This is the most famous and practiced dance form in the the state of Tamil Nadu that has fascinated one and all. This is one of the oldest forms of performing arts not only in south India but in the entire country. You will find to your amazement that Bharatanatyam is not just a simple dance that is performed just for the sake of entertainment but it is an amalgamation of many different essences. Few of them are Bhava(expression), Tala (rhythm), and Natyam (dance). Take a close look at the flow of the body and discover new definitions for expressions and rhythm. Though the exact time of origin of Bharatanatyam is not known, but reference even in the Natya Shastra written by the great sage Bharata, confirms it as one of the oldest forms of dance. Along the path of its development it has gone through quite a few changes. Earlier, Bharatanatyam was considered the practice of only devdasis in the temples of south India and was not considered a reputed profession. But then it was taken up by Rukmini devi who learned Bharatanatyam from these devdasis, practiced it and perfected this art. She then started performing this divine art form in public and slowly and gradually, Bharatnatyam started gaining recognition and number of people who wished to get trained in this increased drastically. Bharatanatyam was no longer considered the profession of devdasis. It had now become one of the most sought after dance form in the world. Learn the art in one of the many institutes that specialize in the area of Performing arts like the Kalakshetra, which is the most famous of all institutes.


Locally called Bommalattam, this is a dance form that most of you must have seen and enjoyed from your childhood days. Almost all villages have their own puppet show during fest and festivals but one thing is for sure that you would not have seen a puppet show this colorful and with such variation any where else in the world. You will find the most amazing puppets made up of cloth, wood, and leather that are used here. As is every where else, these puppets are controlled by threads from the backstage and all you see is puppets performing in the front. Stories from Indian mythology and epics are enacted in the shows which are full of ideals and morals that prove to be very useful for little kids and sometimes, probably more relevant for the grown ups. Don't miss the puppet show or Bommalattam as these shows are so marvelously performed that they will virtually leave you hypnotized.

Bommalattam (Puppet Show)

Karangattam is a folk dance, which is accompanied by music. The dance is performed while balancing a pot of water on the head. It is said that the dance is performed as an offering to rain goddess Mari Amman and to river goddess, Gangai Amman as their praise. You will be amazed to see the huge amount of poise, balance and control that is required to execute the difficult steps of this dance, that too while balancing a pot of water on their head and for all the spectators, this turns out to be a breathtaking display of skills. The dancers exemplify the inherent resilience of our dance traditions to cope with new ideas and changing contexts. The dance is classic and contemporary at the same time. You can enjoy a performance of this dance at any theater that is staging a show.


This is a joyous form of dance as a symbol of prosperity during the harvest festival 'Pongal', which is performed by girls only. In this dance the performers are dressed like a Peacock from head to toe complete with a beak. When in Tamil Nadu, do try to catch a performance of this wonderfully enchanting dance form. Check out the timings for the show from a local tourist center.


More than performing art, this is a religious dance done in devotion to Lord Subramanya. The origin of this dance form is said to have been by devotees on pilgrimage. To remove the boredom during the long journey, pilgrims started to sing and dance and this dance form came to be known as Kavadi Attam. This dance is done by carrying a long stick on which pots filled milk or coconut water is balance d on both the sides of the stick and this stick is carried by men on their shoulders. This dance is only performed by men. You are not likely to witness this dance in any theaters but if you are touring Tamil Nadu during, you might just spot a group of pilgrim moving towards Palani hills, absolutely immersed in their devotion to the Lord Subramanya and performing this traditional dance in complete merriment.

Mayil Attam

The main singer here is accompanied by a chorus, musical instruments and a main instrument, the Villu or Bow, fixed with bells . The villu is struck rhythmically when the bells jingle in tune. The main singer relates a tale, interspersed with lively songs.

Villu Pattu

Oyil means beauty. This dance is hence the dance of beauty. Traditionally, it is danced only by men. Ten years ago women also began to participate. This dance is prevalent in the south districts and Kongu Nadu in particular. First a few people will stand in a row and start dancing with rhythmic steps with musical accompaniment. Intricate steps are used in martial arts, such as Silambattam. Then gradually the row will become longer as the new comers and guests all join and dance along as they like. The dancers wear ankle-bells. Normally, the dance is performed with the accomplishment of musical instruments and songs. It is performed near the temples or public places in the morning and evening hours, at times even till midnight. Styles of Oyilattam differ from place to place.


Kummi is one of the most important and ancient forms of village dances of Tamilnadu. It originated when there were no musical instruments, with the participants clapping their hands to keep time. This is performed by women; many varieties of Kummi, such as, Poonthatti Kummi, Deepa Kummi, Kulavai Kummi, Kadir Kummi, Mulaipari Kummi etc are known. The women stand in a circle and dance clapping their hands rhythamically.  This dance is usually performed during temple festivals, Pongal, the harvest festival, family functions like the one to celebrate the coming of age (onset of puberty) of the girl-child etc. The first line of the song is sung by the leading lady, which the others repeat.


his dance is performed in temples during Navaratri festival. The dancers wear ankle-bells and hold anklets or silambu in their hands, which make noise when shaken. They perform various stepping styles jumps. The dance is in praise of all female deities, the most preferred being the powerful angry goddess - Kali or Durga

Kai Silambu Attam

Kolaattam is an ancient village art. This is mentioned in Kanchipuram as 'Cheivaikiyar Kolattam', which proves its antiquity. This is performed by women only, with two sticks held in each hand, beaten to make a rhythmic noise. Pinnal Kolaattam is danced with ropes which the women hold in their hands, the other of which are tied to a tall pole. With planned steps, the women skip over each other, which forms intricate lace-like patterns in the ropes. As coloured ropes are used, this lace looks extremely attractive. Again, they unravel this lace reversing the dance steps. This is performed for ten days, starting with the Amavasi or Newmoon night after Deepavali.


