Indian Folk Dances-2



Goti Pua: 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 goti puas are boy dancers who dress up as girls. They are students of the akhadas, or gymnasia, established by Ramachandradeva inPuri, 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 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. The boys do the singing themselves, though at times the group has an additional singer.A goti pua presentation is ably supported by a set of three musicians, who play the pakhawaj, the gini or cymbals and the harmonium. 

Ruk Mar Nach & Chhau Dance :  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.This is a rudimentary form of the more evolved Chhau dance of west bengal.  Performed in the Mayurbhanj district of Orissa, it has its base in the martial arts tradition. 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.Especially notable is the accompanying music, noted for its rhythmic complexities and vigorous percussion.

Nachi : female performers who sing and dance professionally in rural areas, accompanied by male ḍhulkī and nagarā drummers


Garadi: The famous dance of Pondicherry is believed to have a purely mythological origin. As the legend goes, when Rama – the epic hero of Ramayana defeated Ravana then the vanars (monkeys) performed this dance to celebrate his victory. 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.Garadi is performed during all festivals and usually continues for five to eight hours. 


Giddha: The counterpart to male bhangra,Giddha is a female folk dance from Punjab. It is an energetic dance derived from ancient ring dancing that highlights feminine grace and elasticity. It is often accompanied by singing folk couplets known as boliyan.Other forms are Jhoomer, Dhamalan,Dankre,Sammi,Dandass,Ludi.

Bhangra:Bhangra is a very popular style of music and dance in Punjab, but is also very popular in the diaspora, specifically in Canada and the U.K. where many Bhangra competitions are now held.It was originally danced during the harvest season, but now is a popular form of celebration at any time such as weddings and festivals.  The dance known as Bhangra is 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.  Creating Bhangra teams has become very popular and influential with teenagers.


Kalbelia: The dance is performed by the women of Kalbelia community. Dancers attired in traditional black swirling skirts, sway sinuously to the plaintive notes of the ‘been’ – the wooden instrument of the snake charmers.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. 


Singhi Chham:The third highest mountain in the world – Kanchenjungha (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. 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). 


Kamandi or Kaman Pandigai: 

The dance is performed during festivals, marriages and other social occasions.Kaman and Rathi, his consort, are main characters.\ 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 enjoyableThis 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.

 Kolattam: . This is mentioned in Kanchipuram as ‘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 afterDeepawali.Kolattam is an ancient village art

Kummi: The simplest of three closely related dances, 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.The womenfolk of Maharastra have three closely related dances, which can be performed at any time but are seen at their best during festivities. 

Mayil Attam or Peacock Dance : 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. 

Theru Koothu: 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. Normally conducted during village festivals, during the months of Panguni and Aadi. 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.  Theru Koothu is popular in the northern districts of Tamil Nadu. 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.The play starts in the late evening and gets over only during the small hours of the nights.

Poikal Kudirai 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.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). 


HOJAGIRI:  Only lower half of the body is moved to create rhythmic movements. Hojagiri is a reflection of the age-old culture and the unique style of dance of the Reang community of Tripura.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.

West Bengal

Nachi: female performers who sing and dance professionally in ruralJharkhand, accompanied by male ḍhulkī and nagarā drummers.

Kalikapatadi: The dance is being performed for nearly five-hundred years.Participants go on fast for the whole day. The main story of this Bengali dance form is ‘how Shiva calms down angry Kali after killing Asura It is more prevalent in Howrah. Before the coronation of Shiva on Neelpuja Day (Chaitra Sankranti), the performance of this dance is a must. The green leaves of water hyacinth is used to make the hair of Kali and the black ash of Ganja to decorate the body. Clay mask is used for Mahadeva. Palm leaves reddened with Alta is used as the tongue of Kali. 

Gambhira: The folk dance/theater of Gambhira originated among the Hindu community of Maldah in west bengal.With time, Gambhira has undergone many changes in terms of theme and style of its presentation. After Partition of India, Chapai Nawabganj in Rajshahi became the main center of Gambhira. . Muslims also became the custodian of the dance, and thereby it became an integral part of their culture. May be for that reason the dancer now wears the Lungi. Gambhira comprises a few characters with dialogues in an atmosphere of music, its themes now being contemporary social problems, fakeness and selfishness of people and so on.

Domni: The plays are composed taking extracts from small events of everyday life and are presented in a satirical manner. The musical instruments are Harmonium, Dholak,Flute and so on. Domni groups are found in Maldah. A Domni performance starts with a Vandana dedicated to God. Then the ‘Mool Gayen’ (Lead Character/Protagonist) and ‘Chhokras’ (Supporting Characters) offer devotional prayers. The dance performances of the Chhokras are called ‘Nachari’ or ‘Lachari’. The main characters are the roles of husbands, wives, mothers, greedy moneylenders, peasant- girls and so on. With change on social life and popular taste/culture, this folk form is becoming extinct. Domni belongs to Maldah in West Bengal.

