Chhattisgarh Folk Dance


Most of the folk dance forms of Chhattisgarh are performed as a part of rituals, in reverence to Gods or to denote the changing of seasons. These dance forms are exemplary combination of special costumes and accessories with that of shrewd  acrobatic movements and most importantly rendition of tribal (or more correctly pristine) way of life. Below is given an illustrative (although not exaustive) list of apostle example of dance forms of Chhatisgarh :

  1. Saila Folk Dance


Quintessential Features:  This dance is performed only by boys after the harvest season in the Hindu month of Aghan (November-December). This stick-dance is very similar to Dandia dance in which the boys move in various styles to strike their stick against the stick of the person standing next to them. The participants of the dance are given paddy by the villagers as a sign of gratitude. The group of Saila Dancers go to each house and adjoining villages to perform this dance.

Regional Variation – Saila dance is also performed as the Dussehra dance by the Baigas before festival of Diwali. The Saila dance is popular in many regions of the state, among the people of Sarguja, Chhindwara and Baitul districts. But in these places, Danda Nach or Dandar Pate is known as Saila.

Saila dance comprises a number of varieties such as the Baithiki Saila, the Artari Saila, the Thadi Saila, the Chamka Kunda Saila, the Chakramar Saila (lizard’s dance) and the Shikari Saila .

Style– Sometimes the dancers stand together, forming a circle. Each one stands on one leg and takes support by holding on to the man in front. Then they all dance together, or sometimes, they pair off or go around in a single or double line, occasionally climbing each other’s back. The climax in the performance of Saila is the great Snake dance.

The beat to the dancers is given by the ‘Mandars’. When the beat becomes fast, the dancers also move faster. The Saila songs, of which the refrain is the monotonous Nanare nana are usually of a progressive character leading to a highly vulgar conclusion.

  1. Karma Folk Dance


Quintessential Features : This dance is performed during the autumnal festival of Karma on the 11th day of bright fortnight of the month of Bhadrapada (Aug-Sep) i.e. autumnal festival of Karma Puja. This dance is usually performed by tribal groups like Gonds, the Baigas and Oraons in Chhattisgarh. This dance form marks the end of rainy season and advent of spring !

Karam, a holy tree which is worshipped by tribes of Chhatisgarh, has significant ritualistic importance in this dance form. The members of the tribal group try to propitiate Karma Devta with the Karma tribal dance so that Karam, the God of Fate shower his blessings on them. Men and women join together, form circle and keep passing the branch of the the Karam tree with proper care that the branch never touches the ground. The branch is washed in milk and plated in middle of the dancing area after completion of dance.

Regional Variation– Among the Gonds and the Baigas of Chhattisgarh and the Oraons of the north-west fringes of Madhya Pradesh, the Karma dance is very common. Karma dance which is also popularly known as Karma Naachis and  performed by the tribes of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa and other regions of the country. One thing is common among all the forms are that they are centred around the trees. There are many sub-varieties of Karma dance that includes the Jhumar, Ektaria, Lahaki, Sirki, Pendehar, Dohoari, Tegwani and many more.

The Majhwars of Sarguja district dance the Karma towards the beginning and the end of the rainy season. The Gonds and the Baigas of Mandla and Bilaspur districts dance it at any time they wish. The Baigas, the Jhumies, the Kanwars and the Gonds of Baghelkhand area perform this dance to the accompaniment of the Thumki, the Payri, the Chhalla and the Jhumki instruments.

Style– Men and women dance to the tunes of the instruments like Thumki, Chhalla, Payri and Jhumki. The drum locally known as ‘timki’ is used as the main musical instrument and the dancers dance enthusiastically on the beats of timki. It is placed on the ground between the dancers. The dancers move their feet in perfect rhythm and in to and fro style. The men leap forward during the dance, whereas the women in the group bend low near the ground. They form a circle and put their arms around the waist of the next the dancer and continue dancing in a rhythmic manner. The dancers wear the ethnic costume and jewelleries.

