India - Major Folk Dance Styles of India

by V.A.Ponmelil (All rights reserved by the author)

Major Folk Dance Styles of India

Raut Nacha (Chhattisgarh)

Raut Nacha is a unique traditional folk dance festival of the milkmen of the Chhattisgarh region. Earlier, the festival was confined only to the community of the milk men who are also known as Rauts or Yadavs, a caste of people who considered themselves as the descendants of the Lord Krishna. But now it is celebrated with equal fervor throughout the state.

This dance is performed as a symbol of worship to Krishna, at the time of 'dev udhni ekadashi' which is referred as the time of awakening of Gods after a brief rest according to the Hindu Panchang or the calendar. According to the legend, it is also a symbol of victory celebrated by the Yadavs after the king named Khansa was defeated by Krishna. Dressed in glittering costumes and armed with sticks and metal shields, apart from the bells being tied to their waists ringing, the gallant routs recreate the symbolic image of the ancient warriors.

Bardo Chham (Arunachal Pradesh)

Bardo Chham is a fascinating folk dance of Sherdukpens who form a small community in the West Kameng District of Arunachal Pradesh. This dance depicts the victory of good over evil.
According to the local belief, the forces of good and evil rule the mankind. It is also believed that in one year, twelve different types of animals, representing the evil forces appear each month and get together. In order to fight these evil forces, the Sherdukpens mask themselves representing the different animals and dance to the accompaniment of drums and cymbals.
Chang Lo / Sua Lua (Nagaland)

The Chang Lo or Sua Lua dance of the Chang tribe of Nagaland was performed to celebrate the victory over the enemies in the earlier times.

Presently, it forms a part of all the community celebrations. The dance has become a visual treat with the dramatic costumes of the traditional Naga warrior and the finery of womenfolk.

Charkula (Uttar Pradesh)

Lord Krishna being the main deity, every aspect of the culture of the Braj region of Uttar Pradesh is associated with him. Every story, dance, or song is related to him in one way or the other way. In fact, Braj region is the land of Lord Krishna and his lover Radha. The spectacular folk dance, Charkula also has its origin in the legend of Krishna. According to the legend, Radha’s grand mother ran out of the house with the Charkula on her head to announce the birth of Radha. From then onwards, Charkula has become a popular dance form performed during various festivities in Brajbhoomi. Charkula is especially performed on the third day after Holi. It is the day on which Radha was born. Another legend says that the Charkula dance is celebrated on the occasion of the happy victory over Indra by Krishna and the cowherd community of Braj. Lord Krishna raised the Mount Govardhan to protect the people from the rains shattered by Indra. The people took shelter under the mountain to escape from the harmful effects of the rain by angry Indra. To re-enact the Govardhan leela of Lord Krishna, the dancing damsel of Braj carries Charkula while performing this dance. Women are dressed in long skirts which reach up to the toes. There is a colorful blouse and the dancer covers her body and face with the odhani or veil. These women carry a large multi-tiered circular wooden pyramid having 108 oil lamps on their heads while dancing. They perform their dances to the tunes of rasiya which are the songs of Lord Krishna. The dance has synchronized steps to the beats of the drum. The movements of the dancers are limited due to the heavy load of stuff on their head. They cannot bend their body nor can they move their back. In spite of these limitations the dancers dance gliding, bending, and pirouetting to the tune of the song. The collective merriment of the occasion marks the climax with the singers also start dancing to the swift beat of music and movement.

