Music & Dance in Tamil Nadu

The Tamil Nadu Music & Dance has a distinguished charm that reflects the pristine essence of the ancient art and culture of the region. Originated from the most exquisite forms of artistic skill, the innovative Dance performances and the melodious Music varieties speaks of the rich cultural past of the place.

Defined with different mudras and movements the Dances of Tamil Nadu involves a captivating variety of forms that ranges from world famous Bharat Natyam to the country-side Kummi folkdance. Each variety of Dance demands a unique prop that helps in encouraging the visual effect of the art. From dummy horses and decorated pots to puppets and bamboo strips, the Dancers of Tamil Nadu can deftly handle the various props while performing a particular Dance form.

List of dance forms in Tamil Nadu :

Kavadi Aatam

Kavadi Aatam is a well-known form of Music in Tamil Nadu that entails singing and Dancing by the devotees while carrying Kaavadi that is made up of bamboo strips, Therukoothu is a popular Dance drama that is usually performed in the streets of Tamil Nadu with recitation of songs, dialogues and story telling sessions.

Bharat Natyam

Originated from the pure dances of devotion that dates back to the tenth century, Bharat Natyam is one of the highly appreciated dance forms of Tamil Nadu. A rhythmic collage of Bhava, Raga and Tala, Bharat Natyam boasts of a gracious past that is scripted in the revered natya shastra. Once a ritualistic custom performed by the devdasis of the South Indian temples, today Bharat Natyam has a glorious range of dancers of global repute.


It is a form of classical dance, which originated in India. This form of dance is the spe-cialty of the southern India, mainly of the present states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. The dance form of Kuchipudi is named after the village Kuchelapuram, the place where a number of researchers have worked on it and have nurtured and developed the dance form. The present form of Kuchipudi is a refined style that has been introduced by these scholars.

Kola Attam

It is a charming folk dance that is performed exclusively by the women. The dancers are equipped with two sticks in each hand with which they make rhythmic sounds while dancing. Pin-nal Kolaattam is a kind of Kola Attam in which the girls dance with ropes in their hands. The ends of the ropes are tied to a tall pole. With typical and planned steps the dancers hop over each other. This helps in forming some complex designs in the ropes. These ropes are usually colored thus making the patterns striking and attractive.

Snake Dance

Snake Dance of Tamil Nadu is unique in itself. The twists and curves of a snake moving have captured the artistic mind from a long time. This apart, snake is also considered in Tamil Nadu as being defending the health and happiness of the people. Snake Dance is mostly performed by young girls who dance in frenzy to the rhythm. They are dressed in tight fitting clothes designed to look like snake-skin.


It is a form of Indian folk dance in which the dancer has to balance a pot of water on the head. This is also known as Karagam and it is a traditional dance form. Villagers used to per-form this dance in order to please the Goddess of Rain and the Goddess of River, known as Mari Amman and Gangai Amman respectively. It is the Sangam literature that knows Karagam by the name of Kudakoothu. Thanjavur is considered to be the birth place of Karagam or Kuda-koothu .


In the villages of Tamil Nadu, Kummi is one of the most ancient dance forms. Kummi is an im-portant form of dancing and singing custom, which is performed by Kaikottikkali or Thiru-vathirakali artistes. It goes back to the time when no musical instruments originated. Clapping of hands is an integral part of Kummi dancing. Kummi is performed by women, who form a circle and dance, with their hands clapping rhythmically.

Mayil Attam

It is a traditional dance form in the southern India. It is performed only by female dancers. This artistic form of dance has a religious angle to it as it is performed in the Hindu tem-ples in Kerala in veneration to Lord Subrahmanya.
While performance of Mayil Attam, the performers are dressed up as Lord Subrahmanya traveling on a Peacock. The dress is decorated with glorious peacock feathers. With a shimmering head-dress, which includes a peacock beak, the dress is complete. This beak can be opened and closed with the help of a thread tied to it, and manipulated from within dress.

Kazha Kothu

It is a popular folk dance form of the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. This is very similar to what we call gymnastics today. To be more precise it is near about modern-day circus. The performers travel together in a group from place to place, amusing the local people as and when required. People who flock together for a show get treated to an interesting selection of acts and paying a meager amount in return. This ultimately helps the Kazhai Kothu dance troupes earn a living.

Theru Koothu

It is a widely popular folk dance of Tamil Nadu, being more common in the northern part of the state. It is usually conducted during the Tamil months of Panguni, i.e. mid-March to mid-April, and Aadi, i.e. mid-July to mid-August. Theru Koothu commonly occurs during the village festivities and become the centre of all fun, frolic and attention of the folk people. Performed in important junctions of the villages, where three or four streets meet, Theru Koothu takes place in open air, under the gas lights. A wooden bench is mounted up to seat the singers and the musical troupe. In Theru Koothu make-up and costumes are considered to be of prime importance.


Devaraattam is a social and ritual folk dance of Silavaar section of Kambala Nayakar community and is still preserved by the descendents of Veerapandiya Kattabomman dynasty at Kodangipatti of Madurai District in its purest form. They believed that they are the direct descendants of the 'devas' or gods and hence, the name Devaraattam. It was actually performed annually in the temple courtyards uniquely for their own community. Research has, however, concluded that, Devaraattam is a combination of ancient 'Muntherkuruvai' and 'Pintherkuruvai' of the ancient Tamil Kings. It used to be performed on the joyous occasion of a King's return on victory in front of and on his chariot.