This form is associated with the fertility cult and essentially related to the Karma festival that falls in the month of August. The Karma dance symbolizes the bringing of green branches of the forest in the spring. Sometimes a tree is actually set up in the village and people dance round it. The dance is filled with breath of trees. The men leap forward to a rapid roll of drums. Bending low to the ground the women dance, their feet moving in perfect rhythm to and fro, until the group of singers advances towards them.

  1. Sua Nacha or Suwa Folk Dance


Quintessential Features : The Sua or Sugga dance of the women of Chhattisgarh and the Maikal Hills is significant for its elegance and grace.  The word ‘Sua’ means a parrot.  The women take recourse to this dance a month in advance of the festival of Diwali. Folk Dance

Style – While dancing, the women lift their feet in imagination of a parrot-walk, then bend and jerk their heads in bird-like fashion to the clapping of hands.  Groups of girls often go on long trips to the adjoining villages to display their excellence in this dance.  Similarly they receive groups of girls visiting their own village.  They prepare a wooden Sugga (a parrot) and place it on an earthen pot covered with paddy shoots.  One of the girls carries the pot on her head and stands as a revolving figure in the middle of the group to face the dancing row when the opposite row of the girls alternatively stops. In this dance no instrument is used with the exception of a wooden clapper named Thiski is played to provide rhythm, where the Gonds and the Baigas predominate. The entertainers sing and move around, accompanied by loud forms of clapping.

  1. Pandavani Folk Dance

Quintessential Features : This folk ballad portrays the account of Pandavas – the main characters of an epic battle. Recital of tales of Mahabharata is one of its prominent characteristic. In this dance form a group of dancers consists of a lead artist is accompanied by supporting musicians.

The two main styles of narration are Vedamati and Kapalik. In the Vedamati style, the lead artist sits on the floor throughout the performance while in the Kapalik style the lead artist is actively narrating and acting the characters and the scenes.

Teejan Bai of Chhattisgarh is one of the most famous Pandvani performers, and has been felicitated with various awards like Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan etc.


  1. Panthi Folk Dance


Quintessential Features : Panthi Dance is one of the prominent ritual of the Satnami community of Chhattisgarh. The Satnamis believe in Nirvana philosophy and their dance conveys this ideology. The community celebrates the birth anniversary of Guru Ghasidas on Maghi Purnima. The rich cultural heritage and traditional legacies of the tribal groups of the Durg region is clearly depicted through this dance form. The dance combines a variety of steps and patterns and usually denotes the teachings and sayings of their holy teacher. A few scholars refer it as type of martial dance.

Style– The dancers wear colourful dresses and sing the praise of ‘guru’. Group of men construct a pyramid-like formation as the leader of the group sings. Rhythmic instruments such as the mandar, drum and the jhanjh are played during the dance performance. The tribal dancers move in fast pace and finally disperse after the spectacular display of songs, music and dance mesmerizing the audience.

Amidst the musical ambience, the dance begins at a slow pace while the leader sings a solo. The performance is usually done by group of men. As the dance progresses, the pace quickens and the dancers form occasional pyramid-like structure where a man climbs to the top. The structure is broken soon enough and the pace becomes much quicker as the dance reaches culminating point. The performers display unique footwork and style throughout the dance performance. Their colourful attire, beautifully crafted tribal jewellery and the stunning performances leaves an aura of the exotic culture these people so proudly represent. The dancers present various ‘Mudras’ like Jait Khamb, Jai Stambh, Dharti Pranam (honouring the land) and Phool Arpan (offering flowers) to honour their Guru.

One of the chief exponents of Panthi dance is Devdas Banjara who showed the legacy of this dance to the world. He was conferred with Guru Ghasi Das Award for his contribution in raising the Dalit community and was also felicitated with the President’s Award for his troupe’s extraordinary achievement in the field of folk dance.