Cheraw (Mizoram)
The Cheraw dance is one of the most popular folk dances of the tribal community in the country and one of the oldest traditional folk dances of the people of Mizoram. It is also the most colourful Mizo dance with an amazing combination of rhythm and skill. It is believed that the dance has its origin in the 1st Century A.D., when the Mizos were still somewhere in the Yunan Province of China, before their migration into the Chin Hills in the 13th Century A.D., and eventually to the present Mizoram. There are still some tribes living in South East Asia having similar dances in one form or the other in different names. Mainly, the tribal people of Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand perform similar dances. It is also believed that the dance having a foreign origin was brought by the fore-fathers of the Mizos from their early abode in far-east Asia.
The Cheraw dance is a stick dance requiring lot of skills and courage. This dance is also referred to as the bamboo dance, as bamboos are used in its performance. Four persons especially men will hold two pairs of long bamboo poles that are laid across one another close to the ground. As the bamboo rods are struck together, the girl dancers step in rhythm, dancing between the poles without getting entangled. They move by stepping alternately in and out from between and across a pair of horizontal bamboos, held against the ground, by people sitting face to face on either side. Men tap the bamboos open and close in rhythmic beats.

The bamboos placed horizontally are supported by two bases, one at each end. The bamboos when clapped produce a sharp sound which forms the rhythm of the dance. It indicates the timing of the dance as well. The girl dancers step in and out of the beats of the bamboo with ease and grace. The speed and skill of these dancers and those handling the poles are exciting to watch. The pattern and stepping of the dance have many variations. Sometimes the steps are made imitating the movements of the birds, the animals or the swaying of the trees. Men are dressed in traditional attires and the girl dancers wear the colourful Mizo costumes of the Punchei, the Kawrchei, the Vakiria and the Yhihna.

The Mizos originally believed that much of their sufferings and illness were caused by evil spirits. The Cheraw dance is performed as a part of sacrifices to appease the spirits on the death of the child. The spirit of the child, according to the old beliefs, had to pass through the portal of `Pu Pawla`, the legendary custodian of paradise before it could enter `Pialral`, the heavenly abode of the dead.

The spirit of the poor child will not be harnessed, but allowed a safe entry into `Pialarel` in full glory, if a Cheraw was performed in its favour. Cheraw is therefore, a dance of sanctification and redemption performed with calculated precision and charm. Now the Cheraw dance is usually performed on many festivities especially on the occasion of 'Buhza Aih' which is celebrated for the bumper harvest by an individual family. It is not a community dance but a dance performed by a few selected girls with exceptional skills. It is also performed in marriage ceremonies and on the merry-makings to celebrate success. The accompanying instruments such as Gongs and drums are used for giving beats to the rhythm of the dance and today, the modern music is also accompanying the dance.

Dalkhai (Orissa)

The Dalkhai dance is performed by some women tribes in Sambalpur district in Orissa at the time of seasonal festivals. It is very popular in Western Orissa, especially in the districts of the Bolangir, the Sambalpur, the Sundergarh, the Boudhphulbani and the Akhamalik areas. It is celebrated in the month of September-October, by the adivasi tribe girls who observe Dalkhai festival in order to please the goddesses like the Durga, the Mangala and other village deities, and to wish good luck to their brothers. 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. The Dalkhai dance is performed in Lasya style and is accompanied by village music for rhythmic timings. The instrumental music consists of the Dhol, the Nisan, the Timki, the Tasa and the Mahuri. The unmarried girls are dressed in colourful Sambalpuri and Sonepuri sarees and cheap ornaments. The Dhalia Khosa, which is in the form of a slanting knot, is the main hair style of the female dancers.

In the beginning of the performance, Dhulia, the drummer beats the Dhol or the drums. Many young girls stand in a line and sing Dalkhai songs. After a while, the girls start dancing by bending forward to half sitting position. The movements of their hands, legs, knees, hips in different postures are of primary importance. While performing the dance, the girls place a piece of Sonepuri Ganga Jamuna Gamuchha cloth of red or pink colour, on their shoulders. The hands are moved forward and backward alternatively with regulated steps to the sound of the dhol, sometimes slow and sometimes fast.

There are various forms of Dalkhai dance, such as the Dhadi Dalkhai or the Row Dalkhai, the Golei Dalkhai or the Circle Dalkhai, the Jodi Dalkhai or the Duet Dalkhai and the Baithaki Dalkhai or the Dalkhai in half sitting position.

