Tamil Nadu is known for its rich historical background, culture and various art forms. Dancing or Nadagam makes for an incredibly important part of the culture of Tamil Nadu. There are 3 primary modes of art and entertainment in this southern state. These forms are lyel or literature, Isai or music and Nadagam or dances. The folk dances in Tamil Nadu find their roots from its ancient beliefs and cultures that are carried on through centuries. There are different dance forms depending on occasion, community and event. Although different in styles and formations, the folk dances of Tamil Nadu are incredibly entertaining and elegant in presentation.
Check out these folk dances of Tamil Nadu
1. Bharatanatyam Dance
Bharatanatyam does not need any prior introduction. This classical dance form finds its roots in Tamil Nadu and is mainly performed by the local women folk here. Also referred to as the mother of all other classical dance forms, Bharatanatyam is also one of the oldest dance forms in India. This dance form originates from Tanjore where this dance used to be performed in Hindu temples to worship Lord Shiva. The unique features of this dance are the elaborate expressions, intricate footwork and hand gestures. The dress worn in this dance resembles a traditional Tamil bride. Making the whole look exquisite is the use of gold ornaments.
2. Bommalattam Dance
Bommalattam is the traditional puppet dance of Tamil Nadu that combines the techniques of both rod and string puppets. The puppets are made up of wood and the strings to make puppets dance are tied to an iron ring that the puppeteer wears like a crown on his head. Puppets made out of different materials are used like leather, wood and cloth. These puppets are then manipulated through these strings to the beats of folk music. The stories enacted by the puppeteers represent puranas, various Hindu epics, and traditional folklore. The dance form keeps the young as well as the adult audience entertained for long.
3. Chakkai Attam Dance
Chakkai Attam is one of the most popular folk dance forms in Tamil Nadu. This dance involves the participation of 8 to 10 dancers standing in a circular or a parallel formation. In their hands they can be seen holding wooden pieces that are 7 inches long in between their fingers and these wooden sticks are used to produce sounds. The dance is accompanied with folk music being sung about gods and goddesses. The dance is performed in unison during cultural and art festivals while dancing in perfect sync with each other. This is not only a mode of entertainment for the locals of Tamil Nadu but it is also a way of preserving their traditions.
4. Devarattam Dance
Devarattam is one of the most well-preserved folk dances of Tamil Nadu. The dance was curated especially to present to the Tamil kings and the royalty. Another occasion when Devarattam is performed is when the army returns after being victorious in a battle. Every dancer involved in the dance holds a handkerchief in their hand and waves it around while following the dance steps of the lead dancer. The leader of the dance wears a counterfeit beard and a mask. Unlike most other dance forms, this dance doesn’t require any lyrical music or song for performance. It is only danced to the beat of traditional instruments like flute, Urumi Melam and Thappu Melam.
5. Koothu Dance
Koothu has to be one of the most entertaining forms of dances in India. This elaborate performance is done especially during festivals and wedding occasions. It is a street party that is conducted at a meeting point of three or 4 streets in an open ground. Normally this dance is performed by the men folk of Tamil Nadu who also take up the role of women in this unique dance form. This dance includes elaborate performances and storytelling accompanied with singing, dancing and drama performances as well. One of the most eye-catching features of this dance are the special makeup and clothing that the dancers wear during its performance. As a part of the ritual Koothu starts off late in the evening and goes on till late night.
6. Shattam Dance
Many folk dances of south India are dedicated to gods and goddesses. Shattam is a dance form that is devoted to the perumal form of Lord Maha Vishnu. The dance involves a group of performers where every dancer has a role to play. They dance to the music of percussion instruments like Urumi while folk classical songs are also being played in the background. The movements go in perfect sync with the graceful measured steps of the music. Did you know that this dance used to be performed with great enthusiasm behind the chariot of the king or a deity in the form of a procession in order to celebrate them.
