Folk Dances of Karnataka

The prominent folk dances of Karnataka are the Yakshagana and Dollu Kunitha. Yakshagana is a folk theatre form of Karnataka wheras Kunitha are considered as the ritualistic dances of Karnataka. Dollu Kunitha is a major form of folk-dance performance in Karnataka. Dollu Kunitha is performed mainly by men and women of the Kuruba community of Nothern Karnataka.

Huttari Dance, Bolak-aat, Ummatt-aat and Komb-aat are the popular traditional dance forms from Kodagu Region. In Mysore Dollu Kunitha, Beesu samsale, kamsale nritya and Somana Kunita are popular. Kamsale is mainly practiced in the districts of Mysore, Nanjagud, Kollegal and Bangalore. Jaggahalige Kunita, Karadimajal, Krishna Parijatha and Lavani (from Maharashtra) are popular Folk Dance forms poular in North Karntaka. Bhootha Aradhane and Yakshagana are famus in Dakshina Kannada. Bhootha Aradhane is practiced in the coastal regions of Karnataka, the festival is a great mix of folk beliefs, awesome spectacle and ritualistic magic to ward away the evil through a worship of the devil himself.

Gaarudi Gombe is a folk dance in which dancers dress in suits made of bamboo sticks. The karaga, in a dance performed by the Thigalas, is a metal pot on which stands a tall, floral pyramid and which is balanced on the carrier's head. Pata Kunitha in Karnataka is a popular folk-dance form extremely popular among the inhabitants of the Mysore region. Pata Kunitha of Karnataka is an extremely colorful dance form and provides great visual delight. Puja Kunitha is a popular ritualistic folk dance of Karnataka practiced largely around Bangalore and Mandya districts. It is extremely colorful and visually delightful.

Nagamandala is a ritual dance performed in south Karnataka to tranquilize the serpent spirit, and is an extravagant night-long affair. The serpent of Karnataka's Nagamandala celebration is usually considered to be the symbol of fertility and an embodiment of life-force. The celebration of Nagamandala at Karnataka employs music, dance, ritual chanting in Sanskrit and Kannad and possession of the head-priest.

Goravara kunita is a dance worshipping Shiva which is popular in the Mysore and North Karnataka regions. Gorava Kunitha is practiced in both the northern and the southern parts of the state with slight variations. Gorava Kunitha of Karnataka is typically performed by groups of 10 to 11 men. They usually belong to the singing tribe of the Goravas, who are strong worshipers of Lord Shiva.

Togalu Gombeyaata is a type of shadow puppetry unique to Karnataka. Togalu Bombeaata is an ancient form of puppetry still popular in certain parts of rural Karnataka. They employ leather puppets and typically employ themes drawn from the epics and mythological stories.

The Joodu Haligi is performed with two percussion instruments. The Haligi is round, made of buffalo hide and played with a short stick. The dance is characterised by high energy and exaggerated expressions by two or three performers. Veeragase, a vigorous dance based on Hindu mythology, is one of the dances performed at the Mysore Dasara. It is primarily performed during the Hindu months of Shravana and Karthika. Krishna Parijatha of Karnataka is a traditional folk theater form that is sometimes considered to be a blend of yakshagana and Byalatta and sometimes as a regional variant of yakshagana.


Yakshgana is a folk theatre form of Karnataka and it is an ancient art. It relates with many of the traditions and conventions of the Sanskrit theatre or drama, particularly those of the Purvaranga and the existence of a character, vidushak.

The first Yakshgana play was in Telugu & was written in the 16th century by Peda Kempa Gaudan and was called as Ganga Gauri Vilasam. Then came the renaissance period, followed by the 17th century, which was the time when the Yakshgana form developed in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. From the 15th century, in Andhra Pradesh, this folk art is performed both as a narrative song and as a dance drama. The form was also related to the Prabandha natak, which originated in a slightly later period. However, Yakshgana as a theatrical form regained popularity only in the 18th century. Till that time the written plays were created but mainly as scripts for presentations. Yakshgana emerged as a full-fledged theatre form in south Kannada at a time of great political unrest and social disturbances.

The original form of Yakshgana involves the use of recitative modes of poetry, melodies of music, rhythm and dance techniques, colourful costumes and graceful make up. It distinctly differs in many ways from the norms of the Sanskrit stage, as it does not contain a highly elaborate language of hand and eye-gestures, but it is closely related to developments in literature in the adjoining states of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu and has some affinities to literary forms.

Dollu Kunitha Dance

Kunitha are considered as the ritualistic dances of Karnataka, of which the Dollu Kunitha is one of the ritualistic dances that is popular with the kurubas of 'Beereshvara Sampradaya'. This is a very popular dance form of Karnataka, accompanied by the beats of the drums, and singing of the dancers. The beating drums are decorated by using colours or by flowers. Only the men of the shepherd community (Kuruba community) are privileged to perform this dance. The Dollu Kunitha is characterized by vigorous drumbeats, quick dancing movements and synchronized group formations. Another dance form of Karnataka, which is equally famous, is the Puja Kunitha. For performing this dance, all the dancers carry a wooden type of structure having a deity on their heads.

The Dollu dance is related to a myth related to the divine couple of Shiva and Parvathi. Hence 'Dollu' is popular among Saivites. The Dollu instrument used today is made from the skin of either, sheep or goats, tightly fitted from all sides to a frame that is made up of honne or mango tree wood. The other forms of this dance like - Devare Thatte Kunitha, Yellammana Kunitha, Suggi Kunitha are named according to the deity, symbols or instruments which are balanced on the head or held in the hand of the performer while dancing. Some of the other common ritualistic dances are the Pata Kunitha, the Gorava Kunitha and the Kamsale.

Other Folk Dances

Most folk dances owe their existence to religion and are performed during fairs, festivals and other religious occasions celebrated by a local communities. The dances like 'Nandi Dhwaja', 'Lingada-Berana', Gorava dance, Veeragase, Beesu Kamsale and Puravanthike are dedicated to the worship of Lord Shiva. Bhagawanthike, Pata Kunitha and Bana Devara Kunitha are dances performed to worship Lord Vishnu. Mariammana Kunitha, Urimarammana Kunitha, Puja, Karaga, Dollu, Soman Kunitha, Harige, Sedere, Bhoota Nrutya, Naga Nrutya, Vatte Kola, Kombat and Billat are being performed to worship all incarnations of 'Shakti', the deity of power.