One of the newest states of India, Telangana has been carved out of Andhra Pradesh – a state in South. The state is celebrated for its vibrant culture and dances form an integral part of the same. With origin of Telangana from Andhra Pradesh, the dance form also has a new address. With a cultural history that dates back to thousands of centuries, dance, music, and art still hold the age-old quintessence. So, here are some of the most popular folk dances of Telangana.
Also known as Perini Thandavam, Perini Sivatandavam is a medieval dance form. It came to light in the 12th century during the Kakatiya dynasty. The dance form is associated to Lord Shiva. This is the dance of warriors, performed by men who dance to the music of bells, conches, drums. It is believed that the dance infused prerna (inspiration) among the soldiers as they performed tandava in front of Lord Shiva’s idol before going to the battlefield. Thus, the name - Perini Sivatandavam. It involves five elements – fire, water, air, earth, wind, and celebrates ‘Om’.
The Ramappa Temple in Warangal holds evidence of this dance form. At the temple, sculptures of various postures of Perini Shivatandavam dance are still there. The thousand pillared temples and shrines at Palampet and Ghanapur in Warangal also bear historical evidences to Perini Thandavam. As kakatiya Dynasty dwindled, the dance form was pushed to darkness. But by the efforts of late Dr. Nataraja Ramakrishna (1923-2011), the dance form was revived.
Dappu Nrityam or Dappu Dance is a reputed dance form of Telangana. Dappu is known by different names in various parts of the state such as Tapetta and Palaka. This dance form is believed to have originated from the Nizamabad district of Telangana. Dappu dance form derives its name from the harmoniously cadenced musical instrument ‘Dappu’, which is drum shaped like a tambourine. It is known by various names like Tapetta and Palaka. In Telugu rural art (called Janapada Kalalu), Dappu has an important role.
The dance performers wear colorful and bright attires that include a Talapaga (a turban) with a dhoti, datti, and ankle bells. Usually men perform this dance at many festive occasions in a group of fifteen to twenty. Women can join in if it is performed as a celebratory dance. Dancing styles have slight variations for different occasions. For instance – while dancing on a road, dancers move forward and on stage when it is performed in a circular motion. This dance form proves that you don’t need to have expensive instruments or flashy performances to enjoy.
Lambadi is an ancient folk dance of Telangana (and Andhra Pradesh). It originated in the tribes of Rajasthan, which were semi-nomadic. These are known as Lambadis, Banjaras, or Sengalis. The dance showcases tribal culture, with spotlight on their social ties, lifestyle, and religion. Daily lives of farmers is reflected through this dance form and is performed to seek god’s blessings for good harvest. Performed by women, Lambadi dance has rare participation of men.
The dance is performed around fire at night. Hand movements during the dance show activities involved in farming that include harvesting and sowing. Songs are sung in various languages such as Rajasthani, Gujarati, Marathi and Telugu. Dancers clad themselves in flashy dresses with glittering work on those. Glitzy jewelry adds to the sight of the performance. The dance is also performed at several festivals such as Diwali and Holi.
Oggu Katha that means Oggu tales is believed to be an ancient folk theatre art form of Telangana. It derives its name from Oggu - a small hand drum associated with Lord Shiva. This traditional dance form of Telangana is more about narrating Hindu mythological stories, while singing and praising Hindu gods. Although, societal issues are also taken up as dance themes. The performers tell stories of Mallanna, Renuka Yellamma, Beerappa along with other local deities. Pastoral communities like Kuruma and Golla (Yadavas) perform this art form.
Today, over 100 Oggu Katha groups exist, each of which comprises 4-6 performers. Training and performance of this dance involves ten singing style varieties, makeup, dresses, dance movements, and unique use of musical orchestration. Other key elements of this art form include imagination and improvisation. With changing times, the tradition is going through several changes so that it can be passed on to the generations more easily.
Another folk dance of Telangana, Chindu Bhagavatam is all about telling epic tales through dance. The word ‘chindu’ means jump and the performance is peppered with leaps and jumps, it gained the name of Chindu Yakshaganam, the other name for Chindu Bhagavatam. The term ‘Bhagavatam’ is associated to it as most of the stories narrated are from ‘Bhagavatam’ - the Bhagavata Purana (translated as 'the history of the Vaishnavas).
As the performers dance and tell the story, the word has been associated with it. Dance, music, dialogue, costume, make-up, and stage techniques are combined with this dance form. The dance form is believed to date back to the second century B.C. and has started from enacting brave acts such as war, hunting, and others. Every act needed a body language of its own and this dance form emphasizes on the same. It is similar to Yakshaganam - a traditional theatre form of Karnataka.
Gussadi is a folk dance in Telangana that is performed by Raj Gonds or the Gondulu tribes in Adilabad district. The Padma Shri honor 2021 was also bestowed upon the Gussadi dance exponent - Kanaka Raju. Gonds Deepavali is the biggest festival for the Raj Gonds when Gussadi dance is performed. The dance begins on the full moon day and continues till the last day of the fortnight of Deepavali.
Every performer of the dance dons a turban with peacock feathers in it along with horns of deer. They also sport artificial beards and moustaches as well as goatskin on their body. All decked-up in ostentatious ornaments additionally, the dancers move in the villages as troupes. These singing and dancing troupes are known as Dandari dance troupes. This dance form is a part of Dandari and has two to five members in each troupe.
Tholu Bommalata is a prevalent shadow theater tradition. As Tholu means leather and Bommalata means puppet dance; the term literally stands for “the dance of leather puppets. Among other traditions that this dance form follows, leather puppets which are its most important part, which are known for their colossal size. The dance concept is based on epics, largely on Ramayana and Mahabharata. Some of the performances are also based on few Vaishnava texts.
Its folk expression is a lovely amalgamation of various art forms that include music, dance, acting, painting, narrative storytelling, and engraving. Skits with live music comprise the performance. The dance form is shadow based because the puppets perform behind a white curtain on the stage. Audience thus watches the colorful shadow dance of the puppets and not the actual puppets. A source of light creates this magic along with magical performances behind the curtain.
These Telangana folk dances reflect the legends, beliefs, and everyday life activities of the state and allow you to take a sneak-peek into the same. With different backgrounds and significance, every dance has its own essence that is unparalleled and commendable. Take time to partake in this cultural charm of Telangana with a visit there.