General Knowledge

Classical Dances of India & how its different from Folk Dance

Classical Dances of India

(Different Dance forms of India with States)

  • India is a land of diverse cultures and traditions. Diverse culture of India has the treasure of a variety of folk and tribal dances in regions across the country. Dance is an ancient and celebrated cultural tradition in India whichreflect its cultural richness. The uniqueness of dances of India binds the entire country together.
  • The text related to the origin of dance in India can be found in Natya Shastra. We can broadly classify the dances of India into following three categories –
      • classical dances of India,
      • folk dances of India and
      • tribal dances of India.
  • All these dance forms have their own style and cultural values associated with them. Here we present you this article about the various dance forms practiced from different parts of India which help in various examinations like UPSC, State PSC, SSC, Bank Exams etc.

To Read about Folk Dances and Tribal Dances of India – Click Here.

8 Classical Dances of India, Bharatnatyam, Kathak, Kathakali, Manipuri, Mohiniattam, Odissi, Sattriya, Difference between Folk Dance and Classical Dance... Notes for Competitive Exams UPSC, SSC, Bank, IBPS etc.

Difference between Classical and Folk Dance

Classical Dance

Folk Dance/TribalDance

Classical dance is broad term used to refer to a group of dance form which can trace their origin to the Natya Shastra, the ancient text for theatre and drama.

Folk dance is the kind of dance that is developed by the people reflecting their lives, often to the local music.

Classical dance forms are well developed in terms of their technique, grammar and execution and are formally taught or learnt.

Folk dancing is a simple dance form meant for group performances created for a recreational or celebratory reason such as agricultural harvest, weddings etc.

Based on Mythological events.

Folk dances are based on traditions.

Classical dances are more about grace and composure.

Folk dances are all about energy, enthusiasm and power.

Usually stricter with a lot of technical, spatial, rhythmic, lyrical, literary and emotional aspects involved.

Usually has a story line to the dance which is mostly folklore and has fun elements embedded, exploiting stories of seasons and relationships between people.

They are primarily meant for solo performances but groups also perform it with equal ease.

Folk dancing is for enjoying and free formed. People who dance are not “professional” dancers.

There are eight classical Dances in India.

There are more than 30 folk dances in India.

Bharatnatyam of Tamil Nadu, Mohiniaattam of Kerala, Kuchipudi of Andhra Pradesh etc.

Kalbelia, Chari, Ghoomer, Fire and Kacchi Gori Dance.


Classical Dances of India

The Sangeet Natak Akademi recognizes eight dances in India as classical dances. These are listed below –








Tamil Nadu


It is a delightful combination of four elements i.e. expression, music, beats, and dance.

The accompanying music in Bharatnatyam is classical Carnatic.

The costumes are similar to Indian sarees with vibrant colours and made of Kanchipuram silk and Banaras silk.

The dance form is known for its beautiful body movements and gestures which are called Mudras in the traditional language.

It focuses on the hand gestures, leg movement and the facial expressions of the dancer.





Uttar Pradesh


The word Kathak is originated from the word Katha which means storytelling.

Traditionally this dance was more religious in nature, typically narrating the stories of Radha and Krishna.

The dancers dance to the rhythm of table or pakhawaj.

Kathak is performed in the form of storytelling through the body movements used by the dancer.

This dance form focuses highly on the ankle movements that has to match the beats of the music.

Ankle bells or gunghroos as they are called in the traditional language is an important part of the discipline of this dance form.







Kathakali means story play.

It originates from the tales of Ramayana and Shiva stories. Kathakali includes the intriguing face movements and the heavy costumes which include the traditional face masks and body paints (generally green).

The music which includes only the vocals is called Soppanam.

Performance is more like a dance drama where dancers play different roles based on the drama content.





Andhra Pradesh


It is a combination of speech, Abhinaya (mime) and pure dance.

Kuchipudi derives its name from a village Kuchelapuram.

It closely resembles Bharatnatyam. However its movements are much faster and style is free.







The main characteristics of this dance are colourful decoration and costumes, charming music, gentle and swaying petal-soft foot movements and delicacy of performance.

This dance form is performed to narrate the romantic relationship between the Hindu gods Radha and Krishna.

This art form is performed in a team with the traditional Manipuri costumes and makeup to narrate the tale of the two gods.

This traditional dance is mainly inspired by the rich culture of Manipur.







The word Mohiniattam derives its meaning from the word Mohini, which means beautiful women and ‘attam’ which means dance.

Thus, this form of dance represents a beautiful feminine grace.

These dances are based on love and emotion themes.







Performed by ‘Maharis’ or female temple servants, this dance form has a close association with the temples and temple sculptures.

The dance is performed as a way to express the mythological tales of Hindu gods.

The dance is accompanied by a mythical story in the form of music by the musicians.

Odissi stands out from other forms of dances because of its Tribhangi posture, dealing with three body parts, i.e. head, bust, and torso.







It is an art which represents dance-drama performances with a unique combination of hand gestures, footwork, expressions, and body movements.

Most of the themes of dance related to Ram and Sita or Krishna and Radha.

This dance was an artistic way of presenting mythological teachings.



So, this was all about Classical Dances of India. In the Next Post, we will learn about the Folk and Tribal Dances of India.

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