Classical Dances of India

Classical dances of India are various styles of dance forms which are performed in sacred way which is generally story based on good and evil. These dances are in practice in different regions of India from ancient times. Details of various dance forms and its techniques can be traced down from the book “Natyashastra” written by sage Bharat Muni in ancient times.

The dances of India can be classified in two categories –

i) Classical Dances

ii) Folk and Tribal Dances

The main classical dances with their origin places are described as follows –

Classical Dances of India : Bharatnatyam classical dances of india

It is one of the most popular classical dances of India. It originated from South India mostly from the region of present Tamil Nadu. Bharatnatyam is a solo dance performed generally by women. The dance theme is based on instances pertaining to Hindu religion deities specially Shiva.  Bharatanatyam is the oldest classical dance form of India. It was originally performed by devdasis in the temples. This dance was patronized by Cholas, Pandyas, Nayaks, Vijayanagar rulers.

The techniques of this dance consists of 64 principles of co-ordinated hand, foot, face and body movements. The dance is characterised by bent knees in association with magnificent gestures of hands twirling with sign language. Facial expressions aided by eyes and facial muscles beautifies and adds degree of divinity to this dance. There is background music and a singer (called guru) also present during the performance of artist. The dance starts with a slow tempo but gathers momentum and eventually there is very swift motion of hands, feet, body twists and facial expression.

During the British period, the practise and proliferation of Bharatanatyam reduced and virtually halted. The christian missionaries in south had wrong image about this dance and they use to relate it as erotic amusement form by harlots, courtesans etc.  In 1910, British totally banned the temple dancing of all form in Madras province. Huge protest began as it was considered as attack on culture, religion and traditions by priests class on the name of social reform.

The traditional form of Bharatanatyam generally consists of solo female dancer accompanied with band of musicians and one or more singers. The attire in Bharatanatyam is brightly coloured sari. The sari is adorned with heavy jewelleries on nose, ears, head, wrists and a wait band.

  • The popular artists/exponents of Bharatanatyam are Bala Saraswati, Shanta Rao, Mrinalini Sarabhai, Yamini Krishnamurthy, Kamala, Vyjayanthimala, Sonal man Singh, Samyukta Panigrahi and Rukhmini Devi.

Classical Dances of India : Kathakkathak classical dances of india

The word Kathak relates to katha “कथा”(or story). This dance form originated from North India mostly present Uttar Pradesh. Kathak dance traditionally was performed by group of wandering people/priests called kathakars. The katha which is the background plot on which dance sequence proceeds is based on short instances of Indian hindu mythology. It is one of the famous classical dances of north India. Its origin dates to ancient times when groups of priests went about reciting stories of Ramayan and Mahabharat using music and dance. Childhood narations of Sri Krisnha (Krishna Bal Leela) also used to be most popular concept of Kathak dance. It soon turned to dance-drama in which actors took part. Kathak gained momentum during Bhakti movement specially in 17th century.

There are three major schools or gharanas from which practitioners draw their lineage – Benares, Lucknow and Jaipur.

The maestros of Kathak dance are – Sitara Devi, Birju Maharaj, Gopi Krishna, Binda din Maharaj, Kalkadin, Uma Sharma.

Classical Dances of India : Kathakaliclassical dances of india kathkali

This dance form originated from Kerala in 17th century. This dance is noticed by dancers heavy costume, big head gears, fluffy skirts and silver nails. The artist generally gets the face colored. it is performed generally at temples during festivals. This is a dance drama which combines with music, poetry, mime and drama. The themes are taken from Ramayana and Mahabharata.

The maestros of this dance are – Guru krishna Kutty, Kanak Rele and Raghvan.


Classical Dances of India : Mohiniattamclassical dances of india Mohiniattam

It is classical dance which also originates from Kerala. The word Mohini means a maiden who attracts or fill desire on the onlooker. This format is similar to bharatnatyam. The movements are graceful like Odissi and the costumes are attractive. It is a solo dance.

The maestros of this dance are – Sunanda Nair, Jayaprabha Menon, Pallavi Krishnan, Gopika Verma, Vijayalakshmi and Radha Dutta.

Manipuriclassical dances of india

This dance belongs to the northeast state of Manipur. It is purely a religious dance which is used to invoke divine blessings. It involves movement of head, hands and feet in complete harmony. Man and woman dance together in duet.

The maestros of this dance are – Guru Bipin Sinha, Jhaveri sisters and T Nadia Singh.


Odissiclassical dances of india

It is a classical dance of Odisha. It is considered to be oldest form of classical dance dating back to pre-christian era. The characterstics of this dance is bhang (breaking) of human body with deflection of the head, torso and the hips.

The famous dancers of Odissi are – Aadya Kaktikar, Aditi Bandhopadhyay, Anita Babu, Arpita Venkatesh and Aruna Mohanty.


 Kuchipudiclassical dances of india

It is dance drama of Andhra Pradesh. Kuchipudi derives its name from a village Kuchelapuram. It closely resembles Bharatnatyam. However its movements are much faster and style is free.

Famous Kuchipudi dancers – Bhavana Reddy, Kaushalya Reddy, Raja and Radha Reddy and Yamini Reddy.