India is a place of diverse cultures and traditions which make India a rich culture and heritage. In India, there are various types of folk dances. Today we are going to focus on the folk dances of India. Folk Dance is a form of art that involves the movement of your body, rhythm, and music and it is also considered a way of social interaction, and emotional expressions like happiness, sorrow, exercise, and expression of ideas. Generally, the folk dances of India are performed to express joy during weddings, festivals, the birth of a child, etc. Generally, the originators of such folk dances are not known, but these folk dances have evolved and become folk dances over the years, bringing uniqueness and novelty to the Indian culture.
Most important Folk Dances of India
1. Kuchipudi Folk Dance of Andhra Pradesh
Kuchipudi is originated from a village named Kuchipudi of Andhra Pradesh state and it is one of the famous Indian classical dances. This is a unique form of dance where each step has its own meaning. This type of dance starts with some initial steps and after that, every single step expresses various stories which is known as Dharavu. It is originated from the Natya Shastra, an ancient Hindu Sanskrit text. The early evidence of Kuchipudi’s existence is found in copper inscriptions of the 10th century. The traditional Kuchipudi was performed by a males troupe and It is performed worldwide. Generally, the male dancer role wears a dhoti whereas a female dancer role wears a Sari with light makeup.
2. Veeranatyam Folk Dance of Andhra Pradesh
Veeranatyam is also known as Dance of the brave, the meaning of Veera means brave and Natyam means dance. It is one of the ancient forms of dance of Andhra Pradesh, with associated religious significance. It was started as a ritual that was performed in Shiva temples in honor of Shiva. Instruments like Tambura, Soolam, Dolu, Tasha, and Veeranam are usually used during the dance. This dance form is created by the Veeramusti community, is mostly devotional, and involves vigorous ritual practices and the people of this community claim direct descent from Lord Shiva. Some other folk dances of Andhra Pradesh are Dappu, Tappeta Gullu, Lambadi, Dhimsa, Vilasini Natyam, Andhra Natyam, Bhamakalpam, Kolattam, Butta Bommalu. etc.
3. Bihu Folk Dance of Assam
In the Indian state of Assam, Bihu is a set of three important Assamese festivals—Rongali Bihu, Kati Bihu, and Magh Bihu. These three festivals are observed in April, October, and January respectively. Among the three dance forms, the Rongali Bihu is the most important. Bihu is associated with agricultural activity, especially for rice production, and it is celebrated by all Assamese people irrespective of religion, caste, or creed. Rongali Bihu, Kati Bihu, and Magh Bihu celebrate respectively on the occasion of sowing festival, worship of plants and crops, and on the harvesting time. This dance is generally performed by both girls and boys with the movements of the hips, arms, and wrists along with twirls to the beats of the drum music. On different beats, dancers strike different poses and the other Instruments such as Aspepa, Gogona, Toka, Taal, etc. are also used in the Bihu dance. The vibrant and colorful outfits are the main attraction of Bihu dance and this folk dance represents youthful passion, joy, and seduction.
4. Bagurumba Folk Dance of Assam
Wearing colorful Dokhna, Fasra, and Aronai, generally, women perform the dance with slow steps and outstretched hands. The Bagurumba dance resembles the movement of birds and butterflies, for that reason, this is also known as “butterfly dance”. This dance is originated and practiced by the Boro people, they generally stay in the foothills of the eastern and southern Himalayas, which are generally forest areas.
5. Jat-Jatin Folk Dance- Bihar
The most popular folk dance of North Bihar basically in the Mithila and Koshi region, is the Jat-Jatin dance. Usually, in the rainy season, it is performed on one of the moonlit nights. The epic love story of the lover’s Jat and Jatin, who were separated and lived in difficult situations, is the original theme of the dance, but in recent times, through Jat-Jatin folk dance, many trending social situations like poverty, sorrow, love, natural calamities like droughts and floods are also displayed. In some versions, while performing the dance, the dancers wear masks to add a realistic picture.
6. Jumari Folk Dance of Bihar
The Jumari Folk dance is one of the famous dances of Mithilanchal, Bihar and it is similar to that of the ‘Garba’ folk dance of Gujarat. After the month of Ashvin, it is performed by married women since most of the rituals are also performed by them and hence, it also signifies a good omen. The married women dancers wear colorful costumes and decorate themselves with jewelry and chant – “Kartik Mas na Aakashey Badari …” with a joyous mood.
7. Garba Folk Dance of Gujarat
Garba is also known as Garaba is one of the popular forms of folk dance in Gujarat and traditionally, it is performed for nine days during Navratri. Like spiritual dances of Sufi culture, this dance is also performed in a circular form, that moves counterclockwise around an image of a mother goddess, such as Durga, or around a symbolic representation of her creative energy—often an illuminated clay pot or a water-filled vessel, but if space is constrained or there are many participants, dancers form concentric circles that move in opposite directions. In the initial stage, the dancing begins slowly and gradually increases in speed. This name is derived from the Sanskrit term ‘Garbha’ which means womb and both men and women can perform this dance by wearing colorful costumes.
