Folk Dance Forms of Odisha

India is a land of cultural diversity with lovely traditions and different dance forms which reflect its cultural richness. Each state and region offer a glimpse to its local culture, customs and traditions. Like other Indian states, the dance forms of Odisha are also extremely vibrant. Due to the presence and interplay of Hindu, Buddhist and Jain traditions Odisha has a rich cultural heritage. Apart from this, Adivasi (tribal) society has also played an important part in contributing to Orissan heritage. Folk dance and music portray a unique form of culture that these tribes possess. Moreover rural and lifestyles that are still not exposed to urban living can clearly be seen in these distinguishable and colorful folk dance forms of Odisha.


This article tells you about some of the elegant and unique folk dance dance forms of Odisha -


Ghumura or Ghumra Dance is the famous dance form of the Kalahandi district in Odisha.  Many researchers claim this dance form is similar to many other Indian classical dances due to the ‘mudras’ and the form of dance, whereas others claim that Ghumra resembles a war dance of ancient India which was performed by Ravana in Ramayana. 


However, the timeline of this dance is not clear; the dress code of the dance makes it appear a tribal dance. One can see this dance form in the carvings of Sun Temple Konarak which gives us an idea that Ghumra dance form existed even in medieval times. Ghumra is mentioned in the Madhya Parba of Sarala Mahabharata as ‘Dhola Madala Gadi je Ghumura Bajai Ghumura je Ghumu Ghumu Hoi Garajai’. (Sarala Das was a 15th-century poet and scholar of Odia literature who is known for writing in Odiya the Mahabharata, Vilanka Ramayana and Chandi Purana).


Many musical instruments such as Nishan, Madal, Taal, Dhol, Ghumura, etc. are included while performing this dance which gives the typical mixed sound. But the main essence of this dance are the movements and expressions of the performer. Even though many experts this dance evolved from a war dance today Ghumra dance is seen as a symbol of love, devotion, brotherhood and social entertainment across all sections of society.


In many parts of South Western Odisha and Kalahandi district, this dance form is traditionally performed during Dasahara and Nuakhai celebrations. The Kalahandi region is popularly known as an origin land of Ghumra. Unfortunately, Ghumra dance form is unable to make its popularity beyond south western region of Odisha and is performed only at village level.


Note “Nuakhai is the most important festival of western Odisha comprising the districts of Sambalpur, Bolangir, Sundargarh, Kalahandi and some areas of Phulbani.  Though the festival is intended for eating new rice of the year, it is observed as a general festival. Meeting of friends and relatives, singing, dancing and merry-making are parts of the festival”.


Locals believe that more tribal dance festivals are needed to showcase their exceptional talent and reassure them that they are an important part of India’s cultural legacy.


Some popular dance groups of Odisha have performed Ghumra dance in International cultural events held in Moscow, London, Kolkata and Delhi.


To see video of Ghumra dance 


Goti Pua dance


The students of akhadas dress up like women in this dance form and try to imbibe their mannerism during the performance. The goti puas are boy dancers who are students of the akhadas built by Ramachandradeva in Puri. The reason behind the evolution of this dance form is that many followers of Vaishnava religion were against the dancing of women. So, this dance form came into practice where the boys get dressed up as women and perform on stage. Beautiful flowers adorn the bun of hair and kajal is applied to accentuate the eyes of the dancers. This dance is always performed in pairs. The boys are usually selected at the age of 6 and they perform till the age of 14.


“It is largely from the Gotipua dance that the present form of Odissi dance has been inspired. Most of the present-day Gurus of Odissi dance (for eg Guru Kelucharan Mohaputra from village Raghurajpur) were Gotipua in their younger days”.


“The sculptures of the dancers on the bas-reliefs of Sun Temple Konarak and Jagannath mandir Puri are evidence of this ancient tradition”.


To see video of Goti Pua dance performance


Dalkhai dance


This is a Sambalpuri folk dance which is performed mainly on the occasion of Dusserah. It is one of the most famous folk dances of Odisha. This dance form is practiced on all the festivals like Phagun Puni, Bhaijiuntia, Nuakhai, etc. This dance is performed by the young women of Kuda, Sama, Binjal Sama and other tribes of Balangir, Sambalpur, Bargarh, Sundargarh, Kalahandi and Nuapada districts. In this dance, the men join as musicians and drummers. This dance depicts the love story of Radha and Krishna as well as some episodes of Ramayana and Mahabharata through their songs. The songs are sung in Kosli Odia.


“The men shout the word ‘Dalkhai Bo!’ at the beginning and end of each stanza sung in the dance. This is the reason why the dance is known as the Dalkhai dance. The musical accompaniments to the Dalkhai dance are dhol, nishan, muhuri, tamki and tasa. The farmer men play the music to which the girls dance. Usually, the dhol player leads the troupe with his rhythm. The women gracefully join their legs together and bend their knees, to create the steps of Dalkhai dance. They also move forward and back in a half-sitting position for the dance. The boys and girls move in concentric circles clock wise and anti-clock wise, during the performance. The girls are dressed in a colorful Sambalpuri local sari known as Kopta”.


To see video of dance 


Other lesser known folk dance forms


The tribal dance of Odisha comprise of colorful costumes with head accessories made up of horns and shells of animals. The dancers dance on the beats of drums, string instruments or flutes which mesmerizes the audience completely. This dance is performed on the occasions of birth, marriages, death, naming ceremony, changing seasons and in many other festivals. Karma and Changu are ancient tribal dance forms of Odisha.


Chaitighoda is a traditional fishermen’s dance form which is also known as dummy horse dance. The galloping movements are showcased by the dancer who is in the horse frame. Rauta and Rautani are the two characters who dance and sing along with the main dancer in order to entertain the audience. 


Sambalpur area girls sing and dance on the beats of timkis, nisans, and drums. This is a performance in which the lover raises certain questions about his beloved in the form of beautiful songs and then she answers accordingly.


Danda Nata is the most ancient dance form of Odisha. The Danda Nata has various themes behind them; some based on mythological stories, while others have a comical approach. The devotees do serious penance by standing on edged swords, walking on the red-hot live charcoal or piercing their nails or tongue with iron nails. 


To see video of dance


Medha Nacha is the mask-dance mainly performed during religious processions. Huge masks of demons, kings and queens are put on by the dancers who dance on the beats of the enchanting music in a religious manner. The masks are traditionally made up of paper pulp and can be of animal, divine or human.


Famous Orissan folk dancer


The one name that comes to mind while talking about the Orissan folk dancers is Shri Dhyanananda Panda. From a very young age, he started playing an important role in the musical tradition of the state. He took his training from Shri Debendra Bag in folk music and Kalahandi dance. Many dance programs have been choreographed by Shri Dhyanananda Panda. He has also performed in many national and international festivals. He has mainly choreographed the folk dances like Banabadi, Ghumra, Singari, and Bajasal. In 2011, Shri Dhyanananda Panda received the national youth award given by Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs for his prestigious contribution in promoting and preserving tribal and folk culture of Kalahandi region. Shri Rajan Sahoo honored him for his dance and folk music skills


The state of Odisha owns distinguishable dance traditions and invariably all of them are intermingled with the life of the people who live there. When on a Odisha tour, make it a point to watch these absolutely brilliant and breathtaking performances of local dance groups.

To read all articles by Author

Also Read

1 Pictures of Folk Dances of Odisha

2 About Sarla Mahabharata

3 History of Gotipua dance

4 About Dalkhai dance 


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