Home page Dance and Music in India

Indian dance and music considered to be just another form of entertainment, traces its origins back several thousands of years. Music is the language of emotion and is an integral part of the Indian culture. Music and dance are languages by themselves, capable of expressing subtle thoughts and refined ideas. While naturally evolving with the dynamic forces of history and creative influence of great masters, these traditions have maintained the integrity of their fundamental heritage.

Their purpose was to enrich life of mankind through aesthetic experience and pleasure. Audiences all over the world relish the rich tonality of Indian music and the grace of Indian dance.

Music and dance in India are among the oldest forms of classical arts with traditions that date back several centuries. Musical forms prevalent today have roots in the book ‘Samaveda’. The source of Indian dance forms is the ‘Natya Shastra’, regarded as the fifth Veda, written between the second century B.C. and second century A.D. The uniqueness of Indian classical dances is that they are all devotional in content, using the body effectively as a medium of communication to express moods and emotions. Indian music has developed within a complex interaction between people of different races and cultures. Today, Indian classical music can be classified into two broad traditions, north Indian and south Indian. The north Indian tradition is known as Hindustani Sangeet. The different forms of Hindustani music are Dhrupad, Dhamar, Khayal, Tappa and Thumri. The south Indian tradition of music is called Carnatic Sangeet. Both traditions are fundamentally similar but differ in nomenclature and the way they are performed.

Dance and Music is a part of the Indian life. Our day starts with the morning prayers in temples and at homes. Folk lore and hymns are sung in the praise of the Lord. Each region has their own way of doing it. The diversity of the same and yet the similarity of concepts makes India so unique. One can hear the Azaan coming from a local mosque early in the morning.

As the day progresses people like to hear music to their tastes and there is lots to choose from. Traditional folk, classical music, Bollywood music and so on.

The classical music be it Hindustani Classical, Carnatic,Ghazal or Qawwali is so well practiced in India is as popular as its contemporary music. It has stood the tests of time and is being carried on by the new generation.


There is sculptural evidence from all parts of India that underlines the rich tradition of dance that flourished over a thousand years ago. Through this evidence, we see that in ancient India dance and music were not only seen as ways to celebrate, but also as offerings of worship and thanksgiving to the deity. Over the course of time, the dance forms practised in different parts of the country were codified and developed distinct identities according to the geographic, socio- economic and political conditions of each region. All dance forms were structured around the nine ‘Rasa’ or emotions. They are Hasya (happiness), Shoka (sorrow), Krodha (anger), Karuna (compassion), Bhibatsa (disgust), Adhbhuta (wonder), Bhaya (fear), Viram (courage) and Shanta (serenity). The Classical forms of dance are Bharatnatyam, Kathak, Kuchipudi, Manipuri, Kathakali, Mohiniattam,Odissi Chhau.

Folk Dance

One of the surest ways to experience the diversity of India’s culture and tradition is through its folk art. They are different for different regions. They folk art is needless to say more popular than classical forms of dance in India as they are easier to understand and perform.

The Indian folk dance is simple, but behind the simplicity lies both insightfulness of conception and a candor of expression that are of great artistic value. In folk dances, the effect of the overwhelming resilience of the spirit and the well-expressed effortless ease with which the dance is articulated is what stands out.

Almost every village has its own folk dances performed on every possible occasion such as the birth of a child, to celebrate the arrival of seasons, weddings and festivals. On most occasions, the dancers sing while being accompanied by artists on instruments. Each form of dance has a specific costume. Most of these costumes are flamboyant with elaborate jewels. All-night dance dramas and music are popular throughout India and mark major festivals. The journey into various regions brings one closer to the life and spirit of the ordinary folks.

Hindu Mythology

Wikipedia encyclopedia describes Hindu mythology is a term used by modern scholarship for a large body of Indian literature that details the lives and times of legendary personalities, deities and divine incarnations on earth interspersed with often large sections of philosophical and ethical discourse.

Indian Mythology dates back to 7200 BC. It was then the first hymns of RIG VEDA were composed. Rig Veda celebrates beauty and elements of nature like Air, Water and Fire. The hymns converted them into elements of worship.Thus came the trio of the Hindu gods Vayu(Air),Agni(Fire) and Surya (Sun).Vedic gods are abstractions. Humans drew source of inspiration from their intangible and illusive qualities. It was in the Puranic stage that they reached a stage of individual incarnations. In these times the epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata were composed. These lead to the trio of Gods that Hindus worship till today. They are Brahma (the creator), Vishnu (the preserver) and Mahesh (the destroyer). The seeds of the Gods of today are in the Vedas.

Gods of the Trimurti

BRAHMA the creator (also known as Prajapati): After the act of creation, he has little prominence, often referred to as “grandfather,” aloof, unaware or unconcerned about the consequences of his actions. In one story he rewards even demons for their asceticism, thus causing much grief to the other gods. Brahma is sometimes said to be self-created, or born from a lotus out of Vishnu’s navel, or hatched from the cosmic egg. He is often depicted with four heads: as his daughter/consort Sarasvati tried to avoid his lustful gaze, other heads grew up in each direction she ran; when she ascended to heaven, a fifth head appeared, which Shiva cut off because of Brahma’s incestuous lust.

VISHNU the preserver of cosmic order (dharma): Represented with blue skin and four arms, often sleeping on a coiled serpent floating on the ocean. He rides Garuda, the sacred bird (symbol of Indian airlines today). As Vishnu became more important over the centuries, his “history” became more complex. The Puranas developed the idea of Vishnu having appeared on earth in nine previous avatars (or incarnations) during the present Great Age (Mahayuga), with one still to come (note that the number of avatari varies in the Puranas, some listing as many as 22, others say they are innumerable)

SHIVA the destroyer: Also god of fertility, gained prominence by destroying the city of demons; in one version he waited 1000 years until the cities, which rotated in the air, were aligned, then pierced all three with one arrow. He became so powerful because the other gods gave him their divine energy, which he kept after the battle (story in the Mahabharata). Shiva appears with a blue neck, because he swallowed the poison from the serpent Vasuki, which would have polluted the world ocean. He also has three eyes, for one day his wife Parvati playfully covered two of his eyes and the universe fell into darkness; he created a third eye to restore light. This eye destroys by fire. Shiva wears a necklace of skulls as “lord of goblins.” Dancing Shiva symbolizes the eternal movement of the cosmos, but also he dances to bring about the destruction of maya / illusion (i.e. this world) at the end of each kalpa (see great ages below).