Alkap: This is associated with the Gajan Festoval of Shiva around th emiddle of April. The beginning of this form was in the late nineteenth century. It has no written script, but scenarios based on popular love stories, which the actors elaborate with extreme dialogues, breaking up for songs, dances and comic or satirical sketches called Kap. It is a composite performance comprising acting, dancing, singing and recitation. Each Alkap group consists of ten to twelve dancers, under the leadership of a ‘Sorkar’ or Guru. Alkap is arural performance, popular in many places of Bengal, especially in Rajshahi, Maldah and Murshidabad districts, and the Rajamahal Hills in the state of Jharkhand. The group includes two or three ‘Chhokras’, one or two lead singers called ‘Gayen’ or ‘Gayok’. Also, there remain ‘Dohars’, the chorus called ‘Gayokdol’ and instrumentalists called ‘Bajnadars’. Alkap performances take place at night on an open stage.

Western Orissa


Traditional Sambalpuri folk dancers performing on Dalkhai.The dance is accompanied by a rich orchestra of folk music played by a number of instruments known as Dhol, Nisan , Tamki , Tasa and Mahuri. However, the Dhol player controls the tempo while dancing in front of the girls. It is known as Dalkhai because in the beginning and end of every stanza the word is used as an address to a girl friend. The love story of Radha  and Krishana, the episodes from Ramayana and Mahabharta, the description of natural scenery are represented through the songs.The song associated with this dance is sang in the Kosli Sambhalpuri languages.

Though Dusserah is the occasion of Kosli Sambalpuri folk dance Dalkhai, it’s the most popular folk-dance of Koshal , its performance is very common on all other festivals such as Bhaijiuntia, Phagun Puni, Nuakhi, etc. This is mostly danced by young women of Binjhal Kuda, Mirdha, Sama and some other tribes of Sambalpur, Balangir, Sundergarh,  and Kalahandi districts under the Koshal region in which men joins them as drummers and musicians.  The young women dance and sing intermittently. The songs are of special variety with the additive ‘Dalkhai Go’ which is an address to a girlfriend. While dancing to the uncanny rhythms of the Dhol, they place the legs close together and bend the knees. In another movement they move forward and backward in a half-sitting position. Sometimes they make concentric circles clockwise and anti-clockwise. The women generally dress themselves in colourful Sambalpuri Saris and wear a scarf on the shoulders holding the ends below in both the hands. Bedecked with traditional jewellery, their robust frames sustain the strains of the dance for long hours. The Dalkhai dance has several adjunctive forms for all ages and groups :

Baagh Nach or Tiger Dance:The dancer (only males) paints his bare body with yellow and black stripes like that of a tiger and attaches a suitable tail. One or more dancers move from house to house and after a crowd gathers the dance begins. The dancers are accompanied by a drummer and a bell player who provides the music. The dance is nothing but acrobatic movement in rhythm . They make hissing sounds while dancing. Tiger dance is also performed inBehrampur during the Thakurani Jatra.This Kosli Sambalpuri folk dance is performed in Binka and Sonepur of Sabarnpur district during the month of chaitra

Dances Performed by teenagers : Sajani, Chhata , Daika and Bhekani.

Dances performed by girl Child : Chhiollai, Humobauli and Dauligit.

Dances Performed by Youths : Rasarkeli, Jaiphul, Maila Jada, Bayamana, Gunchikuta .

The man who worship work, composes “Karma” and “Jhumer” invigorating Lord Vishwakarma and the Karamashani goddess.

Ghumara : The dance performed to the accompaniment of this drum is called Ghumra Naat. It begins fifteen days before the Gamha Puni (full moon in September) and culminates on that night in a ceremonial performance. Young men of various communities fix a Ghoomra each on the chest with string tied the body simultaneouly dance and play. The performance begins with slow circular movements. The Nisan is a smaller variety of Kettle-drum played with two leather-sticks. The player always places himself in the centre and controls the tempo of the dance. He also indicates change over the movements. After a brief dance sequence in different rhythmic patterns all the dancers move in a concentric circle and then stand erect in a line. Then enters the singer who first sings in praise of Saraswati and other gods and goddesses. During the song the drums remain silent. After the prayer-song Chhanda, Chaupadi and other literary folk-songs are sung. Each couplet of a song is followed by a dance. At the end of the each couplet the singer adds ‘Takita Dhe’ which is a numonic syllable for the time-beats and indicates the dance to begin. Ghumra dancers are basically from Kalahandi and Balangir district. Kosli Sambalpuri Folk dance Ghumra is also known as vira-badya of koshal region. It was used during war times in the past to encourage soildiers. It is also used to give social message like forestation, saving girl child,literacy etc. It is a typical drum. It is just like a big pitcher with a long stem made of clay. The mouth is covered with the skin of a Godhi (a reptile). When played with both hands, it produces a peculiar sound quite different from other varieties of Drums. 

