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Folk dances are performed for every possible occasion, to celebrate the arrival of seasons, birth of a child, a wedding and festivals .

The folk dances are extremely simple with minimum of steps or movement. Indian folk dances are full of energy and vitality. Some dances are performed separately by men and women while in some performances men and women dance together. On most occasions, the dancers sing themselves, accompanied by artists with instruments. Each form of folk dance has a specific costume and rhythm. Most of the costumes, worn for folk dances, are colorful with extensive jewels and designs.

Gaur Dance

Gaur dance is a popular folk dance of Madhya Pradesh dances. Gaur dance is popular in the Sing Marias or Tallaguda Marias of South Bastar. Men put headdresses with stringed ‘cowries’ and plumes of peacock feathers and make their way to the dancing ground. Women ornamented with brass fillets and bead necklaces with their tattooed bodies also join the gathering. The men beat the drums, tossing the horns and feathers of their headgears to the rising tempo that gives the dance a wilder touch.

Muria Dances

The Muria tribes of North Bastar area are trained in all types of their community dances. At the start of dance sequences they begin with an invocation to the phallic deity of their tribe and the founder of the Ghotul institution. The site chosen for the dance is near the Ghotul compound. During marriages, the Muria boys and girls perform “Har Endanna” dance. Their “Hulki” dance is the most beautiful of all the dances while the “Karsana” dance is performed for fun and enjoyment. In the Hulki dance, boys move in a circular fashion while the girls make their way through them.

Saila Dance

The young boys of Chattisgarh perform Saila dance during the post harvest time. Saila is a stick-dance and is popular among the people of Sarguja, Chhindwara and Betul districts. In this region the Saila dance is also known as Danda Nach or Dandar Pate. Saila dance comprises over half a dozen varieties The Saila dance often comes out with many variations and much buffoonery. Sometimes the dancers form a circle, each standing on one leg and supporting him by holding on to the man in front. Then they all hop together round and round.

Karma Dance

The Karma dance is very popular among the Gonds and the Baigas of Chhattisgarh and the Oraons of Madhya Pradesh. The Karma dance is associated with the fertility cult and is related to the Karma festival that falls in the month of August. The Karma dance symbolizes coming of green branches in tress during the spring season. There are other variants of the Karma. The songs associated with these variants differ with each pattern.

Kaksar Dance

Kaksar dance is performed during the festival period. It is popular among the Abhujmarias of Bastar. Kaksar dance is performed in hope of reaping a rich harvest. To invoke the blessings of the deity, young boys and girls perform Kaksar (a group dance). Boys put on a peculiar costume of a long white robe while girls are clad in all their finery. The Kaksar dance presents a unique opportunity to boys and girls to choose their life partners.

Chhau (Bihar)

Chhau is a popular folk dance of Bihar. Since masks form an important feature of this dance it is called ‘Chhau’, which means mask. All the Chhau performers hold swords and shields while performing. The stages are decorated and brightly lit by torches, lanterns and flickering oil lamps. The musical instruments used are the Dhol (a cylindrical drum), Nagara (a huge drum) and Shehnai (reed pipes). Men and boys perform the Chhau dance. Chhau dance is full of energy and strength. It is interesting to note that the entire body of the dancer is engaged as a single unit. This body language of the dancer has to be poetic and powerful.

Brita Dance (West Bengal)

Brita dance is one of the most popular folk dances of Bengal. Usually the barren women of the region perform the Brita dance to invoke the blessings of the Gods so that their wishes are fulfilled. Traditionally this dance is performed after a person recovers from a contagious disease like small pox.

Kali Naach is yet another popular folk dance of the region. The Kali dance is performed to invoke the blessings of Goddess Kali. While performing the Kali Naach, the performers wear a mask, purified by mantras and dances to the accompaniment of a sword.

