Just like other parts of India, the folk dances of north eastern states are performed to celebrate various festivals and life in general!

Folk Dances Of North East India

Northeast India comprises of eight states, which includes the state of Sikkim and the seven sister states – Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Tripura. Folk dances in these states are often performed during festivals or to celebrate life. Dance is an important aspect in the lives of people living in this part of the country and hence many age-old dance forms are still practiced and kept alive. Let us now have a look at different folk dances of Northeast India.

Bardo Chham

Region/Area: Arunachal Pradesh 

Occasion: Performed during festivals

Highlight: The performers wear masks representing different animals

Purpose: Depiction of good over evil

Bardo Chham is performed by the Sherdukpen tribe of the West Kameng district. The dancers wear masks of 12 different animals and perform to the beats of many percussion instruments. Sherdukpen tribe believes that there are 12 different evil forces and they all appear in different months to mar the happiness of the community. The masks represent evil forces and the main objective of this art form is to ward off these evil forces. Men and women don colorful clothes before showcasing their dancing skills.

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Region/Area: Arunachal Pradesh 

Occasion: Performed before harvesting crops

Highlight: Only one musical instrument called ‘Yoksha’ is used

Ponung is one of the most important folk dances of Arunachal Pradesh. Performed before the harvest of staple crops, it has women dancers. They often hold each other’s hand and dance in formations. These dancers are led by a man who sings various songs and uses a sword-like musical instrument known as ‘Yoksha.’ This is the only instrument used in the entire act. The participants wear traditional dresses, which comprises a long black-colored shirt and red-colored skirt-like garment.

Wancho Dance

Region/Area: Arunachal Pradesh 

Occasion: Performed during festivals

Highlight: Men and women take turns to sing, which is quite unique in folk dances of this region

This dance is performed by the Wancho tribe during festivals or important cultural events. The dancers wear traditional attire with the men folk wielding a sword in their right hand. The performance usually begins when the men start singing and dancing. They follow a peculiar dance step which involves thrusting of the sword. Once they finish, the women start dancing and their song is usually a reply to the song sung by the men folk. The whole process is repeated over a certain period of time. 

Image Credit: http://wanchowarriors.blogspot.com/2013/07/blog-post.html

Buiya Dance

Region/Area: Arunachal Pradesh 

Occasion: Performed to entertain others

Highlight: This dance has a unique formation

Performed by the Digaru Mishmis of Arunachal Pradesh, Buiya dance is the main attraction of many tribal festivals. Women dancers stand in a straight line before commencing the act, thus paving the way for a strange formation. Men support the performance by playing different instruments like drums, gongs and cymbals.


Region/Area: Assam

Occasion: Performed during the Bihu festival

Highlight: Lyrics used in the songs propagates love

Bihu forms the most important part of the Bihu festival celebration. The dance is performed by young men and women, accompanied by the playing of pipes & drums. Lyrics used in the songs, which supports the dance performance, play a vital role as it propagates love. Dancers are usually seen forming circles or rows before commencing the dance.

Image Credit: https://www.utsavpedia.com/cultural-connections/celebrating-spring-bihu/


Region/Area: Assam

Occasion: Performed during various festivals

Highlight: The dance is inspired from nature

The Bodo tribe of Assam practices this dance form. Usually performed by women, the dance is accompanied by instruments like drums and flutes. Since Bagurumba is believed to have been inspired from nature, it can be further classified into different dance forms – each inspired from elements of nature like animals, plants, birds, insects, water, air and so on.


Region/Area: Assam

Occasion: Performed to rejuvenate 

Highlight: Rhythmic dance moves

While the men play musical instruments, the women dancers place their arms around the waist of the adjacent dancer and sway to and fro in a synchronized manner. The dance is performed by the tribal people who work in tea estates of Assam. Jhumur is often their only recreational activity and this certainly rejuvenates them after a long and tiring day.

