Top 10 Forms of Classical Dance in India

Forms of Classical Dance in India
Forms of Classical Dance in India
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India has many dances originating from all states of the country, although there are top nationally recognized forms of classical dance in India. Indian dance forms have been considered a discipline and a means of devoting oneself to God through art. They are Bharatnatyam, Kathak, Kathakali, Manipuri, Kuchipudi and Odissi.  Each dance symbolizes a deep meaning and makes a meaningful connection to culture, history and religion. Top 10 Forms of Classical Dance in India.

Here’s what you need to know about the major Indian classical dance forms:  Top 10 Forms of Classical Dance in India


Kuchipudi - Classical Dance of Andhra Pradesh, History, Costumes & Exponents

The Kuchipudi dance form is one of the top 10 forms of classical dance in India.  It is considered just as good as a religious ceremony. This dance drama is directed by Sutradhar. It is a drama and dance art that originated in a village in the Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh, India. 

Like all major Indian classical dance forms, kuchipudi developed as a religious art, derived from the centuries-old Hindu Sanskrit text “Natya Shastra” and traditionally associated with temples, spiritual religions and wandering bards. Kuchipudi’s repertoire includes “Nritta”, “Natya” and “Natya Shastra”. 

The dancer wears a dhoti while the dancer wears a colorful saree as a costume. A light metal belt of gold or brass adorns her waist, and wrapped around her ankle is a leather anklet with small metal bells called ghungroo, which make rhythmic sounds as she performs brilliant footwork.

 The music that accompanies this dance alongside the singer includes a veena player, a mridangam player and a cymbal player leading the orchestra and reciting ‘sollukattus’. Formerly the dance was restricted to performances by Brahmin males, but now it is mostly female dancers. 

Kuchipudi is considered one of the most difficult forms of classical dance as it requires dancing and singing on the part of the performers and performers, backed by great skill and dedication. No wonder it is one of the top forms of classical dance in India. 



Odissi is one of the top forms of classical dance in India. It is of India’s oldest classical dance forms originated in the Hindu temples of Orissa. The centuries-old tradition of Odissi is manifested in the Hindu temples of Odisha and various archaeological sites associated with Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism, whose carvings adorn the dance poses of this art form. 

Odissi dancers convey devotional poetry, religious and mythical stories with graceful body movements, sign language and impressive facial expressions. The “Mudras”, of which there are to 50, are inspired by the idols and sculptors of ancient temples. The repertoire includes a sequential flow including Invocation, Nrita, Nritya, Natya and Moksha.

 This dance form incorporates motifs from Vaishnavism and other related Hindu gods and goddesses such as Shiva, Surya and Shakti. The dancers’ costumes are made from local silk sarees such as Bomkai saree and Sambalpuri saree. The dancers wear neatly pleated dhotis.

A unique feature of this dance form is that it incorporates both southern and northern Indian ragas, indicating the exchange of concepts and performing arts between the two parts of India. Moreover it is one of the top forms of classical dance in India. 

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The Manipuri dance is one of the top 10 forms of classical dance in India. It is mainly based on Vaishnavism, which describes the love between Radha and Krishna and the graceful performance of “Ras Leela”. 

The themes of the songs and plays include the love and companionship of Radha and Krishna in the company of the Gopis, namely Sudevi, Rangadevi, Lalita, Indurekha, Tungavidya, Vishakha, Champaklata and Chitra. 

The mix of Indian and South Asian cultures is easy to see in this dance form. This dance is practiced during Hindu festivals. The site’s centuries-old dance tradition, dating back to, is manifested in the great Indian epics ‘Ramayana’ and ‘Mahabharata’, in which Manipur’s native dance experts are referred to as ‘Gandharvas’. 

The performers of the dance are called “Gandharvas” in reference to the Hindu epics “Ramayana” and “Mahabharata“. This beautiful classical dance is performed in unique costumes to tell the story of Radha and Krishna. The dancer wears the ‘dhoti’ or ‘dhora’ while the dancer wears the ‘potloi’ which is similar to the Manipuri wedding costume. 

The unique wearing style gives the dancer flexibility in performing the footwork. The head of the dancer, representing the figure of Lord Krishna, is adorned with a crown adorned with peacock feathers.

 These costumes were introduced by Meidingu Bhagyachandra Maharaja’s. Interestingly, Manipuri’s dance repertoire revolves around the seasons. Overall it is one of the top forms of classical dance in India.



Hailing from the Maratha Empire state, Lavani is one of the top forms of classical dance in India. It is a dance form native to Maharashtra. The women’s dance is a mixture of traditional music and stories about the gods. The origin of Lavani comes from the word Lavanya which means beauty.

The stories or themes on which this dance is based revolve around issues related to religion, politics, society and especially romance. The dancers are dressed in nine meter long saris with golden jewels. 

Originally performed in local temples as a form of worship, the dance is now a sensual dance with electrifying rhythms, a socio-political satire. Moreover it is one of the top forms of classical dance in India.



Bihu is one of the top 10 forms of classical dance in India.  During the Bihu Festival, mainly young men and women perform this joyful Assam folk dance. The dancers follow a pattern of quick hand movements, quick steps and rhythmic hip swings in traditional Assamese costumes with beautiful accessories.

 To mark the beginning of the spring season, Bihu recites the happiness and heritage of Assam and is performed on the occasion of Rangali Bihu. Dhol, Xutuli, Toka, Baanhi, Gogona are the instruments used to play traditional melodies during the show. 

