It’s international dance day today, 29th April! Dance has always been a passion for many to wipe out stress, feel relaxed, show creativity, entertainment or recreation, and exercise. India has its own age-old forms of dance in a different region that differ from each other. In fact, India may have hundreds or even thousands of various dance forms. For limitation in this article, let us look at some of the most popular forms of dance that originated in India and is still practised widely.
Starting with the northernmost part of India, Kashmir, Rouf is an integral part of Kashmiri culture. Rouf is the most widely performed folk dance in Jammu and Kashmir and is also popular among the north Indians. Rouf is traditionally performed to welcome the beautiful weather of spring after harsh winter.
Coming to Punjab, Bhangra is a necessary dance form specially performed as entertainment after a good harvest. Traditional bhangra is performed in a circle with standard dance steps. Bhangra is accompanied by the beating of dhol that sets up the rhythm required for dancing.
The origin of Kathak is traced to ancient north India, especially the region around Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. The word Kathak comes from Kathakars or storytellers. Kathak dancers tell a story through their hands and feet movement. Kathak is regarded as one of the most exquisite forms of dance in the entire world, popularized and performed regularly in the Mughal courts.
As the name suggests, Manipuri originated in the north-eastern state of Manipur. Manipuri is a beautiful classical dance form that portrays the love-inspired dance drama of Lord Krishna and Radha. The dress code for this dance is very unique. Females wear kumil, a barrel-type long skirt that has exquisite gold and silver embroidery with small pieces of mirrors. This dance form was praised and popularized widely throughout the country by Rabindranath Tagore.
A not-so-popular folk dance of India, chhau is performed by the tribals of Purulia region of West Bengal, Mayurbhanj region of Odisha, and Saraikela region of Jharkhand. The dance form celebrates martial arts and acrobatics as popular in religious themes of Shaktism and Shaivism of Hindu. The stories enacted by Chhau dancers are primarily from the epics Ramayana, Mahabharata, and the Puranas. The use of large masks depicting a character of the play is widespread in Purulia and Saraikela versions of the Chhau dances.
Odissi is a major Indian classical dance originating from the Hindu temples of Odisha. It is mostly performed by women and is very antique, mentioned in old Sanskrit texts of ancient India and in carvings of temples. Odissi is sophisticated to learn and practice. Odissi is widely popular in foreign countries due to its expressiveness and simplicity in execution.
This dance form originated in Andhra Pradesh with roots in ancient Sanskrit text Natya Shastra. It is a dance-drama performance art, usually performed at night, lighting castor oil lamps. Kuchipudi centred towards festivals and court performances. It requires a lot of practice and rigorous training to master the dance form. Kuchipudi is gaining popularity worldwide due to its attractive styles and techniques.
Kathakali comes from katha, meaning story-telling, and kali or kala meaning performance and art. This unique dance form required dancers to wear headdresses, face masks and even paint their faces which usually takes hours. It is considered difficult to execute as Kathakali required extensive acting and neat expressions. The style of dancing is also quite different from other Indian classical dances, its uniqueness being the reason for its popularity. Kathakali, though originating from south Kerala, is now closely associated worldwide with the culture of Kerala.
One of the oldest Indian classical dance, Bharatnatyam has its roots in the temples and courts of ancient Tamil Nadu. It is also hailed by many as the most challenging dance to master involving expressions, posture and rhythm, depending widely upon the dancer’s techniques, strength and flexibility. It is usually performed by women wearing a fitting, bright-coloured sari. A pleated cloth in the front resembling a hand fan is unique to bharatnatyam dance to demonstrate the feet movements clearly. It is by far the most popular dance form in India, considered very sacred to learn by most Indian dancers.
So which is your favourite Indian dance form? Do mention in the comment section below.
Written by – Himadri Paul