Culture of Uttar Pradesh

Dances of Uttar Pradesh


This north Indian dance form is inextricably bound with classical Hindustani music, and the rhythmic nimbleness of the feet is accompanied by the table or pakhawaj. Traditionally the stories were of Radha and Krishna, in the Natwari style (as it was then called) but the Moghul invasion of North India had a serious impact on the dance. The dance was taken to Muslim courts and thus it became more entertaining and less religious in content. More emphasis was laid on nritta, the pure dance aspect and less on abhinaya (expression and emotion).

 Hurka Baul

 The Hurka Baul is performed during paddy and maize cultivation. On a fixed day, after the preliminary ritual, the dance is performed in different fields by turns. The name of the dance is derived from hurka, the drum which constitutes the only musical accompaniment, and baul, the song. The singer narrates the story of battles and heroic deeds, the players enter from two opposite sides and enact the stories in a series of crisp movements. The farmers form two rows and move backwards in unison, while responding to the tunes of the song and the rhythm of the players.


A famous dance of Kumaon, Uttar Pradesh, is the Chholiya, performed during marriages. As the procession proceeds to the bride's house, male dancers, armed with swords and shields, dance spiritedly.

 Ramalila and Rasalila

Ramalila and Rasalila are two most popular dance-dramas of Uttar Pradesh. The former is associated with Rama and the later with Krishna. Ramalila is based on the epic story of the Ramayana. It is staged as a dance-drama at various places in most of the cities, towns and villages of Uttar Pradesh with great fervour as a ritual. During the performance the Ramayana is constantly recited accompanied by dance and music. It presents a fine blending of dance, music, mime, abhinaya and poetry before an enthusiastic and religious audience.

Rasalila folk-dances are performed with great pomp and pageantry in various parts of Uttar Pradesh, in general and in Braja Mandala, that is Mathura, Vrindavana and adjoining areas in particular. They commemorate in music and movement the most cherished divine love of Radha and Krishna. In dance and song are enacted the legends connected with the childhood, adolescence and early youth of Krishna with cow maids and cowherds. The dances are highly developed in terms of footwork, mime and music, all requiring great skill and technique. Rasalila is a group dance performed in a mandala or a ring to the accompaniment of songs relating to Krishna legends and the music of drums, cymbals, and flutes. Many of the steps of this complex dance-pattern are common with those of the Kathak.

 Kajri Dance

 The rainy season, brings the Kajri dance to the accompaniment of swing-songs. As if intoxicated with the smell of wet earth, the village and town belles and women commence their Kajri songs and dances. The theme is love and romance.

 Ahir Dance

Virile, vigorous and martial Ahir dance is performed in the Ahir community on the occasions of birth and marriage. The dance is always accompanied by song and instrumental music of dholak (drum) and kansi (cymbals). The male dancers wear short tight knickers; the rest of the body is left bare, except for the adornment of some ornaments like armlets, necklaces, etc. In place of usual ankle-bells, a band of small brass bells is tied around the lower waist. These jingling bells accentuate the complicated footwork by underlining the time-patterns of the dance movements. The theme or the song presents a good variety.

 Chamar Dance

The dances of the Chamar community are simple performances consisting of a few pure dance sequences punctuated with jest and slapstick humour. The theme revolves round religious myths and legends with an undercurrent of subtle-satire, humour, wit and repartee. The songs are characterized by a lot of pun and humour.


Nautanki is form of dance-drama, again performed by the professionals on the stage. The theme of Nautanki revolves round chivalry, patriotism and conflict between good and evil - drawn from the scripture. Nautanki is a popular dance-drama in vogue throughout the province.


The Chhapeli is one of the most popular varieties of Kumaon folk dances. In every fair, the Chhapeli dance is common. There are a number of Chhapeli singer-dancer groups competing with one another spread out in the open green. It is performed at a brisk tempo to the accompaniment of hurka or dholak, manjira and flute. Sometimes, a bagpipe may also accompany the dance. Its theme is related with love and romance. The dancers perform in twos, holding mirrors and colored handkerchiefs in their hands. They wave these gracefully as they move forwards and backwards to the gay rhythmic footwork, they refrain in chorus and instrumental music.

