8 classical dance forms of India UPSC

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Classical Dance forms of India are an important part of Indian art and culture. This is a very significant topic for UPSC, SSC, RRB, NTPC, and all other competitive exams. Often 2-3 questions are asked in different competitive exams, and the form of the dance and the name of the person concerned is often asked in the exam.

check out all the Notes from Indian Arts & Culture


Different dance styles have developed in different regions of India, each with its specific subtleties. However, all these Dance forms are governed by preliminary rules and guidelines In Natyashastra, the main rule is that the actual transfer of Knowledge can only come through a guru. Guru passes Knowledge of different traditions and communities Disciples This ‘guru-disciple tradition’ (‘guru-shisya parampara’) forms the core of India’s classical art form.

Aspects of Dance

• As per Natya Shastra, there are two basic aspects of Indian classical dance.

  1. Lasya – It refers to grace, bhava, rasa and abhinaya (acting). It symbolizes the feminine nature of dance as an art form.
  2. Tandava – It is symbolic of the male aspects of the dance and emphasizes rhythm and movement

Three basic elements of Abhinaya

According to Abhinaya Darpana, a famous treatise on dance written by Nandikeshwar, Abhinaya has been divided into three basic elements:

1. Nritta – It refers to the basic dance steps, performed rhythmically but without any expression or mood.

    2. Natya – It means dramatic representations and refers to the story that is elaborated through the dance recital.

    3. Nritya – Nritya refers to the sentiment and emotions evoked through dance.

      9 Rasa of Classical Dance

      Sl.No9 Rasas Classical DanceAttributes
      5ShaantPeace and Tranquility
      6HasyaLaughter and Comedy

      Key Points about the dance forms of India

      Natya is an amalgamation of dance, drama, and music.

      • Natya included__

      1. Pathya (words) from Rig Veda
      2. Abhinaya (gestures) from Yajur Veda
      3. Geet (music) from Sam Veda
      4. and Rasa (emotions) from Atharva Veda.

      • The first formal mention of dance is found in Bharata Muni’s famous work Natya Shastra.
      Abhinaya Darpana’s famous treatise on dance, written by Nandikeshwara.

      • Indian classical dance forms are based on the instruction of the book Natya Shastra.

      Know about the Classical dance forms of India

      Presently, As per Sangeet Natak Akademi, there are eight classical dance forms in India, namely___

      1. Bharatnatyam
      2. Kuchipudi
      3. Kathakali
      4. Mohiniattam
      5. Odissi
      6. Manipuri
      7. Kathak
      8. Sattriya:

      8 Classical dance forms of India with respective states

      Sl.NoClassical Dance FormsPlace of Classical Dance
      1BharatnatyamTamil Nadu
      2 KuchipudiAndhra Pradesh
      6 ManipuriManipur
      7KathakNorth India (Uttar Pradesh)

      8 classical dance forms of India Map

      8 classical dance forms of India
      8 classical dance forms of India

      Facts about the 8 classical dance forms of India

      Bharatnatyam Dance

      Oldest among all classical dance forms.
      • Bharatanatyam, previously called Sadhir Attam.

      • In Bharatnatyam ‘Natyam’ means dance in Tamil.

      • This dance form is often called ‘Fire Dance’. Because most of the movements in Bharatanatyam are look like dancing flame.

      • It expresses South Indian religious themes and spiritual ideas, particularly Shaivism, Vaishnavism, and Shaktism.

      Famous personalities related to Bharatnatyam

      • Yamini Krishnamurthy
      • Lakshmi Viswanathan
      • Padma Subramaniam
      • Mrinalini Sarabhai
      • Mallika Sarabhai

      Kuchipudi Dance form

      • Originally performed by a group of actors going from village to village, known as Kusselavas.

      • Kuchipudi derives its name from the village of Kusselavapuri or Kuchelapuram in Andhra Pradesh.

      • The tradition of Kuchipudi is systematized by Siddhendra Yogi.

      • Most of the Kuchipudi themes are based on the stories of Bhagavat Purana.

      • The Kuchipudi dancers came to be known as Bhagavathalus.

      • Kuchipudi dance is generally accompanied by Carnatic music.

      • Principle instruments used in this dance forms Violin and Mridangam.

      • A unique feature of Kuchipudi is the tarangam, where the performer dances on the edge of a brass plate, skillfully performing intricate rhythmic patterns, sometimes balancing a water pot on his head.

      classical dance forms of India
      Kuchipudi Dance (Tarangam) [Image Source: nrithyamani]

      Famous personalities related to Kuchipudi

      • Radha Reddy
      • Raja Reddy
      • Yamini Krishnamurthy
      • Indrani Rahman

      Kathakali dance form

      ‘Katha’ means Story and ‘Kali’ means drama.

      • It is closely related to Koodiyattam (Sanskrit drama tradition)

      • Kathakali is usually performed by an all-male group.

      • The language used for Kathakali songs is Manipravalam.

      • Manipravalam language is a mixture of Malayalam and Sanskrit.

      Famous personalities related to Kathakali

      • Guru Kunchu Kurup
      • Gopi Nath
      • Kottakal Sivaraman
      • Rita Ganguly

      Mohiniattam dance form

      ‘Mohini’ means beautiful woman and ‘attam’ means dance.