The type of the Dalkhai dance may be either professional or spontaneous. The professional Dalkhai dancers have urban influence in their performances, but the spontaneous Dalkhai dancers preserve the true spirit of this art form. The songs of the professional Dalkhai are of the Shringara Rasa, or the songs of love.

Devarattam (Tamil Nadu)

Devarattam means the dance of the gods. It is a pure folk dance still preserved by the descendents of Veerapandiya Kattabomman dynasty at Kodangipatti of Madurai District in Tamil Nadu. Earlier, only the Kambala Naickar community of Tamil Nadu, who believed that they are the direct descendants of the gods, performed this dance.

The Devarattam dance is a combination of ancient 'muntherkuruvai' and 'pintherkuruvai' of the ancient Tamil Kings. It was performed in front of and at the chariot on the victorious return of the King and his army from battle field. The king and his marshals dancing on the chariot deck and the other soldiers and female dancers forming in lines and dancing behind the chariot are the main highlights of the dance. This dance does not have any songs but only performed to the beat of the Urumi Melam, the Thappu Melam and sometimes, a long flute. The Devarattam troupe dances to the beat of the deva thunthubi. Dressed in a kurta and veshti (dhoti), with colourful handkerchiefs tied to their wrists, the artistes dance to the mesmeric beat of the thunthubi, a drum-shaped percussion instrument. The person leading the dance wears false beard and a mask decorated with shells look like teeth. The dance is performed during festivals, marriages and other social occasions.

According to the legend, the Nandi, the bovine disciple of Lord Shiva, had become very arrogant because of his expertise on the melam, or the drum. The lord Shiva, in order to curb the arrogance of the Nandi, created the Deva thunthubi. Only after the Deva thunthubi was played, the celestial dancers like Rathi, Tilothamma and Menaka were able to dance. There are eighteen basic steps in the Devarattam which has given rise to various permutations and combinations. Out of which, 72 have been standardised.

Dhol Cholam (Manipur)

The Dhol Cholam dance is a traditional drum dance and is one of the most thrilling dances of Manipur. It is performed during the celebrations of the festival of Holi in the spring.

Dollu Kunitha (Karnataka)

The Dollu Kunitha is a popular and vigorous drum dance form of Karnataka. It is a major form of art accompanied by singing and occupies a pride place among folk dances. It provides a spectacular variety and complexity of skills in the process of demonstration. The powerful drumming, the acrobatic movements and the attractive formations are the notable highlights of the dance. It is woven around the presiding deity of Beereshwara or Beeralingeswara which is chiefly worshipped by the Kuruba Gowdas of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, also called Halumathasthas. This semi circular dance, with a brilliant combination of sound and speed, gives lot of entertainment along with a spiritual edification.

The soul of the Dollu Kunitha lies in the use of an indigenous folk instrument called the Dollu which when struck emits a thunderous sound. It is a percussion instrument which is used in this group dance. A group of men dancers having large drums, decorated with coloured cloth, slung from their necks, beat the drums as they dance with nimble movements of the feet and legs to the different rhythms of the Dollu. Since the dance demands the strength, the muscle power and the spirit of endurance, only well-built sturdy persons of enough stamina can perform this dance. The group is directed by controlled and directed by a leader with cymbals moving at the center. It has a very simple costume. The upper part of the body is left bare while the lower one has a black sheet-rug tied on the Dhooti.

The dance is accompanied by the songs, sung in the glory of their lord Beereshwara, giving an altogether different ring of intonation as distinguishable from the rest of other kinds of folk singers. This expressive literature in its oral tradition goes by the legend called 'Halumatha Purana' or Kuruba Purana. The legend says that to kill time, Lord Siva and Parvathi played games and bet as well.

The bet was that the loser must leave Kailasa to live anonymously in 'Bhuloka', Obviously Siva loses and he moves into a cave in Bhuloka and stays there in the form of a stone. 'Mayamurthi' Siva's ardent loyalist guards the cave. As years pass by, Parvathi gets fed up of managing the universe and sends 'Vayu' in search of Siva but in vain. But Narada locates the cave, kills Mayamurthi and forces 'Siva' to return to Kailasa. Lord Siva, unwilling to leave behind the dead body of his trusted and beloved guard makes Dollu out of the dead body and carries it to Kailasa.

