India’s Six Classical Dances

In India, dance is a long-standing and well-known cultural tradition. Dance can be found all across the country, with huge gatherings of people dancing at festivals and weddings. Indian movies (also known as “Bollywood” films) frequently include dance and song. But where do Indian dance traditions originate? Here are six of the most important classic Indian dance styles.


Bharatanatyam is a Tamil Nadu, southern India dance. It has its origins in the Natyashastra, an ancient treatise on theatre written by the legendary priest Bharata. Originally a temple dance for women, Bharatanatyam is frequently employed to depict Hindu religious myths and devotions. Until the 20th century, it was not widely performed on the public stage. The dancer’s legs are bent; her feet remain in time. To convey a tale, hands may be utilized in a series of mudras, or symbolic hand gestures.


The origins of Kathakali are in southwestern India, specifically Kerala. Like Bharatanatyam, kathakali is a religious dance. It derives inspiration from the Ramayana and Shaiva traditions and incorporates stories from them. Kathakali is traditionally performed by boys and men, regardless of gender. The costumes and makeup are extremely complicated, with makeup consisting of painted masks and enormous headdresses.


The Kathak dance is an Indian dance that is frequently a passion dance. It’s done by both men and women. The steps are complicated footwork accentuated with bells around the ankles and stylized gestures derived from basic body language. It was created by Kathakas, a professional narrative teller who utilized song, dance, and drama in his performances. Like other Indian dances, it began as a temple dance but has subsequently been absorbed into the courts of governing houses.


Manipuri comes from Manipur in India’s northeast. It is influenced by folk traditions and practices from that state, as well as depictions of Krishna’s life. Unlike other more rhythmic dances, Manipuri is characterized by smooth and elegant motions. Female roles have particularly agile arms and hands, whereas male roles are characterized by more forceful movement. Narrative chanting and choral singing may be used to accompany the dance.


Kuchipudi, unlike the preceding types, necessitates not just dancing but also singing ability. This dance form Andhra Pradesh in southeast India is highly ritualized, with a prearranged song-and-dance introduction, sprinkling of holy water, burning of incense, and invocational invocations of goddesses. Traditionally, men danced the dance; even female characters were male actors.


Odissi is a dance from the state of Orissa in eastern India that has its origins in ancient times. It’s mostly a female dance with postures taken from temple sculptures. Odissi is considered to be the oldest surviving Indian classical dance based on historical evidence. Odissi is an extremely intricate and emotive dance, with more than fifty mudras (symbolic hand gestures) being employed regularly.