      Solo dance performance by women.
      • Mohiniattam narrates the story of the feminine dance of Vishnu.

      Famous personalities related to Mohiniattam

      • Sunanda Nair
      • Kalamandalam Kshemavathy
      • Madhuri Amma
      • Jayaprabha Menon

      Odissi dance form

      • It was primarily practiced by the ‘maharis’ and patronized by the Jain King Kheravela.

      • Earliest evidence of Odissi dance form provided by the caves of Udayagiri-Khandagiri.

      • The dance form derives its name from the ‘Odra nritya’ mentioned in Natya Shastra.

      • Similar to Bharatnatyam in the use of Mudras and postures to express emotions.

      • Odissi dance is accompanied by Hindustani classical music.

      • Main instruments used are Pakhawaj (Drums), Manjira, Sitar, Flute, etc.

      • The dance form symbolizes the element of water.

      Famous personalities related to Odissi

      • Guru Pankaj Charan Das
      • Guru Kelu Charan Mohapatra
      • Sonal Mansingh

      Manipuri dance form

      • Manipuri classical dance belongs to the state of Manipur. Krishna became the central theme of this dance form. It is performed generally by females.

      Rabindranath Tagore brought back the dance form into the limelight when he introduced it in Shantiniketan (Birbhum, West Bengal).

      Manipuri dance includes both classical and folk dance forms. Manipuri Ras Leela is one of the main forms of Indian classical dance. Hence the Manipuri dance, also known as Manipuri Ras Leela.

      • And the Folk dance forms are mainly attributed to regional deities such as Umang Lai and performed during Lai Haraoba.

      Famous personalities related to Manipur

      • Nayana
      • Suverna
      • Ranjana
      • Darshana
      • Guru Bipin Singha
      • N Madhabi Devi

      Kathak dance form

      Kathak is the classical dance of Uttar Pradesh.

      • It originated in Uttar Pradesh and is considered an important dance form of the 8th form of classical dance.

      • The classical style of Kathak was revived by Lady Leela Sokhey.

      • Kathak is generally accompanied by dhrupad music.

      • This dance form narrates the epic stories of Ramayana and Mahabharata.

      Kathak Training Institute Kathak Academy is located in Lucknow.

      Famous Personalities related to Kathak

      • Pandit Birju Maharaj
      • Lacchu Maharaj
      • Sitara Devi
      • Damayanti Joshi
      • Ravi Shankar Mishra
      • Pandit Jai Kishan Maharaj

      Sattriya dance form

      • Introduced by the Vaishnava Saint Sankaradeva in the 15th century AD in Assam.

      • The art form derives its name from the Vaishnava monasteries known as ‘Sattras.

      • The dance form is based on the mythological story of Vishnu.

      • The dance is generally performed by a groups of male monks known as ‘Bhokots.

      • Main musical instruments used Khol, Manjira, and Flute.

      Famous Personalities related to Sattriya

      • Moniram Dutta
      • Muktiyar Barbayan
      • Dr. Maheswar Neog
      • Dr. Bhupen Hazarika
      • Ananda Mohan Bhagawati

      About Sangeet Natak Akademi

      • Sangeet Natak Akademi or The National Academy of Music, Dance and Drama is the national-level academy for performing arts set up by the Government of India.

      • It was set up by the Indian education ministry on 31 May 1952.
      • First chairman: Dr. P. V. Rajamannar. Dr. Rajendra Prasad
      • Current Vice-Chairman: Aruna Sairam

      • Headquarters of Sangeet Natak Akademi: Rabindra Bhawan, Ferozeshah Road, New Delhi, India

      Frequently Asked Questions about classical dance forms in India

      Q1. What are the 8 classical dances in India?

      Bharatnatyam (Tamil Nadu)
      Kuchipudi (Andhra Pradesh)
      Kathakali (Kerala)
      Mohiniattam (Kerala)
      Odissi (Odisha)
      Manipuri (Manipur)
      Kathak (Uttar Pradesh)
      Sattriya (Assam)
      Chhau (Assam)
      Gaudiya Nritya (West Bengal)

      Q2. How many classical dance forms are there in India?

      • According to the Sangeet Natak Academy, there are 8 forms of classical dance in India.

      Q3. Is Kathak and kathakali same?

      • No, Both are classical dance forms of India, Kathak belongs to North India and Kathakali is performed in Kerala.

      Q4. Which state is Kathak from?

      • The classical dance form Kathak belongs to North India especially Uttar Pradesh.

      Q5. list the classical dance forms of India as per the Sangeet Natak Akademi

      • At present, the Sangeet Natak Academy recognizes 8 types of classical dance in India.

      Q6. Indian state-wise classical dance

      Bharatnatyam (Tamil Nadu)
      Kuchipudi (Andhra Pradesh)
      Kathakali (Kerala)
      Mohiniattam (Kerala)
      Odissi (Odisha)
      Manipuri (Manipur)
      Kathak (North India)
      Sattriya (Assam)

      Q7. Which is the most difficult Indian classical dance?

      • Kathakali (classical dance form of Kerala ) is one of the hardest dance forms to learn and perform.

      Q8. What is our national dance of India?

      • The classical dance of Tamil Nadu, Bharatanatyam is the national dance of India.

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