Classical dances of India Upsc

Classical dances of India

Classical dances of India are recognized by Sangeet Natak Akademi. It includes Bharatanatyam, Katak, Kuchipudi, Odissi, Kathakali, Sattriya, Manipuri and Mohiniyattam. These mentioned dances are major classical dances of India.

Also, the Culture Ministry of the Government of India includes Chhau in its classical list.

These dances represent a unity of core ideas in different styles, costumes, and diversified expressions. Indian classical dance, which is Shastriya Nritya, is a term that covers the various performance arts which are rooted in the Hindu religious, musical theatre styles.

The practice of these arts can be traced to the Sanskrit text, Natya Shastra. Natya Shastra, is the rule or foundation for classical dances in India, and this text is attributed to the ancient scholar “Bharata Muni“.

8 Classical dances of India are:

Bharatanatyam dance upsc

Bharatanatyam is a clasical dance of Tamil Nadu
Bharatanatyam By Arian Zwegers – Thanjavur, Brihadishwara Temple, dance, CC BY 2.0,

It is the oldest classical dance form. It gets its name from the ancient scholar “Bharata Muni” and the word “Natyam”, which means Dance in the Tamil Language. Bharatanatyam’s origins can be traced to the solo dance performance of Devadasi, which means temple dancer in the Tamil Language.

Today, the modern stage production of Bharatnatyam has incorporated, technical performance with pure dance that is based on non-religious ideas and fusion themes. Bharatanatyam, dance was revived as mainstream dance by Bhatanatyam artists Rukmini Devi Arundale, Bala Saraswati, and Yamini Krishnamurthi.

Bharatanatyam features and styles Upsc

Like all major classical Indian dance forms, there are three performance categories in the Natya Shastra. They are Nritta(Nirutham), Nritya(Niruthiyam), and Natya (Natyam).

Styles of Bharatanatyam

Pandanallur, Vazhavoor, Melathoor and Kalakshetra style.

Kerala kathakali dance upsc

Classical dance Kathakali dance from Kerala (India)
Kathakali dance from Kerala By AdvaithNair – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

This is a Hindu performance art in Kerala. Katha means story and Kali means Drama. The themes of Kathakali include folk mythologies, religious heroes, legends, and religious, spiritual ideas from Hindu Puranas/epics.

In most of its presentations, Kathakali depicts the conflicts between good and evil. It is performed in Sanskritised Malayalam and performed in open-air theatre or temple premises.

A brass lamp is used for lighting. The most remarkable feature of Kathakali is a representation of Rasa through the movement of eyes and eyebrows.

Kuchipudi dance form upsc

Kutchipudi is classical dance of india from the state of Andra Pradesh
Kuchipudi By Yunji23asdfg – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

It originated from a village named Kuchipudi, in the state of Andra Pradesh. It is developed as a Hindu God, Krishna oriented to Vaishnavism tradition. Its recital is based on Bhagavata Purana, but it has a secular theme.

The traditional Kuchipudi was performed by all-male troupes.Lasya and Tandava are important in Kuchipudi dance.

Carnatic music instruments and vocal in the Telugu language accompanies the performance. The musical instruments used as Mridangam, Cymbals, veena, flute, and the tambura. Lakshmi Narayan Shastri bought renown to this dance form.

Kathak dance upsc

kathak classical dance is from state of uttar pradesh
Kathak By –, CC BY 2.0,

The origin of Kathak is from traveling bards of ancient northern Indian known as Kathakars or Story tellers. Kathak is a traditional dance form of Uttar Pradesh state. During the Mughal Empire, it was influenced by Islamic features, especially in its costumes and dancing style.

Kathak is commonly identified with the court tradition in North India. It is found in three distinct forms called Gharanas. It is named after the cities Jaipur, Banaras, and Lucknow, where the Kathak dance traditions evolved.

One of the main features of the Kathak recital is Jugulbandi, where it shows a competitive play between dancer and tabla player. This dance form is based on Hindustani music also accompanied by Dhrupad music.

The main proponents of Kathak are Lachha Maharaj, Shambu Maharaj, and Birju Maharaj.


Odissi classical dance from Odissa state in India
Odissi Nritya By Amiwins – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

It derives its name from Odra Nirtya, which is mentioned in Natya Shastra. Mudras and Postures express emotions similar to Bharatnatyam. The three-bent form of dance is called Tribanga posture is an important feature in Odissi.

This dance expresses religious stories and ideas of spirituality, most commonly Vaishnavism, where Vishnu is Jagannath. Odissi dance accompanied by Hindustani music.

Elements of Odissi include Mangalcharan, Batunirtya, Pallavi, Tarijham.

  • Mangalcharan – Beginning of the dance.
  • Batu Nirtya – It comprises dancing.
  • Pallavi – It includes the facial expression and representation of the song.
  • Tarijhan – It is pure dance before the conclusion.


Sattriya dance is from state of Assam
Sattriya dancer – अपना काम, CC BY-SA 3.0, द्वारा

Sattriya or Sattriya Nritya originated in the eastern state of Assam. It is a dance-drama performance. The art with origins in the Krishn-centered Vaishnavism monasteries in Assam.

It attributes to the 15th-century, Bhakti movement. Its scholar and Saint Mahapurush Srimata Sankardev. It focuses more on the devotional aspects of dance. Also, it narrates the mythological stories of Vishnu.

This dance is performed by a group of Male monks known as Bhokots. It is part of their daily rituals. The main musical instruments used are Khol and Flute.

Manipuri dance upsc

Manipuri dance is from state of Manipur
Manipuri dance By –, CC BY 2.0,

It is also known as Jagoi. It is one of the major classical dance forms and it is named after the region Manipur. This dance is known for its Hindu Vaishnavism Themes. It exquisite performance of a love-inspired dance drama of Radha-Krishna called Raslila.

Mohiniyattam dance upsc

Classical dance Mohiniattam is from state of kerala (India)
By Shagil Kannur – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

It is a traditional dance form of Kerala. The Mohiniattam comes from the word Mohini which means beautiful and Attam which means dance.

Mohiniattam is essentially a solo dance performance that incorporates Lasya and Tandava style. It generally narrates the story of the feminine dance of Vishnu.


Indian Art and Culture by Nitin Singhania

* * All the Notes in this blog, are referred from Tamil Nadu State Board Books and Samacheer Kalvi Books. Kindly check with the original Tamil Nadu state board books and Ncert Books.