Dalkhai (Orissa)

‘Dalkhai’ dance is a popular folk dance among the women folks the tribal people of Sambalpur, Orissa. Dalkhai Dance is performed during the time of festivals. In the Dalkhai dance the men usually play the musical instruments. Chaiti Ghora is a dummy horse version of the Dalkhai dance and is popular in the fishing communities. The performers of this dance style are generally men.

Goti Puas (Orissa)

Goti Pua is yet another popular folk dance of east India (Orissa). The credit of popularizing this folk dance largely goes to Ramchandradeva, the Raja of Khurda, (Orissa). He was an enlightened ruler and a great patron of art and culture. It was due to his initiatives that the tradition of Goti Pua (boy dancers) began. It is interesting to note that the Odissi dance evolved from a curious amalgamation of both mahari and goti pua dance styles.

Bihu (Assam)

Bihu is a popular folk dance of Assam is called Bihu. The Bihu dance is an integral part of the Bihu festival of Assam. The Bihu festival is celebrated in mid-April, during the harvesting time and lasts for about a month. Young men and girls perform the Bihu dance together to the accompaniment of drums and pipes. Love forms the subject matter of the songs that are sung during the performance. The dances are performed in circles or parallel rows.

The Zemis, Zeliangs and several other tribes of Assam have a number of folk dances. Most of these folk dances are performed during the harvest period. Similarly, the Naga tribals too have their harvest dances and celebrations. “Khamba Lim” is one such folk dance and is performed by two groups of men and women who stand in two rows. Another popular Naga folk dance is “Akhu”.

Hajgiri (Tripura)

Hajgiri is a famous folk dance of Tripura. Hajgiri dance is performed by young girls who display a series of balancing skills and instruments of their kind. In Tripura dances are a part of people’s efforts and ceremony to appease the goddess Lakshmi. It is to ensure good harvest. Tribal people of Tripura and other adjoining states make use of the compounds of their own houses as dancing grounds during main festivals.

Nongkrem (Meghalaya)

‘Nongkrem’ is an important folkdance of Meghalaya. The Khasis tribe of Meghalaya also celebrates the ripening of paddy for threshing, by dances and songs.

Dhol-Cholom (Manipur)

One of the instruments that dominate Manipuri dances is the drum. Dhol Cholom, a drum dance is one of the dances performed during Holi in Manipur. The Thang-ta dance of Manipur was an evolved from the martial arts drills promoted by the kings of Manipur. The dance is exciting and is performed by young men holding swords and shields.

In Arunachal Pradesh, many dance and songs are performed, based on the stories of Buddha. The performers of these folk dances wear masks of demons or animals, inspired from Buddha stories. Most of these folk dances are performed in Buddhist monasteries during festivals.

Dumhal (Jammu & Kashmir)

Dumhal is a popular dance of Kashmir. This dance is performed with long colorful robes, tall conical caps (studded with beads and shells). Dumhal dance is accompanied by songs which the performers themselves sing. It is supported by drums. There is an interesting tradition associated with Dumhal dance where the performers of this dance place a banner into the ground at a fixed location and they begin to men dance around this banner.

Hikat (Himachal Pradesh)

Hikat is a popular dance of Himachal Pradesh, performed by women. The Hikat dance is performed in pairs and the participants extend their arms to the front, holding each other’s wrists. The dancers keep their bodies inclined back and make round of the same place.

In the Kulu valley of Himachal Pradesh Dussehra is celebrated with great grandeur and splendor. Singing and dancing form an important part of this festivity. Here, there are dances for different occasions and collectively all dances are called Natio.

Namagen (Himachal Pradesh)

Namagen is a dance performance usually held during autumnal hue celebrations. The most prominent dance amongst these is the Gaddis. In this dance the costumes are largely woolen.

Hurka Baul (Uttaranchal)

Some of the seasonal folk dances of Uttaranchal are Jhumeila, the Chaufula of Garhwal and the Hurka Baul of Kumaon. The Hurka Baul dance is performed during the cultivation of paddy and maize. The name of the dance is derived from Hurka, the drum which is the only musical accompaniment and baul, the song. In the Hurka Baul dance the singer narrates the story of battles and heroic deeds, the performers enter from two opposite sides and enact the stories in a series of crisp movements. The rural folk form two rows and move backwards in harmony, while responding to the tunes of the song and the rhythm of the players.

