Folk music of India is essentially a community-based style of music dealing with some kind of social discourse or feelings of the singer and situation. The great diversity that prevails in India culture and civilization has greatly facilitated the origins and establishment of the folk style of music. Most of the folk music of India is dance-oriented. This means that the songs that are sung are usually accompanied by some dance form, typical to the region in which it is being performed.

While the classical music follow the rules as laid in the Natyashastra and cultivate a guru-shishya tradition; folk tradition is the music of the people and has no hard and fast rules.

Folk music is an indispensable part of functions such as childbirth, wedding, engagement etc. In the rural parts of the country, there are a number of songs associated with agricultural activities like planting and harvesting.

Folk Music of India

Baul, West Bengal

  • The Baul are a group of mystic minstrels from Bengal. Bauls constitute both a syncretic religious sect and a musical tradition.
  • Its lyrics carry influences of the Hindu Bhakti movements and the Suphi, a form of Sufi song exemplified by the songs of Kabir and is called ‘Baul Gaan’ or Baul song.
  • Bauls are a very heterogeneous group, with many sects, but their membership mainly consists of Vaishnava Hindus and Sufi Muslims.
  • They can often be identified by their distinctive clothes and musical instruments. Not much is known of their origin.
  • Their music represents a long heritage of preaching mysticism through songs in West Bengal, Assam and Tripura.
  • Baul music had a great influence on Rabindranath Tagore’s poetry and on his music (Rabindra Sangeet).
  • The prominent exponents of this music are: Yotin Das, Purno Chandra Das, Lalon Fakir, Naboni Das and Sanatan Das Thakur Baul.

Wanawan, Kashmir

  • It is the folk music from the state of Kashmir.
  • It is specially sung during wedding ceremonies and is considered very auspicious.

Pandavani, Chhattisgarh

  • Pandavani is a lyrical folk ballad form from the state of Chhattisgarh that narrates the story of the Pandavas.
  • It is all inclusive of gayan (singing) and vadan (playing an instrument). Usually the songs are set to the rhythm of a tambura.
  • There are two styles of narration in Pandavani – Vedamati and Kapalik.
    • In the Vedamati style, the lead artist narrates the story in a simple manner, sitting on the floor throughout the performance.
    • The Kapalik style is livelier, with the narrator enacting the incidents and characters.
  • Teejan Bai and Ritu Verma are renowned singers of Pandvani.

Rasiya Geet, Uttar Pradesh

  • The rich tradition of singing Rasiya Geet flourished in the Braj region.
  • ‘Rasiya’ word is derived from the word rasa (emotion) because rasiya means that which is filled with rasa or emotion. It reflects the personality of the singer as well as the nature of the song.
  • This is not confined to any particular festival, but is closely woven into the very fabric of daily life and day to day chores of its people.

Pankhida, Rajasthan

  • Sung by the peasants of Rajasthan while doing work in the fields, the peasants sing and speak while playing algoza and manjira. The literal meaning of the word ‘Pankhida’ is lover.

Lotia, Rajasthan

  • ‘Lotia’ is sung in the chaitra month during the festival – ‘Lotia’.
  • Women bring lotas (a vessel to fill water) and kalash filled with water from ponds and wells. They decorate them with flowers and come home.

Maand, Rajasthan

  • This folk music is from the State of Rajasthan. It is said to have developed in the royal courts and hence is also recognised in the classical circles.
  • This is neither accepted as a full- fledged Raga nor is it reckoned among the freely rendered folk songs.
  • The songs are usually about the bards singing the glory of the Rajput rulers.
  • It is considered close to Thumri or Ghazal. The famous song Kesariya Balam is in Maand style.

Mando, Goa

  • Mando song is a slow verse and refrain composition dealing with love, tragedy and both social injustice and political resistance during Portuguese presence in Goa.