  1. Raut Nacha  Folk Dance

Quintessential Features : It is also known as the Folk dance of Cow herds! These artists often sing Kabir’s dohas (a sort of ballad). The Yadava/Yaduvanshis, is a caste of Chhattisgarh who consider themselves to be descendants of Krishna. The scenes depict the fierce fight between King Kansa and the cowherds of that area. The Yadavs or the cowherds represent good with Lord Krishna as their almighty. Raut Nacha reinforces the age old truth of the triumph of good over evil. According to the Hindu calendar, it is celebrated on the 11th day after Diwali. The dance is performed during the time of ‘dev udhni ekadashi’ according to the Hindu calendar. It is believed that during the auspicious ‘tithi’, the Gods are awake. Raut Nach very closely resembles the Rasa-lila of Lord Sri Krishna.

Style : There ocurrs competition between team of villages consisiting of upto 100 male members with one little child in the attire of Lord Krishna. Dancers equip themselves with sticks and metal shields and with bells tied to their waist and ankles as they enact the ancient battles honouring the valiant warriors and the eternal triumph of good over evil.

The dancers use sticks and shields as props during the performance, wear bright and colorful dresses and dance at the beat of music and songs sung by other group members and the enchanting music paint a vivid picture of the mythological scenes enacted by the talented troupe.

Dohe usually accompany the Raut dance describing the tribal lifestyle. The tribal philosophy and their ideals are reflected in the music and songs which are mesmerizing and otherworldly to the spectator. There are seasonal songs adding to the diversity of music. The musical instruments dominant in the cultural displays are Mandals, dhols and drums.


  1. Jhirliti Folk Dance


Due to lack of a fixed pattern Its tough to categorize it as a set dance form. This dance is performed in a Halloween like ritual. It is played by the kids in the Bastar region of central India along with Chhatisgarh. As the sun sets in, the kids are all dressed up in rags and worn out costumes. Their faces become nothing less than a canvas with chalk, coal and powdered rangoli smeared over it. They dance around in circles in front of all the houses in the village after which they are given ration as sign of gratitude for the dance and yes, there is a celebration by the kids with the same items collected.

  1. Gendi Folk Dance


Gendi is regionally spoken term for stick in Chhatisgarh. The dancers are mounted on two long bamboo or just any firm stick and manoeuvre through the crowd of other Gendi (sticks) ridden dancers. Thumping on the ground, maintaining excellent balance as they sway to the tribal acoustics, acrobatic skills and percussions makes it an amazing folk dance which has managed to keep it’s tradition alive.

  1. Rahas Folk Dance

Rahas dance is performed during festivals in Chhattisgarh. This folk dance is performed with great vigour in Dhamtari District of the state. The rural folk enact the dance wearing headgears and traditional attire, dancing in rhythms of long-shaped drums. The central theme of the dance is Rasa-Lila of Krishna and his abode Radha.

  1. Kaksar Folk Dance

Kaksar is a festival dance, performed by the Abhujmaria of Bastar. Prior to the rains, the Maria cultivators in every village worship the deity for reaping a rich harvest. To invoke the blessing of the deity, Kaksar, a group dance, in which young boys and girls take part, is performed. Boys put on a peculiar costume of a long white robe while girls are clad in all their finery. The dance presents to both girls and boys, a unique opportunity to choose their life partners, and marriage is enthusiastically celebrated afterwards. There is a rhythm and melody in this dance. In one of their dance-forms they carry dummy horses on their shoulders and move slowly into a wide circle. The melodious music, the tinkling of the bells combines to create an atmosphere of enchantment.

  1. Chaitra festival Folk Dance

The Chaitra festival dance is a famous dance of the Gonds of Bastar district. It is performed after the harvest to thank goddess Annapurna for the harvested crop and to seek her blessings for the next crop.

Style- Men and women dance in a circle, in semi-circles or in rows; all dancers hold each other’s waist. A peacock feather on the head is a distinctive mark and the dancers wear colourful costumes, adorning themselves with garlands of shells and pearls. As the dancers go around in rhythmic movements, their feet beat to the music of the Shehnai, Nagada, Timki, Tapri, Dholak and Maduri. Sometimes, the Singha and Kohuk; wind instruments are also played.