Dhap : The dance is performed during marriage ceremony and more often for the sake of recreation. The dance is named so because of the accompanying  instrument called ‘Dhap.’ The dhap is in the shape of a Khanjari made up of wood with one side open and the other side covered with a piece of animal skin. The dhap dancer holds the dhap with his left hand, the sling slung over his left shoulder, and beats with his right as well as left hand.This Kosli Sambalpuri folk dance is mostly performed by the Kandha tribe of koshal region .Both men and women participate in the dance. Men of one village dance with women of another village. Usually unmarried boys and girls take part.

Keisabadi : Only men can take part in this form of the Kosli Sambalpuri folk dance .Some of them holding a stick two feet in length. They dance in different forms by striking the sticks according to the rhythms of the song they sing. The leader sings first and others follow him. They sing in Kosli Sambalpuri language and in every stanza they shout ” Haido”. The main theme of the song is derived from the love story of Radha and Krishna.

 Karma Nach : This dance is in honour of Karamsani, the deity who bestows children and good crops. After the puja is done it is followed by singing and dancing in accompaniment of drum (maandal), cymbal etc. The dance performance full of vigour and energy combined with charm of the youth decked with colourful costumes in exuberance of red cloth, set in peacock feathers, skillfully designed ornaments made of small conch shells, brings the onlookers as well as the performers to a mood of trance and ecstasy. In this dance both men and women take part and continue to engross themselves for the whole night. The skillful movement of the young boys with mirror in hand indicates the traditional pattern of love making in course of dancing and singing. The dance is performed sometimes by boys in group, sometimes by girls in group and sometimes both the sexes together. The subject matter of songs constitutes the description of nature, invocation to Karmasani, desires, aspiration of people, love and humour.Karam or Karma literally means ‘fate’ in Kosli Sambalpuri Language. This pastoral Kosli Sambalpuri folk dance is performed during the worship of the god or goddess of fate (Karam Devta or Karamsani Devi), whom the people consider the cause of good and bad fortune. It begins from Bhadra Shukla Ekadasi (eleventh day of the brightmoon of the month of Bhadra) and lasts for several days. This is popular among the scheduled class tribes (e.g., the Binjhal, Kharia, Kisan and Kol tribes) in the districts of Balangir, Kalahandi Sundergarh , Sabalpur and Mayurbhanj. 



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. The dance derives its name from the fisher folk of western Maharastra and 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. Especially most of the dances and celebrations are devoted to “Sea God” for a better catch and protection.

Ghoomer  (Rajasthan, Haryana)

In Rajsthan, Ghoomar is performed to the songs of valor and victory.Women dressed in multi-hued skirts swirl gracefully in a circle during this lively dance. Ghoomer is performed by young women and girls during various festivities like Holi, Gangaur Puja, Teej, etc.  In Haryana, the songs sung for Ghoomar are high-pitched and rich in humor and satire


 The most important of the kolams usually presented in a Padayani performance are Bhairavi , 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.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 (AleppyQuilonPathanamthitta, 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.

North India

Kathak:Kathak  is one of the eight forms of Indian classical dances, originated from northern India. This dance form traces its origins to the nomadic bards of ancient northern India, known as Kathaks, or story tellers. These bards, performing in village squares and temple courtyards, mostly specialized in recounting mythological and moral tales from the scriptures, and embellished their recitals with hand gestures and facial expressions. It was quintessential theatre, using instrumental and vocal music along with stylized gestures, to enliven the stories. The structure of a conventional Kathak performance tends to follow a progression in tempo from slow to fast, ending with a dramatic climax.

A short danced composition is known as a tukra, a longer one as a toda. There are also compositions consisting solely of footwork. Often the performer will engage in rhythmic ‘play’ with the time-cycle, splitting it into triplets or quintuplets for example, which will be marked out on the footwork, so that it is in counterpoint to the rhythm on the percussion. All compositions are performed so that the final step and beat of the composition lands on the ‘sam’ or first beat of the time-cycle. Most compositions also have ‘bols’ (rhythmic words) which serve both as mnemonics to the composition and whose recitation also forms an integral part of the performance. Some compositions are aurally very interesting when presented this way.

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