Famous Traditional Dance Forms of India You Should Know

India is a nation with a diverse and rich culture. Many traditional dances and artistic disciplines are practiced there. Indian classical dance styles are well known all over the world. Indian culture is largely influenced by dance and music. The distinctiveness of classical dances is a result of their varied facial expressions, gorgeous costumes, dramatic make-up, and rhythms of traditional music. However, where are the origins of Indian dance? The following list includes some of India’s most important classical dance genres. (Also read: Dancers blend Bharatanatyam and Hip Hop to create incredible dance routine.)


One of the most popular Indian classical dance styles is kathak. It is said to have come from the wandering storytellers known as Kathakars in northern India. It is the traditional dance style of Uttar Pradesh. The three main styles of Kathak, or “gharanas”, are named after the places where the Kathak dance tradition originated: Jaipur, Benares and Lucknow. Early Kathak clothing consisted of a ghaghra (long skirt), a choli (blouse) and a veil. It eventually gave way to churidhar, pajamas, angrakha and sari for ladies. Famous kathak performers include Birju Maharaj, Lachhu Maharaj, Gopi Krishna, Sitara Devi and Damyanti Joshi.

2. Bharat Natyam


The oldest form of traditional Indian dance is called Bharatanatyam. It is believed that Tamil Nadu is where it first appeared. A well-rehearsed and carefully choreographed mix of facial expressions, hand gestures, dance steps, and eye movements are used in a Bharatanatyam performance. Carnatic music is mainly used for performance. Bharatanatyam costumes often come in two varieties. They are pajama style and have a different skirt design. Both of these outfit designs are artistic and provide the dancer with comfort so that they can do the actions that correspond to the “sounds of Tala”. Heavy jewelry and makeup are common for Bharatnatyam dancers. Some of the famous names in the field of dance include Rukmini Devi, Padma Subrahmanyam, Alarmel Valli, Yamini Krishnamurthy and Mallika Sarabhai.



One of the major classical Indian dance genres is Kathakali. He has an international reputation. He is known to have his roots in Kerala. The male actor-dancers wear sumptuously colorful make-up, costumes and masks, which distinguish this type of art from other “story games”. The orchestra makes up the majority of the music. Kathakali performers typically dress in white and red tones, use voluminous headgear, and wear dramatic make-up. Famous Kathakali artists include KP Namboothiri, Kalamandalam M. Gopalakrishnan and KS Rajeevan.

4. Kuchipudi


Kuchipudi is a theater-based dance performance. Its roots are in the ancient Hindu Sanskrit text of Natya Shastra. He is from the state of Andhra Pradesh. All roles in the dance drama are played by men. Usually it depicts the story of Lord Krishna and the tradition of Vaishnavism. In Kuchipudi, a male character wears a dhoti while a female character wears a colorful sari sewn with pleated fabric that opens like a fan while displaying beautiful footwork. Makeup is generally light complemented by traditional jewelry from the region that adorns the performer’s hair, nose, ears, arms and neck. Famous artist Kuchipudi inculcates Ragini Devi, Yamini Krishnamurti and Raja and Radha Reddy.


Manipuri (dream time)
Manipuri (dream time)

As its name suggests, the Manipuri dance originated in Manipur. This is usually done using themes from Ras Lila and Vaishnavism. Its origins can be found in ‘Natya Shastra’, just like other classical dance styles. The flute and the drum are the main musical instruments used in the dance style. Compared to other Indian dances, it is calmer. Unlike other traditional Indian dances, the performer does not wear a ghunghru. Male dancers typically wear a dhoti, kurta, and white turban, while female dancers typically wear a long, stiff skirt with ornate barrel-shaped embellishments. Some of the well known Manipuri dancers include Nirmala Mehta, Guru Bipin Sinha and Yumlembam Gambhini Devi.

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