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Dances Of Tamil Nadu

Dances of Tamil Nadu


Bharata Natyam, which originates from the state of Tamil Nadu in South India, is one of the oldest and most popular dance styles in India. The word itself is a combination of :--

BHARATA NATYAM = BHAVA (expression) + RAGA (musical mode) + TALA (rhythm) NATYAM (dance)

This style is a direct descendant of devotional dances performed in the temples of South India from the tenth century to the middle of this century. The art of Bharata Natyam has been carried by  'nattuvanars' and ritualistic dancers called devadasis, in the temples of south India.

Bharata Natyam is poetry in motion. Exploring its history in the Natya Sastra, written by the great sage Bharata,  it is a highly traditional & stylized dance form. Bharata Natyam has been immortalized in successive generations, as much by the grace of great dancers as by the nimble fingers of renowned sculptors who have demonstrated the perfection of Bharata's technique.

Bharatanatyam's blend of the abstract & the emotional is derived from its fusion of two prime elements, nritta (pure  dance or dance without interpretive meaning) & nritya (expressive dance). Bharatanatyam derives much of its  intense, dramatic impact from the juxtaposition & contrast with which both elements are utilized. Nritta comprises  adavus, which are the basic dance units of Bharatanatyam. Each adavu contains 3 essential elements, a basic  standing position (sthanaka), movement of the legs & feet (chari) & decorative hand gestures (nritta-hasta).

Folk Dances

Dances of Tamil Nadu

Mayil Attam

This is done by girls dressed as peacocks, resplendent with peacock feathers and a glittering head-dress complete with a beak. This beak can be opened and closed with the help of a thread tied to it, and manipulated from within dress.

Bommalattam or Puppet Show

Puppet shows are held in every village during festivals and fairs. There are always kinds of puppets used for this show made of  cloth, wood, leather, etc. They are controlled by strings or wires. The persons stand behind a screen and the puppets are held in front. The stories enacted in the puppet shows are from Ved-puranas, history and folklore. These shows are very entertaining and hold both adults and childrens quite for many hours.


Kummi is one of the most important and ancient forms of village dances of Tamilnadu. It originated when there were no musical instruments, with the participants clapping their hands to keep time. This is performed by women; many varieties of Kummi, such as, Poonthatti Kummi, Deepa Kummi, Kulavai Kummi, Kadir Kummi, Mulaipari Kummi etc are known. The women stand in a circle and dance clapping their hands rhythamically.  This dance is usually performed during temple festivals, Pongal, the harvest festival, family functions like the one to celebrate the coming of age (onset of puberty) of the girl-child etc. The first line of the song is sung by the leading lady, which the others repeat.

Kai Silambu Attam

This dance is performed in temples during Navaratri festival. The dancers wear ankle-bells and hold anklets or silambu in their hands, which make noise when shaken. They perform various stepping styles jumps. The dance is in praise of all female deities, the most preferred being the powerful angry goddess - Kali or Durga.