Classical dance festivals of India: A guide to the country through its culture

A diverse land with over a billion people and almost 20,000 languages, India has much to offer in terms of culture. As with all nations, dance and song is the way Indians celebrate their identities. There are many dance forms in the country, almost every region has at least one, if not more, different tradition. Most of these follow the form of a story that tells of some aspect of Hinduism or retells some ancient story. A great way to see India’s rich culture is through a dance performance in one of the many festivals. Here are some of the best classical dance festivals in India.

Khajuraho Dance Festival

Held in February amid the backdrop of the majestic temples in Khajuraho, a small town in Madhya Pradesh, this dance festival showcases India’s heritage in a beautiful way. Artists from around the country come here to perform their ancient dance forms. These include Kathak, Bihu Bharatanatyam etc. These exquisite performances are made even more unforgettable by the surroundings. The stage is set so the Western Group of Temples form the backdrop. Though once there were 85 temples, only 20 remain. Built between 950 and 1050 AD, the Khajuraho group of temples is one of the finest examples of Indian architecture. Stone sculptures of the pantheon of Hindu gods and goddesses in various avatars adorn these temples. The dance festival is held in the evenings giving you the whole day to go sightseeing. Khajuraho is known for the intricately carved sculptures on the temples that show the subjects in various forms including meditation, battle and even several erotic scenes. Book an India tour guide on the Odigos app to know more about the intricate carvings that adorn these magnificent temples.

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Soorya Classical Music and Dance Festival

A ten-day celebration of classical music and dance, the Soorya Classical Music and Dance Festival is a great way to understand India’s culture through the medium of dance. Held in Thiruvanthapuram between September and January, it is organised by the Soorya Stage and Film Society. Dance forms including Mohiniyattam, Manipuri, Kuchipudi, and Kathakali among others are performed during the festival by artists from around the country. Apart from dance and music the festival also has theatre, painting, photography and films to see. Renowned talents like Padma Subramaniam and Chitra Viswesvaran have performed at the Soorya festival. The festival is held in Kerala’s capital city and there is much to see there too. Thiruvanthapuram or Trivandrum is a coastal city with a rich cultural past. Home to many temples, the city provides a fascinating view into the history and beliefs of Kerala. The Padmanabhaswamy Temple is one of the most beautiful temples and a great example of Kerala’s architecture. You can also enjoy the night life, the coastal cuisine and spend time exploring the city’s history and culture. There are also several museums including the Napier Museum that has many cultural artefacts. It is built combining Dravidian, Mughal and Chinese architectural styles.

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Bihu Festival

A celebration of the Assamese New Year, the Bihu Festival is held every year around April. A seven-day long affair to welcome the New Year, this is Assam’s primary festival. A secular festival, the celebration of Bihu is linked to agriculture. Although originally it was celebrated over the period of a month, with modernisation the span of the celebrations has been reduced to a week. During this time people cook special recipes, perform the Bihu dance and songs. The Bihu dance is a traditional art form and its origins are unknown. It is a fairly energetic dance with both men and women performing separate parts. While you are in the wonderful North Eastern part of India, you can take some time out to see Guwahati, the capital city of Assam. Guwahati is an ancient city that is believed to have been the capital of many empires from the time of the Mahabharata. There is much to see in this beautiful city. You can visit the Kamakhya Temple, built on the spot the Lord Shiva scattered a part of his wife, Goddess Parvati’s body. You can also head to the Assam State Museum where you’ll be able to get a glimpse into the tribal history of the North East or the Maati Centre where you can pick up some lovely handicrafts made by the tribal people. To know more about the fascinating history and culture of the city you can hire one of the best tour guides in India on the Odigos app.

Dancing is seen around the world as a form of expression. Indian classical dancing has evolved over the centuries to the refined form seen today. Watching artists dance and tell the stories of gods, goddesses, demons and people is a wonderful way to experience India’s rich culture.

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