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Dances in Ancient India

Dances in Ancient India


Ancient dance forms are cultural expressions that have transcended time, embodying the traditions, stories, and spirituality of diverse societies. Rooted in the histories of civilizations across the globe, these dances serve as living artifacts, offering a window into the rich tapestry of human heritage. Ancient dance forms, like Bharatanatyam in India and ballet in Europe, uniquely mirror cultural, religious, and historical influences that shaped them over centuries.

Different Dance Forms in Ancient India

Ancient dance forms across various cultures have played a crucial role in expressing traditions, stories, and spirituality. Here are a few notable ancient dance forms from different parts of the world:

  1. Bharatanatyam (India): Originating in Tamil Nadu, Bharatanatyam is one of the oldest classical dance forms of India. It involves intricate footwork, hand gestures, and facial expressions, often depicting stories from Hindu mythology.
  2. Odissi (India): Hailing from the state of Odisha, Odissi is another classical dance form with roots in ancient temple traditions. It is characterized by fluid movements, sculpturesque poses, and themes inspired by mythology.
  3. Ballet (Italy/France): Ballet, with its roots tracing back to Renaissance Italy, evolved into a distinct form in the French courts, characterized by graceful movements, elaborate costumes, and storytelling through dance.
  4. Kathak (India): Originating in northern India, Kathak is a classical dance form that combines intricate footwork with storytelling through hand gestures and facial expressions. It has both Hindu and Muslim influences.
  5. Noh (Japan): Noh is a traditional Japanese dance-drama that dates back to the 14th century. It involves slow, symbolic movements, elaborate costumes, and masks to convey stories often rooted in Japanese folklore and history.

These ancient dance forms offer a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of diverse societies, serving as both artistic expressions and reflections of historical, religious, and social contexts.

Importance of Dances in Ancient India

Dances held significant importance in ancient India, playing a multifaceted role in various aspects of society. Here are key points highlighting the importance of dances in ancient India:

  1. Religious Significance: Ancient Indians intricately connected dances with religious rituals, offering them as worship to deities and dedicating specific forms to gods and goddesses.
  2. Cultural Expression: Dances were a vibrant means of cultural expression, portraying the diversity of traditions, customs, and stories across different regions of ancient India. Each dance form reflected the cultural identity of its community.
  3. Narrative Conveyance: Dance was an effective medium for storytelling. Through intricate movements, gestures, and facial expressions, dancers conveyed narratives from Hindu epics, mythology, and folklore, preserving and transmitting cultural and moral values.
  4. Social Celebrations: Dances were an integral part of social celebrations and festivities, marking events such as weddings, harvests, and other joyous occasions. They brought communities together, fostering a sense of unity and celebration.
  5. Educational and Disciplinary Tool: Traditional dance forms were often part of the education system. Young individuals, especially in the context of the Gurukul system, learned dance as a part of their overall education. It was considered a discipline that cultivated physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
  6. Entertainment for Royalty: Dances were a form of entertainment at royal courts. Highly skilled dancers performed for kings and queens, showcasing their mastery of the art form and contributing to the cultural refinement of the court.
  7. Ancient Indians believed that certain folk and classical dance forms, with their rhythmic movements and expressions, had a positive impact on physical and mental health, providing therapeutic benefits.


In ancient India, dances were not just artistic expressions but held profound cultural, religious, and social significance. Serving as a medium for storytelling, worship, and celebration, these dances were integral to education, entertainment, and the preservation of diverse traditions. They played a vital role in shaping the cultural identity and societal cohesion of ancient Indian civilizations.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. Who is the first dance of India?

Ans1. Bharatanatyam is the oldest classical Indian dance style of Tamil Nadu.

Q2. Which is the first Indian traditional dance?

Ans2. The portrayal of Bharatanatyam by 2nd century CE is mentioned in the olden Tamil epic Silappadikaram, while shrine statuaries of 6th to 9th century CE propose it was a well-polished routine art by the middle of 1st millennium CE. Bharatanatyam is the first classical dance practice in India.

Q3. Who is the father of Indian dance?

Ans3. Uday Shankar, the Father of Modern Indian Dance. The person who is honoured to be the “founder of modern dance” in India did not originally have any kind of background in dance.

Read Also: All about Classical Dance Of India

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