Classical Dance Forms of India

July 11th, 2018

India is a land known for its rich and diverse culture, and its dance forms are known internationally for their graceful movements and elegant body poses. The art of storytelling that is intertwined amongst these dances is something that adds to their allure. But how much do you know about these many dance forms, or what state they originated in, or even what their names mean?

While there are numerous dances that can be counted when one refers to Indian classical dances, the number of recognized ones range from eight to more, depending on the source and scholar. The Sangeet Natak Akademi recognizes eight  - Bharatanatyam, Kathak, Kuchipudi, Odissi, Kathakali, Sattriya, Manipuri and Mohiniyattam.

Let’s have a quick overview of them:


Bharatanatyam, from Tamil Nadu

The term Bharata in Bharatanatyam, in the Hindu tradition, is believed to have named after the famous performance art sage to whom the ancient Natya Shastra is attributed. There is a false belief that the word Bharata is a mnemonic, consisting of “bha”–”ra”–”ta”. According to this belief, bha stands for bhava (feelings, emotions), ra stands for raga (melody, framework for musical notes), and ta stands for tala (rhythm). The term Natya is a Sanskrit word for “dance”. The compound word Bharatanatyam thus connotes a dance which harmoniously expresses “bhava, raga and tala”.

Image source – StyleCraze


Kathak, from Northern and Western India

The term Kathak is derived from the Vedic Sanskrit word Katha which means “story”, and Kathaka which means “the one who tells a story”, or “to do with stories”.

Image source - Mercury news

Image source – Mercury news


Kathakali, from Kerala

The term Kathakali is derived from Katha which means “story, or a conversation, or a traditional tale”, and Kali (from Kala) which means “performance and art”.

Image source - Utsavpedia

Image source – Utsavpedia



Kuchipudi, from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana

Kuchipudi is named after the village in Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh named Kuchipudi – shortened form of the full name Kuchelapuram or Kuchilapuri – where it developed.

Image source - Mythical India

Image source – Mythical India


Odissi, from Odisha

Odissi, also referred to as Orissi in older literature, is a major ancient Indian classical dance that originated in the Hindu temples of Odisha – an eastern coastal state of India.

Image source - Factualnews

Image source – Factualnews


Sattriya, from Assam

Sattriya or Sattriya Nritya. It is a dance-drama performance art with origins in the Krishna-centered Vaishnavism monasteries of Assam, and attributed to the 15th century Bhakti movement scholar and saint named Srimanta Sankardev.

Image source - myIndiamyGlory

Image source – myIndiamyGlory


Manipuri, from Manipur

Manipuri dance, also known as Jagoi, is one of the major Indian classical dance forms, named after the region of its origin – Manipur, a state in northeastern India

Image source - Cultural India

Image source – Cultural India


Mohiniyattam, from Kerala

Mohiniyattam, also spelled Mohiniattam, gets its name from the word Mohini – a mythical enchantress avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu, who helps the good prevail over evil by deploying her feminine powers.

Image source - Utsavpedia

Image source – Utsavpedia


So, now you know a little bit more about your own rich culture. Share with your friends to help them learn more too. And do take out some time to attend any performance of dance whenever possible. It is truly a transcendent experience!


*References taken from Wikipedia.



Comments are closed.