List Of Classical Dances Of India PDF: Dance is first mentioned in a well-known work in Bharat Muni’s book Natya Shastra. There are various forms of dance in India including classical dances and folk dances. According to India’s Ministry of Culture, there are 9 recognized classical dances.
Knowing about Indian Classical Dances is important for the competitive exams, as it holds importance for the Static Gk section. Here we have provided a list of Classical Dance Forms Of India, Its history, and some famous classical dancers of India.
Table of Contents
Indian Classical Dances: Overview
|Topic||Classical Dance Forms Of India|
|Important For||All Competitive Exams|
|Total Number Of Classical Dances In India||9|
|Total Number Of Rasa Of Classical Dances||9|
|Basic Aspects Of Classical Dance||Lasya and Tandava|
|Basic Elements Of Classical Dance||Nritta, Natya and Nritya|
|Famous Source Of Dance||Bharat Muni’s book Natya Shastra|
- Excavations, inscriptions, chronicles, genealogies of kings and artists, literary sources, sculptures, and paintings of different periods provide extensive evidence of dance in India.
- Contemporary classical dance forms have evolved out of the musical play or sangeet-nataka performed from the 12th century to the 19th century.
- The first formal mention of dance is found in Bharata Muni’s famous work Natya Shastra.
- Dance is a form of art, where the body is used as a medium of communication.
- The dance heritage of India is at least 5000 years old.
- Dance is of divine origin – It was a ritual form of worship in temples.
- Nataraja, the dancing Lord Shiva, is the supreme manifestation of Indian dance.
Aspects of Dance
As per Natya Shastra, there are two basic aspects of Indian classical dance:
- Lasya: It denotes grace, bhava, rasa, and abhinaya. It is symbolic of the feminine features of dance as an art form.
- Tandava: This is symbolic of male aspects of dance and has more emphasis on rhythm and movement.
Basic Elements Of Dance
As per Abhinaya Darpan, Nandikeshwara’s famous treatise on dance, an act has been broken into three basic elements:
- Natya: dramatic representations and refers to the story that is elaborated through the dance recital. When a historical character performs a simulation dancer, his gait, manner of speech, dress, etc., we call it Natya.
- Nritta: basic dance steps, performed rhythmically. No expression or mood was conveyed. It does not have a place to express emotion, but only the rhythm is a closed organ operation, it is called Nritta. In this, organ movements are not performed for any expressive gesture but for sole beauty. It is said that this dance is the oldest. The Tandava dance of Shiva Bhagwan is also a Nritta. This dance is considered very auspicious, so it is done on all auspicious occasions.
- Nritya: basic movement + gestures and poses using hands and fingers (hasta mudras) and facial expressions (abhinaya). Refers to the sentiment and the emotions evoked through dance. The Nritya originates from the coordination of Nritta and Natya. Of the three distinctions, the art of Nritya is the most attractive and difficult. It is also a part of the music as it is the rhythm of the dance.
Natya, Nritta, and Nritya, these three are presented separately in every dance form of India.
9 Classical Dances of India With States
According to the Ministry of Culture of the Government of India, there are nine classical dances:
|Name of Classical Dance||Place of Classical Dance|
Rasa of Classical Dance
The Rasanubhuti is the culmination of all classical dance forms of India. Natya Shastra mentions these 9 rasas:
- Oldest among all classical dance forms, Bharatnatyam derives its name from Bharata Muni.
- The Abhinaya Darpana by Nandikesvara is one of the main sources of study Bharatnatyam.
- Ekaharya, where one dancer takes on many roles in a single performance.
- The efforts of E. Krishna Iyer, a prominent freedom fighter, revived this dance form.
- Rukmini Devi Arundale gave the dance global recognition.
- Theme – “Religious and devotional“.
- In this dance form, equal emphasis is given to both the Tandava and Lasya aspects of dance, with major emphasis on ‘mudras’.
- The dance involves transitional movements of the leg, hip, and arm.
- Expressive eye movements and hand gestures are used to convey emotions.
- Bharatnatyam is often referred to as the ‘fire dance’, as it is the manifestation of the element of fire in the human body.
- Costumes are made of silk sarees with gold embroidery and have a lot of pleats.
- Necklaces, Bangles, and head ornaments are used as jewelry.
- Bells mounted on woven pads are worn on the feet.
- The knees are bent.
- Generally, the performance is completed with the chanting of shlokas.
- Bharatnatyam poses are depicted on the gopurams of the Chidambaram temple (Tamil Nadu).
