The Story Behind These Indian Dance Forms Will Truly Fascinate You!

Dance, Drama and Music are the very soul of India. They are the essence of Indian Culture.

Almost every state is known for its distinctive style and technique of dancing.

Dance not only symbolizes festivity and celebration but also many dance forms are a beautiful way of connecting with the divine.

Dance provides an excellent spiritual platform of self expression and self realization.

Let’s take a sneak peak into some of the famous dance forms of India.

Manipuri dance is one of the major Indian classical dance forms. It originates from Manipur, a state in north-eastern India on the border with Burma.

In Manipur, surrounded by mountains and geographically isolated at the meeting point of the orient and mainland India, the form developed its own specific aesthetics, values, conventions and ethics. The cult of Radha and Krishna, particularly the raslila, is central to its themes but the dances, unusually, incorporate the characteristic symbols (kartal or manjira) and double-headed drum (pung or Manipuri mrdanga) of sankirtan into the visual performance.

Manipuri Dance
Manipuri DanceImage Source

Kuchipudi sprung from the roots of a small village in Andhra Pradesh India. Since then this beautiful form of art has been inspiring and elevating people with its grace and style.

Originally in the form of dance dramas the focus of Kuchipudi dance is to take one on the road of spirituality and salvation.

Kuchipudi Dance
Kuchipudi DanceImage Source

Garba is a Gujarati folk dance celebrated in Navratri, a celebration lasting nine nights. The name is derived from the Sanskrit term Garbha (“womb”) and Deep (“a small earthenware lamp”). Many traditional garbas are performed around a centrally lit lamp or a picture or statue of the Goddess Durga.

Garba songs typically revolve around the subjects of Lord Krishna or the nine goddesses.

Women are the primary performers of garba however these days men may join in too!

Garba Dance
Garba DanceImage Source

Kathakali is a stylized classical Indian dance-drama noted for the attractive make-up of characters, elaborate costumes, detailed gestures and well-defined body movements presented in tune with the anchor playback music and complementary percussion.

It originated in the country’s present day state of Kerala during the 17th century and has developed over the years with improved looks, refined gestures and added themes besides more ornate singing and precise drumming.

The themes of the Kathakali are religious in nature.  They typically deal with the Mahabarat, the Ramayana and the ancient scriptures known as the Puranas.

A Kathakali performance is a major social event.  They generally start at dusk and go through out the night.

Kathakali is usually performed only by men.  Female characters are portrayed by men dressed in women’s costume.  However, in recent years, women have started to become Kathakali dancers.

Kathakali Dance
Kathakali DanceImage Source

Odissi, also known as Orissi, is one of the eight classical dance forms of India. It originates from the state of Odisha, in eastern India. It is the oldest surviving dance form of India on the basis of archaeological evidences.

This dance is characterised by various Bhangas (Stance), which involves stamping of the foot and striking various postures as seen in Indian sculptures.

The themes of Odissi are almost exclusively religious in nature.  They most commonly revolve around the worship of Lord Krishna.

Odissi Dance
Odissi DanceImage Source

Bharata Natyam also spelled Bharatanatyam, is a classical Indian dance form that originated in the temples of Tamil Nadu.

Bharata Natyam is known for its grace, purity, tenderness, and sculpturesque poses. Lord Shiva is considered the God of this dance form. Today, it is one of the most popular and widely performed dance styles and is practiced by male and female dancers all over the world.

Bharatnatyam Dance
Bharatnatyam DanceImage Source

Bhangra refers to several types of dance originating from the Punjab region of  India.

The earliest development of these was a folk dance conducted by Punjabis in the central northern areas of the region to celebrate the harvest, and whose general practice had ended by the Partition, 1947.

In the 1950s, a new folk dance, representative of the state of Punjab and composed of glimpses of men’s Punjabi dance styles, was created and eventually received the title of bhangra.

This dance form symbolizes festivity and celebration and is vibrant and full of energy.

Bhangra Dance
Bhangra DanceImage Source

Lavani is a genre of music popular in Maharashtra. Lavani is a combination of traditional song and dance, which is particularly performed to the beats of Dholki, a percussion instrument.

Lavani is noted for its powerful rhythm. Lavani has contributed substantially to the development of Marathi folk theatre. In Maharashtra and southern Madhya Pradesh, it is performed by the female performers wearing nine-yard long saris. The songs are sung in a quick tempo.

Lavani Dance
Lavani DanceImage Source
The Bihu dance is a folk dance from the Indian state of Assam related to the festival of Bihu.

This joyous dance is performed by both young men and women, and is characterized by brisk dance steps,and rapid hand movement. Dancers wear traditionally colorful Assamese clothing.

Bihu Dance
Bihu DanceImage Source

Kathak is one of the eight forms of Indian classical dance. This dance form traces its origins to the nomadic bards of ancient northern India, known as Kathakars or storytellers. Its form today contains traces of temple and ritual dances, and the influence of the bhakti movement.
There are three major schools or gharana of Kathak from which performers today generally draw their lineage: the gharanas of Jaipur, Lucknow and Varanasi.

Kathak Dance
Kathak DanceImage Source

Mohiniyattam is a classical dance form from Kerala.

The term Mohiniyattam comes from the words “Mohini” meaning a woman who enchants onlookers and “aattam” meaning graceful and sensuous body movements. The word “Mohiniyattam” literally means “dance of the enchantress“.

There are two stories of the Lord Vishnu disguised as a Mohini. In one, he appears as Mohini to lure the asuras (demons) away from the amrita (nectar of immortality) obtained during the churning of the palazhi (ocean of milk and salt water).

In the second story Vishnu appears as Mohini to save Lord Shiva from the demon Bhasmasura.

Mohiniattam Dance
MohiniattamImage Source

Sattriya or Sattriya Nritya, is one among the eight principal classical Indian dance traditions, that originated from Assam.

The core of Sattriya Nritya has usually been mythological stories. This was an artistic way of presenting mythological teachings to the people in an accessible, immediate, and enjoyable manner.

Sattriya Dance
Sattriya Dance
Image Source  Article Source

Isn’t the  history, culture and the story behind each dance form fascinating?

Indian Dance is just not a way of relaxation and entertainment but it is also deeply rooted in spirituality.

A well-performed dance can elevate one to a higher level of spiritual consciousness.

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