Folk Dances of North India

  • Know about the key folk dances of Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh.

There are several folk dances in north India. They are performed on social and religious occasions to promote harmony and unity amidst people. This feature covers folk dances of the states of Punjab, Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan.


A. Punjab and Haryana

1. Bhangra 

Bhangra is one of the most colourful and popular folk dance of India, performed during festive occasions like Baisakhi or during the harvest to celebrate rich harvest. The dance is vigorously performed by colourfully attired Punjabi men with a turban, handkerchiefs, kurta and lungi, as they dance with gay abandon to different folk songs in Punjabi. Punjabis dance with full enthusiasm and high spirits. Women too perform Bhangra that portrays farming along with acrobats, while dancing and jumping around to the loud rhythmic music of a Dholak.


To see video of performance 5 minutes


2. Giddha

While Giddha is primarily performed by women, Bhangra is mainly performed by men. Young girls dance and clap singing folk songs relating to marriage, the new bride or the young couple who is just married with some humour and satire, pertaining to their married life.


Giddha is performed during any social or religious occasion, signifying happiness and harmony of life. The dancers are adorned with ornaments and salwar kamez in varied colours.



“Folk dances of Haryana: Most folk dances of Haryana surround the theme of harvest. Phag dance is performed in the month of Phalgun. Saang is a popular folk dance performed on the themes religious and folk tales by an even number of people for five hours. Chhathi is performed by women six days after the birth of a male child, followed by a feast of boiled wheat and chanaa for all. Dhamal -performed only by men-is a dance form popular in the Gurgaon region, performed when the crop is harvest-ready. Ghoomar is a popular dance from the Western regions of Haryana in which women swirl and clap faster and faster as the tempo of the music increases.” Source Indian Express


B. Jammu and Kashmir

In Kashmir the dances signify the various spheres of life and is performed by girls and boys on different occasions.


1. Rouf

Rouf is a folk dance exclusively performed by women during religious occasions like Eid and Ramzan. While seeking divine intervention, the dancers pay homage to the Almighty with the typical religious attitude and gratitude for the peaceful and healthy living of everyone. The dancers move in simple and graceful steps, while dancing together and facing each other.


To see video of performance 4.5 minutes


2. Bhand Pather

The dance has a social significance, as it relates to different social customs, traditions and the interpretation of episodes or stories related to society with a touch of humour or satire attached to it. It is a dance with a playful style, hence combines significance with entertainment. This is performed by both men and women.


3. Hafiza

Hafiza is performed by women during occasions like marriage with different movements and style of dancing. The women are beautifully attired with colourful costumes and silver jewellery which covers the head of the female dancers.


To see video of performance 6 minutes


4. Bhand Jashan and Bhand Nagma

These are traditional folk dances of Kashmir with a large group of dancers, maybe ten to fifteen dancers, performed during festive occasions like the harvest season, with songs referring to nature and life. There are boys too who attire as girls to entertain the audience with the Hafiza style of dance.


5. Wuegi-Nachun


This is a less popular dance of Kashmir, as it is performed after marriage, as the young bride leaves for her new home. The dancers dance around the rangoli (colourful decoration by powder or flowers) while seeking divine intervention for the happy married life of the young couple.


6. Dogri Dance 

To see video of performance 6.47 minutes


C. Uttar Pradesh

This state of north India has a large variety of folk dances that has been prevailing for centuries, maintaining its regional flavour and authenticity.


1. Nautanki

As the name suggests, it is the Nautanki which is prevalent for centuries, enjoying the popularity of common folks as it combines various stories with music, dance and dialogues with humour and satire in it.


The Sangeet Rani Nautanki is the oldest and most popular group with several presentations to their credit.


To see video of performance 2.30 minutes


2. Mayur dance of Braj

Mayur dance or the dance of the peacock is performed by two dancers, the peacock and the peahen, with a variety of movements, signifying the typical characteristics of the bird and the dance. It is performed on several religious or social occasions.


To see video of performance 9 minutes


3. Charkula dance

In this dance, a woman carries a big lamp on her head which has several lamps that burn while she dances slowly and gracefully. This is a rare spectacle but not an easy task to dance with weight on her head.


