South India’s dance forms are the bodily manifestations of inner devotion, as well as enactments of Hinduism’s chronicles, and are all profoundly transfixing. Various dances honor the centuries-old traditions of places where religious doctrines are a way of life. Here’s an introduction to South Indian dance forms.
This dance is synonymous with South Indian arts and culture. It’s practiced and performed religiously with utmost devotion and diligence. Regarded as one of the oldest dance forms in the world, Bharatanatyam is an amalgamation of decorative hand gestures, meticulous facial expressions and complex footwork. It adheres to a compendium known as Natya Shastra, put forth by its most celebrated patron, Bharata Muni. The ringing of the cymbals accompanied by the grace of Bharatanatyam is enchanting to witness.
Kathakali is an operatic style of dance hailing from the Malayalam-speaking areas of south-west India, predominantly the state of Kerala. Characterized by quirky paraphernalia and accessories, a Kathakali performance depicts stories from Indian mythology or folklore. Brisk martial art moves and eerie eye movements give Kathakali a distinctive flavor. Because of its complexity, it takes years for a performer to master Kathakali.
Among the dance forms that have a definitive origin, Kuchipudi is the principal one. It can be traced back to its namesake village in the Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh. Although Kuchipudi shares common elements with Bharatanatyam, the interpretation and accompaniment is different. Kuchipudi heavily utilizes facial expressions and agility, and also incorporates props such as clay pot and brass plates. Kuchipudi commands devotion and respect, with themes of spiritual advancement and the channeling of divine energy.
Yaksha means a demigod or a guardian spirit, while gana is a song. Yakshagana is eccentric and features ornate costumes, powerful narrations, periodic percussion and serious method acting. It’s not uncommon to come across all-night Yakshagana performances in the coastal districts of Karnataka.
The graceful Mohiniattam gets its name from an Indian mythical character called Mohini — an enchantress with a divine status. Mohiniattam is largely performed by women dancers. It is sensual for the most part, usually accompanied by mellifluous music that is feminine and subtle. The dance found its niche in the temples of Kerala in the late middle ages, albeit with some stigma, but the dance is very popular today.
Bhuta Kola and Theyyam are indigenous ritualistic dance forms found in the Tulu region of Karnataka and the Kolathunadu region of Kerala, respectively. They are similar in style and delivery, and both symbolize the idea of divine advancement.
Bhuta Kola is a salutation to the Bhutas (spirits), which enjoy a cult status, like demigods. The Bhutas are mostly the guardians of natural elements of our world, and the interpreters of these Bhutas exist in liminal areas between forests and villages. The costumes of the Bhuta Kola are ornate, and there is heavy percussion and volatile movements. Blood offerings to the Bhutas are customary.
Theyyam is similar in rendition but differs in the number of deities portrayed, and the temperaments of these deities.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.