The dollu dance is also accompanied by other instruments such as the tala, the tappadi, the trumpet, the gong and the flute, raised to a high-pitched tenor. They are mainly used to reinforce the rich vibrations of the Dollu. There are various forms of Dollu Kunitha. Some of them are the Devare Thatte Kunitha, the Yellammana Kunitha and the Suggi Kunitha.

The Dollu dance has undergone a lot of changes in the vigour and raciness of performance from generation to generation. Hardly any religious performance of a ritualistic ceremony or any village festival can ever take place without this dance, especially in North Karnataka. Today, the messages on the loan melas, the small savings, the adult education and the population control programmes have also been integrated into this folk dance.

Dumhal Dance (Kashmir)

The Dumhal dance is a colourful popular dance of Kashmir. It is mainly performed by the menfolk of the Wattal tribe of Kashmir on specific occasions and at specific locations. The costume of the dance includes the long colourful robes with the tall conical caps which are studded with beads and shells. A group of performers moves in a procession carrying a banner in a very ceremonial fashion. The banner is then placed in the ground and the dance is performed by the Men artists around the banner, forming a circle. The participants also sing while dancing accompanied by the drums.

Garadi (Pondicherry)

The Garadi is the famous dance of Pondicherry. It is believed to have a purely mythological origin which traces back to the ancient days of the Ramayana. The legend says that when Rama, the epic hero of the Ramayana defeated Ravana of Srilanka, the Vanars or the monkeys performed this dance to celebrate this victory. This dance is performed on all festivals and usually continues for five to eight hours. The dancers disguise themselves as the Vanaras of the Ramayana and they carry sticks in their hands while dancing. The dance is mainly accompanied by the beat of two big drums, called the Rama Dollus, each being eight feet in diameter. There is another distinctive feature about this dance. It has set of the iron rings called the Anjali which are worn by the dancers on their legs. Each leg of the dancers will have ten such anjalis. When the dance is performed, these rings produce a very melodious sound.

Ghoomar (Haryana and Rajasthan)

The Ghoomar dance of the states of the Haryana and the Rajasthan is a community dance mainly for women and performed during auspicious occasions. The beautiful women dressed in multi-hued skirts swirl gracefully during this lively dance. Derived from the word ghoomna, piroutte, this dance is a very simple dance where the ladies move gently, gracefully in circles. The Ghoomar is performed by young women and girls during the festivals like the Holi, the Gangaur Puja, the Teej, etc.

The songs sung for the Ghoomar dance in Haryana are high-pitched and rich in humor and satire. But in Rajasthan, the Ghoomar is performed to the songs of valor and victory. The performers carry the earthen pots and dance with slick movements of the hands and feet. Even though, this is essentially a group dance, sometimes the dancers show their skills by dancing independently. In Rajasthan, this dance displays the spectacular colours of the flowing 'ghaghra', the long skirt of the Rajasthani women.

The Ghoomar dance is the very life-blood of Bhil culture. Performed in all seasons, it is always accompanied by songs of love, glory or defeat. Men and women move in a circle with one half of this circle constituting the men and the other half by women. They sing alternately and move clockwise and anticlockwise giving free and intended play to the ample folds of the ghagra. This ghoomar dance has a clear distinction from the dance of the same name prevalent in urban Rajasthan. The ghoomar dance of the Bhils is an energetic and lively performance. But the same social dance of urban women is very polite.