To see video of performance 1 minute


4. Braj Raslila

Raslila is performed in Braj and Vrindavan as a tribute to Lord Krishna. The Ras lila is performed by Radha and Gopis. This dance is of particular significance as it is believed that the Maha Raas was performed wherein every Gopi felt that Lord Krishna is dancing with her.


Hence, it is a dance of divine love, eternal bliss with the union of the human and divine soul. This dance is either performed with sticks or while holding each other and clapping while dancing.


To see video of performance 3 minutes


Also, “Kajri dance is performed by women just before the arrival of monsoon to express joy and happiness.” Source Indian Express


D. Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh

1. Jawara

Jawara is a joyful dance exclusively performed by women, prevailing mainly in the Bundelkhand region of Madhya Pradesh. Young women rejoice and dance, while carrying the basket of Jawara on their head. They move in different ways, while dancing with uniformity and dexterity, reaping the costume and other activities concerning farming and growing of Jawara.


To see video of performance 10 minutes

3. Tertali

One of the most popular dances of Madhya Pradesh. It is particularly known for its rhythmic and musical quality. Tertali literally means 13 talis, referring to the metal cymbals that are tied in different parts of the body and the two cymbals are held on the hand, while the music is on. The dancers or musicians, consistently strike on the cymbals all over the body creating the jingling sound of music which is quite pleasant to the ears.


Simultaneously the women also hold a sword in the mouth, while balancing earthen pot on the head. This act is done in a seated position. This particular musical exposition attracts a lot of attention.


3. Lehangi

Lehangi is the dance of the Banjara or Kanjar adivasis. This is particularly performed at the advent of the monsoon or to celebrate the rainy season. They perform in different areas and villages, entertaining everyone with their dance. This is performed by men and women. The men dance with sticks and perform acrobatic feats too.


To see video of performance 13.5 minutes


4. Akiri

Akiri is performed by the cattle herders of Gwalior. They are considered to be descendants of Sri Krishna. This dance is performed in circular patterns by men by communities like Ahir, Gwala, Rawat, Beat and Baredi. The dance starts on the onset of the festival of lights i.e. Diwali and continues till “Kartik Purnima”. Purpose of dance is for prosperity and well-being of mankind.


5. Gaur, Bastar   

Gaur literally means the ferocious bison, hence this dance performed by Horn Marias or Tallaguda Marias of South Bastar region. The dance starts with the music of the Bamboo trumpet or a horn and the male dancers have a headdress with stringed cowries and plumes of peacock feathers as they dance to the music of the flutes and drums. This dance is particularly significant as the different characteristic moves of the ferocious bison are enacted as they attack and chase the female dancers. The female dancers are adorned with brass fillets and bead necklaces and they dance with the sticks known as tirududi.


To see album of performance during Bastar Dussehra

To see video of performance SUPERB 2.5 minutes

To see video of folk dance Badhai 10 minutes

To see video on folk dance of MP 11 minutes


E. Bihar

1. Jhijhiya

Jhijhiya is a religious dance performed by women and assisted by men. It is performed as a devotion to the goddess during Navaratri. The dancers are attired in long skirts and colourful cholis (blouse) dance with earthen or brass pots on their head, while offering their prayers to goddess Lakshmi, Parvati and Saraswati.


The men assist in the religious proceedings with the burning lamps along with mango leaves to ward off the evil and for a peaceful and healthy living in society. The dancers move in circular patterns, while the prayers are being offered.


To see video of performance 3.49 minutes


Paika is a warrior dance performed with a shield and sword. Bidesia dance is a popular dance drama performed in the Bhojpuri-speaking belt of Bihar. The topics dealt with are mainly contradictory in nature-like tradition and modernity, urban-rural divide, rich and poor etc. Female parts are performed by male actor-dancers. The Jat-Jatin dance is performed as a duet and deals with socially and emotionally charged topics.” Source Indian Express  


F. Rajasthan

1. Ghoomar

One of the most popular folk dance of Rajasthan is Ghoomar which means to rotate, hence the dance is quite exciting and a visual treat as the dancers attired in colourful and bright coloured long skirts start with slow and graceful movements and culminating in fast tempo, drawn from the classical dance kathak which is known for its spins and circular movements.


This dance is performed on several occasions, religious and social for e.g. the arrival of the newly wed bride or during festivals like Holi or Tej.


