Classical dances of India Upsc

Sangeet Natak Akademi recognizes eight dances in India. It includes Bharatanatyam, Katak, Kuchipudi, Odissi, Kathakali, Sattriya, Manipuri and Mohiniyattam. 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 rules or foundation for classical dances in India, and this text is attributed to the ancient scholar “Bharata Muni“.


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 artist Rukmini Devi Arundale, Bala Saraswati, and Yamini Krishnamurthi.


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.


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 Bhagvata 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.


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.


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 of dancing.

  • Pallavi – It includes the facial expression and representation of the song.

  • Tarijhan – It is pure dance before the conclusion.


Sattriya or Sattriya Nritya is 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.


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.


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.

* * 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.
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