Goti Pua (Orissa)

The Goti Pua is a special dance of Orissa where the boy dancers are dressed up like the girls. The word goti means one or single and pua, means boy, but the goti pua dance involves dancing in pairs. It was through the pioneering efforts of Ramchandradeva, the Goti Pua came into being, during the latter half of the 6th century. The last of the great dynasties of Orissa had collapsed and the Mughals and the Afghans were in the midst of a tug-of-war. Ramachandradeva, the Raja of Khurda in Orissa had provided refugee to the Mughal soldiers who were defeated by the Afghan troops. Thus, Ramachandradeva was in the good books of Emperor Akbar. Not only, was Ramchandradeva an able ruler but also a sensitive and enlightened man. In his reign, the maharis or the devadasis attached initially only to temples, came to be patronised by the courts. It was in his time, the goti pua tradition of dance came into existence.

Another reason that traces the emergence of goti puas is that the women dancing on the pretext of worship was greatly disapproved by Vaishnavas. So to eliminate the problem, the custom of dancing by boys dressed as girls was introduced. The boys are also students of the akhadas, or gymnasiums established by Ramachandradeva in Puri, at the boundaries of the temple. The akhadas were rather like clubs, brought up in seven streets in the periphery of the temple, to encourage physical culture as well as cultural activity. The main concern of the akhadas was physical exercise, gymnastics, to help equip oneself in the art of defense. But at the same time, the akhadas also served as the nurseries for training the goti puas. Hence the goti puas were also known as Akhada Pilas -boys attached to the akhadas. The mahari and goti pua dance styles co-existed, each independently, but with common roots. The Odissi dance is said to have evolved from a curious amalgamation of both these dance traditions.

In goti pua tradition, the boys are recruited about the age of six and continue to perform till they are 14, then become the teachers of the dance or join drama parties. Goti puas are now a part of professional teams, known as dals, each headed by a guru. A goti pua presentation is ably supported by a set of three musicians, who play the pakhawaj, the gini or the cymbal and the harmonium. The boys do the singing themselves, though at times the group has an additional singer. The goti puas go through their paces together, identically, in total unison. Even in expressional pieces accompanied by singing, both dance as if they were one. As they are the boys, in the formative years, the goti puas can adapt their bodies to the dance in a flexible and a versatile way. The boys are also given a treatment of an oil massage, every morning coupled with lot of exercises on stretching, bending and twisting the limbs. The presentation of goti puas is organised and has items such as the Bhumi Pranam, the Panchadevta Puja, the Bhumi Pranam and the Battu. The dance starts with the Bhumi Pranam, a salutation to mother earth and ends with the Bidahi Sangeet, a farewell song. The whole performance lasts for about three hours.

Even though the goti puas have no place in the temple set up, there are two festivals, where they play very important role. During the Chandan Jatra festival, apart from the maharis, the goti puas were carried in independent boats down the Narendra Sarovar, a sacred tank in Puri, to dance and sing before the sacred images. In the Jhoolan Jatra celebrated every August, the goti puas are given priority than the maharis. Today, the surviving goti pua dals belong to villages and some prominent groups from Dimirisena and Raghurajapur near Puri, and Darara, near Bhubaneswar.

Hojagiri (Tripura)

The Hojagiri dance reflects an age old culture and the unique style of dance of the Reang community of Tripura. There is also the Hojagiri festival which is held every year in the month of November, organised by the Reang community with some support from the Government. The main highlight of the dance is that the dancers perform unusually amazing acrobatic feats. In this dance, only the lower half of the body is moved to create rhythmic movements. The Reang girls twist and turn and dance in time to the compelling rhythm. Sometimes they dance on an earthen pitcher or balancing a bottle on the head with a lighted lamp on top of it. The associated Hojagiri festival is normally held at Karbook, Laxmichara and Kanchanpur, of which Karbook and Laxmichara are in South Tripura District and Kanchanpur is in North Tripura district.

Jawara (Madhya Pradesh)

The jawara dance is a well known folk dance of the Bundelkhand area of the state of Madhya Pradesh. The dance reflects the great joy and excitement of the people. It is essentially a harvest dance of the peasants who have reaped a good harvest. Men and women together participate in this dance. The women wear very colourful costumes and the jewellery. The women carry baskets or pots full of jawara on their heads. In spite of the dance being very vigorous, the women dancers are able to balance these baskets very skillfully. The dance is accompanied by a rich variety of the percussion, the stringed and the wind instruments.

