Kala Sangam 27th March 2017
South Asian Arts

Learn about south Asian arts

South Asia is comprised of four countries: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. South Asia has very rich and diverse history of arts and culture. The artforms of south Asia include music, dance, crafts and literature.

South Asian Dance

The dances of south Asia originate from many regions and are either classical or folk dances.

Classical Dances

  • The seven types of classical dances from south Asia are: Bharatanatyam, Kathak, Kuchipudi, Mohiniattam, Odissi, Kathakali & Manipuri.
  • The most popular ones in UK are Bharatanatyam and Kathak.

Bharatanatyam is known as “a soul worship of the Divine”.  It is a south Indian  style of classical dance and a blend of Bhava (Expression), Raga (melody) and Tala (Rhythm), stylised and perfected over 2000 years ago. The dancer tells a story through gestures and facial expressions.

Find out about Bharatanatyam classes at Kala Sangam

Kathak is a major classical dance from north India, traditionally danced by both men and women. What distinguishes Kathak from other dance forms is its spontaneity, freedom from uniformity, innovation and improvisations. The lightning pirouettes and intricate footwork variations in perfect unison with echoing drum beats and tinkling ankle bells present a fascinating spectacle.

Folk Dances

  • The folk dances of India existed with classical dances for centuries.
  • They combine music, ritual and celebration, and were created by people in the community.
  • Dancers use colourful costumes and beautiful jewellery of each tradition and region.
  • Some of the popular folk dances are Bhangra, Ghoomar, Garba and Kandyan dance.

Bhangra is a colourful dance form from state of Punjab and is performed by men. The dance is characterised by abrupt bending and crouching of the body and snapping of the figure. Bhangra begins in a slow tempo and generally ends in a very fast one. Acrobatic movements are usually introduced.

Garba is a very popular dance form of Gujrat. It is mainly performed before the festival of lights or Diwali. This is a community event and both men and women participate in the dance using their hands to clap or sticks (Dandya Ras). This dance is noted for its colour and vibrancy.

Thiruvadara Kali is a very popular dance form of Kerala, It is usually performed in connection with the Native festival called Onam and Thiruvathira. The festival Thiruvathira comes in Dhanu Maasam (January). Thiruvathirakali is also called as “Kaikottikali”.

South Asian Music

  • The music of south Asia can be classical or folk and presented as vocal or instrumental music.
  • Quawwali is a very popular musical form of Pakistan.
  • There are seven musical notes: Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni, which correspond to Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti.
  • When the notes are used in different combinations, the melody or ‘Raga’ is created.
  • The Tabla, Sitar, Harmonium, Veena and Violin are well known instruments throughout the subcontinent.
  • Quawwali is a very popular musical form of Pakistan.
  • The main percussion instruments are Tabla and Pakhavaj from the north and Mridangam, Ghatam and Kanjira from the south of India.

Find out about Tabla percussion classes at Kala Sangam

South Asian Poetry & Literature

South Asian art traditions are steeped in the rich diversity of literary poets, writers, philosophers and playwrights.

Some of the most prominent and well known literary personalities include Rabindranath Tagore from India and Faiz Ahmed Faiz from Pakistan.

South Asian Visual Arts

The visual arts is one of the most prominent art forms to represent south Asian countries. South Asian culture has inspired literally hundreds of visual art forms and genres from traditional to contemporary.

The range of visual art forms includes Calligraphy, Painting, Pottery, Textiles/Fabrics, Mixed media Acrylics, Embroidery, Sculpture, Photography and Filmmaking to name just a few.

If you are interested in booking a visual arts workshop for your school or community group, click below for more information:

Schools education packages
Community arts workshops

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Quote of the day "Every artist was once an amateur" - Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1803-1882, American essayist