Dancing Through Indian Culture

A colourful Indian dancerEverything you’ve heard about India may well be true: the intensity of the colourful saris worn by the traditionally dressed women, the heat rising off the dirt roads, the spiciness of the food, the cows crossing the country roads, the unbelievably chaotic traffic and the warm, welcoming smiles of the people.

I had the opportunity to experience a little bit of India for myself during a month long trip to Kerala in the winter of 2003, during which I spent studying Kathakali, a traditional South Indian representative dance. The beautiful sights I saw and wonderful people I met that year were part of what lured me back in the summer of 2011, but most enticing was the fact that traditional dance is an essential part of India's rich and diverse culture. From north to south and from east to west, song and dance is an integral part of this amazing country's phenomenal events, religious and otherwise.

Much like Kathakali, Kathak and Bharata Natyam are intrinsically Indian dances that feature their own language of intricate hand and eye gestures and body movements. These dances symbolize and communicate stories significance to the Indian culture. Kathakali, or dance drama as it is known, is an extremely difficult ritualized dance with complicated makeup, costume, gestures and movements that has been an important part of South Indian culture for more than 400 years.

There is a story behind every choreography. Every colour has a particular meaning. Usually, these actor-dancers undergo a long process of applying their makeup, and getting into their ornate costumes. Their faces are painted green, black and yellow. Long fake nails are applied to one hand, and the dancer is wrapped into a huge skirt-like costume with gold bracelets and anklets and a huge crown is placed on his head – all in the presence of the audience!

In India, everything appears to be symbolic. There are historic rectangular buildings called gopurams, featuring colourful figures representing mythological themes. Elephants carry jewellery that can represent wind, fire, water or seasons. Upon my arrival in India, I remember feeling shocked by my first impression. The Indian culture was so similar to my Dominican culture, with people smiling as they greeted you. There was music everywhere especially in the colourful parades. There were similar mountains, beaches, palms, rice, mangoes and coconuts. Even the thick, humid air smelled the same. I felt right at home… until I started dancing!

About the Author

With a background in foreign languages, education, anthropology and the performing arts, Dr. Jason Trinidad Pucheu devotes his free time to promoting cultural awareness. He has studied music and dance in many different countries. He views travel as the ultimate educational experience. Visit

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 Full name: Republic of India

 Population: 1.2 billion (CIA, 2012)

follow  Capital: New Delhi

click  Largest city: Urban Mumbai (by population)

go to link  Area: 3.287 million (1.27 million sq. mi.)

 Major languages: Hindi, English and 14  other Official Languages

 Major religions: Hindu, Muslim, Christian,  Sikh, Other

 Monetary unit: Rupee

follow site  GDP per capita: US $3,700

 Internet domain: .in

 International dialling code: +91

 Source: CIA World Factbook