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List of 5 traditional Tamil folk dance forms

Tamilnadu-folk-dance-header - Mythical India

Tamil Nadu, aptly described as the Land of Temples has a plethora of folk dance that catches the attention of its audience. A traditional Tamil folk dance starts from a mere puppet show aimed to entertain the audience to the poikaal kudirai aatam or the dummy horse play. Here is a list of the most prominent Tamil folk dance that are widely known-

Karakattam- Most prominent of Tamil folk dance

This Tamil folk dance traces its provenance from Tanjore and is still widely practiced by the village folk. This dance symbolically glorifies the river goddess and the rain goddess. The dancers finely balance an extensively decorate pot on their heads. Their intricate movement along with the impeccable balance never fails to jaw-drop the audience.

This dance has two different forms- one that symbolises happiness and joy, locally called the Aatta Karagam and the other performed for entertainment during ceremonies in temples vernacularly called the Sakthi Karagam.

The “pot” encloses uncooked rice or sprouts adding weight and elegance to the dancer’s sheen.

Karakattam,Tamil folk dance where the pot on dancers head has uncooked rice and sprouts, TamilNadu - Mythical India
Karakattam,Tamil folk dance where the pot on dancers head has uncooked rice and sprouts


Bhagavatha Nandanam

This dance drama portrays the life and glory of Lord Vishnu in his different incarnations or avatar as indicated by the Bhagavatha Purana. Popularly this is performed during Gokulastami or Ramnavami ie; the birth of Lord Vishnu as Sri Krishna and Sri Rama. It is also performed as a part of the annual fest during the months of May to June during Narasimha Jayanthi.

There are many stories as to why this dance drama is performed. One is to celebrate the birth of the two most important incarnations of the protector- Lord Vishnu as Krishna and Rama. Other is to signify Prahlad’s faith on the supreme protector and the latter’s victory over the evil king Hiranyakasibu.

Tamil folk dance portraying life and glory of Lord Vishnu - Mythical India
Tamil folk dance portraying life and glory of Lord Vishnu


Mayil Attam, Tamilnadu

Mayil means peacock in Tamil. This dance form engages the dancers , preferably rural women to dress in the vivacious colours of the peacock complete with its feathers, a glittering head-dress with a beak. The beak can be pulled open and close by a thread by the dancer.

Also a wooden tail is attached to the dancer to give a realistic resemblance to the peacock. This form of dance requires extensive practice and pure zeal. The tail, beak and the feathers are movable and its movements form an important part of the dance.

This dance is performed to praise Lord Subramaniya whose vahana is the peacock. This dance form is basically executed in temples of Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

Mayilattam folk dance is performed to praise lord Subramaniya - Mythical India
Mayilattam folk dance is performed to praise lord Subramaniya


Oyilattam, Tamilnadu

This dance is performed by men to narrate the mythological stories of Murugan and Valli or Lord Subramaniya and his wife Valli during temple festivals. There is no musical instrument involved other than a set of bells worn around the anklets. Nowadays this dance form has seen women enter into the forage.

Oyil means beauty. This dance form varies from place to place. In one type of this form, dancers with anklets dance rhythmically to the music. Soon many other dancers join the earlier set of dancers and sway according to the rhythm and complete the dance.

This dance form is performed either in temples or in public places and is generally performed the entire day often into the night. Men and women wear bright colored dhotis and saris respectively and carry a flag on their arms. This dance is also performed during the harvest season, new year’s and other important festivals.

Oyilattam, This tamil folk dance is performed during harvest season - Mythical India
This tamil folk dance is performed during harvest season


Kavadi Attam, Tamilnadu

This Tamil folk dance form is celebrated during the full moon day of the month Pusam. Mythology states that on this day Goddess Parvati gave a spear or vel to her son Lord Karthik to vanquish the devil Surapadman.

A kavadi is a weight carried on the shoulders and made of crossbars of bamboo or a cane with weights. This kavadi represents the burden of life that is assuaged by seeking the Lord’s help. In ancient days, the kavadi  was carried as a part of the offering to the Lord.Only men are allowed to carry the kavadi and devotional songs of Lord Karthik are played to mitigate the boredom of long travel.

Kavadiattam folk dance tamilnadu - Mythical India


In a nutshell, the culture and devotion of this state is vividly seen in its array of dance forms.

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