Karma (Munda), (Bihar)

The Karma dance of Bihar is a traditional dance gets its name from the Karma Tree. This tree which is referred as the symbol of fortune and good luck is the main attraction of the dance. The Karma dance is very popular with the adivasis of Bihar such as the Santhals, the Birhors, the Hos, the Kisans, the Oraons, and the Mundas. The Karma is the most important festival among these tribes. It is celebrated during harvests. The ceremony starts with the planting the branch of the Karma tree. At the Karma festival, a group of young people including both men and women go to the forest and cut a young Karma (Nauclea parvifolia) tree or the branch of the tree. They bring this home in great enthusiasm and triumph and plant it in the centre of the Akhara or the wrestling ground. The next morning all the members gather around this tree. The tree is decorated with the strips of coloured cloths and the bracelets. The young dancers, both men and women, form circles around it and then 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. The entire village community filled with high spirits, dances continuously for three days. The Karma festival is also celebrated by the Mathos, the Harijans, the Napits, and the Mandals in which their womenfolk dance round the Karma plant.

Kinnauri Nati (Himachal Pradesh)

The Kinnauri Nati of Himachal Pradesh is a marvelous dance form which eloquently expresses the pristine beauty of hilly state in the languid and elegant movements matching the gentleness of the hilly breeze and the rhythmic swaying of trees. The dance being mime incorporates some abstract and languid sequences. The Losar shona chuksom is the important dance form of Nati which marks the celebration of the New Year and depicts all the activities involved in sowing the crop and reaping it. Earlier, this dance was performed only by men and now women also participate. The costume of the men is the traditional swirling tunics referred as the churidars with pyjamas that resemble jodhpurs and decorated caps. Sometimes, the costume comprises of the Chola or the top coat, the Ghaghra or the skirt, the Gachi, the Lachhi, the floral shawl and the Boomani with silver chains, tight churidar pyjamas, socks and shoes. The women wear heavy armlets and silver and gold ornaments known as Tunki and Chanki around their necks. The men and women hold an ornate fan in one hand and a colourful handkerchief in another and clap as they dance. The dance is accompanied by four to eight musicians. The instruments that accompany this dance range from the Drums, the Shehnai, the Cymbals and the Ranasinga.

There are thirteen variations in this dance depending on the tempo. Several forms of Nati dance are prevalent in the Kulu, the Sirmaur, the Mandi, the Mahasu and the Chamba areas. In Kulu, this dance is referred as the Siraji Nati which is like the Kathak dance. It also embraces a number of dance forms like the Dheeli, the Dekhi, the Feh, the Bakhali, the Kahika, the Dohari, the Lahauli, the Chambiyali, the Banthada and the Loodi.

Kalbelia Dance (Rajasthan)

The Kalbelia dance is a fascinating dance performed by the women of Kalbelia community, also known as the snake charmers community. It is the most sensuous dance form of Rajasthan. As the main occupation of the community is catching snakes and trading snake venom, even their dance has the same theme. The dance movements and the costumes bear resemblance to that of the serpents. The dancers are attired in traditional long black swirling skirts embroidered with silver ribbons. As they spin in circle, their body sways acrobatically, sway sinuously to the accompaniment of the pungi, and the dufli. As the beat increases to such a high pitch with the free flowing voice, others also join the dance.

Koli (Goa)

The Koli dance derives its name from the fisher folk of Goa who are referred as Kolis, in the local language. The Kolis are noted for their distinct identity and lively dances. The dances performed by them incorporate the elements with which they are most familiar such as the sea and their occupation of fishing. The dance is performed by both men and women who are divided into two groups, small and big. The main story of the dance is enacted by the smaller group of men and women. The theme has that the Kolin or the fisherwoman makes advances to the Koli or the fisherman. The second larger group, also in pairs, forms the backdrop for the story. They dance in a looped movement which depicts the rowing of a fishing boat on undulating waves.