To read in detail including if u want to learn Ghoomar: An elegant dance form of Rajasthan


To see video of performance 4.42 minutes


2. Bhavai

Another popular folk dance of Rajasthan which has ritualistic significance, is performed by the Kabelia, Meena, Bhil or the Kumhar Adivasi communities. The women balance on the perimeter of the brass plate or on the top of a glass and dance various steps as part of the ritual and as an offering to the divine spirit. The males sing, play the harmonium, sarangi and the dholak.


To see video of performance 1.32 minutes


3. Kachhi Ghodi

As the name suggests Kachchi means tender or not ripe and Ghodi refers to the female horse, hence this is dance of the male and female horse, prevalent in the Shekhawat region of Rajasthan. Men appear with the props of the decorated horse along with the female. This is a playful dance of horse moves and jumps, also considered a dance depicting bravery and chivalry.


To see video of performance 2.32 minutes


4. Gair

Gair is a dance performed by men and women of the Bhil community during religious occasions like Janmastami or social occasions like the Holi festival. Men dance with sticks and swords as they move and dance in clockwise and anti-clockwise movements


To see video of performance 6.27 minutes Fun to watch


5. Chari

Chari is a ritual dance. It is performed as part of the ritual by the Saini community of Ajmer and Gujjars of Kishnagad. This dance is also performed on the occasion of the birth of a male child. Women dance with Chari (pot) on the head with a lighted lamp on it as an offering for divine intervention. This dance is performed to the music of dholak, Harmonium and Nagada.


Also, “Chari is performed by villagers to celebrate the discovery of water in the desert state. It is performed by women balancing brass pots on their heads. Kalbeliya is performed by the snake charmer-community of Rajasthan. In Bhawai, women dance while simultaneously balancing 8-9 pitchers on their heads.” Source Indian Express


G. Himachal Pradesh


Nati is the most popular dance i.e. also performed at various festivals. It has various forms depending on region. “It starts at a slow speed, while doing this it is called loose pulse and later it increases at a rapid pace. Dholak, Karnal, Ranasingha, Flute, Shehnai, and Nagade are used in this dance.” Source


2. Channak Chaam Dance

“Chhanak Chham dance is very famous dance form of Himachal Pradesh in the Lahaul-Spiti region, in the memory of Lord Buddha and as a tribute! The Lamas of the Lahaul-Spiti region perform this devotional dance on the occasion of Chakhar, which happens once every three years! It is famous for its vibrant hats, costumes, and masks. The theme of his costume is yellow, black, and gold and is designed to be sleek and shiny.” Source


3. Rakshasa Dance

“Rakshasa dance is related to the Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh. Rakshasa dance is performed wearing demon masks. These masks are in the numbers three, five, seven, and nine. This dance perform to protect crops from evil spirits and demons in this region.” Source


4. Dangi Dance

“Another popular dance form of Himachal Pradesh is Dangi. It is predominantly performed by female dancers, wearing traditional dresses, holding hands to form a semi-circle, and dancing with their lower bodies. This dance takes place at Naina Devi’s Temple as a symbol of their devotion.” Source


“Folk dances of Himachal Pradesh depict the population's closeness to nature. Mala dance is performed by people weaving their hands together in an intricate pattern resembling a garland.


Chhambha similar to Bhangra-is performed by wearing elaborate masks and replicates tales of demons being chased away by good forces after destroying crops.


Cholamba is performed in the Ropa valley when a tiger is killed — is characterised by formations in which the group of dancers looks like a coiled serpent. In the Nuala dance form, a garland is placed around Lord Shiva and the dance takes place around the idol. 


Jhoori has questions and answers danced to a rhythm, with each sentence ending with a cry of Hoo Hoo.


In Dhadhair, dancers dance with weapons and charge towards imaginary adversaries.


Kaydayat is characterised by marvellous sword play which becomes more vigorous with the rise of the tempo.” Source Indian Express


Also read 10 Folk Dances of Himachal Pradesh N Here N Festivals of Himachal Pradesh

To see pictures of Classical and Folk Dances of India


Also read

1. Folk dances of South India

2. Folk dances of Odisha

3. Kalbelia folk dance of Rajasthan

4. Adivasi dances of India

5. Folk dance forms of Assam

6. Folk dance performances at Shilp Gram Udaipur

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