List of Dance Forms in India - Folk & Classical Dances of All States

India is known for its rich cultural heritage. Diversification is the identity of the country. Indian dance is one of the most revered identities of our culture.

In India, dance forms can be broadly classified into 2 categories- classical and folk dance form.

List of Folk Dances in India
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These dance forms have been originated from different parts of India as per the local tradition.

This article will highlight the various Indian dance forms- classical and folk in brief. The dance forms of India are an important aspect of art and culture syllabus for IAS exam.

IAS 2023 results

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 the Previous Year UPSC questions on Classical Dances.

UPSC 2023

Dance Forms in India

The 2 major dance forms in India are classical and folk dance. The major difference between Classical and Folk dance is the origin.

Classical dance has a deep-rooted relationship with the Natya Shastra where the specific features of each of the Classical dance forms have been mentioned.

Folk dance, on the other hand, emerged from the local tradition of the respective state, ethnic or geographic regions.

Classical Dance in India

The classical dance form originated from the Natya Shastra. There are 8 classical dance forms in India as per the source and scholar.

The Cultural Ministry of India has included Chhau into the list of classical dances that makes a total of 9 classical dance forms.

The 8 basic technicalities that are expressed in the classical dance are given below:

  1. Shringar: Love
  2. Hasya: Humorous
  3. Karuna: Sorrow
  4. Raudra: Anger
  5. Veer: Heroism
  6. Bhayanak: Fear
  7. Bibhats: Disgust
  8. Adbhoot: Wonder

Indian Dances with States is an important static GK topic for the UPSC exam. For information on various static GK topics check the article linked here.

For more on Indian classical dances, click on the linked article.

The list of classical dances in India is given below:

List of Classical dances in India  State of Origin
Bharatnatyam Tamil Nadu
Kathak Uttar Pradesh
Kuchipudi Andhra Pradesh
Odissi Odisha
Kathakali Kerala
Sattriya Assam
Manipuri Manipur
Mohiniyattam Kerala

Questions based on these classical Indian dance forms are common in the UPSC exam for the prelims phase.

Classical Dances of India – What do you need to know?

Bharatanatyam is based on performance and aesthetic ideas outlined in classics such as Bharata’s Natyashastra. It offers a large collection of songs in Telugu, Tamil, and Sanskrit. The topics include a wide variety of human and heavenly love, and are commonly classified as shringara (romantic love) and Bhakti (devotion). Bharatanatyam music is part of the Carnatic system of music from southern India.

Kathak is the main dance of northern India, and it is still extensively practised in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, and even regions of western and eastern India. It is said to be related to the storytelling art of Kathakaras, or storytellers, who have for centuries taught the scriptures, the epics Ramayana and Mahabharata, and puranic literature to the general people.

Kuchipudi, one of India’s primary dance genres, originated in Andhra Pradesh, where it evolved significantly as a result of the Bhakti movement that began in the 7th century AD. Nritta, Nritya, and Natya’s Kuchipudi is a dance-drama. The Nritta is made up of teermanams and jatis, the Nritya is made up of Sabdams, and the Natya is made up of acting with Mudras for the songs.

Odissi dance originated in Orissa, India’s easternmost state, where it was first performed as part of temple duty by’maharis,’ or female temple employees. The traditional dance was reshaped as a theatre art in the mid-twentieth century, drawing on not just existing dance art but also representations of dance in Orissa’s mediaeval sculpture, painting, and literature. 

Kathakali, or’story play,’ emerged in the seventeenth century in Kerala, southern India, under the patronage of the prince of Karnataka, who created plays for performance based on the epic Ramayana in Malayalam, the local language. Most Kathakali plays, which have passed down to us in a constant stream over three centuries, are based on stories from the Ramayana and Mahabharata.

Sattriya dance refers to the body of dance and danced theatre produced in Assam’s sattras or monasteries during the sixteenth century, when the Vaishnava faith spread over the nation thanks to the saint and reformer Shankaradeva (1449-1586). It is a separate genre within classical Indian dance, with an advanced vocabulary of hand gesture (hasta), footwork (pada karma), movement and emotion (Nritta and Abhinaya), and a repertory based on Krishna devotion.