Another similar dance is- Rina -women’s dance. It is called Tapadi among the Baigas. The Gond women of Mandla district start the Rina just after the festival of Diwali.

  1. Gaur Folk Dance

This dance is most popular among the Sing Marias or Tallaguda Marias (bison-horn Marias) of South Bastar. This spectacular dance symbolizes the hunting spirit of the tribe. The word ‘Gaur’ means a ferocious bison.

Style–  The invitation for a dance is given by sounding a bamboo trumpet or a horn. Wearing head-dresses frilled with stringed ‘cowries’ and plumes of peacock feathers fastened to them the men folk with flutes and drums make their way to the dancing ground. Women adorned with brass fillets and bead necklaces over their tattooed bodies soon join the assemblage. They carry dancing sticks called Tirududi in their right hands and tap them to conform to the drum-beats. They dance in their own groups by the side of the male members. But they also take the liberty to cross and re-cross in between the groups of male dancers and drummers. Their jingling anklets correspond to the songs of their lips as they move. The men beat the drums, tossing the horns and feathers of their head-gears to the rising tempo that gives the dance a wilder touch.

In the bison dance (Gaur) they attack one another and chase the female dancers. The Marias imitate a number of bison movements. Most of them perform like frisky bulls, hurling wisps of grass into air, charging and tossing horns.

  1. Muria Dances

The Murias of North Bastar are trained in the Ghotul for all types of their community dances. Before any dance is commenced at a wedding or a festive occasion, the Murias first worship their drums. Very often they begin with an invocation to ‘Lingo Pen’, the phallic deity of the tribe and the founder of the Ghotul institution. To a Muria, Lingo Pen was the first musician who taught the art of drumming to the tribal boys.

The dancing site is chosen near the Ghotul compound. On marriage celebrations, the Muria boys and girls perform a Folk Dance called Har Endanna. The dance commences with a group of boys carrying ritualistic offerings and gifts and conducting the bridegroom to the ceremonial place. In this light and happy dance, there are a variety of movements with the boy and the girl dancers and drummers participating to move in patterns with running steps and circles then changing directions, kneeling, bending and jumping. The movements of drummers is quite fascinating.

Their Hulki is the loveliest of all the dances. The Karsana is performed for sheer fun and enjoyment. Both the Folk Dance-forms are quick and rich with many rhythmic nuances. In the Hulki, boys move in a ring while the girls tread way through them. These forms are more favourite among the performing groups when they go to another village to attend wedding celebrations or else visit some fair. Their Pus Kolang expedition occurs in the month of February. During hot weather the boys and the girls meet in Chhat-Dadar expedition. Many of the dances associated to these visits are stick-dances.

The folk dances of the hilly tracts of the Vindhyas are more indigenous and recreational and almost all the ceremonial occasions passes in any community essentially with dance and music. Below is given an illustrative list –

The Bhils who inhabit the Vindhya ranges and the banks of the Narmada are traditionally prone to their Bhagoriah and Gavar Folk Dances. Their instruments are an ordinary Mandal (big drum) and a Thali (brass plate). Hundreds of men and women join and move in a circle with wild shouts and lusty songs to the noisy abandon of the beat of drums. The Bhagoriah is typical of ecstasy and vibrating spectacle. Men waving bows and arrows synchronize their movements and stamping of feet with verve.

During the Holi festival in Phalguna (Feburary) the Bhils and the Garasias perform a dance called the Ger.  The women of both these tribes also dance the Loor.  They form a circle and then holding their hands, they Folk Dance the Loor with forward and backward movements.

In the Pali dance, the women form two rows. The Duipali, the Pachmundya Pali and the Ondi-Chiti Pali are the other forms of the Pali  Folk Dance.

The Diwali dances of the Ahirs and Rawats of Bilaspur and Raipur districts of the state have enough of vital appeal.  Wearing tight-fitting shirts, studded with ghungrus or tiny bells and armlets of ghungurs, the Ahir dancers vigorously perform the Danda dance.


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