Madhya Pradesh)
The Jawara is performed in the
Bundelkhandarea of Madhya Pradesh. It is essentially a harvest dance-reflecting the gaiety and pleasure of the peasants who have reaped a good harvest. The dance is performed by men and women together. The costumes and jewellery worn by the women are colorful. The women carry baskets full of jawara on their heads and although the dance is very vigorous they are able to balance these baskets very skillfully on their heads. The accompaniment includes a rich variety of percussion, stringed and wind instruments.
The dance is performed by the women of Kalbelia community. The main occupation of the community is catching snakes and trading snake venom. Hence the dance movements and the costumes bear resemblance to that of the serpents. Dancers attired in traditional black swirling skirts, sway sinuously to the plaintive notes of the 'been' - the wooden instrument of the snake charmers.cite web | url=http://www.kalbelia.com/Kalbelia.html | title=Rajki-Puran Nath Sapera & Party | work= [http://www.kalbelia.com Kalbelia] ]
Kamandi or Kaman Pandigai (Tamilnadu)
This is celebrated to commemorate the puranic event when Manmada the God of Love was burnt to ashes by Siva in anger. The villagers separate themselves into two parties as Erintha katchi and Eriyatha katchi and a heated debate ensues. Kaman and Rathi, his consort, are main characters.
The traditional dance gets its name from the Karma tree, which stands for fortune and good luck. The ceremony starts with the planting of the trees. Dancers, both men and women, form circles around it and dance with their arms around each other's waists. As the drum beats get quicker and louder, the dancers gain momentum and generally end in an uproarious tumult.
Kinnauri Nati (Himachal Pradesh)
The beauty of hilly Himachal finds an expression in the languid and elegant movements that form a part of the marvelous Nati dance. The dance matches the gentleness of the hilly breeze and the rhythmic swaying of trees. The dance is mainly a mime but also incorporates some abstract but languid sequences. Important among the dances of Nati is 'Losar shona chuksom', which takes its name from Losai, or the New Year. The dance depicts all the activities involved in sowing the crop and reaping it.
The dance derives its name from the fisher folk of
Goa- Kolis, who are noted for their distinct identity and lively dances. Their dances incorporate elements they are most familiar with - the sea and their occupation of fishing. The dance is performed by both men and women - divided into two groups. The smaller group of men and women, in pairs, enact the main story of the dance - where the Kolin or fisherwoman makes advances to the Koli or fisherman. The larger group, also in pairs, forms the backdrop for the story, dancing in a looped movement that depicts the rowing of a fishing boat on undulating waves.
Kolattam is an ancient village art. This is mentioned in
Kanchipuramas 'Cheivaikiyar Kolattam', which proves its antiquity. This is performed by women only, with two sticks held in each hand, beaten to make a rhythmic sound. Pinnal Kolattam is danced with ropes which the women hold in their hands, the other of which are tied to a tall pole. With planned steps, the women skip over each other, which forms intricate lace-like patterns in the ropes. As coloured ropes are used, this lace looks extremely attractive. Again, they unravel this lace reversing the dance steps. This is performed for ten days, starting with the Amavasi or Newmoon night after Deepavali.
Kummi (Tamil Nadu)
The womenfolk of Maharastra have three closely related dances, which can be performed at any time but are seen at their best during festivities. The simplest of these is the
Kummi, in which the dancers gather in a circle and clap their hands as they dance. As an extension to this is the Kolattam, where instead of clapping, the participants hold small wooden rods in their hands and strike these in rhythm as they dance.
It is the colorful dance of the Minicoy Island of
Lakshadweepin which dancers wear multi-hued costumes, a headgear and carries a special drum. The dance movements are prolific and profuse and are in rhythm with the drum beats and vocal accompaniment.
Mayil Attam or Peacock dance (Tamilnadu)
This is done by girls dressed as peacocks, resplendent with peacock feathers and a glittering head-dress complete with a beak. This beak can be opened and closed with the help of a thread tied to it, and manipulated from within dress. Other similar dances are, Kaalai Attam (dressed as a bull), Karadi Attam (dressed as a bear) and Aali Aattam (dressed as a demon) which are performed in the villages during village get-togethers. Vedala Aattam is performed wearing a mask depicting demons.
Namgen (Himachal Pradesh)
The Namagen dance is performed in September to celebrate the autumnal hues. The costumes are largely woolen and richly studded ornaments of silver are worn by women. The most picturesque amongst these are dances of Gaddis. All regions of
Himachal Pradeshhave their own dances. Mostly men and women dance together, close to each other in the formation.