Jagar Dances

The Jagar dances are connected with exorcist ritualistic practices. These are performed by a particular class of people to drive away evil spirits and to invoke the spirit of certain local deities. The recitation of ballads is accompanied by exotic beats of the hurkas and the thalis (brass plates) followed by a dance by the medium involving a lot of fanatic leaping, jumping and shouting. The ritual ends with the bidding of farewell to the invoked spirit by the singer.

Arts and Crafts of Uttar Prades

 Agra's  Zardoji

Agra's Zardoji is very unique art of embroidery. The artist first makes free hand sketches of the subject.  Then he embroiders in cotton threads over and over till he gets the required thickness and movements. Finally the artist takes fibre from silk threads, twists then together in the shades required for and embroiders with them the particular piece.  In the process he creates original unparallel work of art.

The Chikankari Embroidery of Lucknow

The name ‘chikan’ seems to have been derived from the Persian word, either ‘Chikan’, ‘Chikin’ or ‘Chikeen’. It means a kind of cloth wrought with needle–work. Although it originated as a court craft, today it is a practiced tradition and an important commercial activity.

Chikan work has very light, gossamer – like quality. This makes it very suitable for the seemingly hot climate of the northern plain region. Chikankari  received great impetus during the Nawabi period. The source of most design motifs in Chikankari is Mughal. These motifs can also be seen in the ornamentation of Mughal buildings like the Taj Mahal and the monuments of Fatehpur Sikri.


Uttar Pradesh is the largest Brass and Copper making state in India with thousands of establishments. The ritual articles are largely in copper like tamrapatra (pot for storing water); panchapatra for holding in all the articles needed for worship; simhasan a seat for the deity; kanchanthal, plate for offering flowers and sweets, and a host of such things.

Zari Work of Varanasi

Banaras besides being a holy place also has the distinction of being a world famous center of hand-made textiles. The ancient traditions of weaving are more preserved in Banaras than anywhere else. The main products are Zari and brocades. Brocades are textiles woven with warp & weft threads of different colors and often of different materials . The brocades are woven in silk with profuse use of metal threads in ‘pallars’ (endpieces) and the field of the sari. The weavers are mainly Muslim and are known as ‘karigars’ which means ‘artist’. The brocades are woven in workshops known as ‘karkhanas’.

The zari thread known as ‘kalabuttum’, consists of finely drawn gold, silver or base metal threads wound round as silk thread. Silk traditionally came from Bengal, Central Asia and Italy but now it comes from either Malda, in Bengal or from Kashmir or Japan. In Banaras the chief varieties of silk used are –

  • Jandhuri

  • Banaks

  • Mukta

  • Sandal


Carpets and Floor Coverings

The largest concentration of carpet weaving in the country is in Uttar Pradesh with 90 percent of the production and 75 percent of the weavers. The main centers are Mirzapur, Bhadohi, Khamaria and about 500 villages in this area. They have some special designs of their own like the Taj Mahal, in natural colour or any tint, Sirdar in plain body and subdued colours with hand embossed or hand carved borders in rose-beige, honey-beige, ivory and soft green. They also make use of the 18th century designs with short clippings of the yarn around the contours of the pattern to give it a special look. Mostly pastel shades are used but intermingled with bright colours.


Farrukhabad in Uttar Pradesh is a veritable treasure house of traditional designs ranging from the classical butis (dots) to the famous ' Tree of Life '. The composition is first printed in harmonizing colors and later elaborated with delicate details painted in with a brush.

Tanda (Faizabad) known for its jamdani weave is also the center of a very elaborate printing of graphic quality which gives the fabric an antique look.

Lucknow’s specialty is ‘paisley’. Other designs seem to be influenced by the local chikan embroidery patterns. Jehangirabad is distinguished for its bold lines and toned down colors, influenced by the jamdani and jamevar weaves.



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