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Indian Art & Culture - Dances- Folk and Tribal Dances
                                                                                                    October 2, 2017


  • Gotipua, a traditional dance form of Odissi folk in praise of Lord Jagannath.This dance form is said to have originated around the beginning of the 16th Century.
  • Etymologically, ‘Gotipua’ in Oriya means ‘single boy’. But the dance is performed in groups.The boys are recruited to learn the dance at a very young age, and undergo training until their adolescence, when their androgynous appearances begin to change.
  • When the Mahari (Female dancers in temples) dance form started declining, the male dancers continued the tradition by dressing up as the female dancers. 
  • In Gotipua, the dancers themselves sing.

  • Chhau Dance is one of the most renowned tribal martial dances of India. The dance is performed with a Mask, which gives it the name Chau (Chhaya means mask).
  • Chhau dance is a tradition from eastern India that enacts episodes from epics including the Mahabharata and Ramayana, local folklore and abstract themes.
  • Its three distinct styles hail from the regions of Seraikella, Purulia and Mayurbhanj, the first two using masks. 
  • Chhau dance is intimately connected to regional festivals, notably the spring festival Chaitra Parva.
  • The dance is accompanied with loud beats and instruments like drum and marui.

  • Chaam is one of the forms of ritual dance of the Lamas, which features colorful masks and are held at various monasteries during the festivals.
  • Costumed Lamas with painted masks, ceremonial swords and sparkling jewels, leap and swing to the rhythm of drums, horns and music.
  • There are several types of Chaams like Singhi Chaam dedicated to the Mythical Lion,the Yak chaam dedicated to the Yaks.
  • Singhi Cham
  • It is a masked dance of Sikkim, depicting snow lion – the cultural symbol of the state.
  • The dancers are attired as snow lions, the guardian deity of the land as decreed by Guru Padamsambhava.

  • Badhai is one of the popular folk dance of MadhyaPradesh, which is very common in Bundelkhand region.
  • Badhai is performed to thank Goddess Shitala and seek her blessings.
  • This particular rhythm is known as Badhai from which this folk dance has acquired its name.
  • Animals also take part in Badhai Nritya and in many villages, mares (female horses) are seen at such performances.
  • The musical instruments used are Dhapla, Timki, Lota, Rantula& Algoja.

  • This dance form is a ritual of the Satnami community. The dance is very expressive in its depiction and is performed to the accompaniment of melodious songs.
  • It is mainly performed by the male dancers. The performance of this dance requires great flexibility and stamina as it involves various challenging steps.
  • The performers dance around a Jaitk-hamb set up for the occasion, to the songs eulogizing their spiritual head and reflects the Nirvana philosophies like those of Kabir, Dadu etc.
  • Traditional folk instruments are used which comprise of Mridanga and Jhaanj, drums are used occasionally.

  • It is derived from martial arts and also the traditional Maibi Jagoi dance. It’s a tradition practiced since the seventeenth century.
  • The traditional costume consists of turbans,dhothis and a necklace made of tulsi seeds.
  • It is performed in Manipur during weddings, temple functions and even funerals.
  • A pung, (Manipuri name for Drum),hangs around each dancer’s neck. The dancers jump and swirl high in the air once the dance progresses.

  • It is believed that the dance had existed way back in the 1st Century A.D., while the Mizos were still somewhere in the Yunan Province of China, before their migration into present Mizoram.
  • Men sitting face to face on the ground tap long pairs of horizontal and cross bamboo staves open and close in rhythmic beats.
  • Girls in colorful Mizo costumes of 'Puanchei', 'Kawrchei'. Vakiria' and 'Thihna' dance in and out between the beats of bamboo. 
  • This dance is now performed in almost all festive occasions. Gongs and drums are used to accompany the dance. 

  • This is the dance form of the Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh.
  • In this dance more than ten persons participate, singing songs in the praise of the local goddess. 
  • The dancers use drums, which are hung around their necks to produce varied rhythms. 
  • Tinkling bells around the waist form a distinctive part of the dancers’ costumes.
  • Only men perform this dance traditionally.
  • The themes and the subjects are taken from the Ramayana and Mahabharata.

9. RAUF (J&K)
  • It is one of the most popular traditional dances of Kashmir. 
  • This beautiful dance form graces all the festive occasions, especially Id and Ramzan days. 
  • The dance is performed by a group of women facing each other lined up in two lines and dressed in beautiful costumes. 
  • The dance has simple footwork which also called as Chakri in local language.
  • The dance is often performed in spring season to celebrate good weather.

  • It is a dance form popular in middle mountain ranges of J&K.
  • It is performed as a tribute to one of the most worshipped god in the state – Devtas of Lok.
  • 20-30 members can perform together in this dance.


It is a community dance of nomadic people of Tibetan origin in high hills of Ladakh region.

It is performed by men and women as part of Losar (Tibetan New Year festival) celebrations.

Musical instruments involves – flute and damian (guitar like stringed instrument).

The performance starts with lower tempo which goes on increasing and performed for hours especially in moonlit nights.

