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Folk Dances of South India

Andhra Pradesh


The dance of the Banjaras, a semi-nomadic tribe found throughout Andhra Pradesh, Lambadi is performed at the time of marriages and important social occasions. Like gypsy dances elsewhere in India, the movements are quite simple, and the women wear very colorful costumes and ornaments. During the festival of Holi, there is much celebration, images of deities are worhsipped, and men and women sing and dance around large fires at night.



Kolkali is an important menís dance in Kerala. The performers move in a circle, holding short wooden sticks in their hands. The men wear simple white dhotis, and keep their upper bodies bare. They dance in pairs, striking the sticks together in rhythm. The tempo of the dance keeps increasing, and the dancers strike not only their sticks together, but the sticks of their neighbors. They weave patterns on the ground by varying their positions in the circle, which expands and contracts as the dance progresses. Many of the movements and positions of Kolkali are taken from Kalarippayattu, the martial art of Kerala.


Kaikottikali, or Thiruvathirakali, is an important womenís dance. The dancers move in a circle around a lit brass lamp, at times clockwise and sometimes anticlockwise. They sing songs and clap their hands. The leader of the group sings a line, which is repeated by the group to the rhythm of the clapping. The sideways body movements, up and down arm movements, and steps are common to the region, and resemble those of other dance forms of Kerela like Mohini Attam and Kathakali. The songs have themes of common interest to women. The women dress in Kerala style, in white dhotis with upper garments across the breast. They wear their hair in buns, decorated with a circle of jasmine flowers. The Kaikottikali is performed during the Thiruvathira and Onam festivals, as well as other times during the year.

Tamil Nadu


This ancient but simple form of village dance is performed by women and young girls. They form a circle, sing lively Kummi songs, and clap hands to keep time. They step along the circle, or towards the center of the circle, and back.

This dance is performed at temple festivals, during Pongal (a harvest festival) and Navaratri, and at family functions like coming of age ceremonies and weddings.


This dance is performed by women and young girls. It is named for the kola, meaning a stick of arms length. The dancers hold a stick in each hand, and strike them together to make rhythmic sounds. The dance is performed in a circle, and dancers also strike the sticks of their neighbors. Kolattam is performed prominently during Navaratri, bus also at various other festivals like Janmashtami, as well as for celebrations like weddings. A dance of the same name and style also exists in Andhra Pradesh.

Kavadi Attam

This dance is performed only by men, and is named for the Kavadi they carry on their shoulders. The Kavadi consists of a wooden pole, to the ends of which are fixed pots filled with milk or coconut water, or other items of offering. The Kavadi was a method of carrying offerings to the gods during pilgrimages. On top of the Kavadi, bamboo strips are bent into a semicircle and covered with saffron cloth to form a canopy. The Kavadi is decorated on the sides with peacock feathers.

This dance is performed in worship of Lord Murugan, the second son of Shiva (known as Karthikeya in North India) and a favorite deity in Tamil Nadu. There are special songs for Kavadi Attam, known as Kavadi Sindhu.

Poikkal Kudirai Attam

This is the Dummy Horse Dance, which is performed in many parts of India, and also in some other countries. The Kachchi Ghodi of Rajasthan and Gujarat is another example of this dance.

The dancers carry the figure of a horse on their hips. Made of lightweight materials, the figure is of the upper part of the horse, with cloth draped from its sides to cover the legs of the dancer. The dancer carries a sword or a whip, to appear as if riding the horse.

The dance is accompanied by loud drumming. During the dance, the dancer may suddenly lunge at the audience, giving them a scare. The suspense of when this might happen is part of the enjoyment of this dance.

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