14 Folk Dances in Tamil Nadu - A Cultural Extravaganza!

Tamil Nadu is famous for its rich art of entertainment. The state is also known for its food, temples, architecture, Carnatic music and dance forms. Many types of solo, as well as group dances, are performed here. In this article, we’ll look out some of the popular dances which people have kept alive even today. Come let’s take a look.

List of some of the popular Folk Dances in Tamil Nadu-

1. Bharatnatyam
2. Bamber Dance
3. Karagattam
4. Kavadi Aattam
5. Devaraattam
6. Kolattam or Kazhi Aattam
7. Kazhai Kothu
8. Mayil Aattam or Peacock Dance
9. Ottan Koothu
10. Paampu Attam or Snake Dance
11. Poikkal Kuthirai Aattam or Artificial Horse Dance
12. Puliyattam or Tiger Dance
13. Shattam Dance
14. Koothu

1. Bharatnatyam

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Bharatnatyam is the Tamil Nadu’s folk dance which is mainly performed by women. It is considered to be India’s oldest dance form and also the mother of all other styles of classical dance. The word comprises Bhava, Raag, Tala, Natya, which when put together makes Bharatanatyam. This culturally rooted dance form originated from the Tanjore district of Tamil Nadu and was firstly performed in the Hindu temples to worship Lord Shiva. This form focuses on hand gestures, footwork and facial expressions. As this dance mainly involves female dancers, their attire resembles Tamil bridal dress. A beautiful sari is worn by them which has a sparkling golden border. Along with this, jewellery is also worn by them which makes their look exquisite. 

2. Bamber Dance

This is a dance form of Tamil Nadu which is performed inside a temple to worship Lord Krishna. This is mainly performed around a lamp during Ram Navami and Gokulashtami. 

3. Karagattam

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It is a traditional dance of Tamil Nadu which involves balancing pots made of metal or a lump of clay on the dancer’s head. This dance is performed to worship Goddess Amman.

4. Kavadi Aattam

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It is a dance form performed by men. This dance involves carrying Kavadi (burdens) through the pilgrimage. There are various types of Kavadi, the most common being a pot of milk. Some men may even pierce their cheeks and tongue with vel skewers. Some Kavadi are very elaborate and heavy. This dance form is performed in worship of Lord Murugan.  

5. Devaraattam

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This form of dance was presented to the Tamil kings and their army after their victorious return from the battle. The dancers hold a handkerchief in their hand and swing it and also copy the steps done by the leading person. The person leading the line wears a counterfeit beard and mask. Presently, this dance form does not have any lyrical music or song, it is only danced on the beats of Urumi Melam, Thappu Melam and Flute. This dance is now performed during festivals and social occasions.  

6. Kolattam or Kazhi Aattam

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Kolattam is derived from “Kol” which means stick. During the dance, these Kols are struck together and rhythmic movements are done. This dance is a combination of songs, music and rhythmic movements. It is believed that there was a demon named Basavasura who was uncontrolled because of his evil powers. Once, a group of girls decided to play Kolattam with this demon. He was so pleased with the music and girls that he decided to give up all his evil. This is performed in a group during festivals and weddings. 

7. Kazhai Kothu

This is similar to a modern-day circus, which includes gymnastics steps. People performing this travel from place to place and earn their living. They put gaudy makeup on their face and showcase their art. This art of gymnastics was mastered by the Aryans.  

8. Mayil Aattam or Peacock Dance

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Mayil Aattam or Peacock dance is usually performed by women. A blue coloured dress is worn by them along with peacock feathers and a beak. It is performed in the Hindu temples and offered to Lord Murugan.

9. Ottan Koothu

This dance form is presented by tribal people to depict ancient stories during festivals. An instrument named Urumi is played during the activity which is believed to have sacred and supernatural powers. 

10. Paampu Attam or Snake Dance

This dance form is done by young girls wearing tight-fitted costumes resembling a snake. They raise their hands on their head and perform similar movements as that done by snakes such as slithering, creeping and hissing. This dance form arises to save and protect snakes and accepting it as a divine creature.

11. Poikkal Kuthirai Aattam or Artificial Horse Dance

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It is a dance form in which dancers wear a dummy horse which is hollow in between so that a person can fit in it. The horse’s body is made of light-weighted material so that it is easy to handle and colourful clothes are hung on the sides to cover the legs. This folk dance needs a lot of skills and practise. It is performed along with folk music to worship Goddess Amman. 

12. Puliyattam or Puli Aattam or Tiger Dance

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It is another old folk art dance of Tamil Nadu. In this dance, the bodies of the dancers are painted by yellow and black paint to create a replica of Tiger. The look is completed by joining a fake tail and ears. The stentorian sounds of drums along with several instruments try to create a complete picture. The performers make graceful tiger-like moves. 

13. Shattam Dance

This form of dance is devoted to Lord Vishnu. This dance is performed in groups with the instrument named “Urumi”. Classical songs and graceful steps are its main features. 

14.  Koothu

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It is a street party in which music and dance are performed by people during festivals and weddings. It is conducted at a meeting point of three to four streets in an open ground. Usually, men take part in it and the roles of women are also done by them. The function includes story-telling, singing, dancing, drama etc. Dress and makeup are special features. The function begins in the late evening and ends late in the night. 

These were some of the most popular folk dances of Tamil Nadu. It’s appreciating that people have kept them alive till now!!!

This post was published by Jahnvi Sharma

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