Exploring Lesser Known Indian Dance Forms

Exploring Lesser Known Indian Dance Forms



India’s rich cultural heritage encompasses a vast array of traditional dance forms that have fascinated audiences worldwide. While iconic styles such as Bharatanatyam and Kathak have gained global recognition, there exist numerous lesser-known Indian dance forms that remain hidden treasures. These dance forms, rooted in regional traditions and customs, offer a captivating glimpse into the diverse cultural tapestry of India. In this article, we embark on a journey to explore and shed light on some of these lesser-known Indian dance forms, celebrating their unique beauty, historical significance, and the efforts made to preserve and promote them.


Sattriya of Assam: A Celestial Journey 

Originating in the northeastern state of Assam, Sattriya is a classical dance form that is deeply rooted in the Vaishnavite tradition of Hinduism. Historically performed by male monks in the monastic institutions known as Sattras, Sattriya was a medium for expressing devotion and narrating stories from Hindu mythology, particularly those related to Lord Krishna. With its graceful movements, intricate footwork, and soulful music, Sattriya transports the audience to a celestial realm.

For a long time, Sattriya remained confined within the walls of monasteries. However, it has gained recognition and popularity in recent decades as a mainstream dance form. The efforts of dedicated artists, scholars, and cultural institutions have played a crucial role in reviving and promoting Sattriya. Today, both male and female dancers perform Sattriya on national and international stages, captivating audiences with its elegance and spiritual essence. With the government’s and cultural organisations’ support, Sattriya is now celebrated as one of India’s cherished dance forms.


Odissi of Odisha: The Eloquent Poetry of Dance:  

Hailing from the eastern state of Odisha, Odissi is a classical dance form that traces its roots back to ancient temple rituals and sculptures of the region. It is a dance characterized by its graceful postures, intricate footwork, and expressive facial gestures. Odissi is often compared to poetry in motion, with its ability to evoke a range of emotions and narratives.

Historically, Odissi was performed by devadasis, temple dancers who dedicated their lives to the service of the deities. However, the decline of the devadasi tradition and the impact of colonization led to a period of neglect for Odissi. Visionary artists and gurus revived and redefined it in the mid-20th century. Today, Odissi has gained recognition as one of India’s classical dance forms and is performed by both men and women on prestigious stages worldwide.


Manipuri of Manipur: Dancing with Devotion:

Originating from the northeastern state of Manipur, Manipuri is a classical dance form deeply entrenched in the region’s religious and cultural traditions. It finds its inspiration in the mythological tales of Radha and Krishna, and its movements embody grace, fluidity, and devotion.

Manipuri is characterized by its delicate footwork, intricate hand gestures, and lyrical movements. The dancers often wear vibrant traditional costumes, and the performances are accompanied by soul-stirring music and melodious singing. Manipuri dance is not merely a visual spectacle but a spiritual experience that transports the performers and the audience to a realm of divine love and devotion.


Gaur Maria Dance of Madhya Pradesh: Tribute to the Gaur Mata:

The cultural landscape of Madhya Pradesh, a state in central India, is adorned with a multitude of traditional dance forms that are deeply rooted in the region’s rich heritage. The Gaur Maria dance is performed by the Gond tribe, who are known for their unique artistic expressions and close connection with nature.

Originating from the forests of Madhya Pradesh, the Gaur Maria dance is performed during various festive occasions and rituals, especially during the Gaur festival, which celebrates the worship of Lord Shiva and the harvest season. This dance form is a tribute to the Gaur mata, the mother goddess who symbolizes fertility and prosperity. It is believed that performing the Gaur Maria dance brings good luck and blessings to the community. The Gaur Maria dance is characterized by its energetic and rhythmic movements. Dancers, both men and women, dress in vibrant traditional attire adorned with colourful beads, feathers, and bells, reflecting the vibrant spirit of the dance.


Kalbelia Dance of Rajasthan: Sapera Dance:

Rajasthan, the land of vibrant colours and rich traditions, is home to a plethora of captivating folk dances. Among these, the Kalbelia dance stands out as a mesmerizing and energetic form that reflects the spirit and heritage of the Kalbelia community, a nomadic tribe with a unique way of life. The Kalbelia dance, also known as the “Sapera Dance,” is not only a form of artistic expression but also an integral part of the Kalbelia cultural identity.

The Kalbelia dance takes its name from the community itself, with “Kal” meaning “black” and “belia” meaning “snake.” The dance is a homage to the snake charmer tradition, as the Kalbelia community has historically been associated with the profession of catching and training snakes. The dance imitates the swift and sinuous movements of the serpent, combining them with rhythmic footwork, graceful hand gestures, and lively spins.



The lesser-known Indian dance forms explored in this article represent a treasure trove of cultural heritage that demands attention and appreciation. As custodians of these art forms, it is our collective responsibility to support and promote the preservation of these lesser-known gems. By providing platforms for performances, encouraging research and documentation, and fostering collaborations among artists and cultural institutions, we can ensure the survival and continued evolution of these dance forms. Let us celebrate the diversity of India’s dance traditions by embracing and exploring the lesser-known Indian dance forms, safeguarding their legacy for generations to come.



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