Dance forms of Tamilnadu

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Tamilnadu is famous for its different dance forms.Tamil Nadu has a rich history of art of entertainment.


The three modes of entertainment classified as Iyal (Literature), Isai (Music) and Nadagam (Drama) had their roots in the rural folk theatre like Theru Koothu (Street play). Many forms of group and individual dances with the classical forms for popularity and sheer entertainment value. Some of the dance forms are performed by Tribal people. Majority of these dances are still thriving in Tamil Nadu today.

Varieties of Dances

The dance forms of tamilnadu are as follows:

  • Bommalattam
  • Devaraattam
  • Kai Silambu Attam
  • Karagattam
  • Kavadi Aattam
  • Kazhai Kothu
  • Kolattam
  • Kol Kal attam
  • Kummi
  • Mayil Attam or Peacock dance
  • Ottan Koothu
  • Oyilattam
  • Oyil Kummi
  • Paampu Atam or Snake Dance
  • Poikkal Kuthirai Aattam or Artificial Horse Dance
  • Puli Aattam or Puliyattam (Tiger Dance)
  • Thappaattam
  • Theru Koothu
  • Urummi Attam
  • Villu Pattu


Kol Kal attam

A dance performed with false legs i.e. by tying wooden sticks to the legs. Wooden sticks are covered up to look, performer will be more height, for viewers.


Bommalattam are held in every village during festivals and fairs. Many different kinds of puppets are used for this show – cloth, wood, leather, etc. They are manipulated through strings or wires. The puppeteers stand behind a screen and the puppets are held in front. The stories enacted in the puppet shows are from Puranas, epics and folklore. These shows are very entertaining and hold both adults and children enthralled for many hours.



Devarattam is a pure folk dance still preserved by the descendents of Veerapandiya Kattabomman dynasty at Kodangipatti of Madurai District. It was actually performed once a year near the temple and that too restricted to Rajakambalam Nayakar community alone. The soldiers and female dancers would form in lines and dance behind the chariot.


The dancers hold a kerchief in each hand and swing them as they dance. The person leading the dance wears false beard and a mask decorated with shells to look like teeth. He dances the first step, which others follow.


Karagam is a folk dance with musical accompaniment, performed balancing a pot on the head. Traditionally, this dance was performed by the women and men villagers in praise of the rain goddess Mari Amman and river goddess, Gangai Amman, performed with literature with water pots balanced on their heads.


Kavadi Aattam

The ancient Tamils when they went on pilgrimage, carried the offerings to the gods tied on the either end of the long stick, which was balanced on the shoulders. Kavadi Aattam has its origin in this practice. Special songs were created to be sung while carrying the Kavadi Sindhu. This dance is performed only by men and in some functions women will also dance. It is done by balancing a pole with pots fixed on either end, filled with milk or cocunut water.


The poles are made from Purasai or Teak wood. On top, bamboo strips are bent like a half-moon, covered with saffron cloth and further decorated on the sides with peacock feathers. This is mainly a religious dance, performed in worship of Lord Murugan, the second son of Siva. The dance is accompanied by Pambai and Naiyandi Melam.

Mayil Attam or Peacock dance

Mayil Attam is done by girls dressed as peacocks, with peacock feathers and a glittering head-dress complete with a beak. This beak can be opened and closed with the help of a thread tied to it, and manipulated from within dress.



Kolattam is an ancient village art. It could also be called the stick dance. This dance is performed by women only, with two sticks held in each hand, beaten to make a rhythmic sound. Pinnal Kolattam is danced with ropes which the women hold in their hands, the other of which are tied to a tall pole. With planned steps, the women skip over each other, which forms intricate lace-like patterns in the ropes. As coloured ropes are used, this lace looks extremely attractive. 

Kolattam is also performed during the kolu functions at home during September month.The kolattam stick are colourfully painted and very nice to see it.


Kazhai Kothu

Kazhai Kothu is a performance of gymnastic specialised by travellers. This is very similar to modern day circus. They travel in a group from place to place, entertaining the local people and thus earning a living.


Kummi is one of the most important and ancient forms of village dances of Tamilnadu. It originated when there were no musical instruments, with the participants clapping their hands to keep time. This is performed by women; many varieties of Kummi, such as, Poonthatti Kummi, Deepa Kummi, Kulavai Kummi, Kadir Kummi, Mulaipari Kummi etc are known. The women stand in a circle and dance clapping their hands rhythamically tolifting songs.


This dance is usually performed during temple festivals, Pongal, the harvest festival, family functions like the one to celebrate the coming of age (onset of puberty) of the girl-child etc. The first line of the song is sung by the leading lady, which the others repeat.

Paampu attam or Snake Dance

Paampu attam is usually danced by young girls dressed in a tight-fitting costume designed like the snake-skin. The dancer simulates the movements of the snake, writhing and creeping, at times making quick biting difficult movements with head and hands. The raised hands held together look like the hood of a snake.



Oyil means beauty. This dance is hence the dance of beauty. Traditionally, it is danced only by men. Ten years ago women also began to participate. This dance is famous in the south districts and Kongu Nadu in particular. First a few people will stand in a row and start dancing with rhythmic steps with musical accompaniment. It is performed near the temples or public places in the morning and evening hours, at times even till midnight. Styles of Oyilattam differ from place to place.

Kai Silambu Attam

This dance is performed in temples during Amman festivals or Navaratri festival.

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The dancers wear ankle-bells and hold anklets or silambu in their hands, which make noise when shaken. They perform various stepping styles jumps. The dance is in praise of all female deities, the most preferred being the powerful angry goddess – Kali or Durga.

Poikkal Kuthirai Aattam

This is the Poikkal Kuthirai Attam (Dummy Horse Dance) where the dancer bears the dummi figure of a horse’s body on his/her hips. This is made of light-weighted materials and the cloth at the sides swings to and fro covering the legs of the dancer. The dancer dons wooden legs which sound like the hooves of the horse. This folk dance needs much training and skill.  This folk dance is performed to the worship of Amman Temple Festivals, Ayyanar, Abinesh prevails Thanjavur.


Urummi Attam

The whirring sound of ‘urumi’ providing the melody and the beat of the Thappu providing the rhythm, accompany the dance sequence in this kind of temple art form. This is performed especially in Amman temples during the month of Adi.


Thappu is the name of a rhythmic beat instrument and Thappattam is practiced among the suppressed Dalits classes of the people of the Tamil Nadu. The subtle form of dance accompanied by captivating music, is an ancient rural folk art which is even now popular in urban slum areas in villages.


Villu Pattu

The main singer here is accompanied by a chorus, musical instruments and a main instrument, the Villu or Bow, fixed with bells . The villu is struck rhythmically when the bells jingle in tune. The main singer relates a tale, interspersed with lively songs.

Bharata Natyam


Bharata Natyam (also Bharathanatiyam)  is a form of Indian classical dance that originated in the temples of Tamil Nadu. This dance is performed mostly by girls and sometimes boys also.They give more importance to dressing and ornaments.

Hence,these are the different dance forms of Tamilnadu.

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