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Culture of Tamil Nadu - Dances

Earlier History | Culture of Tamil Nadu | Facts & Figures | Beaches in Tamil Nadu | Cuisines | Festivals | Around Tamil Nadu

The dances of Tamil Nadu are almost synonymous with Bharatnatyam. Bhava, which is expression, Raga, which is the musical mode, and Tala which is rhythm, are the three main attributes which make up the exquisite dance form of Bharatnatyam. This dance was originally performed by Devadasis who were the women performing these dances in the temples; before the deities. The dances were both ritualistic and devotional as a form of offering to the Gods. This dance form is believed to have been originated from Natya Shastra, which is written by Bharat Muni, a Hindu sage.

Nattuvanars are the singers during the dance performances who keep the beat

of the dance steps.The dance movements of this dance resemble a fluid poetry in motion. In many temples, sculptures depicting the many postures of this dance form can still be seen which has been a great inspiration for many dancers and researchers of Bharatanatyam.

However, Tamil Nadu dances not only to the tune of Bharatnatyam. Tamil Nadu has a wonderful folk dance tradition, which dates back across many centuries. The folk dances are still being performed in many villages of Tamil Nadu even today. The folk dances of Tamilnadu are not only colourful, presenting a wonderful sight, they are also a part of the rich heritage of Tamil Nadu. Some of the folk dances of the state are Karagattam, Oyil Kummi, Mayil Attam, Kavadi Aattam, Kali Attam, Devarattam, Bommalattam or puppet show, Chakkai Attam, Kazhai Kothu, Kummi, etc.

Karagattam is a traditional dance, which is performed balancing a pot on the head along with accompaniment of music. It is performed to hail the rain goddess Mari Amman and the river goddess Gangai Amman. It was known as Kudakoothu in the Sangam literature and it has two divisions which are Sakthi Karagam and Aatta Karagam. Aatta Karagam is performed only in temples while Sakthi Karagam is performed mainly for entertainment, during festivities in villages.

The dancers perform a number of acrobatic movements while balancing the decorated pots on their heads while dancing. On the pots are flower arrangements along with a paper parrot, which keeps bobbing as the dancer moves. This is the most popular folk dance in Tamil Nadu.

Kummi is another folk dance, which was earlier performed by the women in the villages. Its origins dates back to the archaic times, when there were no musical instruments, and participants clapped to keep track of rhythm. It s still performed in the same way, by the women, who dance and clap as they move around in circles. They also sing while performing the dance steps. Kummi is performed during festivals like Pongal which is the harvest festival and the most important festival for the villagers of Tamil Nadu.

In Mayil Attam, the girls dress up to look like peacocks with beautiful peacock feathers and a glittering head dress with a beak. The beak can be open and closed with the help of a string which is tied to the beak and controlled from within the dress. This is also very popular during village festivals.

Theru Koothu is another folk dance form of Tamil Nadu, which is generally performed during the village festivals. In this dance form comprising singers and musical troupe, make-up and costumes carry great importance. This open-air dance, involving story-telling and rendering of songs, is only performed by men, who play both the male and female roles. The narratives are borrowed from the epics- Mahabharata and Ramayana- Puranas, and also local folklore. This dance-drama of sorts is carried for hours together, and extends from the late evening to the small hours of night, before a transfixed audience.

Costumes of Tamil Nadu | Handicrafts of Tamil Nadu | Dances of Tamil Nadu | Languages of Tamil Nadu


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