Silambattam is a kind of traditional performing art in the ancient Tamil Nadu. It is a form of the very popular martial art that the South India can boast of. The origin of Silambattam goes back to the days of the Tamil Kings.
This form of fighting among the Kings has been transformed into a kind of performing art over the years. The dance form of Silambattam is thus a dynamic style of dance, which is presented with much vigor. Swords are used even today while dancing. In Kol silambam, a kind of Silambattam, long sticks are also used for fighting. Men generally present the dance form of Silambattam but in modern days, even some women are showing their interests to learn this dance form.

Sevai Attam

The culturally refined and highly advanced state of Tamil Nadu has a prosperous history of arts, crafts and traditional folklore. The local people who are a firm believer of Iyal (Literature), Isai (Music) and Nadagam (Drama) also practice several dance forms of which Sevai Attam deserves special mention.

The aesthetically appealing folk culture of Tamil Nadu paint a pretty picture of the colorful and melodious cohesion that prevails with the state and imbibe an underlying spirit of ethos and spirituality with the people. Mainly performed during the temple festivals and other occasions of celebrations, the people are drunk in happiness, mirth and merriment.

Puli Attam

Tamil Nadu, the forerunner of India's economy and industry also happens to be the country's cultural capital. The culturally refined citizens believe in three forms of entertainment, namely Iyal (Literature), Isai (Music), Nadagam (Drama) and also beautiful dance forms like the renowned Puli Attam.

The cultural paradise of Tamil Nadu is noted for several celebrated folk dances. One of state's eminent cultural extravaganzas includes the Puli Attam, a 200-year old folk dance whose connotation implies "a play of the tigers". A highly exuberant and cultural festival, this dance form usually comprises of a troupe of 6 performers aping the movements of the majestic, predatory tigers. Their bodies are painted by the painstaking efforts of local artists in vibrant yellow and black to resemble an exact replica of a tiger. The paintings include the ferocious looking fangs and convincing headgear replete with ears paws with claws and long tail that conjures an accurate picture of the savage beast's graceful movements.


Oyilattam is a traditional folk dance from the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu and literally translates as dance of beauty. Originally a folk art form from Madurai, this dance is now more popular in the south districts and Kongu Nadu in particular. It is performed near the temples or public places in the morning and evening hours, at times even continuing past midnight.

Traditionally, it was danced only by the men folk. It was considered then as a ritual and so women were not allowed to participate for its public nature. With time Oyilattam began to be recognized as a common dance form involving the aspect of beauty and enjoyment and not just a mere ritual. Thus the women folk also began to participate in this very beautiful dance form around ten years ago.


Karagattam, one of the oldest versions of folk dance in Tamil Nadu, defines the quintessential art of praising the Goddesses with fine balancing of decorated pots. Performed to please the rain and river deities, the dance form is aesthetically tuned by musical instruments and songs. With decorated pots filled with water on their head, the Karagattam dancers move with the rhythm of the music. The uniqueness of this dance form lies in the dexterous handling of pots by the dancers.

Aatta Karagam and Sakthi Karagam are the two distinct parts of Karagattam. While the arena of Aatta Karagam is limited to the premises of sacred temples of Tamil Nadu, Sakthi Karagam is performed on public platforms too. Meant to provide a source of exultation, both forms of Karagattam are immensely popular in all over the region.

Kali Attam

Tamil Nadu, the epicenter of South India's cultural extravaganzas abounds in culturally exciting and exotic folk music, songs and drama. Aficionados of Tamil Nadu's culturaldiversities keep raving about the state's varied dance forms of which Kali Attam deserves special mention.

The cultural diversity of Tamil Nadu is manifested by its plethora of intellectually enriching Iyal (Literature), Isai (Music) and Nadagam (Drama) whose origins can be traced back to the longstanding folklore Therukoothu. The variegated folk dances of Tamil Nadu is also extremely popular and attracts masses of admiring crowds.


Devaraattam is a social and ritual folk dance of Silavaar section of Kambala Nayakar community and is still preserved by the descendents of Veerapandiya Kattabomman dynasty at Kodangipatti of Madurai District in its purest form. They believed that they are the direct descendants of the 'devas' or gods and hence, the name Devaraattam. It was actually performed annually in the temple courtyards uniquely for their own community. Research has, however, concluded that, Devaraattam is a combination of ancient 'Muntherkuruvai' and 'Pintherkuruvai' of the ancient Tamil Kings. It used to be performed on the joyous occasion of a King's return on victory in front of and on his chariot.

Dressed in colorful attire swinging a handkerchief in each hand as they dance, the Devaraattam dance imitates the motions of everyday life of Madurai. Fast and fluent movements to the rhythmic beats of 'Deva Thunthubi' - a drum-shaped percussion instrument, make this dance a true pleasure to behold. The dance is performed solely by men during festivals, marriages and other social occasions. Devaraattam does not have any songs but is only danced to the beat of Urumi Melam, Thappu Melam and sometimes, a long flute. The lead dancer wears a false beard and a mask adorned with shells to look like teeth.

Last Updated on 30/04/2013



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