Kummi (Tamil Nadu)
The word Kummi is said to be derived from Kommai and means to 'dance with clapping of hands' to time and singing poems in a metre adapted to the Kummi dance. The Kummi dance of Tamil Nadu is one of the most important and ancient forms of village dances. Being originated when there were no musical instruments, this dance has the participants clapping their hands to keep time. The dance is performed mainly by women. The women stand in a circle and dance clapping their hands rhythmically to the songs. They also move in the circle and the hand gestures signify the reaping and the harvesting process. One of the women leads the singing with a favourite song while the rest of them take up the refrain. Each performer renders a new line in turn and the dancing stops when all get tired. In some local variations of the Kummi dance, men also participate. In this form, the men with small sticks in their hands form a larger outer circle, inside which the women stand in a smaller ring. The clapping of the hands by the women and the beating of the sticks by men are perfectly synchronised with their steps and the rhythm of the songs. This dance is performed usually during the temple festivals, the harvest festival, or any family functions. There are many forms of the Kummi dance. They are the Poonthatti Kummi, the Deepa Kummi, the Kulavai Kummi, the Kadir Kummi, and the Mulaipari Kummi.
Lava Dance (Lakshadweep)

Lava Dance is a colourful tribal dance of Minicoy Island of Lakshadweep. The dancers wearing multi-hued costumes, a headgear and carrying a special drum perform this dance in a much organised manner. Their dance movements are prolific and profuse in rhythm to the drum beats and vocal accompaniment.

Namgen (Himachal Pradesh)

The Namgen dance of Himachal Pradesh is performed as an autumnal hue in the month of September. The women members of the team wear costumes that are largely woolen and richly studded ornaments of silver. In most of the cases, men and women dance together in a close formation.

Nicobarese Dance (Andaman & Nicobar Islands)

The Nicobarese dance of Andaman and Nicobar Islands is a fascinating tribal circular dance. It is mainly performed during the Ossuary Feast or the Pig Festival in or near the houses in the island of Car Nicobar. This dance is dedicated to the departed head of the family. It 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. The group has a leader under whose control the dancers step right and left, jump in unison, and come down on heels. They also sing clearly and in unison. Feasting and good food followed by a pig fight in the morning are other highlights of the celebration.
The most popular musical instrument used for the dance is Guitar.

Padayani (Kerala)

The 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 mainly in the districts of Aleppy, Quilon, Pathanamthitta, and Kottayam.

The word Padayani means the military formations or the rows of army. This folk dance has 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 singers recite a different poem for each kolam, and the instrumentalists evoke wild and loud rhythm on their simple drum called thappu and cymbals. The important Kolams of the Padayani dance are the Bhairavi or the Kali, the Kalan or the god of death, the Yakshi or the fairy, and the Pakshi or the bird. The Kolam comprises 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 takes the form of a procession of Kali and her spirits returning after the killing of the Asura chief Darika.

Panthi (Madhya Pradesh)

The Panthi folk dance of the Satnami community of Madhya Pradesh has religious overtones. It is performed on Maghi Purnima which is the birth anniversary of their Guru Ghasidas. The dance is still in an evolving form to include a variety of steps and patterns. The dancers perform around a jaitkham set up for the occasion and to the songs eulogizing their spiritual head. These songs reflect the Nirvana philosophy, conveying the spirit of renunciation of their Guru and the teachings of saint poets like Kabir, Ramdas, Dadu, etc. The dancers perform with bent torsos and swinging arms. When the rhythm quickens, they also involve in acrobatics forming human pyramids.

Pavri Nach (Maharashtra)

The Pavri Nach is a Kokna tribal dance to the accompaniment of the tarpha or the pavri which is a wind instrument made of dried gourd. The dance is usually performed in the hilly regions of the northwest of Maharastra. A group of dancers performs this by holding each other by the waist and dancing in close formation. Even men also dance separately. They perform the feats of skill, like forming a pyramid or rapidly revolving a dancer round a stout pole.