Image Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bagurumba


Region/Area: Assam

Occasion: Performed to showcase rich tradition of Assam

Highlight: The principal performer called ‘Oja’ is the main attraction

Believed to be one of the most ancient dance forms of Assam, Ojapali is a combination of songs, dance and narration of stories. It is performed by a group of men comprising a leader and his assistants. Among the assistants, one is known as ‘Daina Pali,’ which literally means primary sidekick. The performance conveys stories from the Hindu epics and other religious texts.

Nongkram Dance

Region/Area: Meghalaya

Occasion: Festival

Highlight: The entire performance is colorful and vibrant

The Nongkram dance is performed during the months of May and November by the inhabitants of the Khasi hills. Performed by boys and girls of the region, this particular dance form requires tremendous skills and energy. The dance is a form of paying respects to the deity worshipped by the tribe.

Image Credit: http://www.nezine.com/info/The%20mystical%20Nongkrem%20Dance%20Festival%20of%20Meghalaya%20-%20a%20photo%20story%20by%20Anutosh%20Deb

Ka Shad Suk Mynsiem

Region/Area: Meghalaya

Occasion: Festival

Highlight: The festival attracts many people from all over the state

Shad Suk Mynsiem is a dance festival which is celebrated after every successful harvest. The dance is performed by men and unmarried women or young girls. The dancers make two different circular formations with the girls taking the inner circle and the men forming the outer circle. While the dance movements of the girls are subtle in nature, the men make all the difficult moves. Various instruments like flutes, Spanish guitars and a host of percussions are used.


Region/Area: Tripura

Occasion: Festivals

Highlight: Women balance bottle and earthen lamps on their head

The dance is performed during festivals, such as ‘Laxmi Puja’, ‘Durga Puja’ and the third day of ‘Dusshera’. While women dance gracefully by balancing bottles or earthen lamps on their head, men take care of the musical part. Hojagiri is one of the most important dance forms of Tripura.

Image Credit: http://kecollege07.blogspot.com/2011/04/loaded-from-khasi-hills.html

Dhol Cholom

Region/Area: Manipur

Occasion: Performed during Holi festival

Highlight: The dancers display acrobatic moves while playing dhol – a large drum

One of the instruments that dominate Manipuri dances is the drum. Dhol Cholom, a drum dance is one of the dances performed during Holi festival in Manipur. The dance is performed by men who display acrobatic moves while playing the dhol. The dance usually begins with a slow tempo and gradually gathers pace.

Cheraw Dance

Region/Area: Mizoram

Occasion: Part of a ritual

Highlight: Performers dance in between bamboo staves

The dance is a set of skillfully formulated moves which involves movement of bamboo staves. While the men move horizontally and vertically held bamboo staves, women dance in between them and the challenge is not to get caught between the staves. The movement of the staves makes a unique beat and it helps the dancers to move accordingly. 

Image Credit: http://damudrre.blogspot.com/2014/04/cheraw-or-bamboo-dance-cheraw-also.html

Chang Lo

Region/Area: Nagaland

Occasion: Performed to celebrate victory over enemies

Highlight: Dramatic costumes of the dancers make the act interesting

Chang Lo dance is traditionally performed to celebrate victory over an enemy. Since it is a war dance, dancers don costumes worn by warriors and display war tactics. The costumes are often dramatic, which adds color to the entire act. Women on the other hand drool over their heroes and the same is performed in the dance.


Region/Area: Sikkim

Occasion: Weddings

Highlight: The performance includes a joker who makes the entire act interesting

Performed by both men and women wearing colorful clothes, Maruni is the main attraction of Sikkim weddings. The performers are accompanied by a joker called ‘Dhatu Waray’ who makes fun of others. Nine different musical instruments, collectively called ‘Naumati Baja,’ are used in the performance. Though the dance traces its origin to Nepal, it forms an important part of the culture of Sikkim as well.

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