  • It is a dance popular in the Braj region of Uttar Pradesh.
  • The Mayur or peacock dance is created from an episode in the love lore of Radha and Krishna.
  • Radha, pining for Krishna after a brief separation, decides to console herself by the sight of peacocks. 
  • He eventually yields to Radha's entreaties and himself appears in the guise of a peacock to dance with his beloved.

  • The Rathwas, who dwell in Rath-Vistar, the hilly area of the southeastern part of Gujarat state, perform the Rathwa ni Gher dance on the occasion of Holi also known as Kavant festival.
  • The Gher (dance with music) performances begin on Dhulendi, which is, literally, 'the day of flying coloured dust'.
  • Both men and women perform the Gher together, in groups of 20 to 25. 
  • Of all Rathwa dances performed on various occasions linked with the cycle of seasons, Rathwa ni Gher stands out as exquisite, colourful and spectacular. 

  • Performed jointly by the Hindus and Christians, it is adance drama of Goa based on no continuous plot or narrativeto seek the Devine Grace for protection and prosperity of the crop.
  • Literal meaning of Jagor is “jagran”. The strong belief is that the night long performance, awakens the deities once a year and they continue to remain awake throughout the year guarding the village.
  • Perni Jagor is the ancient mask dance – drama of Goa, performed by Perni families, using well-crafted and painted wooden masks, depicting various animals, birds, super natural power, deities, demons and social characters.
  • Gauda Jagor, is an impression of social life that displays all the existing moods and modes of human characters.
  • The performance is accompanied by Goan folk instruments like Nagara/Dobe, Ghumat, Madale etc. 

  • The Yak dance is one of the famous mask dances of the Buddhist tribes (Mahayana sect) of Arunachal Pradesh.
  • It is performed during the Losar festival. 
  • Individuals put on Yak costumes and masks and perform the Yak dance in order to honour the Yak.
  • The masked dancers represent the members of the family who are said to have discovered the Yak with the help of a magical bird hundreds of years ago.
  • The Yak is believed to be the symbol of wealth and prosperity.

  • The Republic Day Tableau of the state of Karnataka showcased its folk dances.

  • Dollu Kunitha is one of the variations of the Kunitha dance. The other being Suggi.
  • The dance is widely performed during the harvest season.
  • Mainly performed by the shepherd community (known as Kuruba), it involves dancing to the drum beats.
  •  The songs used in this dance usually have religious and battle fervour.
  • Large drums are adorned with coloured clothes and hang around the necks of men.
  • The main emphasis is on quick and light movement of the feet and legs.
  • Dollu Kunitha forms a part of the ritualistic dances of the dodavasis of Karnataka.

  1. It is a folk dance of Southern Karnataka which marks the end of harvest season.
  2. It is a religious dance fused with drama and dialogues.
  1. Yakshagana is a fusion of dance and drama. 
  2. Stories depicted from the epics of Ramayana, Mahabharata and Purana are performed on stage. 
  3. A narrator narrates the story along with musicians playing traditional instruments while actors enact the story. 
  • It is a night long ritual performed in the regions of Southern Karnataka. 
  • It involves ritualistic appeasement of the serpent which is considered to be a symbol of fertility. 
  • This dance form is performed by male dancers (called Vaidyas) who dress as female serpents (nagakannikas).
  • The dancers perform around a design painted on a sacred ground which represents the serpent spirit. 

  • Gorava dance or 'goravara kunita' is a dance form popular in northern Karnataka region.
  • It is performed by Goravas, tribe belonging to shiva-cult.
  • Goravas are singing tribe who narrates stories of deeper religious value.
  • Materials used in dance – small dolu in one hand, flute in other, headgear made of bear hair.

  • Also known as Karagam, this popular folk dance originated from Thanjavur and spread to the neighbouring areas. 
  • It is a ritualistic dance involving acrobatics feats performed during the month of August. It is dedicated to the goddess of health and rain Mariamman.
  • It is performed by an individual or two persons.

  • It is a folk dance of Tamil Nadu performed by Kambala Nayaka community.
  • Devarattam literally means “dance of gods” and popular belief is that kambala nayaka community members are descendants of gods or devas.
  • Musical instruments involved – Urmi (double headed drum like instrument) long flute.
  • It is a folk dance performed by the Reang clan of the Tripuri people.
  • It is performed during Hojagiri Festival (laxmi puja). Laxmi Puja is held on the following full moon night of Durga Puja. 
  • The dance is performed only by women while the male members sing and play musical instruments. 
  • The dancers use props like BALING, a wide circular rice cleaning article made of cane, a pitcher or kalash, a bottle, a household traditional lamp, a plain dish and a handkerchief. 

  • It is a folk dance of Punjab performed by Punjabi tribal women
  • The dancers are dressed in bright coloured kurtas with full flowing skirts (lehengas) and a silver hair ornament.
  • It is traditional folk dance of Lakshadweep
  • It is usually performed by male members (some of them carrying drums)
  • The dancers wear – red trouser, white scarf around waist, black and white head gear ( ‘Bolufeyle’ as locally known)
  • The dance is similar to the Maldives folk - Maldive Bileh dhafi negun.

  • It is folk dance of Kumaon Uttarakhand.
  • It is performed by male and female together as lover and his beloved respectively.
  • It is performed on the tune of music from various instruments like hurka, manzira and flute.