Manipuri dance emerged in Manipur in north-eastern India, and is rooted in the Vaishnava beliefs of the Meiteis, or Manipur valley people. Manipur’s dance is divided into two sections: jagoi and cholom, which match to the lasya and tandava parts mentioned in Sanskrit literature. These are distinct streams, and an artist can spend a lifetime honing any form within the spectrum.

Mohiniattam originated in Kerala in southern India, and is named after the mythical enchantress Mohini. It is dance of feminine grace, and has grown out of performances connected with Kerala’s temples. Mohiniattam employs rhythms unique to Kerala: the rhythmic syllables utilised are those of the Maddalam, a drum used to accompany female characters in Kathakali theatre. The Edakka is the main percussion instrument in the performance.

Folk Dances in India

Folk dances in India represent the culture and tradition of the community from where it originated.

Folk dances are usually performed during the respective community’s celebration- childbirth, festivals, weddings, etc.

There are different types of Folk dances in India.

The list of Folk Dances in India is given below:

State of Origin List of Folk Dances in India
Andhra Pradesh Vilasini Natyam, Bhamakalpam, Veeranatyam, Dappu, Tappeta Gullu, Lambadi, Dhimsa, Kolattam.
Arunachal Pradesh Buiya, Chalo, Wancho, Pasi Kongki, Ponung, Popir
Assam Bihu, Bichhua, Natpuja, Maharas, Kaligopal, Bagurumba, Naga dance, Khel Gopal.
Bihar Jata-Jatin, Bakho-Bakhain, Panwariya
Chhattisgarh Gaur Maria, Panthi, Raut Nacha, Pandwani, Vedamati, Kapalik
Gujarat Garba, Dandiya Raas, Tippani Juriun, Bhavai
Goa Tarangamel, Koli, Dekhni, Fugdi, Shigmo, Ghode, Modni, Samayi nrutya, Jagar, Ranmale
Haryana Jhumar, Phag, Daph, Dhamal, Loor, Gugga, Khor.
Himachal Pradesh Jhora, Jhali, Chharhi, Dhaman, Chhapeli, Mahasu
Jammu & Kashmir Rauf, Hikat, Mandjas, Kud Dandi Nach
Jharkhand Alkap, Karma Munda, Agni, Jhumar, Janani Jhumar, Mardana Jhumar, Paika, Phagua
Karnataka Yakshagana, Huttari, Suggi, Kunitha, Karga
Kerala Ottam Thullal, Kaikottikali
Maharashtra Lavani, Nakata, Koli, Lezim, Gafa, Dahikala Dasavtar
Madhya Pradesh Jawara, Matki, Aada, Khada Nach, Phulpati, Grida Dance, Selalarki, Selabhadoni
Manipur Dol Cholam, Thang Ta, Lai Haraoba, Pung Cholom
Meghalaya Ka Shad Suk Mynsiem, Nongkrem, Laho
Mizoram Cheraw Dance, Khuallam, Chailam, Sawlakin, Chawnglaizawn, Zangtalam
Nagaland Rangma, Zeliang, Nsuirolians, Gethinglim
Odisha Savari, Ghumara, Painka, Munari
Punjab Bhangra, Giddha, Daff, Dhaman, Bhand
Rajasthan Ghumar, Chakri, Ganagor, Jhulan Leela, Jhuma, Suisini, Ghapal
Sikkim Chu Faat, Sikmari, Singhi Chaam or the Snow Lion, Yak Chaam, Denzong Gnenha, Tashi Yangku
Tamil Nadu Kumi, Kolattam, Kavadi
Tripura Hojagiri
Uttar Pradesh Nautanki, Raslila, Kajri, Jhora, Chappeli
Uttarakhand Garhwali, Kumayuni, Kajari, Jhora, Raslila

Art and culture is an essential part of the IAS syllabus and every year, questions are asked from this section in both the prelims and mains exams.