Chholiya is yet another famous folk dance of Kumaon, Uttaranchal. The Chholiya dance is performed during marriages. As the procession of marriage proceeds to the bride’s house, the male dancers, armed with swords and shields, dance animatedly.

Bhangra (Punjab)

Bhangra is one of the most popular and energetic dances of India. Bhangra is performed by men folks during Baisakhi. It is among the most energetic and captivating dances of India and includes tricks and athletic feats. During the Bhangra performance the drummer is surrounded by men dressed in lungis and turbans. Luddi is yet another folk dance of the Punjab, performed by men folk. Luddi is performed to celebrate victory. In the Luddi dance the try to copy the movement of a snake’s head.

The dance performed by the women folk of Punjab is called the ‘Gidha’. In the Gidha dance a woman or a pair of women dance while the others surrounding her clap in rhythm. The Gidha dance is performed during the festival of Teeyan to welcome the monsoons (rains). This dance also includes a step when women go round and round with feet planted at one place. Jhoomer is a dance of graceful pace. This dance is also performed in a circle. Dancers dance around a single drummer standing in the centre.

Dhamyal (Haryana)

Dhamyal or Dhup is one of the most popular folk dances of Haryana. Dhamyal dance is performed either by men alone or with women. A circular drum (Dhup) is played lightly by the male dancers. The spring season is a time of celebration in Haryana. The celebration is done usually after the work in the fields has been done.

Padayani (Kerala)

Padayani is one of the most colorful and popular dances of Southern Kerala. Padayani is associated with the festival of certain temples, called Padayani or Paddeni. Such temples are in Alleppey, Quilon, Pathanamthitta and Kottayam districts. The main Kolams (huge masks) displayed in Padayani are Bhairavi (Kali), Kalan (god of death), Yakshi (fairy) and Pakshi (bird).

Padayani involves a series of divine and semi divine imitation, putting Kolams of different shapes and colors. In the performance of Padayani, dancers, actors, singers and instrumentalists play an important role. The actors or dancers wear Kolams that are huge headgears, with many projections and devices and a mask for the face or a chest piece to cover the breast and abdomen of the performer.

Kummi (Tamil Nadu)

Kummi is a popular folk dance of Tamil Nadu. Kummi dance is performed by tribal women during festivals. Kummi is a simple folk dance where dancers form circles and clap in rhythmic way.


‘Kollattam’ or the stick dance is one of the most popular dances of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. Kolattam is derived from Kol (a small stick) and Attam (play). It is also called as Kolannalu or Kolkolannalu. Kolattam dance is a combination of rhythmic movements, songs and music and is performed during local village festivals. Kolattam is known by different names in different states of India. The Kolattam group consists of dancers in the range of 8 to 40. The stick, used in the Kolattam dance, provides the main rhythm.


The Perini Thandavam is a male dance of the warriors. As a part of tradition, the warriors performed this dominant dance in front of the idol of Nataraja or Lord Shiva, before leaving for the battlefield. This is popular in some parts of Andhra Pradesh state. In earlier times the rulers of the Kakatiya dynasty patronized this form of dance. The Perini dance is performed to the accompaniment of the beat of the drums.

Thapetta Gullu (Andhra Pradesh)

Thapetta Gullu is a folk dance form of Srikakulam district, Andhra Pradesh. In the Thapetta Gullu dance more than ten persons participate. The participants or performers sing songs in the praise of local goddess. While performing the Thapetta Gullu dance, the dancers use drums, hanging around their necks. The dancers wear tinkling bells around their waist.

Dollu Kunitha (Karnataka)

Dollu Kunitha is a popular drum dance of Karnataka state. In the Dollu Kanitha dance, large drums are adorned with colored clothes and hang around the necks of men. The songs used in this dance usually have religious and battle fervor. The main emphasis is on quick and light movement of the feet and legs. The Dollu Kunitha dance forms a part of the ritualistic dances of the Dodavas of Karnataka.