The whirring sound of 'urumi' providing the melody and the beat of the Thappu providing the rhythm, accompany the dance sequence in this kind of temple art form. This is performed especially in Amman temples during the month of Adi. Nowadays, this art form is found only in selected villages in a few districts.

Urummi Attam
Puli Attam is performed by young men with painted bodies in colours yellow and black, complete with fangs, head gear with ears, paws with claws and long tail, simulating the prancing, ouncing tiger in every ferocious move. Wildly beating drums add frenzy to the performance.Sometimes, a goat is tied and brought along with the dancers, who pretend to pounce on it and kill it. This dance is regularly performed during temple festivals, drawing large crowds.

Puli Attam

Kali means joy or fun and games. This is also known as Koladi, Kolkali, Kambadi Kali and Kolaattam. Sticks one foot length are held in each hand and beaten to make a sharp, rasping sound as the dance proceeds with unique steps, twisting and turning. It is danced by both men and women, during festivals, auspicious days and weddings. The special qualities fo the dance are quickness, alertness, while being careful no to hurt the other dancers by the swinging 'kol'. Earlier, the 'kols' were brightly painted and decorated with brass rings, bells etc. The dancers used to wear ankle-bells. However, no special dress or make up was used for this dance.

Kali Attam

This form of art is devoted to 'Thirumal' (Maha Vishnu) and is performed by village folk belonging especially to Nataka community. In this dance the performers forming a group, with one of them acting the buffoon, dance to the music of percussion instrument like 'urumi'. The classical songs and the measured steps with graceful movements are the special features of Sevai Attam. In Sangam works this had been known as 'Pinther Kuruvai'. In those days this was performed at the rear of a chariot procession either of a king or a deity.

Sevai Attam

Yet another typical speciality of the southern region is the snake-dance which arises from the popularity of the snake as a protective divinity, safeguarding the health and happiness of the rural folk.
Usually danced by young girls dressed in a tight-fighting costume designed like the snake-skin. The dancer simulates the movements of the snake, writhing and creeping, at times making quick biting movements with head and hands. The raised hands held together look like the hood of a snake.

Snake Dance

This is the Dummy Horse Dance where the dancer bears the dummi figure of a horse's body on his/her hips. This is made of light-weighted materials and the cloth at the sides swings to and fro covering the legs of the dancer. The dancer dons wooden legs which sound like the hooves of the horse. The dancer brandishes either a sword or a whip. This folk dance needs much training and skill. This dance is accompanied by Naiyandi melam or Band music. This is connected to the worship of Ayyanar, prevails manily around Thanjavur.

Poikkal Kudirai Aattam

Teak woodenpieces size of 7 X 3/4 inch are held between the fingers which make the noise. Eight to ten dancers stand in a circle or parallel lines. The accompanying songs are generally about gods and goddesses.

Chakkai Attam

Kazhai Kothu is a performance of gymnastic specialised by Aryans. This is very similar to modern day circus. They travel in a group from place to place, entertaining the local people and thus earning a living.

Kazhai Kothu

Thappu is the name of a rhythamic beat instrument and Thappattam is practiced among the suppressed classes of the people of the Tamil Nadu. The subtle form of dance accompanied by captivating music, is an ancient rural folk art which is even now popular in urban slum areas in villages.


This dance is performed inside a temple, around a lamp. The purpose is to worship Lord Krishna, and celebrate his frolics with the gopikas. This is performed during Ramanavami and Gokulashtami.

Bagavatha Nadanam

Devarattam is a pure folk dance still preserved by the descendents of Veerapandiya Kattabomman dynasty at Kodangipatti of Madurai District. It was actually performed once a year near the temple and that too restricted to that community alone. Folklore research scholars have found that Devarattam is a combination of ancient 'muntherkuruvai' and 'pintherkuruvai' of the ancient Tamil Kings. It was performed in front of and at the chariot on the victorious return of the King and his army from battle field. Sometimes even the king and his marshalls would dance on the chariot deck. The soldiers and female dancers would form in lines and dance behind the chariot.
Today, this dance does not have any songs but only danced to the beat of Urumi Melam, Thappu Melam and sometimes, a long flute. The dancers hold a kerchief in each hand and swing them as they dance. The person leading the dance wears false beard and a mask decorated with shells to look like teeth. He dances the first step, which others follow.


Dances of Tamil Nadu
Dances of Tamil Nadu
Dances of Tamil Nadu
Puli  Attam