In a country as old as India, it is not a surprising fact that its various art forms and cultures are as old as the country itself. They are the window to the hearts and souls of the culturally rich country and its heritages. Indian classical dances are a few of the art forms that have weathered the storm of time and survived for centuries. They speak of Indian traditions, history, myths and lore. They evolved alongside the change in time and dynasties and adapted to various cultures. In a sense, the evolution of Indian classical dances is a fascinating journey, one which is full of trials and tribulations and comes out on the other side anew every time. The dancers adapted to the change in regime and adopted new styles but they danced with the same fervor that their ancestors possessed. Today, we aim to explore the evolution of Indian classical dances from the Mughal era to its modern-day presentation.

  • Origins of Classical Dance in India

The roots of the Indian classical dances can be traced back to ancient texts, ritualistic traditions and local folklore. According to historians, these dances originated as simple art forms devoted to gods and as a means to retell epic stories to the public. With the passage of time, they evolved to include various styles of footwork, body gestures and facial expressions. The costumes and apparel worn during the performances also changed to adapt with time. But what remained the same was the essence of the dance.

The earliest references to classical dance in India can be found in ancient texts such as the Natya Shastra, a treatise on performing arts attributed to the sage Bharata Muni. The history of this text can be traced back to the 2nd century and is full of instructions about the dance. It delves into the aspects that make the Indian classical dances so vibrant and lively.

  • Influence of Mughal Courts

Mughal dynasty ruled over the Indian peninsula for 4 centuries. Between the time period of the 16th the 19th centuries, Indian classical dance gained significant recognition and flourished as a form of art. The Mughal emperors were especially fond of such arts and their court was oftentimes center stage for the cultural exchange and innovations. During this time, classical dance forms such as Kathak and Bharatanatyam underwent transformation and assimilated elements of Persian and Central Asian dance styles.

Kathak, which originated in northern India, particularly flourished in the Mughal courts. Influenced by Persian and Central Asian dance forms, Kathak evolved into a sophisticated dance style characterized by intricate footwork, rhythmic patterns, and graceful movements. Under the patronage of Mughal emperors like Akbar and Shah Jahan, Kathak dancers were esteemed performers in royal courts and were often accompanied by live musicians.

  • Decline and Revival

The colonial era was a dark time for Indian classical dances, as it was for any other traditions. Citing various socio-political reasons, British officials in control tried to suppress the traditions and cultures native to the land. They introduced various policies that tried to wipe out cultures and uproot traditions. However, many artists and scholars defied the decrees and kept the tradition and culture alive, leading to its revival in the early 20th century.

Many prominent figures of the classical dance of india forms, such as Rukmini Devi Arundale, Uday Shankar, and Balasaraswati, were at the forefront of the efforts to revive and revitalize the art and spread the culture to the masses. They played s huge role in reviving and popularizing various classical dances and returning the honour to the arts. These masters the reasons that these stunning visual arts are no longer confined to temples and traditions, but performed on prestigious stages around the world.

  • Regional Diversity and Innovation

Indian classical dance is an umbrella term for many dance art forms. They come from various regions of the country, and each of them has its own unique flair and element, that set it apart from the rest of its counterpart. From Odissi in Odisha to Manipuri in Manipur, from Kathakali in Kerala to Kuchipudi in Andhra Pradesh, each classical dance form has its distinct repertoire, music, costumes, and themes that make the classical dance of india so colourful and vibrant.

Despite their regional differences, classical dance forms in India share common elements such as intricate footwork, expressive gestures (mudras), elaborate costumes, and storytelling through dance. Moreover, newer artists and contemporary choreographers have been introducing new elements and aspects to traditional dance forms. This fusion with modern themes and techniques has been successful in giving a fresh feel to the performances and inspiring more people to learn the arts of dance.

  • Contemporary Stages and Global Recognition

Classical dance of india has been on the rise for quite some time now. Various performers of this art have been going out into the world and introducing Indian culture and arts to global audiences. there has also been a spike in dance institutions, festivals and academics to provide aspiring dancers with training to hone their skills, as well as stages to showcase their talent.

As a result, many artists from around the world have shown keen interest in the details and beauty of Indian dance forms. Workshops, tours and cultural exchanges with other cultures have also played a huge role in introducing classical dance of india and other cultural aspects to the world. 


The journey of Indian classical dance forms from Mughal courts to the contemporary stage is long, dramatic and interesting. These art forms are symbols of resilience, flexibility, creativity and endurance. Sometimes it flourished under the patronage of art appreciator, while sometimes It stood defiantly in the face of suppression. It went through numerous socio-cultural upheaval and came out thriving each time. And by now, it is celebrated as the cultural tapestry of India and captivating audiences around the globe.

Modern classical dance of india is the legacy of artists of the past. It is the result of the passion and dedication of generations of artists, scholars, and practitioners who have preserved, revitalized, and reinvented these timeless traditions for future generations to cherish and enjoy.

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