(GIST OF KURUKSHETRA) Tribal Folk Dances of Northeast India

(GIST OF KURUKSHETRA) Tribal Folk Dances of Northeast India


Tribal Folk Dances of Northeast India


Home to over two hundred tribes and ethnic communities, India’s North-eastern Region is often referred to as a region of festivals, music and dance. Every tribe or community has its own set of distinct festivals, most of which centre round sowing, harvesting and the New Year. Folk dances are an inseparable part of these festivals which not only display the culture of the tribes, but also reflect their colourful fabrics, musical instruments, and above all, their intrinsic love for Nature

Arunachal Pradesh

  • Over 25 tribes and 100 sub tribes of Arunachal Pradesh are broadly divided into two categories -Buddhists and non-Buddhists or followers of various indigenous faiths. For the Nishyie people who follow an indigenous faith, the most important folk dance is Rikham Pada. 

  • A medley of dances and songs performed during every community festival, the dancers wear elaborate cane headgears, and an antique waist-belt made of beaten bell metal (which is a family heirloom handed down through generations). The songs are in ballad form, sung in honour of gods and ancestors, as also some love stories.


  • Assam has as many as 23 Scheduled Tribes, of which twelve are called Plains Tribes, and eleven Hills Tribes, each having its own respective folk dances.

  • Bagrumba is performed by young Bodo women dressed in traditional attire like dokhona (body wrapper) and phati (scarf) to the rhythm of the kham (drum), serja (a string instrument) and siphtirig (flute) played by young men. 

  • It is generally performed in Spring to pray for the community’s prosperity and well-being. 

  • The dancers look like butterflies when they hold up their phali sideways and flutter to the beat of the music. Another springtime Bodo folk dance called Bardwisikhla is performed to welcome the wind goddess.


  • In Meghalaya, the Khasis perform Nongkrem dance during the Nongkrem festival. Dedicated to the indigenous deity called U Lei Shyllong, the dance is performed by young women clad in their best colourful traditional jewelry who move gracefully in synchronised patterns to the rhythmic beats of drums and flutes.

  • Wangala orthe Hundred Drums dance is part of the Wangala Festival of the Garos held to mark the end of a period of toil, and pray for a good harvest. While the men beat the drums, other men and women dance in two parallel queues, moving forward in rhythmic accord to the music of traditional drums, gongs and flutes, punctuated by the sonorous music of a primitive flute made of buffalo horn.


  • The Mizo folk dances too are expressions of their joyful carefree spirit. Almost all Mizo folk dances like Cheraw, Khuallam, Chhieh Lam, Chai, Rallu Lam, Solakia, Sarlamkai and Par Lam are closely related to the agricultural cycle. Cheraw, often also called Bamboo dance, is the oldest Mizo dance believed to have existed even in the 1st century AD. 

  • While eight young men hold four pairs of bamboo poles, two crossing the other two, and tap the bamboos open and close in rhythmic beats, young women dancers step alternately in and out from between and across them. 

  • It is amazing to see the dancers step in and out to the beats of the bamboos with ease and grace. Watching closely, one will find that the stepping the dancers are sometimes in imitation of movement of birds, sometimes of swaying of trees.


  • Manipur has a number of tribal communities. For the Mao tribe, Asharai Odo is a colourful folk dance known for its vocal rhythms and mellifluous movements. The Tangkhul people on the other hand consider Luivat Pheizak as their most important folk dance. 

  • Depicting different stages of cultivation and the simple tribal lifestyle, this dance is performed during all traditional festivals like Luira Phanit (seed sowing festival), Manei Phanit (festival of tools and equipments), and Chumphu (harvest festival). 

  • While both men and women wear traditional attire, some men also hold spears and swords as they dance to the rhythm of Phung (drum), Tala (trumpet), Paren (bamboo pipe) and Sipa (flute).


  • Home to seventeen major and several minor tribes, Nagaland is a land of folk dances. While it is not possible to describe the folk dances of every tribe, here are a few interesting ones.

  • The most popular folk dance of the Angami tribe is Sovi Kehu. It is a community dance which takes place at an open space in the centre of the village. An elder takes the lead with an "ohh-hoo ohh-hoo" sound, and others follow him in a circular motion. 

  • Once a big circle is formed, the leader raises his right hand and makes a small leap jump which all others follow in a rhythmic order. The leader continues with his leap steps, and in every leap the circle becomes smaller and smaller. At one point, the leader takes a complete u-turn and, without breaking the line the circle intertwines back bigger and bigger until it becomes a single big circle again. Once the big circle is complete, the leader signals to end the leap jump, and the dance ends with a big ululation by the whole group in unison.


  • In Tripura, the Reang tribals perform the Hozagiri dance during Hozagiri festival or Lakshmi puja. While a group of men sign the lyric and play the Kham (drum) and Sumui (flute), four to six women perform the dance during which they depict the entire cycle of jhum (slash-and-burn) cultivation. 

  • The Jamatia and Kalai tribes on the other hand perform Garia dance during Garia or Shiva puja, in which young men and women go from house to house, place a symbol of Lord Garia in the middle of the courtyard, and sing and dance in an anti-clockwise circle around it.



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Courtesy: Kurukshetra