Different Types of Classical Dance Forms of India

Classical Dance Forms
Classical Dance Forms

The dance in India comprises of several dance styles which are generally classified as classical or folk.

Based on the Indian culture, different dance forms have originated in different parts of the country which are later on developed to local traditions.

In the classical dance forms, it traces back to the ancient classical texts known as Natya Shastra.

This form of dance has theory, training, means and rationale for the sake of expression.

The origin goes back to the ancient times where it was performed during the Vedas on auspicious occasions.

The evidence of the ancient classical form of dance is mentioned in the text of Panini, the sage who had written the classic on Sanskrit grammar.

It is to be noted that India has got a number of different classical dance forms and each one can be traced to a different part of the nation.

According to Sangeet Natak Akademi and the Ministry of Culture, there are 8 different types of classical dance forms in India and the same is discussed under the following headings below:


It is a major genre of classical dance form that originated in Tamil Nadu.

The dance is solo and is performed exclusively by women.

The female solo dance is accompanied by musicians and a couple of singers.

Bharatanatyam - Classical Dance Form of India
Bharatanatyam – Classical Dance Form of India

The dance expresses the religious themes of Hinduism and spiritual ideas of Shaivism, Vaishnavism and Shakitsm.

The dance form has been in existence since 2nd century BE.

This dance remained exclusive to the temples of Hindu till 19th century.

The modern stage production of the dance incorporates technical performances, fusion themes and pure dance based on non religious ideas.


It is another major classical dance form whose origin is traditionally attributed to the travelling bards of ancient north India known as storytellers.

Kathak is a Sanskrit word that means one who tells the story.

Kathak - Classical Dance Form of India
Kathak – Classical Dance Form of India

This dance form is found in 3 different forms and is named after the places from where Kathak dance tradition evolved – Lucknow, Benares and Jaipur.

In this form of dance, there is a lot of upper body movement with facial expressions, bends and turns.

The main focus of the dance is the movement of eyes and foot movement.


It is another important classical dance form in India that makes use of colorful makeup, facemasks and costumes that only the male dance actors wear.

This dance generally originated as a kind of Hindu performance art in Kerala where people speak Malayalam language.

Dance Forms
Kathakali Dance

The roots of this dance is unclear but it is speculated that it originated around 17th century.

The Kathakali performance makes use of music, choreography, vocal performers and the dancer uses hand and facial gestures to express his ideas.

The dance themes are generally of the folk mythologies, spiritual ideas and religious legends from the Hindu epics and Puranas.


It is one of the eight major classical dance forms of India which originated in a village known as Krishna district in Andhra Pradesh.

It is a dance drama performance art and it has its roots from Natya Shastra which is an ancient Hindu Sanskrit text.

Kuchipudi Dance
Kuchipudi Dance

This dance begins with an invocation where the dancer is introduced, their role is spoken who then perform a preliminary dance.

After that, pure dance follows where the dance actor makes use of rhythmic gestures as sign language.

There are musicians and vocalists accompanying the dancer and the entire song is recited in Telugu language.


As the name suggests, this dance form originated from the state of Odisha which lies in the eastern coast of India.

The dance is performed exclusively by women who express spiritual ideas and religious stories particularly of Vaishnavism.

Odissi Dance
Odissi Dance

Also the performers express their ideas in other traditions related to Hindu Gods like Surya and Shiva.

The existence of this dance form can be traced to the ancient Sanskrit text known as Natya Shastra.

Odissi is a dance drama genre where the dancer plays a mythical story using symbolic gestures.


It is another very popular classical Indian dance forms that originated in the eastern state of Assam.

This dance drama performance of art has its origins in the Krishna centered Vaishnavism and it traces back to the 15th century scholar named as Shankaradev.

Sattriya Dance
Sattriya Dance

The dance combines the aesthetic and religious through ballad and drama and the performance is done in the community halls of the monastery temples.

The modern form of Sattriya has a number of themes and plays and it has staged performances worldwide.


It is another very popular classical dance forms that originated from Manipur, a state in the north east of India.

The dance is known for the Hindu Vaishnavism themes and the intimate performance of love aspired dance of Krishna and Radha called Raslila.

Manipuri Dance
Manipuri Dance

The dance is also performed to themes related to Shaktism, Shaivism and other religious deities.

It has its influence from the cultural fusion between India and neighboring countries in South East Asia.

The dance is a team performance and is known for its unique repertoire, conventions, aesthetics and costume.


It is another important classical dance form that developed and remained popular in Kerala state of India.

The dance gets its name from Mohini who was a mythical incarnation of Lord Vishnu to help prevail good over evil.

Mohiniyattam Dance
Mohiniyattam Dance

This dance has its roots in Natya Shastra where the entire performance is delicate, eros-filled and feminine.

The dance requires extensive training and only female counterparts perform it where the recitation can be either from the vocalist or dancer herself.

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