- Cindu – The word cindu means to jump or to leap; in the Telugu language, the word is also used in the sense of overflowing, springing up and pouring out. The dance form called cindu is described in Nṛtta-ratnāvalī and Saṅgīta-darpaṇa (authored by Catura-dāmodara). The songs are set to dvipadi-chandas and are composed in the Telugu language. The composition contains an udgrāha (called ettugaḍè in Kannada) and a dhruva-pada (colloquially called daru or pallavi); the word cindu occurs many times in the composition. The dance is primarily performed by women; jatis are used for accompanying dance, which is filled with lāsyābhinaya; sāttvikābhinaya and āṅgikābhinaya contribute towards capturing the meaning of the geya (lyrical music); thighs, biceps, and the hip are extensively used in the dance – they come with some recakas and gentle trembling; at times, such movements might border on vulgarity. There are about six to seven varieties of the cindu dance; in some cases, spears and other weapons are held by the dancers. Today, a dance form called cindu and a theatrical form called cindu-yakṣagāna is practiced along the borders of Karnataka and Andhra. As a part of Subrahmaṇya-ārādhana, kāvaḍi-cindu, an expression of bhakti is practiced in Tamil Nadu.
- Bhāṇḍika – This comical dance is performed by a vidūṣaka; the comedian recites and sings śuṣkākṣaras as he claps his hands (in the form of chāpu); while doing so, he imitates the handicapped, animals, birds, as well as the noble men in the society; he may even ridicule them; the comedian may also mimic such people and beings. It is important to note that, though the performance of this dance is filled with satirical humour and light comedy, the movements are complex and are to strictly follow a tāla pattern. We find traces of this in Yakṣagāna and other theatrical forms.
- Cāraṇa-nṛtta – This deśī-nṛtya is practiced in the Saurāṣṭra region of Gujarat (corresponds to the coastal areas). Cāraṇas sing melodious dohakas (dvipadi) in the local language and follow the rhythmic pattern of śuṣkākṣaras as they dance; stamping of the feet, dancing in circles, and usage of nṛtta-hastas that are filled with lāsya are the signature features of this style. While men perform uddhata-nṛtta, women who wear avaguṇṭhanas (veils) over their faces, perform sukumāra-nṛtta as they move around in circles.
- Bahurūpa – As suggested by the name, this form of dance involves wearing of many costumes (and donning many character roles); creative imitation of the dressing styles and mannerisms of different kinds of people – historic and purāṇic – forms the core of this presentation. The performance of this dance comes along with soft and gentle music and nṛtta; artistes roam around the cities during the day, presenting their art. This unique form of art is in vogue even today. The contribution of Bahurūpī Cauḍayya, one of the vacanakāras of Karnataka is worth recollecting here. This tradition is variously called hagalu-veṣa, pahal-veṣam, and pagaṭi-veṣagāḻḻu in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and the Andhra region respectively. Artistes travel from one village to another, stay in each place for a week or fortnight, and entertain people by donning different character costumes each day; the group usually consists of both men and women, who belong to the same family.
- Ghaṭasiri (Ghaṭasani) – The grammatically correct name of this form of dance is hard to deduce; only Jāyapa-senānī mentions this in his Nṛtta-ratnāvalī; because of corrupt reading of the manuscript, the name is not clear. A caṇḍāla lady melodiously renders many songs to the accompaniment of the huḍukkā; her songs, which are called caryā-gīta are filled with śṛṅgāra, nīti, and vedānta; she sings the songs as she plays the huḍukkā and also performs gentle footwork; an orchestra of musicians playing various instruments follows her – the orchestra usually consists of both men and women, and instruments such as flute, horn, tāla, and drums are used; the songs usually describe Śiva and Pārvatī in the form of a hunter and huntress (kirāta and kirātī respectively).
- Jakkaḍi or jakkiṇi – This form of dance evolved under the influence of Islamic rulers. In its presentation, songs are rendered in the Persian language and artistes dance holding bunches of peacock feathers. The dance form took its shape, perhaps, under the influence of the Sufi saints. Vema-bhūpāla’s Saṅgīta-cintāmaṇi and Ghana-śyāma’s Saṅgīta-sāra-saṅgraha mention a form of dance called pārasīka-mattallī (sometimes also called mattalli), which bears semblance to jakkiṇi-nṛtya. Mattallī is the name of a cārī and a karaṇa in the Nāṭyaśāstra.
