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Uttar Pradesh Music and Dance

Uttar Pradesh music and dance tradition is one of the richest musical traditions in India. Uttar Pradesh is truly the veritable cultural capital of Northern India. Its old cities and the quaint villages are treasure houses for music and dance of unsurpassed charm. Both the classical and folk forms of Indian music and dance, feature prominently in Uttar Pradesh music and dance traditions.
Indian classical music and dance have made Uttar Pradesh their veritable base over the years. Varanasi, Lucknow, Agra and Rampur have been seats of great tradition in the world of India's classical music, which is the heart of Uttar Pradesh music and dance. Both vocal and instrumental music feature prominently in the music and dance of Uttar Pradesh.

Folk traditions form an important part of Uttar Pradesh music and dance. The folk forms of Uttar Pradesh are extremely refined musical expressions and are often semi-classical in nature which demand a great degree of skill for proper elucidation. Eastern Uttar Pradesh's music includes thumris, kajris and birhas - all signifying various moods and seasons.

If Awadh is proud of its heritage of Ghazals, then Qauwwalis grace the musical tradition of Ajmer. From Rasiya to Marsiya, from Horis to Chaitis, the folk music of Uttar Pradesh are some of the greatest treasures in the world of music.

There are many folk and classical dance traditions that are widely practiced and perfected in Uttar Pradesh. If Kathak is the most notable classical dance of Uttar Pradesh, then Charkula of Braj has to be the most attractive folk dance of Uttar Pradesh.

Famous Dance Forms of Uttar Pradesh


Charkula is a popular folk dance of Uttar Pradesh. This Uttar Pradesh dance form has its origin in the Braj region of the state and therefore is predictably connected to the myths surrounding the life and times of Krishna. The dance is performed by women who carry lamps on their heads. The lamps are pyramidally arranged on structures specifically made for the purpose. This structure of multiple lamps, the number of which can go from 51 to a staggering 108, is called the Charkula, which is from where the dance derives its name.
The origin of Charkula of Uttar Pradesh is shrouded in legends and folklore. But there is a common element in all of them. They are all connected to one or another significant episode of the life of Krishna. Some say that after the birth of Krishna, his mother went out with a lamp to spread the news, which is where the dance have its origins. Other theories state that this is an imitation of Krishna hoisting the mountain on his little finger as enacted by his gopinis, some say it is a celebration of Krishna's victory of Indra, the king of the gods, which are variations on the same myth.

Although the reason behind the origin of Charkula is uncertain, there is not a shadow of uncertainty about its endearing appeal.

Performed by women wearing colorful skirts which reach down to their ankles and equally ornate blouses, carrying lamps on their heads and indulging in short charming movements, is one of the most charming scenes in the Uttar Pradesh dance forms. Typically this dance of Uttar Pradesh is performed to the tune of the 'rasiya' a folk song celebrating love. The performance ends in a musical crescendo where the singers and musicians join in and creates the most exhilarating experience for the audience.


Kathak is one of the six major classical dance forms of India and a prominent part of Uttar Pradesh music and dance traditions. It is often hailed as one of the most enchanting theatrical forms of the world. It derives its tradition and name from the story tellers or 'kathaks' of the older days. However, the rise of the Bhakti cult and the influence of the Persian artists in the courts of the Mughul kings started to give the art form its distinctive form as we find it now. In fact, every historical epoch in India, particularly Northern India has left its mark in the development of this kathak.
A kathak performance is traditionally divided into two distinct formal parts. The technical part is full of intricate rhythmic structures woven around a preordained rhythmic pattern. They include swift and masterly footwork called tatkar and exquisite circular movements or chakkars. Rhythmic units are woven around sort of long patterns called tukras and toras respectively.

The other part of kathak employs bhav or abhinaya which elucidates the emotive content of the subject matter. The content for kathak is often drawn from mythology, from the tales of the eternal love between Krishna and Radha. Because of its comprehensive nature and its wonderful visual attraction, kathak is an extremely popular dance form.

According to some, a kathak performance typifies the movement of time from creation through preservation to destruction.

Lucknow and Varanasi are the two major centers which contributed largely to the development of kathak in Uttar Pradesh. Each of these styles is distinct, yet charming and equally rich. Together with Jaipur in Rajasthan, they complete the entire background of the development of kathak. Shambhu Maharaj, Achhan Maharaj and Pandit Ram Narayan Misra are some of the many maestros to grace this art form.

Last Updated on 02/15/2013