Ruk Mar Nacha (Orissa)

The Ruk Mar Nacha is a rudimentary form of the more evolved Chhau dance of West Bengal. It is performed in the Mayurbhanj district of Orissa. The dance has its base in the martial arts tradition. This stylized mock battle has two groups of dancers armed with swords and shields alternatively attacking and defending themselves with vigorous movements and elegant stances. It has exceptionally notable accompanying music with rhythmic complexities and vigorous percussion. The instruments of the dance are the Mahuri which is a double reeded instrument, the Dhola which is a barrel shaped two-sided drum, the Dhumsa which is a hemispherical drum and the Chadchadi which is a short cylindrical drum.

Singhi Chham (Sikkim)

The Singhi Chham is a masked dance of Sikkim. It depicts the snow lion which is the cultural symbol of the state. Even Snow lion was treated as the guardian deity of the people of Sikkim by Guru Padamsambhava. The snow lion is also a representation of the world’s third highest mountain Kanchenjunga or Khang-Chen Dzong Pa in the state of Sikkim. The natives are dressed in furry costumes and perform this majestic masked dance displaying their cultural symbol of Snow Lion.

Spaw Dance (Ladakh)

The Spaw dance is a martial form of dance with a brilliant display of courage, stamina and skill. This dance is performed to commemorate 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. The dance forms an inseparable part of the Ladakhi culture.

Tarangmel (Goa)

The Tarangmel is a multi-hued dance with all energy and youthfulness. It is performed on the occasions of Dussehra and Holi. The spirited young girls and boys swarm the streets in colorful group, waving flags and streamers (tarang). They inspire and invite one and all to imbibe the festive spirit. They also shout in cheerful moods to the beats of the romut, the dhol and the Tasha. The Taranmel is a vissually appealing dance with the rainbow like costumes of the dancers and the multi-coloured flags and streamers.

Tertali (Madhya Pradesh)

The Tertali dance is performed by the Kamar tribe of Madhya Pradesh. It is an elaborate ritual with many elements of dance. Generally two or three women perform this dance by sitting on the ground. The instruments such as the Manjiras or the small metal cymbals are tied to different parts of the body, mostly the legs. With a cymbal in either hand the dancer strikes these instruments in rhythm. The dancers cover their head with a veil. Sometimes they clench a small sword between the teeth and balance an ornamental pot on the head.

Thang Ta (Manipur)

The Thang Ta is the martial dance form which is exclusive only to Manipur. The word 'Thang' means the sword and 'Ta' means the spear. The dance is an amazing display of the traditional art of warfare. The performers leap and attack each other and defend themselves. Thang Ta is an ingenuous display of skill and creativity which was encouraged by the kings of the earlier times. It also has a ritualistic aspect with some movements of sword intended to ward off the evil spirits, while the other postures indicate the protection. Thang Ta is said to have originated all the other dance forms of Meiti people.

Thapetta Gullu (Andhra Pradesh)

The Thapetta Gullu is the dance form of the Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh. In this dance, more than ten dancers participate, singing songs in the praise of the local goddess. The drums are hung around the necks of the dancers to produce varied rhythms. There are tinkling bells around the waist of the performer which form the distinctive part of the dancers' costumes.

The Padhar Dance (Gujarat)

The Padhar dance is performed by a rural community living around NalLake in Gujrat. In this dance, the performers simulate the rhythmic movements of rowing mariners and the undulating sea waves.

Poikal Attam (Tamil Nadu)

Poikal Attam implies the dance of false legs. The dancers have a dummy horse tied to their waists. The dance has only two legs of the performer instead of the four legs of the horse. It is appears as if the performer is riding the horse. This popular folklore dance has the themes mainly on the Raja Desingu which represented the popular Rajput ruler called Tej Singh who invaded areas all the way up to Tamil Nadu.


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