- It was primarily a temple or village performance wherein the dancers narrated stories from ancient scriptures, it traces its origins to the Ras Leela of Brajbhoomi.
- The name is derived from Katha (story) and kathakaar (who tells stories).
- Kathak began evolving into a distinct mode of dance in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries with the spread of the Bhakti movement.
- Under the Mughal emperors and their nobles, Kathak was performed in the court, where it acquired its present features and developed into a form of dance with a distinctive style.
- Under the patronage of Wajid Ali Shah, the last Nawab of Awadh, it grew into a major art form.
- The classical style of Kathak was revived by Lady Leela Sokhey in the 20th century.
- Jugalbandi is the main attraction of the kathak recital which shows a competitive play between the dancer and the tabla player.
- Theme: “Radha Krishna“.
- Dance progresses from slow to fast pieces.
- Has Footwork & spins and includes abhinaya expression.
- Performed on Hindustani music provided by Tabla, Sitar, and Santoor.
- Female Dress: lehenga choli or churidar kameez.
- Male Dress: bare chest and dhoti or kurta churidar
- Usually a solo performance, the dancer often pauses to recite.
- Verses followed by their execution through movement.
- The focus is more on footwork; the movements are skillfully controlled and performed straight-legged by dancers wearing ankle bells.
An important feature of Kathak is the development of different gharanas as it is based on the Hindustani style of music:
- Lucknow: Nawab Wajid Ali Khan.
- Jaipur: Initiated by Bhanuji.
- Raigarh: Raja Chakradhar Singh.
- Banaras: It developed under Janaki prasad
- Ramanattam, Koodiyattam, and Krishnattam – separate dance forms – evolved and became the source of Kathakali.
- Under the patronage of feudal lords.
- Narrating episodes from Ramayana and Mahabharata.
- With the breakdown of the feudal setup, Kathakali started to decline as an art form.
- It was revived in the 1930s by the famous Malayali poet V. N. Menon under the patronage of Mukunda Raja.
- Kathakali is essentially an all-male troupe performance.
- There is minimal use of props (no extra element is used in the performance) in the Kathakali recital.
- The dancers enact the roles (kings, gods, demons, etc.) of the stories with particular make-up and costume, the vocalists narrate the legend and the percussionists play the musical instruments.
- The language used for Kathakali songs is Manipravalam, i.e. a mixture of Malayalam and Sanskrit.
- Kathakali is remarkable in the representation of the rasas through movements of the eye and eyebrows.
- Kathakali symbolizes the element of the sky.
Elaborate facial makeup along with headgear is used:
- Green color: richness and decency.
- Red color: dominance.
- Black color: for evil.
- Yellow color: for women
- Kuchipudi was originally performed by a group of actors going from village to village, known as Kusselavas.
- Kuchipudi derives its name from the Andhra village of Kusselavapuri or Kuchelapuram village in the Krishna district.
- In the 17th century, Siddhendra Yogi formalized and systematized the tradition.
- With the advent of Vaishnavism, the dance form became a monopoly of the male Brahmins.
- Stories of Bhagavat Purana became a central theme of the recitals.
- It is performed as dance drama i.e. performance in groups and also as solo items.
- Balasaraswati and Ragini Devi revived this dance form.
- There is a predominance of Shringara rasa.
Solo elements in Kuchipudi are:
- Manduk shabdam: Tells the story of a frog.
- Tarangam: The dancer performs with his/ her feet on the edges of a brass plate and balancing a pot of water on the head or a set of diyas.
- Jala Chitra Nrityam: In this item, the dancer draws pictures on the floor with his or her toes while dancing.
- Manipuri dance form finds its mythological origin in the celestial dance of Shiva and Parvati in the valleys of Manipur.
- The dance gained prominence with the advent of Vaishnavism in the 15th century.
- Then, Krishna became the central theme of this dance form. It is performed generally by females.
- Rabindranath Tagore brought back the dance form into the limelight when he introduced it in Santiniketan.
- Female: dress called patloi and lehenga called kumin.
- A transparent odhni is worn on the head and covers the face.
- Male: usually saffron dress depicting Lord Krishna.
- Dancers do not wear ankle bells in this dance form.
- Lai Haraoba is the earliest form of dance.
- The principal performers are the maibas and maibis (priests and priestesses) who re-enact the theme of the creation of the world.
- Manipuri dance is unique in its emphasis on devotion.
- The faces are covered with a thin veil and facial expression is of lesser importance, hand gestures and gentle movement of feet are important.