Relevant Links

UPSC Mains General Studies Paper 1 Syllabus, Strategy & Structure NCERT Notes: Art, Literature, Architecture And Culture Notes For UPSC
Previous Years Art and Culture Questions in UPSC Civil Service Mains Exam General Studies Paper-1 Topic-Wise General Studies Paper-1 Questions in UPSC Mains
Difference between Classical and Folk Dance Manipuri Dance – Themes, Features, Costumes & Music
Folk Music in India Puppet Forms in India
Tribal Paintings of India Pahari Paintings: Styles and Types

Multiple Choice Question

Consider the following Statements

  1. The classical dance originates from Natya Shastra. The 2 basic aspects of Classical dance are Lasya and Tandava.
  2. Folk dance is associated with celebrating agricultural harvest or social gatherings like weddings, etc.
  3. Classical dances are performed by professional or highly trained dancers who have studied their form for many years. There are eight classical Dances in India.
  4. There are more than 30 folk dances in India. Some of the most popular folk dances are Ghoomer, Kacchi Gori Chari, Kalbelia; all of them originating from the state of Rajasthan.

Choose the correct answer from the below-given options

  1. None of the above statements are false.
  2. None of the above statements are true.
  3. Only Statements 2 and 3 are true.
  4. Only Statements 3 and 1 are true.

Answer: A

Frequently Asked Questions on Indian Dance Forms


Q 1. Which is the oldest dance form in India?

Bharatnatyam is the oldest dance form in India.

Q 2. Which is the recently added dance form in the classical dance list of India?

The Cultural Ministry of India has included Chhau in the list of classical dances that makes a total of 9 classical dance forms.

Q 3. What is Karagattam?

Karagattam is an ancient folk dance of Tamil Nadu which is performed while worshipping the Goddess of rain.

Q 4. In how many categories Indian Dance Forms are classified?

Ans. In India, dance forms can be broadly classified into 2 categories- classical and folk dance form. These dance forms have been originated from different parts of India as per the local tradition.

Q 5. Which state dance is Yakshagana?

Ans. Yakshagana is a traditional folk dance form popular in Coastal Karnataka districts. The Yakshagana is an elaborate dance-drama performance unique to Karnataka. It is a rare combination of dance, music, song, scholarly dialogues and colourful costumes.

Q 6. Is Kathak and Kathakali the same form of dance?

Ans. Kathakali is different from a similar-sounding Kathak, though both are Indian classical dance traditions of “story play” wherein the stories have been traditionally derived from the Hindu epics and the Puranas.

Q 7. What is the difference between Kathak and Bharatanatyam?

Ans. The main difference between Kathak and Bharatnatyam is that Bharatnatyam is a South Indian dance tradition that originated around the state of Tamil Nadu, whereas Kathak is a Northern Indian dance tradition that was initially developed in Hindu temples. Kathak and Bharatnatyam are two classical dance forms of India.

Q 8. Kuchipudi dance form belongs to which state?

Ans. Kuchipudi is indigenous to the state of Andhra Pradesh and differs from the other five classical styles by the inclusion of singing. Kuchipudi originated in the 17th century with the creation by Sidhyendra Yogi of the dance-drama Bhama Kalapam, a story of Satyabhāma, the charming but jealous wife of the god Krishna.

Q 9. What is the dance of Gujarat?

Ans. Garba is a form of dance, as well as a religious and social event that originates in Gujarat, India. Garba is a community circle dance from the northwestern Indian state of Gujarat. The word “garba” is also used to refer to the event at which the garba is performed.

Q 10. What is the dance of Maharashtra?

Ans. Lavani is a genre of music popular in Maharashtra, India. Lavani is a combination of traditional song and dance, which particularly performed to the beats of Dholki, a percussion instrument. Lavani is noted for its powerful rhythm.

Related Links:

UPSC 2023 UPSC Books
UPSC Calendar 2023 UPSC Notes
Government Exams Folk Music in India


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  1. What are major Dance forms of INDIA

  2. Sir how many total classical dance are there in India currently 2020

    • Sangeet Natak Academy (India’s National Academy) recognizes only eight classical dances of India, however, the Ministry of Culture also considers Chhau Dance as a classical dance of India, making the total number of classical dances in India as nine.