Nepali Dance: Classical and folk dances of Nepal

Nepal, a small landlocked country nestled in the lap of the mighty Himalayas, is celebrated worldwide for its rich cultural heritage, and dance remains a quintessential element of this vibrant legacy. The diverse ethnic communities across the country maintain a deep connection with their ancestral roots and traditions, and this diversity is beautifully mirrored in Nepal’s multifaceted dance forms.

Dance in Nepal is more than mere entertainment; it is an amalgamation of art, spirituality, community, and storytelling, transcending the boundaries of caste, religion, and region. Each dance tells a tale, embodies a prayer, or celebrates life’s varied moments. In this blog post, we’ll dive into the entrancing world of Nepali dance, exploring some of the most captivating dance forms and their cultural significance.

Classical and folk dances of Nepal
Image Credit: Bikash Khadge

The Enchanting Dance Traditions of Nepal: A Window into Cultural Diversity

  1. Lakhe Naach: One of the most famous dance forms of Nepal, the Lakhe Dance, is a crucial part of the Indra Jatra festival celebrated annually in Kathmandu. Performers wear elaborate masks and costumes representing Lakhes – mythical demons from Nepali folklore. The dance aims to ward off evil spirits and is a dynamic display of vigour and fervour. Each leap and twirl performed by the Lakhe impersonators is a sight to behold.
  2. Maruni Naach: Originating from the western region of Nepal, Maruni Dance is traditionally performed during the Hindu festival of Tihar, and Dashain. Dancers adorned in colourful attire and extravagant jewelry, portray various stories through their energetic moves. The dance is accompanied by a jhyamta (a type of cymbal) and the madal (a traditional Nepali drum), creating a lively atmosphere that captivates the audience.
  3. Tamang Selo: This dance form is a cultural hallmark of the Tamang community, one of the indigenous ethnic groups of Nepal. The Tamang Selo is not just a dance but an expression of the Tamang community’s lifestyle, customs, and traditions. It is usually performed in a circle, with dancers moving rhythmically to the beat of the damphu – a small, round, handmade drum.
  4. Tharu Stick Naach: The Tharu Stick Dance, also known as Sakhiya, is a distinctive dance form performed by the Tharu community residing mainly in the Terai region of Nepal. The dancers, holding sticks, perform a sequence of rhythmic steps, symbolizing the community’s agrarian lifestyle. The dance is primarily performed during Maghi, the Tharu New Year, as an emblem of unity and communal strength.
  5. Ghantu Naach: Ghantu Dance holds significant importance in the Gurung community. Traditionally performed by women, the dance involves slow, measured movements and symbolizes various life stages, including birth, death, and rebirth. It carries profound religious significance, being performed during times of sickness, hardship, or to honor the local deities.
  6. Bhairav Naach: Named after Bhairav, the fierce manifestation of Lord Shiva, this dance is performed mainly in the Kathmandu valley during different festivals. Dancers don intricately designed masks, representing Bhairav and other deities and demons from the Hindu pantheon. The dance is an intense spiritual experience, showing the victory of good over evil and the divine’s protective nature.
  7. Deuda Naach: This dance hails from the midwestern and far western regions of Nepal. Participants form a circle, linking hands with the person next to them and dancing shoulder to shoulder. The popularity of this dance has now spread to other parts of the country.
  8. Chandi Naach: This dance is integral to the Rai community’s cultural celebrations. It is performed during their significant festivals, Undhauli and Ubhauli.
  9. Dandi Naach: Also known as Phagu Naach, this dance form is prominent during the festival of Phagu Purnima. Characterized by the rhythmic striking of two sticks between partners, Dandi Naach is particularly popular in the Terai region of Nepal.
  10. Dhan Naach: The Limbu community traditionally performs this dance to celebrate the harvest of major crops.
  11. Sorathi Naach: Yet another dance popular in the Gurung community, Sorathi Nritya involves participants moving in a circle to the beat of the Madal, a traditional drum.
  12. Maruni Naach: Originating in the eastern hills of Nepal, Maruni Nritya involves men performing dressed as women.
  13. Hanuman Naach: Mainly prevalent in the Baglung, Syangja, and other hilly regions, performers depict Hanuman, the devotee of Ram, in this dance form.
  14. Devi Naach: This dance is a special feature of the Gai Jatra festival that continues until Indrajatra, primarily in the Kathmandu Valley.
  15. Gauna Naach: Rooted in Mithila tradition and popular in the Janakpur region of Nepal, this dance is performed on religious occasions.
  16. Chyabrug Naach: This is a traditional dance of the Limbu community, performed to the tune of Chyabrug.
  17. Hopcha Naach: This traditional classical dance of the Rai community is mainly found in the Dhankuta region.
  18. Kaura Naach: Kaura Naach is a dance form primarily cherished among the Magars of the Western region and is accompanied by the Kaura song.
  19. Mundhum Naach: This dance is representative of the Kirat community. During the dance, the Kirat priest, known as DOPA, sings the song Mundhum.
  20. Khyali Naach: Also referred to as Pangdure dance, Khyali Naach is performed during festivals and poojas, set to the musical rhythm of Khainjadi and Mujuras.
  21. Chhokara Naach: Similar to Maruni dance, Chhokara Nritya is prevalent in the Far-western region of Nepal.
  22. Panchabuddha Naach: This dance form is based on Buddhist tradition and performed by a group of five individuals.
  23. Charitra Naach: Prominent in the Terai region, this dance draws its theme from the Puranas.
  24. Bhairab Naach: This classical dance, popular in Kathmandu and Pokhara, involves dancers assuming the guise of Bhairab.

In conclusion, the array of Nepali dances demonstrates the country’s deep-seated cultural richness and diversity. From Ghatu Nritya of the Gurung community to the Bhairab Nritya prevalent in Kathmandu and Pokhara, each dance form narrates a unique tale about the people, their traditions, beliefs, and lifestyles.

These dances, often linked with religious festivals, harvest seasons, and community celebrations, have transcended generations, shaping and preserving Nepal’s cultural heritage. The dances range from celebratory and lively, such as Dandi Naach during Phagu Purnima, to reflective and spiritual, like Panchabuddha Nritya based on Buddhist traditions.

Moreover, these dance forms also reflect Nepal’s geographical diversity, originating from the hilly terrains of Baglung to the plains of Terai and beyond. Every dance form is a vibrant tapestry woven with threads of history, tradition, spirituality, and community life, providing a glimpse into the multifaceted soul of Nepal.

In the age of rapid globalization, it’s heartening to see these traditional dance forms still thriving, holding a sacred space in the hearts of the Nepali people. They serve as a testament to the resilience and vibrancy of Nepal’s rich cultural ethos and a reminder of the importance of preserving these precious art forms for future generations.


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