Alha, Uttar Pradesh

  • Alha, typical ballad of Bundelkhand narrates the heroic deeds of Alha and Udal, the two warrior brothers who served Raja Parmal of Majoba.
  • This is the most popular regional music of Bundelkhand which is popular elsewhere in the country as well.
  • It is usually sung in different languages like Braj, Awadhi and Bhojpuri.
  • This form is also related to the epic Mahabharata as they try to glorify the heroes who are seen as the reincarnations of the Pandavas. The five brothers of the Pandavas are substituted here as Alha, Udal, Malkhan, Lakhan and Deva.

Hori, Uttar Pradesh

  • Hori singing is basically associated with the festival of Holi.
  • It is based on the love pranks of ‘Radha-Krishna’

Sohar, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh

  • Sohar’ songs are sung when a son is born in a family.
  • This has influenced the muslim culture and a form of ‘Sohar’ song gained currency in the muslim families living in some regions of Uttar Pradesh.
  • ‘Sohar’ songs unmistakably point to the mingling of two cultures.

Chhakri, Kashmir

  • Chhakri is a group song which is the most popular form of Kashmir’s folk music.
  • It is sung to the accompaniment of the noot (earthen pot) rababs, sarangi and tumbaknari (an earthen pot with high neck).

Laman, Himachal Pradesh

  • In Laman a group of girls sing a stanza and a group of boys give reply in the song.
  • This continues for hours. Interesting is that the girls singing on one of the peaks of the hill seldom see the faces of the boys singing on another peak. In between is the hill which echoes their love song.

Kajri, Uttar Pradesh

  • Kajri is a folk song sung by women, from Uttar Pradesh and adjacent region, during rainy season.
  • On the third day in the second half of the bhadra, women sing Kajri songs all through the night, while dancing in a semi-circle.

Pai Song, Madhya Pradesh

  • These songs are mostly from Madhya Pradesh. They are sung during the festivals, especially those festivals that fall during the rainy season.
  • These songs generally plead for a ‘good monsoon and a good harvest’ as these are the songs of the farmer communities. Generally, the Saira dance is performed on the Pai music.

Powada, Maharashtra

  • Powada is the traditional folk art from Maharashtra. The word Powada itself means “the narration of a story in glorious terms”. The narratives are always odes in praise of an individual hero or an incident or place.
  • The chief narrator is known as the Shahir who plays the duff to keep the rhythm. The tempo is fast and controlled by the main singer who is supported by others in chorus.

Ovi, Maharashtra & Goa

  • This form of music is from Maharashtra and Goa. They are usually the songs of women i.e., they are sung by women during leisure time and when they are completing their household work.
  • They usually contain four small lines of poetry. These are usually songs written for marriages, pregnancy and also lullabies for children.

Teej Songs, Rajasthan

  • Teej is celebrated with great involvement by women of Rajasthan.
  • The theme of the songs sung during this festival revolves around the union of Shiva and Parvati, the magic of monsoon, greenery, peacock dance etc.

Burrakatha, Andhra Pradesh

  • Burrakatha is a highly dramatic form of ballad. A bottle shaped drum (tambura) is played by the main performer while reciting a story.

Bhakha, Jammu and Kashmir

  • The Bhakha form of folk music is popular in Jammu region.
  • Bhakha is sung by the villagers when harvesting is done.
  • It is considered to be the regional music with most melodic and harmonious elements.

Bhuta song, Kerala

  • The basis of Bhuta song is rooted in superstitions. Some communities of Kerala do Bhuta rituals to send away the evil ghost and spirits. This ritual is accompanied with vigorous dancing and the music has a piercing and eerie character.

Daskathia, Odisha

  • Daskathia is a form of ballad singing prevalent in Odisha.
  • Daskathia is a name derived from a unique musical instrument called “Kathi”, wooden clappers used during the presentation. The performance is a form of worship and offering on behalf of the “Das”, the devotee.

Bihu songs, Assam

  • Bihu songs (bihu geet) are the most distinctive type of folk songs of Assam, both for their literary content and for their musical mode.
  • Bihu songs are blessings for a happy new year and the dance is associated with an ancient fertility cult.
  • It is Bihu time when an opportunity is there for marriageable young men and women to exchange their feelings and even to choose their partners.