8. Tippani folk dance of Gujarat
It is originating from Gujarat ( Especially from the Chorwad district) known as ‘Matla Dance’ or ‘Tippani Nritya’. During the dance performance, one group of women from the seaside striking the floor with sticks and chants, while other groups of women dances with the beats of stick sound. With simple musical equipment like ‘Turi’, ‘Thali’, the dancers produce the music. This dance is one of the patterns of the vigorous dance forms of the folk dance in Gujarat and during the dance the dancers wear a short coat known as ‘“Kedia’ with tight sleeves. After starting gradually, the speed of dance rapidity increase with the dancers alternately striking the ground.
9. Phag folk dance of Haryana
The Phalgun folk dance is also known as Phag dance and in the months of February-March, it is performed by the agricultural folk of Haryana. Between the sowing and harvesting period time, there is a bit of leisure time for the folks to express their joy and bliss by Phag dance. During the performance, men dancers wear the most colorful and best of their turbans, while women wear colorful traditional costumes. The dance is performed in the combination of song and dance, this type of mixed dance is known as Dhamal style of Haryana. The songs for the male and the female performers are different.
10. Nati Folk Dance – Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand
Nati is a traditional and native folk dance of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, traditionally it is performed in the Kinnaur, Uttarkashi, Dehradun (Jaunsar-Bawar), Kullu, Shimla, Sirmaur, Chamba, and Tehri Garhwal districts. This dance has been made popular in the plains too due to the high immigration of ethnic Paharis in the plains and as the largest folk dance, this dance is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records. Traditionally, they use musical instruments called Dhol-Damau. There are some other varieties of Nati folk dance, like Sirmauri Nati, Kinnauri Nati, Bangani Nati, Kullvi Nati, Mahasuvi Nati, etc.
11. Chhau Folk Dance of West Bengal, Jharkhand, and Odisha
It is also known as Chau or Chhaau, and it is one of the famous classical Indian spring season folk dances mixed with martial, tribal. The origins of this folk dance are in the East Indian region states named West Bengal, Jharkhand, and Odisha. It is a structured dance with religious themes found in Shaivism, Shaktism, and Vaishnavism sometimes the Chhau dancers include stories related to Hindu epics the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, the Puranas, and other Indian literature. Only the Seraikella and Purulia style chhau uses masks. This folk dance is performed at night in an open space with the help of musical instruments named Dhol, Shehnai, Dhumsa, and Chad-chadi. In the year, 2010 this dance was listed in the UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
12. Rouf of Jammu & Kashmir
In the Jammu and Kashmir valley, Rouf is one of the most popular types of traditional dance mainly practiced by the womenfolk. It is a combination of Kashmiri folk dance and Kashmiri folk song and is generally performed on different occasions in the valley like Ramadan, Eid, harvesting season or to celebrate the spring season.
The steps and dance movements of this folk song are simple, during the dance women in beautiful costumes make two rows and their arms interlocked facing each other. On musical beats, in swaying motion, they come one step forward and on the next to go one step backward. The song that is sung during the performance is in the form of a question/answer, where one group questions and the other group replies to it in a rhythmic way.
13. Mohiniyattam of Kerala
Mohiniyattam is a classical solo dance and this is one of the most popular folk dances of Kerala. Mohini is one of the avatars of the Load Vishnu, who helps the good prevail over evil by developing her feminine powers, and from this concept ‘Mohiniyattam’ name was taken. This folk dance generally performs with the beats of Carnatic style music, singing and acting also display through the dance, sometimes the recitation performs by either a separate vocalist or the dancer herself. The song is mix with the Malayalam-Sanskrit language, which is known as Manipravalam. This folk dance is ideally suited for performance by women because the delicate body movements and subtle facial expressions are more feminine in nature.
14. Kolattam of Andhra Pradesh
Kolattam folk dance is also known as Kolannalu or kolkolannalu and this is one of the most popular folk dances of Andhra Pradesh, played with sticks. Since the Seventh century, this rural art has usually been performed during village festivals. In the initial days, the dance was performed by only women, and but now it was performed by both males and females dancers. The dancer group comprises ranging from 8 to 40 and they are grouped in pairs. The dancers are guided by one dancer and move about in two circles. Generally, the Kolattam folk dance starts with the chant of Lord Ganesha. In this dance, the men artists wear dhoti, Bandana, and white color shirt and Women artists wear yellowed saris color with red borders. During the dance performance, the musicians use Mridangam, Harmonium, and Clarinet as musical instruments.
15. Hikat folk Dance of Jammu & Kashmir
Hikat folk dance is a symbol of joy and this is dance is usually performed for the harvesting season and welcoming spring in Kashmir Valley. Generally, a mix of two young girls and boys perform the Hikat dance holding their hands. Both of them extend and cross their hands to grab the wrist of the other person and then they slightly tilt their upper body backward. The music starts with slow beats, and the couple dancer slowly spins, and when the music begins to gain pace, the couple dancer starts spinning faster. Traditionally during the dance performance, Kashmiris wore Salwaar Kameez and Pathan Kurta.
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