Folk Dances of Karnataka

  Folk Dances of Karnataka

Folk dances are dances that are developed by people that reflect the life of the people of a certain country or region.The term “folk dance” is reserved for dances which are to a significant degree bound by tradition and originated in the times when the distinction existed between the dances of “common folk” and the dances of the high society. A number of modern dance originated from folk ones.

Some of the major folk dances of Karnataka are:

1.Dollu Kunitha                              2.Krishna Parijatha                                       3.Bhootha aradhane                      4.Nagamandala                                   5.yakshagana                                6.Karaga                                                     7.Gaarudi Gombe                          8. Joodu Haligi                                                       9. Goravara Kunitha                    10. Hagalu veshagaararu                                      11. Beesu samsale and kamsale nritya


1.Dollu Kunitha

A popular dance form accompanied by singing and the beats of decorated drums. This dance is primarily performed by men from the shepherd or Kuruba caste. The Dollu Kunitha is characterized by vigorous drum beats, quick movements and synchronized group formations. It is accompanied by singing. It provides both spectacular variety and complexity of skills in the process of demonstration.

  1. Krishna Parijatha Folk Dances of Karnataka

Krishna Parijatha is theatre popular in North Karnataka. It is a combination of Yakshagana and Bayalata, portraying stories from the Mahabharata. It mainly revolves around Lord Krishna. It is based on popular mythological tales in Karnataka. This art form depicts the rich and vibrant culture of the land.

Parijatha literally means the wish granting trees. According to the legend, Parijatha tree emerged from the ocean of existence. It was planted in the garden of Lord Indra which was one of the gifts received from the samudra manthana, and thus was a celestial plant, not available on earth.

3.Bhootha aradhane 

Bhootha Aradhane or Bhuta Kola is a ritualistic folk dance that originated from the coastal parts of Karnataka and Keralaas a way of Tulu worship. Tulu is a regional language in Karnataka. This form of dance is rarely seen. Bhootha means ghost and the reference to these creatures’ dates back to myths. In  mythology, Lord Shiva’s attendants are referred to as Bhuta Ganas. Their chief responsibilities were to serve the Lord and protect Dharma.

Bhootha Aradhane is performed in a group. The performer dances on a special music. The main idea behind this folk dance is to appease the devil and protect the environment. Bhootha Aradhane is performed in a group. The performer will dance on a special music. The main idea behind this folk dance is to appease the devil and protect the environment  to resemble ghosts.


Nagamandala of Karnataka is a variant of serpent worship rituals prevalent among Hindus in all parts of India. This night-long elaborate ritual is performed in the regions of Southern Karnataka and involves ritualistic appeasement of the serpent. The serpent of Karnataka’s Nagamandala celebration is usually considered to be the symbol of fertility and an embodiment of life-force. It is usually performed by male dancers called Vaidyas. In the time of the ritual they dress themselves up as nagakannikas or female serpents.

  1. Yakshagana

Yakshagana is a popular dance drama performed in coastal regions which is a blend of dance, music, songs, dialogue and colourful costumes. The word means “celestial music”, and the dance drama is performed during the night usually after the winter crop has been harvested.

The narratives are drawn primarily from the great Hindu epics Ramayanaand Mahabharat as well as from the tales of the youthful god Krishna as recounted in the Bhagavata-purana.

Traditionally, yakshagana was performed in the open air by all-male troupes sponsored by various Hindu temples. Since the mid-20th century, however, many performances have been held on indoor stages, and women began to participate in 1970s.


Karaga is a folk dance of Karnataka which originated as a ritual dedicated to Draupadi as known in these parts as droupthamma. The ritual is performed on a full moon day.

The ritual pot filled with water and adorned with decorations several feet high is carried by the priest. The dancers perform various acrobatic feats while following the procession accompanied by a number of musical instruments like ‘Thavi’, “Nadaswaram”, “Muni”, “Udukka”, “Pamba”, etc.

7.Gaarudi Gombe

Gaarudi Gombe is a folk dance in which dancers dress in suits made of bamboo sticks. Gaarudi-Gombe means “magical puppet” in Kannada. The dance is performed during major festivals and in the procession held during the Mysore Dasara, and is known as Tattiraya in the coastal regions. Tattiraya means “someone carrying a doll made of bamboo sticks”.The dance features masks, puppets and colourful regional costumes.

8. Joodu Haligi

It  is performed with two percussion instruments. The Haligi is round, made of buffalo hide and played with a short stick. The dance is characterised by high energy and exaggerated expressions by two or three performers.

  1. Goravara Kunitha

Goravara Kunitha is a traditional dance of Kuruba Gowdas of Karnataka who are devotees of lord Mailara Linga. It  is performed at festivals, local fairs and also upon invitation in the houses of devotees of lord Mailara Linga. The costume is the main attraction of this folk form. A white or yellow Panche/Kache and white full arm Juba are the basic clothing. the head is covered with a rumala, usually a white sari or Panche.

10. Hagalu veshagaararu

The artists move from place to place, without using stage, pitching tents and perform the dance. They play a variety of mythological, legendary and real characters. Performances draw from daily life, and sometimes full-length plays are staged. They perform vachana  sahityas by Sarvagna, Basavanna and others. The instruments they use are he harmonium, the tabla-dagga and a pair of cymbals provide melody and rhythm.  They perform primarily during the day (hagalu) and only men take part including female roles.

11. Beesu samsale and kamsale nritya

This is a group dance performed by village men. The kamsale nritya is connected to a tradition of worship of Male Mahadeshwara (Shiva) by the Kuruba community, from which most of the dancers are drawn. The dance is performed to rhythmic,melodious music sung in praise of Shiva.




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