A complete ecosystem for UPSC Civils and State PSC Preparation

Classical Dances of India

Classical Dances of India short notes for UPSC Prelims, State PSCs Prelims and Other Examinations.

Classical Dances of India are the traditional Indian dance forms whose origin can be traced from the Sanskrit text – ‘Natya Shastra’ by Bharata Muni. 

The ‘Natya Shastra’ is one of the oldest surviving ancient Indian works on performance arts.

It describes in detail the technique, postures, emotions, ornaments and even audience for dance performances.

‘Natya Shastra’ defines two basic aspects of Indian Classical Dances – Lasya and Tandava.

Lasya :

  • It symbolizes the feminine features of a dance.
  • It expresses happiness and is filled with grace and beauty.

Tandava :

  • It symbolizes the male aspect of dance.
  • It also symbolizes the cosmic cycles of creation and destruction.

Main components of Classical Dances:

There are three main components of Indian Classical Dances.

  • Natya ( Dramatic element of the dance i.e. the imitation of characters)
  • Nritya ( Expressional component i.e. Mudras or gestures) 
  • Nritta ( Pure dance movements in their basic form)

Classical Dances in India are recognized by Sangeet Natak Academy and the Ministry of Culture.

The Sangeet Natak Academy recognizes eight Classical Dances :

  • Bharatanatyam
  • Kathak
  • Kuchipudi
  • Odissi
  • Kathakali
  • Sattriya
  • Manipuri
  • Mohiniyattam

The Ministry of Culture recognizes nine Classical Dances. It includes ‘Chhau’ in its list of classical dances.


  • Bharatnatyam – Oldest classical dance.
  • State – Tamilnadu
  • Also known as ‘Ekaharya’, as one dancer takes on many roles in a single performance.
  • Symbolizes the element of fire as movements in Bharatanatyam resemble a dancing flame.


  • Traditional dance which traces its origin back to the Ras Leela of Brajbhoomi. 
  • State – Uttar Pradesh
  • Derives its name from “Kathika” meaning storytellers.
  • Only Indian classical dance which has a synthesis of Hindu and Muslim traditions.
  • Known for the development of different Gharanas (Lucknow, Jaipur, Raigarh, Banaras).
  • Only classical dance based on Hindustani style of music.
  • Important feature – ‘Jugalbandi’ ( A competitive play between the dancer and the tabla player ).


  • State – Odisha 
  • Symbolizes the element of water.
  • Two styles of traditional Odissi :
    • Maharis (Devadasis or Temple Girls).
    • Gotipua ( Performed by Boys).
  • The dancers create intricate geometrical shapes and patterns with her body.
  • It is characterized by various Bhangas (Stance) – Two basic postures are Chowk (imitating a square) and the Tribhanga.


  • State – Kerala 
  • Blend of dance, music and acting (‘Katha’ meaning story and ‘Kali’ meaning drama).
  • Symbolizes the element of sky.
  • The dancers enact the roles (kings, gods, demons etc.) of the stories with particular make-up and costume.


  • State – Kerala
  • Classical solo dance performed by women. 
  • It is interpreted as the dance of ‘Mohini’, the female form taken by God Vishnu to kill Bhasmasura. 
  • Symbolizes elements of air.


  • Originated in Kuchipudi village, Krishna district of modern Andhra Pradesh.
  • This dance form has emerged from the popular theatrical art ‘Kuchipudi Yakshagana’ .
  • It comprises techniques such as dancing on the rim of a brass plate and with a pitcher full of water on the head called Tarangam.


  • State – Assam
  • Introduced by the great Vaishnava saint, Sankaradeva for propagation of the Vaishnava faith.
  • It grew as a part of Vaishnava Bhakti Movement in Hindu Monasteries called ‘Sattra’ and has been preserved by them.
  • Main themes of the dance are mostly on Radha-Krishna and other myths.
  • Performed by both male and female.


  • State – Manipur
  • This dance gained prominence under the advent of Vaishnavism.
  • Most popular forms of Manipuri dance are : Ras, Sankirtana and Thang-Ta.
  • The themes in Manipuri are mostly influenced by Hindu Vaishnavism. The main theme revolves around Radha, Krishna and the gopis.

Chhau Dance:

  • State – Jharkhand, West Bengal
  • Chhau is a blend of folk, tribal and martial arts.
  • It has three different types originated from three different regions :
    • Seraikella Chhau 
    • Mayurbhanj Chhau 
    • Purulia Chhau

Also Read in Art and Culture Short Notes :