- Kuravañji or kòravañji – This is a form of dance like the gauṇḍali, practiced by the ādi-vāsis; this is largely practiced in the Kannada, Telugu, and Tamil speaking regions of the country. This form of dance has an interesting background and can be inferred from ‘kuriñjitiṇai’. Ghana-śyāma, in his Saṅgīta-sāra-saṅgraha, mentions kurañji-nṛtta. This was a popular form of geya and nṛtta in the Vijayanagara period (14th to 17th Century CE) as well. The composition called nārada-kòravañji by Vādirāja-svāmī is noteworthy. The antiquity of this form is evident from the purāṇic stories connected with Padmāvatī and Vallī. According to the tradition, Śrīnivāsa comes in the disguise of kòravañji to meet Padmāvatī; similarly, Skanda comes in the guise of a kòravañji to meet Vallī (or Deva-senā in some versions). There are hundreds of kòravañji compositions in Kannada, Tamil, and Telugu languages. Such compositions usually have the king as the hero. Kòravañji dance is popular even today.
It is interesting to note that many of these deśī forms of dance exist even to this day in their metamorphosed forms around the country; moreover, most forms have been defined and documented in treatises; they have won the hearts of connoisseurs and stood the test of time. The following dance (and theatrical forms) found in Karnataka are worth noting – somana kuṇīta, kaṃsāḻè-kuṇita, suggiya kuṇita, bèḻguṇita, vīrabhadrana kuṇita, devara taṭṭèkuṇita, nandikolu-kuṇita, karaḍi-majalu, laṃbāṇi-kuṇita, kòragara duḍi-kuṇita, dèyyaguṇita, nāganṛtya-ḍakkèbali, bhūtakola, paṭakuṇita, hèjjèmeḻa, huliveṣa-mòharam kuṇita, gòravara kuṇita, gòndaliga meḻa, paṃjina kuṇita, huttari-kuṇita, ummattāṭa, dummāli kuṇita, karagada kuṇita, ḍòḻḻu-kuṇita, alāyi hèjjè, kòḍada kuṇita. Different kinds of Yakṣagāna and theatrical forms like dòḍḍāṭa, saṇṇāṭa, keḻikā, kṛṣṇa-pārijāta, and saṃgyā-bāḻyā are important to note as well.
Similarly, the following forms of dance and theatreart are found in different states
- Andhra region – ḍappu, cèṃcu, sātāni, gòbbiḻḻu, madhuri, baṃjārā
- Tamil Nadu – kummi, kāvaḍi, kolāṭa, kīlāṭṭaṃ, kīlu-kudurè, karaga-kuṇita
- Assam –different kinds of bihu dance, hucari, dhuliyā, devadhāni, ojāpali, boḍokacari, maigainai, laṣāyi, lākher, garo, noṃkrem, nāgā-nṛtya
- Bengal region – ghāṭa-òlāno, bhājo, dhāka, raibhaiṃśi, kaṭhi, dhāli, jāri, bāvul, kīrtana, dhūpa, bratācāri
- Bihar-Odisha region – chhau (māyurabhāṃj, sarakèllam, and puruliyā), santālī, goṭipuvā
- Gujarat – garbā, garbi, rās, ṭippāṇi, dāṇḍiyā, padar
- Rajasthan – ghumar, jhumar, dāṇḍiyā, rasiyā, gīdhar, teratali, kaccighori, ger, palar
- Maharashtra and the Konkan region – koḻyācā nāc, sipri, goph, ḍiṇḍi, kāḻā, gauḻan, tamāṣā
- Kerala – kaikòṭṭikaḻi, veḻakaḻi, piḻḻaiyārkaḻi, tèrèyāṭṭam, tèyyam, parèyan-kaḻi, kaniyar-kaḻi, paṇan-kaḻi, tuḻḻan
- Madhya Pradesh – bhilla, gòṇḍa, bastar, baigar
- Uttar Pradesh – pāṇḍo, paṇḍavāni, paitār, camar, rās, holi, brata-nṛtya
- Punjab – bhāṅgḍā, jhèmmar, kikli, gidhā, sèvagi
- Himachal Pradesh - ḍaṃgi, dīpak, jhañjar, paṅgi, sāṅglā
- Kashmir - haphījhā, baccānagmā, rovuph, hikat, dumahal, pathak
To be continued...
This series of articles is authored by Shatavadhani Dr. R Ganesh and have been rendered into English with additional material and footnotes by Arjun Bharadwaj. The article first appeared in the second edition of the anthology Prekṣaṇīyaṃ, published by the Prekshaa Pratishtana in December 2022.
 There are at least three treatises bearing the name Saṅgīta-darpaṇa and all belong to the period after 16th Century CE. The most famous one is authored by Catura-dāmodara. Another treatise has been recently brought to light and is attributed to a mythical author, Gaurīśvara (it has been critically edited by Arjun Bharadwaj and published by Pt. Birju Maharaj’s Kalāshram in 2022; the treatise was a family treasure of Pt. Birju Maharaj and his ancestors); yet another treatise of the same name is composed in old ‘Hindi’ and is attributed to Hari-vallabha.