The origin of Bihu is not well known, although records widely suggest that it derives from the Encore dance performed by Upper Assamian communities such as the Sonowal Kacharis, Deoris, Moran, Chutias, and Borahis. 

This dance form is not only known in India but is popular all over the world. This famous Indian dance was presented at the 2012 London Olympics. Overall it is one of the top forms of classical dance in India.

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Kathakali is one of the top 10 forms of classical dance in India. It is a traditional Indian dance form related to storytelling. As with other Indian classical dance arts, the story of ‘Kathakali’ is conveyed to the audience through superb footwork and impressive facial and hand gestures, complemented by music and vocal performances. 

Hailing from the southern regions of the country of Kerala, Kathakali is one of India’s most famous and religious dance forms. Traditionally performed by male dancers, it developed in the courts and theaters of Hindu regions, unlike other classical Indian dances, it developed primarily in Hindu temples and monastic schools. 

It comes from the stories of the stories of Ramayana and Shiva. Kathakali features mesmerizing facial movements and heavy costumes, including traditional face masks and (usually green) body paint. It contains seven basic makeup codes namely “pacca” (green), “minukku”, “teppu”, “kari” (black), “tati”, “payuppu” (ripe) and “katti”.

 The color code for women and monks is yellow. The divine or virtuous character is represented by Thadi Vella makeup with a white beard.Music consisting only of singing is called Soppanam. Telling a story from epic Hindu mythology that illustrates both evil and good is shown through the conversation between the dancers only through their gestures and facial expressions. No wonder it is known as one of the top forms of classical dance in India. 



Hailing from the northern part of the country in the state of Uttar Pradesh, Kathak is one of the top forms of classical dance in India. It comes from the word ‘katha’ which means ‘story’ in Hindi. It is not very wise to assume that kathak is performed in the form of a narrative through the dancer’s body movements. 

Kathak is often referred to as the dance of love and can be performed by both male and female dancers. This dance form focuses primarily on ankle movements, complemented by the ankle to match the beat of the music. 

Anklets, or gunghroos as they are called in traditional parlance, are an important part of the discipline of this dance form. Various differences can be seen in these dance forms as they are performed in different places in the country including Jaipur, Benaras and Lucknow. Moreover it is one of the top forms of classical dance in India. 



Bharatnatyam is one of the top 10 forms of classical dance in India. It is performed to the heavenly melodies of Carnatic music and originates from the southern state of Tamil Nadu. The origins of Bharatnatyam date back to 1000 BC. 

Dating back to ancient temples in Tamil Nadu, performed by women in the classical period. Traditionally a solo dance performed only by women, it originated in Hindu temples in Tamil Nadu and eventually flourished in southern India.

 This dance form is known for its beautiful body movements and gestures, which are traditionally called mudras. It focuses on the dancer’s hand gestures, leg movements and facial expressions. The dress style of the Bharatanatyam dancer more or less resembles that of a Tamil Hindu bride.

She wears a beautifully tailored saree made of special fabric that is sewn in pleats that fall forward from the waist. This dance form was widespread before the British era but fell into a deep depression during the colonial era. 

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The music associated with Bharatanatyam is in South Indian Carnatic style and the instruments played are cymbals, flute, long horn called Nagaswaram, drum called Mridangam and Veena. 

However, India has retained this dance form in the houses and is now recognized as one of the top most respected forms of classical dance in India.



Mohiniyattam is one of the top 10 forms of classical dance in India. According to Hindu mythology, Mohini symbolizes the female version of Lord Vishnu and “Attam”, a Malayalam word meaning rhythmic movement, thus representing the dance of the divine temptress. 

Mohiniyattam and Kathakali are two of the most popular classical dances in Kerala. Usually the dance is performed by a woman in the Manipravala language, which is a hybrid of Sanskrit and Malayalam. The repertoire of this dance includes Carnatic music, singing and entertainment.

This dance style is called Type “Lasya” which is graceful and feminine. There is a section that also depicts ‘Tandava’, the divine dance of Lord Shiva. The recitation can be performed by the singer or the dancer themselves. 

The dancer wears a cream-colored saree with brocade trimmings and a gold cord. Some of the famous names of Mohiniyattam dance artists are Gopika Varma, Radha Dutta, Smitha Rajan, Vijaylaxmi and Jayaprabha Menon. Overall it is one of the top forms of classical dance in India.



The history of this dance in India dates back to the 15th century AD, Sattriya is one of the top 10 forms of classical dance in India. It was introduced by a Vaishnav reformer and saint named Mahapurusha Sankaradeva. Another form of dance that focuses on the transmission of mythological teachings

The Sangeet Natak Akademi included Sattriya in the classical dance category in 2000. The Sattriya dance form can be divided into 2 categories; Paurashik Bhangi is a male style and ‘Stri Bhangi’ is a female style.

 The music is called Borgeet, an Assamese language, and the dance includes “ankiya bhaona” and Ojapali, where a singer performs and sings with a group of dulcimer dancers. 

Traditionally, Sattriya was only played by bhokot in monasteries as part of their daily rituals or at specific mythologically themed festivals. Today, in addition to this practice, Sattriya is also performed on stage by men and women who are not members of the Sattras, on subjects other than mythology. Moreover it is one of the top forms of classical dance in India. 

Faq related to top 10 forms of classical dance in India:

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As for the final ay these are some of the top 10 classical dance s in India. These dances are in practice since thousands of years ago. They are hard to learn and excel. One needs to be completely dedicated and have love towards the dance to excel in them. 

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