Ten Top Classical Dance Forms of India

The Indian classical dance category encompasses a wide range of performance arts taking their cues from musical theater styles, with roots in religious texts such as Natyashastra. According to various scholars, there are between eight and more classical dances.

In addition to Bharatanatyam and Kathak, the Academy recognizes eight other forms - Odissi, Kathakali, Sattriya, Manipuri, as well as Mohiniyattam. Among the list are Chhaau, Yakshagana, and Bhagavata Mela, according to scholars such as Drid Williams. Chhau is also on the classical list of the Indian Ministry of Culture. This is a traditional regional dance. In the diversity of styles, costumes, and expressions, they represent a unity of core ideas in Telugu, Tamil, Sanskrit, Kannada, Hindi, or any other Indian language.

A classical dance performance from India is considered to be a form of music-dance performance art, related to mythological rituals and the Saivam Epic, as well as the folk entertainment based on Tamil or other Dravidian language plays. Most of these dance forms are from the southern peninsula, such as Bharatnatyam, Kuchipudi, Mohiniattam, and Kathakali. Kathak is a north Indian music genre whose compositions are predominantly in Sanskrit or Hindi. Manipuri, Odissi, and Sattiya use the language of the region they belong to, as well as Sanskrit and Hindi.

In a temple, either inside the sanctum or near it, these forms of art are performed. Traveling troupes of performers have also performed folk entertainment in temple grounds or fairgrounds, typically in rural settings; alternatively, they have performed in the halls of royal courts or on public squares during festivals.

Kathak Classical Dance Form

Kathak Classical Dance

Many forms of art get absorbed in a regional habitation of human society to give birth to a unique abstract existence of intellectual style true to that allocation's nature, language, religion and so on. This is how the culture of the region is defined. Indian sub continent is a region with a great cultural diversity and many of these cultures have their own dance forms. Out of these dance forms, there are somewhat ten top classical dances, Kathak is one of them.


Bharatnatyam Classical Dance

Bharatanatyam is a renowned Classical Indian dance form that is recognised as the parent of several other Classical Indian forms. It is arguably India’s oldest classical dance tradition. This forms theoretical foundation can be found in “Natya Shastra” an ancient Sanskrit Hindu treatise on the performing arts.

Kathakali Classical Dance in India

Kathakali Classical Dance

Kathakali is a classical dance form where dancer narrate the story in the form of dance. The story in "Kathakali" is also transmitted to the audience through great footwork and impressive facial and hand gestures, accompanied by music and vocal performance, similar to other Indian classical dance arts.


Kuchipudi Classical Dance

Kuchipudi, a preeminent Indian classical dance style and one of India's top ten classical dance forms, is a dance-drama performance art that started in a village in Andhra Pradesh's Krishna district. Kuchipudi, like all major Indian classical dance forms, began as a religious art form based on the age-old Hindu Sanskrit literature "Natya Shastra" and has long been associated with temples, spiritual religions, and travelling bards.

Manipuri Dance

Manipuri Classical Dance

Manipuri dance is one of India’s major traditional dance styles, known for themes based on Vaishnavism and stunning renditions of 'Ras Lila,' dance dramas centred on Radha and Krishna’s love. Shaivism, Shaktism, and the sylvan deities known as Umang Lai who come during the Manipuri festival “Lai Haraoba” are further motifs in this art genre.

Mohiniyattam Kerala India

Mohiniyattam Classical Dance

Mohiniattam actually originated from the term “Mohini” which refers to Lord Vishnu’s feminine incarnation. It is traditionally a standalone dance is performed by women performers that gestures a play through singing and dancing. Unlike some of the other Classical Indian styles, Mohiniattam requires adherence towards the Lasya style, which exhibits a much more elegant, feminine & soft style of dancing.

Odissi Dance in Odisha India

Odissi Classical Dance

Odissi is a classical Indian dance genre that originated throughout the Holy temples of hindu from eastern coast Odisha’s. Its theoretical underpinnings could be found in the Sanskrit Hindu book named as “Natya Shastra,” which is concerned with arts of performing. Vaishnavism and other Hindu gods and goddesses such as Shiva, Surya, and Shakti are represented in this dance form.

Sattriya Classical Dance Form

Sattriya Classical Dance

Sattriya, also known as Sattriya Nritya, is one of India’s eight major classical dance styles. The word Sattriya is derived from the word “Sattra,” as dance recitals were previously only performed within the confines of a Sattra, a monastery-like institution that served as the epicentre of Vaishanvite culture.

Chhau Folk Dance

Chhau Folk Dance

Chhau is a traditional and popular Indian dance form that developed in the Nilagiri region of Baleswar district. This is a graceful dance genre in which two groups of dancers dress up like soldiers and fight each other with swords and shields. Dancers frequently strive to keep up with the Dhola, Mahuri, Dhumsa, and Chanchadi rhythms.

Yakshagana Traditional Dance & Theatre

Yakshagana Traditional Dance & Theatre

Yakshagana or Yakshaganam is a type of folk theatre that emerged between the 11th and 16th centuries in coastal Karnataka and the Kasaragod district of Kerala. It's a one-of-a-kind blend of dance, music, dialogue, vibrant costumes, and heavy make-up. Yakshagana's stories are largely based on the Hindu epics Ramayana and Mahabharata.


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