You will come across many cultural traditions and rituals in India long ago and for many visitors the energy and spectacle of Indian dance leaves them spellbound. There are many types of traditional dance in India, with each form representing the culture and ethos of a particular region. We discover some of the performances you won’t want to miss and the top regions to see them in.
Imagine yourself in a small coastal town of Mahe, locked between two portions of Kerala, in a sultry afternoon by a small village temple. The villagers and visitors watch with rapt attention! The variety of the crowd somehow transforms in one awed homogeneous group – the performer breaks into an enchanting routine. A hypnotic Theyyam dance is performed everyday at noon in this small village on the outskirts of the erstwhile French colony, Mahe. Yet, everyday, the locals are spell bound by the energy and devotion and the travellers left in absolute amazement.
Like this inconspicuous temple, Kerala is dotted with many more which are hallmarks of Indian traditional dances. Look out for Kathakali, Theyyam, Koodiyattam, Aravanmuttu and many more to get your fix of traditional dances in India. Since Kerala is almost synonymous to tradition and culture, many places like Fort Kochi have auditoriums where daily shows are performed with an interpreter to really understand the dances.
Like Kerala, its neighbour Tamil Nadu is also known to harbour great traditional dance forms. Bharatnatyam, Kummi, Mayil Attam or Bommalattam are often made accessible in places like Chennai in dance and music seasons. During festivals like Pongal in January the streets are filled with dance making this a perfect time to visit.
While the South has established itself strongly on the dance platform, another direction where you may want to venture is the North Eastern states of India. The cluster of Seven Sisters is extremely rich in tribal and folk dances. Infact, Nagaland also has a festival to bring together all tribes to showcase their traditional dances – the Hornbill Festival. In this region, it is advisable to stay with a local family, as the context and references in dances can be understood more clearly.
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India has such a vast variety of traditional dances, that every state throws up a ‘must see’ list. Rajasthan is famous for its Kalbelia, while Punjab exults in the Bhangra – the list is truly endless. No matter which part of the country you decide to visit you will be sure to find your foot tapping in time to the music and dance of India.
If you would like to include a visit to some Indian dance performances on your next trip get in touch and we can help you plan a fantastic itinerary.
For accommodation in India take a look at our homestay collection. Your hosts will be happy to talk to you about the local culture and traditions and can help you find authentic dance recitals to enjoy.
Find out about the homestay experience and don't forget to check out our ideas on things to do in India or browse our India homestays.