India is known for its rich culture and heritage, and our varied dance forms from each state is a true expression of our diverse traditions. When it comes to Indian classical dance, our country has a large variety to offer. While some of these dances have a religious connotation, some others are performed during festive occasions, to entertain audiences and spread joy and cheer. Over the centuries, these classical dances have gained popularity, and hence dance festivals came into being. Dance festivals in India are held at different times in the year at temples, historical ruins and heritage sites and combine history and art on a grand scale. If you plan on touring India or just need a break, then here is a list of the most popular dance festivals in the country.
Modhera Dance Festival, Gujarat
Starting off every New Year is Gujarat’s Modhera Festival – a cultural phenomenon that takes place at the Sun Temple. It exudes the historical excellence of the once famed Solanki Dynasty. Though the temple now lies in ruins, it comes alive with light and colours for the Modhera Festival. Apart from tourists, this three-day festival is attended by students, dance gurus, connoisseurs and artists.
Location: Modhera, Mehsana district, January
Dates: 19 to 21 January 2018
Konark Dance Festival, Odisha
This festival is one of India’s finest and most spectacular and is set against the backdrop of the marvellous Konark Sun Temple. The dance form primarily performed here is Odissi, which is considered to be Odisha’s state dance. It has an age-old cultural identity in the state and is the highlight of this festival. Other forms include performances of Chau, Manipuri, Kathak and many more, making the whole festival a feast for your eyes and ears.
Location: Chandrabhaga beach of Konark, Odisha
Dates: 19 to 23 February 2018
Khajuraho Dance Festival, Madhya Pradesh
One of the first and most prominent dance festivals to be promoted by the Indian Tourism Board, the Khajuraho Dance Festival combines the best of art and culture from central India. This year it celebrates its 44th edition at the Khajuraho Temple – a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Madhya Pradesh, Chhatarpur district.
Location: Bundelkhand, Madhya Pradesh
Dates: 20 to 26 February 2018
Elephanta Dance Festival
The Elephanta Festival is one of the popular Indian dance festivals and is known as the cultural pride of Maharashtra. The festival is held in cave shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva on Elephants Island. Since its inception in 1989, the festival has earned quite a reputation among tourist and locals alike for its celebration of folk dances from every Indian state.
Location: Elephanta Island, Maharashtra
Dates: 27 to 28 February
Soorya Dance Festival, Kerala
The Soorya Music and Dance Festival of Kerala are held in the state’s capital of Thiruvananthapuram for ten days every year. It is a culmination of photography, dance, music, painting and seminars – all dedicated to the various art forms in Kerala. Eminent artists and celebrities who are stalwarts in Kathak, Odissi, Manipuri, Kathakali, Kuchipudi and Bharatnatyam perform here.
Location: Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala
Dates: 1 to 10 October 2018
Bamnia Chhau Dance Festival, West Bengal
The Chhau folk dance of West Bengal is a one-of-a-kind dance-drama style executed through energetic dance steps and martial arts like movements. It is also famous for its use of hand-painted masks unique to each performer. The performances are called “palas” and are based on tales from Hindu mythology.
Location: Bamnia, Purulia district, West Bengal
Dates: 22 to 28 December 2018
Mamallapuram Dance Festival, Tamil Nadu
Mahabalipuram or “Mamallapuram” as it is referred to by the locals, is small temple town in Tamil Nadu’s Kanchipuram district. Once a stronghold for several notable Tamil dynasties, Mahabalipuram is a now a quaint temple town filled with architectural and historical ruins. It is also one among Tamil Nadu’s UNESCO World Heritage sites for its stone temples and monolithic rock sculptures. The most famous among these is Arjuna’s Penance, which serves as the venue for the Mamallapuram Dance Festival. The gentle sea breeze and the fantastic sculptures form a fitting backdrop for the various dance forms including Bharatnatyam, Kuchipudi and Kathak.
Location: Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu
Dates: 25 December to 25 January
If you’re in Chennai for a quick getaway to appreciate fine art, then head over to Grande Bay for the holiday of a lifetime. You can also check out our blog on the best biking routes in Tamil Nadu for your next road trip.