Ghode Modni (Goa)

The culture of Goa bears strong European influence as it was ruled by the Portuguese for many years. Ghode Modni dance portrays the brave deeds of the Goan warriors. In the Ghode Modni (dummy horse presentation) dance the delightfully dressed dancers perform dances, armed with swords. During the Ghode Modni celebrations people are in a mood for fun and frolic. Elaborate parades and spectacular processions are taken out, accompanied by dances of boys and girls.

Lava Dance of Minicoy (Lakshadweep)

Lava dance is a colorful and energetic dance of the Minicoy Island of Lakshadweep. During the Lava dance performance the dancers are dressed in multi-hued costumes and a headgear. They also carry a drum. The dancers perform to the rhythmic beats of drums and songs.

Tarangmel (Goa)

Tarangmel is an energetic and youthful dance of Goa. The Tarangmel dance is usually performed during Dussehra and Holi celebrations. During Dussehra and Holi, the energetic young girls and boys throng the streets in colorful group with flags and streamers (tarang). This gathering of young people is an invitation to everyone to join in the festive spirit. The musical instruments used during Tarangmel are ‘romut’, ‘dhol’ and ‘tasha’.

Dandiya (Rajasthan)

Dandiya is a popular folk dance of Rajasthan. Dressed in colorful costumes the performers play skillfully with big sticks in their hands. Dandiya dance is accompanied by the musical instrument called the ‘Meddale’ played by the drummer in the centre.

The Bhil tribal of Rajasthan perform a variety of dances. All these folk dances correspond to the agricultural cycle. The Ghumer dance, Raika and Jhoria are some examples of this type of dance. The Gher dance is a favorite and popular dance of the Mina tribe who are similar to the Bhils while Valar is typical dance of the Garasias of Rajasthan.

Tera Tali (Rajasthan)

Tera Tali is another famous folk dance of Rajasthan. It is performed by two or three women of the ‘Kamar’ tribe. The women folk sit on the ground while performing the Tera Tali which is an elaborate ritual with many other rituals in it. An interesting part of the Tera Tali dance is tying of metal cymbals (Manjiras) to different parts of the body, mostly on the legs. The Tera Tali dancers hold cymbals in their hands and strike them in a rhythmic manner. On many occasions the women clasp a sword in between their teeth and balance a decorative pot on their head.

Dindi And Kala

Dindi and Kala are devotional dances of Maharashtra. In these dances the playful attitude of Lord Krishna is presented. Dindi is a small drum. The musicians, comprising ‘Mridangam’ player and a vocalist, stand in the center and give the dancers the necessary musical background. Men and women folk perform the dance on the rhythmic music. This dance is usually performed on the Ekadashi day in the Hindu month of Kartik.


Garba is the leading dance of women in Gujarat. The Garba dance is associated with the fertility cult. The Garba dance is performed throughout nine nights of Navaratri, an autumn festival. Women folk come out into the open and with perforated earthen pots holding lighted lambs poised on the head sing, clap and dance a simple, circular dance, in honor of the Goddess Amba. When men also dance by singing and clapping the dance is known as Garbi.

Tippani is a popular folk dance of Saurashtra. Tippani is performed by women laborers in parts of Saurashtra.

The Dhangari Gaja Dance is performed by Dhangars of Maharashtra to please their God for blessings. The Dhangari Gaja dance is performed in the traditional Marathi dresses – Dhoti, Angarakha and Pheta, accompanied by colorful handkerchiefs. Dancers move around a group of drum players.

Koli (Maharashtra)

The Koli dance derives its name from the Koli tribe of Maharashtra. The dances of Kolis incorporate all elements of their surroundings. The Koli dance is performed by both men and women – divided into two groups. The main story of the dance is enacted by the smaller group of men and women. In this dance the Kolin or fisherwoman makes advances to the Kolis or fishermen.