South Indian Dance and Music

As an ancient hub of Indian culture, South India has a rich tradition of various dance and music forms. Dance and music form a part of education for South Indians. The forms and themes the South Indian are influenced by traditional temples dances. Their traditional ‘Karnatka Classical Music’ is distinct in style and rendering from North Indian ‘Hindustani Classical Music’.

Popular Dance Forms of South India
Bharatnatayam( Tamil Nadu)
This dance form owes its origin to the temple dances once performed only by Devdasis (maids of God) before the deities in the temples. It is the oldest Indian classical dance forms. Mainly a solo dance, the dance form demands strict adherence to its distict techniques in performance. This dance has two prescribed components - Nritta (pure dance) and Nritya(expressive dance).  Its performer has to wear prescribed colourful bright costumes. Both women and men perform this dance form.

Mohiniyattam ( Kerala)
It is a devotional dance form once performed by  Devdasis. The literal meaning of 'Mohini' is the 'maiden who steals the hearts of men'. It is a solo dance involving grace in body movements.

Kathakali ( Kerala)
This finest court dance form once practiced by the Court dancers for the entrainment of  kings. It is a dramatic dance form involving masks and intense expressions. Flexibility of body is the key in this dance form. The theme of this dance form is generally mythological. Its techniques are difficult and demand vigor.

Dollu Kunitha ( Karnataka)
This is a popular ritualistic dance form of Karnataka. Its  performer dances on the beats of drums coupled with song. It is mostly performed by the men of the Kubra (shepherd community)

It is a pot folk drama dance performed by ladies.  It is performed balancing a pot on the head while walking around with the feet on the rims of a thali (metallic plate).  In this dance form, the performers reveal identities of the characters they represent on the stage with the help of composition of dance and music.

  • Sopanam music of Kerala is devotional in nature.
  • South Indian classical form of music  originated in Karnataka and is therefore called ‘Karnatic Classical Music’ as distinct from the parallel stream of Indian classical music evolved in Northern India called ‘Hindustani Classical Music’.
There is no distinct form of dance and music associated with in the Pondicherry (Union Territory of India) falling in South India.  All the dance forms of South India are popular there.

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