Indian dance forms like Bharatnatyam, Kathakali, and Kuchipidi are fairly popular across the globe. However, the truth of the matter is that India is home to many different dance forms other than these. On this International Dance Day, let’s learn some more about the lesser known dance forms in India. Some of the ancient and cultural Indian dance styles that are seldom heard about are:
Introduced by Srimanta Sankardev in the 15th century, Sattriya is one of the oldest classical dances in India. It was originally used to tell common people stories of Hindu mythology in a manner that they would understand. Inspired by the Assamese folk dance, the Sangeet Natak Akademi of India recognized this dance form as a classical dance in 2000.
Recognized by UNESCO, Kalbelia is an old folk dance of Rajasthan usually performed by the females of the namesake nomadic tribe. This tribe is a community of snake charmers, and in this dance form the females mimic the moves of snakes. The songs used in these performances are generally based on mythology and folklore. This tribe is well-known for its ability to improvise the songs and compose new lyrics in the middle of the performance. The rhythm of the Kalbelia songs gets faster and faster as the act progresses – and so does their dance.
The word ‘Chhau’ is a Sanskrit word that literally translates into ‘shadow’. Chhau dance is a tribal martial arts dance form that is usually performed during the festival of Chaitra Parva. Popular in West Bengal, Orissa, and Jharkhand, performers wear colourful costumes and don a mask. The stories that are portrayed in a Chhau dance are usually from Mahabharata, Ramayana, or the Puranas. This semi classical Indian dance form is of three types depending upon where it is performed – the Purulia Chau of Bengal, the Mayurbhanj Chau of Odisha, and the Seraikella Chau of Jharkhand.
Representing a warrior leaving for battle, Ghodemodni is a folk dance performed during the Shigmo festival in some northern talukas of Goa. This warrior dance celebrates the victory of the Maratha rulers, the Ranes, over the Portuguese in Goa. The word ‘Ghodemodni’ means ‘dance movements like the horse’. On first glance, the costume may look like that of the Rajputs, however on closer inspection of the headdress, you will realize that it is that of a Peshwa. There are no songs, the performers dance to the beat of dholak and tasha.
Gotipua dance has been performed by boys for centuries in Orissa. These boys dress up as girls in order to pay their respects to Lord Krishna and Lord Jagannath. This folk dance originated in Raghurajpur, a village in Orissa. Perhaps the most fascinating part of this dance form is the ‘Bandha Nrutya’ – a dance that uses acrobatic figures and movements. The boys usually start to learn this dance form quite early because they need to execute acrobatic-like movements.
Also known as ‘bamboo dance’, Cheraw is a folk dance form in Mizoram. The bamboos are placed on the floor, and it is job of the male dancers to follow the beats and to move the bamboos. The female dancers step in and out of the bamboo sticks, sticking to the rhythm of the songs. According to Mizoram traditions, Cheraw dance is usually performed to ensure that the mothers who died at childbirth has a safe passage to the afterlife.
Dollu Kunitha is a dance form of Karnataka that is performed in order to please Beereshwara, a deity. This is a drum-based dance, which is performed during various religious ceremonies in North Karnataka. The drum beats keep alternating their rhythm in this folk dance of Karnataka, the leader is the one who changes the rhythm and the other follow him. The main purpose of this dance form is to ensure the spiritual well-being of the performers. Dollu Kunitha is a lesser known dance form that is generally only performed by males.
These are just a few of the lesser known dance forms in India, there is a whole lot more where these came from. Add a bit of India’s cultural history to your lives by watching these dancers in action if you ever get a chance.
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