Nicobarese dances (Andaman and Nicobar Islands)
This is the dance of the Nicobarese - the fascinating tribal group residing in the island of
Car Nicobar. The dance is performed during the Ossuary Feast or the Pig Festival. Dedicated to the departed head of the family, the occasion is observed with night long dancing in the full moonlight under the swaying palms. The dancers dressed in coconut fronds step gracefully in time to traditional songs. Feasting and good food followed by a pig fight in the morning are other highlights of the celebration.
Padayani or Padeni in colloquial speech is one of the most colorful and spectacular folk arts associated with the festivals of certain temples in southern
Kerala(Aleppy, Quilon, Pathanamthitta, and Kottayam districts). The word Padayani literally means military formations or rows of army, but in this folk art we have mainly a series of divine and semi-divine impersonations wearing huge masks or kolams of different shapes, colors and designs painted on the stalks of areca nut fronds. The most important of the kolams usually presented in a Padayani performance are Bhairavi ( Kali), Kalan (god of death), Yakshi (fairy), Pakshi (bird) etc.
The Kolam consists primarily of a huge headgear with many projections and devices with a mask for the face or a chest piece to cover the breast and abdomen of the performer. The whole performance consisting of the dancers or actors who wear the kolams, the singers who recite a different poem for each Kolam, and the instrumentalists who evoke wild and loud rhythm on their simple drum called Thappu and Cymbals, etc., takes the form of a procession of Kali and her spirits returning after the killing of the Asura chief Darika.
It is performed by a rural community living around NalLake. In it, performers simulate the rhythmic movements of roving mariners and the undulating sea waves. The
Bhiltribes, who live close to border tracts, and the Adivasis of Dangs district, have particularly lively folk dances.
The folk dance of the Satnami community of
Chhattisgarhbears religious overtones. Performed on Maghi Purnima - the birth anniversary of their Guru(Saint) Guru Ghasidas, the dance is evolving still to include a variety of steps and patterns. The dancers dance around a jaitkhamb set up for the occasion, to the songs eulogizing their spiritual head. The songs also reflect the Nirvanaphilosophy, conveying the spirit of renunciation of their Guru and the teachings of saint poets like Kabir, Ramdas, Dadu, etc. Dancers with bent torsos and swinging arms continue to dance till carried away by their devotion. As the rhythm quickens, they indulge in acrobatics and even form human pyramids.
Pavri Nach (Maharashtra)
In the hilly regions of the northwest, the Kokna tribal dance to the accompaniment of the tarpha or pavri, a wind instrument made of dried gourd. Because of this, the dance is known as Tarpha Nach or Pavri Nach. The performers hold each other by the waist and dance in close formation. Men also dance separately, and this includes feats of skill, like forming a pyramid or rapidly revolving a dancer round a stout pole.
Poikal Kudirai Attam (Tamil Nadu)
Poikal attam refers to the dance of "false legs". Here dancers are attached to a dummy horse at the waist. Instead of 4 legs of a horse only 2 legs of the person with the prop on his body is present. The image is similar to a rider on a horse (albeit a two legged horse and thus the name Poikal attam). This is a popular folklore dance with themes often on "Raja Desingu" - a once popular Rajput ruler called Tej Singh who invaded areas all the way up until Tamil Nadu.
Raasis an energetic, vibrant dance originating in the state of Gujarat. Often called the "stick dance" because it uses polished sticks or dandiya, it represents a mock-fight between Durga and Mahishasura, the mighty demon-king. It is nicknamed "The Sword Dance" because the dandiya represent the sword of Durga and are hit together.cite web | url=http://www.indianwedding.com/dandia-dandiya-sticks-1-293.html | title=Dandiya / Dandiya Sticks | work= [http://www.indianwedding.com/ Indian Wedding] ] The combination of garba and raas has become very popular at the collegiate level in the United States. Garba-Raas competitions are increasing in number. Popular ones include Dandia Dhamaka, Raas Chaos, Garba With Attitude, and Maryland Masti among others.cite web | url=http://www.desidanceteams.com/main/?page_id=41 | title=Competitions | work= [http://www.desidanceteams.com/main/ DesiDanceTeams] ]
Raut Nacha (Chhattisgarh)
A traditional folk dance usually done by yadavs/yaduvanshis (a caste which considers itself as descendants of
Krishna) as symbol of worship to Krishna. Done at the time of 'dev udhni ekadashi' (time of awakening of Gods after brief rest) according to Hindu pancang (calendar). The dance is a close resemblance of krishna's raas leela (dance of lord with his village's girls called gopis) with gopis.