- Naga Bandha mudra, in which the body is connected through curves in the shape of ‘8’ is an important posture in the Manipuri dance form.
- Mohiniattam or the Dance of an Enchantress (‘Mohini’ was the Incarnation of Lord Vishnu and ‘attam’ means dance), is essentially a solo dance performance by women.
- It was further developed by Vadivelu in the 19th century and gained prominence under the rulers of Travancore in the present state of Kerala.
- After it had fallen to obscurity, the famous Malayali poet V. N. Menon revived it along with Kalyani Amma.
- Generally narrates the story of the feminine dance of Vishnu.
- The Lasya aspect (beauty, grace) of dance is dominant in a Mohiniattam recital.
- The element of Air is symbolized through a Mohiniattam performance.
- The caves of Udayagiri-Khandagiri provide some of the earliest examples of Odissi dance.
- The dance form derives its name from the ‘Odra nritya’ mentioned in Natya Shastra.
- It was primarily practiced by the ‘maharis’ and patronized by the Jain king Kharvela.
- Odissi gained international acclaim due to the efforts of Charles Fabri and Indrani Rehman.
- With the advent of Vaishnavism in the region, the Mahari system became defunct.
- Instead, young boys were recruited and dressed as females to continue the art form. They came to be known as ‘Gotipuas’.
- The major subjects of performance are related to incarnations of Lord Vishnu and verses of Jayadeva’s Gita Govinda.
- Termed as ‘mobile sculpture’ it incorporates two major postures – Tribhanga (the body is deflected at the neck, torso, and knees) and Chowk (a position imitating a square).
- The dancers create intricate geometrical shapes and patterns with her body.
- The dance form symbolizes the element of water.
- Odissi dance is accompanied by Hindustani classical music.
- Sattriya dance in modern form was introduced by the Vaishnava saint Shankaradeva in the 15th century A.D in Assam.
- The art form derives its name from the Vaishnava monasteries known as ‘Sattras’, where it was primarily practiced.
- It finds mention in the ancient text ‘Natya Shastra’ of sage Bharat Muni. It is inspired by the Bhakti Movement.
- The dance is generally performed in groups by male monks known as ‘Bhokots’.
- In modern times, Sattriya dance has evolved into two separate streams – the Gayan-Bhayanar Nach and the Kharmanar Nach.
- The Chhau Dance has meaning because of the name “Chaya.” Chaya is Hebrew for shadow.
- Chhau dance is identified as a mask dance.
- An essential component of Chhau Dance is its energetic martial art moves.
- Chhau Dance uses a number of narrations, including Serpent Dance and Peacock Dance.
- The Chhau Dance comes in three varieties: The Chhau dance known as Saraikella is well-known in Jharkhand, as is the Chhau dance known as Mayurbhanj in Odisha, and the Chhau dance known as Purulia in West Bengal.
- Masks are not used in Mayurbhanj Chhau Dance.
- The Chhau Dance was added to the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity maintained by UNESCO.
Famous Classical Dancers Of India
|Rukmini Devi Arundale, Padma Subrahmanyam, Alarmel Valli, Yamini Krishnamurthy, Lakshmi Viswanathan, Mrinalini Sarabhai, Mallika Sarabhai||Bharatnatyam|
|Birju Maharaj, Lacchu Maharaj, Sitara Devi, Shovana Narayan||Kathak|
|Guru Kunchu Kurup, Gopi Nath, Kottakal Sivaraman, Rita Ganguly||Kathakali|
|Jhaveri sisters (Nayana, Suverna, Ranjana, Darshana) and Guru Bipin Singh.||Manipuri|
|Radha Reddy and Raja Reddy, Yamini Krishnamurthy, Indrani Rehman, etc.||Kuchipudi|
|Sunanda Nair, Kalamandalam Kshemavathy, Madhuri Amma, Jayaprabha Menon||Mohiniattam|
|Minati Mishra, Guru Pankaj Charan Das, Guru Kelu Charan Mohapatra, Sonal Mansingh (also famous for Bharatnatyam), Sharon Lowen (USA), Myrla Barvie (Argentina)||Odissi|
|Upendra Biswal, Banabali Das and Rajendra Pattanayak||Chhau|
Frequently Asked Questions
How many classical dances are in India?
What are the classical dances of India?
Which is the principal classical dance form of northern India?
What are the 9 classical dances of India with states?
Tamil Nadu: Bharatanatyam
Northern India: Kathak
Chhau: West Bengal