Classical Dances of India for UPSC

UPSC has asked several questions about the classical dances of India. It has asked about Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, and Sattriya, etc. especially in the prelims exam. Here we are giving the details about the classical dance in India.

Dance forms in India have a great tradition of over 2,000 years. There are two major divisions namely, classical and folk, whose themes are evolved from folklore, mythologies and classical literature.

Classical dance forms are grounded in ancient dance discipline which possesses a set of rules and regulations. The dance, music, literature and architecture forms an integral part of Art and culture in History.

In 2012, Civil Services IAS Prelims examination, UPSC has asked a question about Kuchipudi and Bharatanatyam. In 2014, UPSC has asked about Sattriya dance. Let’s have a glance through Previous Year UPSC question on Classical Dances.

How do you distinguish between Kuchipudi and Bharatanatyam dances? (UPSC IAS Prelims 2012)

  1. Dancers occasionally speaking dialogues are found in Kuchipudi dance but not in Bharatanatyam.
  2. Dancing on the brass plate by keeping the feet on its edges is a feature of Bharatanatyam but Kuchipudi dance does not have such a form of movements.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

Answer: A

You can get amazing notes on art and culture for UPSC exam from the link below:

UPSC Art and Culture Notes

Here we are giving some interesting facts about Classical dances in India which will helpful for UPSC IAS Prelims Examination.

List of Dances of India


Mohiniyattam is the classical solo dance form of Kerala. The word “Mohiniyattam” exactly depicts Mohini’s dance where Mohini is referred as the heavenly enchantress of the Hindu mythology. It is believed that Lord Vishnu camouflaged as a Mohini. In one, he seems as Mohini to tempt the Asuras away from the Amrit attained in the course of the churning of the Palazhi. The lyrics vocal rhythms of Mohiniyattam are in Manipravalam, a mixture of Sanskrit and Malayalam. This dance form gives more importance to facial expressions.


Kathakali is a popular dance form in Kerala which gives more importance to heavy makeup and facial expressions. The dance performances have different characters and roles. The dancer playing the role of the god or moral character wears green makeup on the face, while the villain daubs his face with green and red marks. Chenda, Maddalam, and Chengila are the principal musical instruments used in Kathakali.


Bharatanatyam is a distinctive dance form of South India especially in Tamil Nadu performed in temples. It is assumed that Bharatanatyam was discovered by Lord Brahma. Bharata Muni, a well-known sage is the one who categorized this consecrated dance in a Sanskrit text called the Natya Shastra. The Natya Shastra is one of the major articles on Indian drama and aesthetics.


Kuchipudi the state dance of Andhra Pradesh has derived from the Bhagavata Mela tradition which has faster moves compared to other dance forms. Dancers sporadically speaking dialogues are found in Kuchipudi. This classical dance of India has indebted its origin to the Telugu Brahmins in Kuchelapuram Village, who were well-known for their proficiency in staging the mythological folktales through dance, drama, and music.


Kathak is related with the recital art of storytelling. Kathak is an inevitable part of North Indian Culture especially this art form gained popularity in Banaras, Lucknow, and Jaipur. The story of Krishna and Radha is the chief theme of Kathak. Instruments such as Harmonium, Talam, Tabla, Pakwaj, and Sarangi are used in Kathak performances.

Sattriya dance

The Sattriya dance form of Assam can be sited under 2 sets- Paurashik Bangi, which is the masculine style and ‘Sthri Bangi’, which is the feminine style. Pat Silk sari is the most common kind of sari used in this dance. There are various musical instruments like Khol, Bahi, Violin, Tanpura, and Shankha.


Odissi dance form is the cultural pride of Odisha. Abhinaya and Nritya are two most fascinating feature of Odissi. It is performed in multiple styles including tri bhangi.


Manipuri is a renowned classical dance legacy of northeast India. This dance form is related to rituals and traditional festivals. There are mythological orientations to the dances of Shiva- Parvati and other gods and goddesses who shaped the cosmos. The main performers are the ‘maibas’ and ‘maibis’.

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