7. Puliyattam Dance
This is one of the most unique forms of dance in India since it depicts the wonderful combination of folk art and folk dance, which is rare. This old folk art dance of Tamil Nadu is an incredible sight to behold. The dance involves each of the participants painting their entire body in yellow and black paint replicating a tiger. The whole look is put together by the dancer putting on fake ears and tail. The whole dance is pulled together with the playing of folk music and drums along with several folk instruments of Tamil Nadu. The dance seems like an ode to the tiger as the dance moves involve tiger-like movements.
8. Poikkal Kuthirai Attam Dance
This concept of this dance form somewhat replicates the traditional fake horse dance of Gujarat. In this dance each dancer wears a dummy horse which is hollowed out from the centre so that a person can fit inside it. The horse’s dummy body is made out of light and soft material so that it becomes easy to handle and manipulate the horse along with the music being played. The legs peeking from underneath are hidden with the help of colourful pieces of clothing hanging on either side. This elaborate dance performance requires years of practice and is normally done as a way of worshipping goddess Amman.
9. Ottan Koothu Dance
Tamil Nadu is home to several protected tribes whose origins date back to the ancient ages. These tribal communities of Tamil Nadu are protected by the government and they also make an effort to protect their tribe’s culture and traditions over the years. The dance is a sign of this well preserved culture of these tribes. Depicting ancient stories during festivals, this dance form represents an eclectic form. Accompanying the dance, a local folk instrument called Urumi is played in the background which is believed to hold sacred and supernatural powers.
10. Mayil Aattam Dance
The people of Tamil Nadu have deep respect and love for their surrounding environment and nature. This is clear with this dance that is also referred to as the peacock dance which is normally performed by the women folk of Tamil Nadu. A blue colored dress replicating that of a peacock’s skin is worn by the dancers which is complete with peacock feathers and a fake beak. The dance is performed in Hindu temples during special occasions and it is done as a way of worshipping lord Murugan. This whimsical dance looks very graceful with elegant movements and elaborate dance steps.
11. Kazhai Koothu Dance
This has to be one of the most interesting dance forms in Tamil Nadu. Similar to a modern day circus performance, this dance also involves elaborate and detailed gymnastics steps complete with flipping, diving, jumping and more. People earn their livelihood by performing this dance from one place to the next during special occasions and events. They put on gaudy and very bold makeup which has become their signature makeup style. This is also a way of showcasing their dance form to the best. It is believed that this dance form’s roots can be traced back to the time of the Aryans who are also said to be the flag bearers of this dance.
12. Karakattam Dance
Karakattam is an ancient folk dance of Tamil Nadu that is performed with great enthusiasm in praise of the rain goddess Mariamman. According to an ancient Tamil epic, the dance is said to have been derived from Bharatham and a combination of other dance forms as well like Bharatanatyam postures and mudras. Dance is performed to ask the goddess to bless everyone with rain. Accompanying the dance are the local folk Carnatuic songs. The prime feature of this dance is the fact that the performances balance a pot on their head. Traditionally women dancers wear a saree during the performance.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. When Is The Best Time To Travel To Tamil Nadu?
Ans. October to March is considered to be the best time to visit Tamil Nadu.
Q. What Are Some Must Visit Places In Tamil Nadu?
Ans. Some of the must visit places in Tamil Nadu are: Madurai, Tanjore, Coimbatore, Mudumalai National Park, Ooty etc.
Q. Who Should Visit Tamil Nadu?
Ans. Tamil nadir is an ideal holiday destination for families, honeymooners, adventure and wildlife enthusiasts and history lovers as well.
Q. Which Is The Biggest Temple In Tamil Nadu?
Ans. The Srirangam Temple is the biggest temple in Tamil nadir.
Q. Which Is The Most Powerful Temple In Tamil Nadu?
Ans. The Meenakshi Amman Temple is considered to be the most powerful temple in Tamil Nadu.