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A deeper look into the various Folk Dance forms of Karnataka

The culturally diverse state of Karnataka is known for the various forms of folk dance forms that are practiced by its people. This article provides an insight into some of the most famous folk dance forms of Karnataka

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In this folk dance form, the dresses that the dancers adorn are made of bamboo sticks. The word garudi gombe stands for magical puppet in Kannada. Along with featuring puppets, the dance also includes the use of masks and colourful costumes that sometimes change according to regions.  The dance is often performed during auspicious occasions and popular festivals. It is also performed during the procession of Mysore Dasara. It is also called Tattiraya which literally means a person carrying puppets or dolls that  are wearing clothes made out of bamboo.


As the name suggests, Nagamandala, is a night-long event in which people show their devotion to and worship serpents. This event is popular in southern Karnataka. People show great devotion to serpents which are mythologically related to Lord Shiva, a Hindu God, and they are considered to be a symbol of fertility along with being the embodiment of life force. The dance is performed by male dancers called Vaidyas who are in fact trying to dress up like female serpents in order to appease the serpent. The occasion also involves the chanting of mantras in sanskrit along with a touch of dance and music. 

Goravara Kunita

Named after the singing tribe of Goravas who are strong worshippers of Lord Shiva, Goravara Kunita is a performance put up by groups of men consisting of 10 to 11 members. This is practiced throughout Karnataka but is extremely popular in the North Karnataka and Mysore regions. However there are slight variations in the artform as one progresses from region to region as each region adds its own flair to the folk dance. It is performed everywhere from local fairs to private homes upon receiving an invitation. The costume consists of a yellow or white panche/kache coupled with a full-sleeved white juba. A white saree is often used to cover the head.


The perfect blend of dance, music,dialogues and colours is what this folk dance form means in Coastal regions of Karnataka. This dance form has its roots set from Sanskrit dramatic forms. Stories from the Ramayana and Mahabharatha are borrowed for the performances. It is said that the character of Vidhushak is inspired from Sanskrit. In the 16th century,  the first Yakshagana performance was called Ganga Gauri Vilasa and by Peda Kempa Gauda and in the Telugu language. It was in the 17th Century that the art form made its prominence into the states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.With time, despite political and social turmoil, Yakshagana evolved as a major art form associated with South Kanada in the 18th century. 

What makes Yakshagana unique is that it includes recitation of poetry, music, eye catching, colourful costumes and make- up. The word ‘Yakshagana’ translates to celestial music and that is exactly the feel that the audience gets when they watch this art form with all its elements which extends from dusk to dawn.

Dollu kunitha

The beats of the flower decorated- drum combined with the voice of the singers makes this is a form of ritualistic dance prominent among the men of the shepherd community called kurubas of  ‘Beereshvara Sampradaya’. The fast pace of the drum beats and the synchronisation of the dancers to the beats and skill to pull off difficult human formations makes it very entertaining to watch. 

It is believed that the dance form tries to portray the life of the mythological characters of Lord Shiva and Parvathy. The word Dollu comes from the usage of the instrument made of skin of sheep or goats tightly fitted to the frame of a mango tree to constitute a drum. 

Krishna Parijatha

When the art forms of Yakshagana and Bayalata gracefully combine, it forms this folk dance called Krishna Parijatha which is predominant in Northern part of Karnataka. It is also referred to as regional Yakshagana. Because it is performed under open skies, it is considered similar to Bayalata and because there is the character similar to that of Bhagavata in Yakshagana, the commonality is devised. As the name suggests, the folk dance draws its scripts and plots from the Hindu mythologies. Elaborate music, dance and music is prevalent in each performance. This folk dance is also performed during night time. 

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