Ruk Mar Nacha (& Chhau dance) (Orissa)
This is a rudimentary form of the more evolved
Chhau danceof West Bengal. Performed in the Mayurbhanj Districtof Orissa, it has its base in the martial arts tradition. The dance is a stylized mock battle in which two groups of dancers armed with swords and shields, alternatively attack and defend themselves with vigorous movements and elegant stances.
Especially notable is the accompanying music, noted for its rhythmic complexities and vigorous percussion. The instruments include 'Mahuri' - a double reeded instrument, 'Dhola' - a barrel shaped two-sided drum, 'Dhumsa' - a hemispherical drum and 'Chadchadi' - a short cylindrical drum.
inghi Chham (Sikkim)
It is a masked dance of
Sikkim, depicting snow lion - the cultural symbol of the state. (Snow lion was decreed the guardian deity of the people of Sikkim by Guru Padamsambhava). The third highest mountain in the world - Kanchenjunga(Khang-Chen Dzong Pa), standing sentinel over the state of Sikkim, is believed to resemble the legendary snow lion. The natives display their cultural symbol by dressing up in furry costumes and performing this majestic masked dance.
This 'martial' form of dance is a brilliant display of courage, stamina and skill of 'dPao' or the powerful warriors of
Ladakh, who once defended the freedom and territorial integrity of the land. Their martial art has taken the form of this fascinating dance, which forms an inseparable part of the Ladakhi culture.
The multi-hued dance is all energy and youthfulness. On the occasions of
Dussehraand Holi, the spirited young girls and boys swarm the streets in colorful group, waving flags and streamers (tarang), inspiring and inviting one and all to imbibe the festive spirit. They shout Ho! Ho! To the beats of 'romut', 'dhol' and 'tasha'. The rainbow like costumes of the dancers and the multi-coloured flags and streamers make Taranmel a visually appealing affair.
Tertali (Madhya Pradesh)
The Kamar tribe performs the Tera Tali, which is an elaborate ritual with many elements of dance. It is generally performed by two or three women who sit on the ground.
Manjiras, or small metal cymbals are tied to different parts of the body, mostly the legs, and with a cymbalin either hand the dancer strikes these in rhythm. The head is covered with a veil, and at times a small sword is clenched between the teeth and an ornamental pot balanced on the head.
Thang Ta (Manipur)
Thang Ta is the martial art form exclusive to
Manipur, with 'Thang' meaning sword and 'Ta' meaning spear. In this amazing display of the traditional art of warfare, performers leap and attack each other and defend themselves. Encouraged by the kings of the earlier times, Thang Ta is an ingenuous display of skill and creativity. The art has a ritualistic aspect with some movements of sword intended to ward off evil spirits, while other postures indicating protection. All the dance forms of Meiti people are believed to have originated from Thang Ta.
Thapetta Gullu (Andhra Pradesh)
This is the dance form of the Srikakulam district of
Andhra Pradesh, in which more than ten persons participate, singing songs in the praise of the local goddess. The dancers use drums, which are hung around their necks to produce varied rhythms. Tinkling bells around the waist form a distinctive part of the dancers' costumes.
Theru Koothu (Tamilnadu)
Normally conducted during village festivals, during the months of Panguni and Aadi. This is performed where three or four streets meet. Here, make-up and costumes are considered of prime importance. Only men take part; the female roles also played by them. The performance consists of story-telling, dialogue-rendering, songs and dance, all performed by the artistes. The stories are taken from Puranas, epics such as Ramayana and Mahabharata, and also local folklore. The play starts in the late evening and gets over only during the small hours of the nights. Theru Koothu is popular in the northern districts of Tamilnadu. The Koothu can be categorised as Nattu Koothu, including Vali Koothu, Kuravai Koothu etc. Samaya Koothu dealing with religious topics, Pei Koothu including Thunangai Koothu and Porkala Koothu dealing with martial events.
Yakshagana(Kannada:ಯಕ್ಷಗಾನ, pronounced as yaksha-gaana) is a classical folk art form of the state of Karnataka in India mostly popular in the districts of Uttara Kannada, Shimoga, Udupi, Dakshina Kannada and Kasaragod district of Kerala.  This would be considered to be a form of opera in western eyes. Actors wear costumes and enact the various roles. Traditionally, Yakshaganas would go on all night. It is sometimes simply called as Aataā in both Kannada and Tulu (meaning play).  Yaksha-gana literally means the song (gana) of a Yaksha. Yakshas were an exotic tribe mentioned in the Sanskrit literature of ancient India. 
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* [http://deshgujarat.com/2007/02/22/gujarati-tribals-marriage-night-folk-dance-from-dahod-video/ Gujarati tribal’s wedding night folk dance from Dahod(Video) on DeshGujarat.Com]
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