Indian Folk Dances-1


Indian folk and tribal dances are simple dances, and are performed to express joy. Men and women perform some dances exclusively, while in some performances men and women dance together. Folk and tribal dances are performed for every possible occasion, to celebrate the arrival of seasons, birth of a child, a wedding and festivals. On most occasions, the dancers sing themselves, while being accompanied by artists on the instruments. The dances are extremely simple with minimum of steps or movement.Each form of dance has a specific costume. 

Andhra pradesh

Thapetta Gullu : 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.Tinkling bells around the waist form a distinctive part of the dancers’ costumes.The dancers use drums, which are hung around their necks to produce varied rhythms.

Arunachal Pradesh 

Bardo Chham : A folk dance of Sherdukpens , a small community of west kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh  , Bardo Chham depicts the victory of good over evil. 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.


Karma /Munda : 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.


Raut Nacha: A traditional folk dance usually done by yadavs/yaduvanshis  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.

Panthi : The folk dance of the Satnami community of Chhattisgarh bears religious overtones.  The dancers dance around a jaitkhamb set up for the occasion, to the songs eulogizing their spiritual head. The songs also reflect the Nirvana philosophy, conveying the spirit of renunciation of their Guru and the teachings of saint poets like Kabir, Ramdas, Dadu, etc. 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.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.


 Raas: Raas is 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.  Popular ones include Dandia Dhamaka, Raas Chaos, Garba With Attitude, Dandia on Fire and Maryland Masti among others.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.

Garba : Garba is 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).

Tippani Dance : Originated from the chorwad region of Saurastra, laborer women take a wooden rod to beat the floor,which had iron/wood piece at one end, to make it stronger in opposite rows,which made the dance an interesting work.

Padhar : It is performed by a rural community living around Nal Lake. The Bhil tribes, who live close to border tracts, and the Adivasis of Dangs district, have particularly lively folk dances.In it, performers simulate the rhythmic movements of roving mariners and the undulating sea waves.


  • Tarangamel:The multi-hued dance is all energy and youthfulness. On the occasions of Dussehra and 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. The rainbow like costumes of the dancers and the multi-coloured flags and streamers make Tarangamel a visually appealing affair.They shout Ho! Ho! To the beats of ‘romut’, ‘dhol’ and ‘tasha’. 
  • Kunbi Dance
  • Koli Dance
  • Samayi nrutya
  • Jagar
  • Ranmale
  • Gonph
  • Tonnya mell
  • Dekhni


Haryana has rich tradition of dances for various occasions (wedding, festivals, etc.) and seasons (harvest, sowing of seeds, monsoon, etc.). These dances come under one or the other category. 

Himanchal Pradesh

Namgen: The Namagen dance is performed in September to celebrate the autumnal hues. The costumes a\re largely woolen and richly studded ornaments of silver are worn by women. Mostly men and women dance together, close to each other in the formation.The most picturesque amongst these are dances of Gaddis. All regions of Himanchal Pradesh have their own dances. 

Kinnauri Nati : The beauty of hilly Himachal finds an expression in the languid and elegant movements that form a part of the marvelous Nati dance. 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 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. 


Dumhal: Dumhal is performed on set occasions and at set locations.Dumhal is a dance performed by the men folk of the Wattal tribe of Kashmir on specific occasions. The performers wear long colorful robes, tall conical caps that are studded with beads and shells.  The musical accompaniment comprises a drum and the vocal singing of the participants. 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.


 Dollu Kunita : The Dollu Kunitha is a popular drum dance of Karnatka. The vigorous drum dance performed by the men of the shepherd community known as ‘ Kurba’. Powerful drumming, acrobatic movements and attractive formations are the notable highlights of the dance.  The dance is at times accompanied by songs, which are either religious or in praise of war.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.

Yakshagana ( pronounced as yaksha-gaana) is a classical dance drama popular in the state of Karnataka in India mostly popular in the districts of Uttara Kannada, Shimoga, Udupi, Dakshina Kannada and Kasaragod district of Kerala.This theater art involves Music, Songs, Dance, Acting, Dialogue, story and unique costumes. While, songs and dance adhere to well established talas very similar to classical Indian dance forms, acting and dialogues are created spntanously on stage depending on ability of artists.  This would be considered to be a form of opera in western eyes.This combination of classical and folk elements makes Yakshagana unique from any other Indian art. The actors who ware colorful costumes and enact various roles in the story forms Mummela.Traditionally, Yakshaganas use to start late in the night and run entire night. Bhagavata, the background singer is also the directory of the story and controls the entire proceedings on stage. Bagavatha along with background musicians who play Chande and Maddale forms himmela. Yakshas were an exotic tribe mentioned in the Sanskrit literature of ancient India.Yakshagana is sometimes simply called as Aataā in both Kannada and Tulu (meaning play). Yaksha-gana literally means the song (gana) of a Yaksha. 


Lava: It is the colorful dance of the Minicoy Island of Lakshadweep in 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.

Madhya Pradesh

Charkula: This dance is performed in the Braj region of Uttar Pradesh- the land of Lord Krishna and 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. 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. Charkula is especially performed on the third day after Holi – the day, which Radha was born.

Tertali: 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.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. Manjiras, or small metal cymbals are tied to different parts of the body, mostly the legs, and with a cymbal in either hand the dancer strikes these in rhythm. 

Jawara: The Jawara is essentially a harvest dance-reflecting the gaiety and pleasure of the peasants who have reaped a good harvest.It  is performed in the Bundelkhand area of Madhya pradesh .  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 dance is performed by men and women together. The costumes and jewellery worn by the women are colorful.


Thang Ta : 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. All the dance forms of Meiti people are believed to have originated from Thang Ta.The art has a ritualistic aspect with some movements of sword intended to ward off evil spirits, while other postures indicating protection. 

Dol cholam: 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.


Pavri Nach: This, the dance is known as Tarpha Nach or Pavri Nach. 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. Men also dance separately, and this includes feats of skill, like forming a pyramid or rapidly revolving a dancer round a stout pole.The performers hold each other by the waist and dance in close formation. 


Cheraw Dance : 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. The Mizos may have brought the dance with them when they migrated to their land in India.Similar dances are popular in the Far East and the Philippins


Chang Lo : This dance of the Chang tribe of  Nagaland was 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.

Nicobarese Dances –: This is the dance of the Nicobarese – the fascinating tribal group residing in the island of Car Nicobar.  The dancers dressed in coconut fronds step gracefully in time to traditional songs.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. Feasting and good food followed by a pig fight in the morning are other highlights of the celebration

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