Sana Lamok, Manipur

  • Sana Lamok is sung at the time of coronation ceremony by the Maaiba (priest).
  • It may also be sung to welcome the king. It is sung to evoke the spirit of Pakhangba, the presiding deity. There is a belief that this song is potent with magical powers.

Songs of Lai Haraoba Festival, Manipur

  • The meaning of Lai Haraoba is the festival of gods and goddesess. It is performed for the Umang-Lai (forest deity).
  • Ougri Hangen, song of creation and Heijing Hirao a ritualistic song is sung on the last day of Lai Haraoba festival.

Khongjom Parba, Manipur

  • It is an important folk music from the State of Manipur.
  • It is a popular ballad genre which is a musical narration of the battle of Khongjom fought between the British army and the Manipuri resistance forces in 1891.

Saikuti Zai (songs of Saikuti), Mizoram

  • Mizo are traditionally known as a ‘singing tribe’.
  • Saikuti, a poetess of Mizoram composed songs in praise of warriors, brave hunters, young men aspiring to be great warriors and hunters etc.

Chai hia (songs of the Chai Dance), Mizoram

  • As per Mizo custom during the Chapchar Kut festival not only singing, dance should also continue throughout the festival.
  • Special occasion for singing and dancing is called ‘chai’ and songs are known as ‘chai hia’ (chai songs).

Ghasiyari Geet, Garhwal

  • Young women of mountains have to go in far off forests to get grass for their cattle. They go to the forest dancing and singing in groups. Along with entertainment emphasis is laid on the importance of labour in the Ghasiyari Geet.

Villu Pattu, “Bow Song”, Tamil Nadu

  • Villu Pattu is a popular folk music of Tamil Nadu. The lead singer also plays the role of the main performer.
  • The songs revolve around theological themes and the conquest of good over evil is emphasised.

Lavani, Maharashtra

  • Lavani is a popular folk form of Maharashtra. Traditionally, the songs are sung by female artists, but male artists may occasionally sing Lavanis.
  • The dance format associated with Lavani is known as Tamasha.

Bhavageete, Karnataka & Maharashtra

  • These are emotional songs that are very popular amongst the masses in Karnataka and Maharashtra.
  • Musically, they are very close to the Ghazals and are sung on a slower pitch.
  • They are usually composed on themes around nature, love and philosophy.

Bhangra, Punjab

  • Bhangra is a form of dance-oriented folk music that has today become a pop sensation.
  • The present musical style is derived from the traditional musical accompaniment to the folk dance of Punjab called by the same name, bhangra. The female dance of punjab is known as gidda.

Dandiya, Gujrat

  • Dandiya is a form of dance-oriented folk music that has also been adapted for pop music worldwide, popular in Western India, especially during Navaratri.
  • The present musical style is derived from the traditional musical accompaniment to the folk dance of Dandiya called by the same name, dandiya.

Paani Hari, Rajasthan

  • This form is from the state of Rajasthan and is thematically related to water.
  • The songs are generally about women fetching water from the nearby well and carrying the water back to their households in matkas over their head.

Kolannalu or Kolattam, Andhra Pradesh

  • It is a popular music and dance combination of Andhra Pradesh.
  • It is similar to “Dandiya” or “Stick dance”.
  • It is an ancient dance form and involves movement in a rhythmic fashion. The dancers generally move in two circles.

Other major folk music traditions from the country are:

Name of the MusicState of OriginMajor themes
SoharBihar & U.P.Sung during childbirth
ZikirAssamIt embodies the teaching of Islam
Ja-jin-jaArunachal PradeshSung during marriages
NyiogaArunachal PradeshSung at the end of the marriage ceremony
HeliamleuNagalandDancing songs
NeuleuNagalandSongs about legends and myths
HereileuNagalandWar songs
HekaileuNagalandSongs about oneself
Dollu Kunitha (Drum Dance)KarnatakaNamed after Dollu-a percussion instrument and performed by folks of Kuruba Community.
NaattupurapaattuTamil NaduConsists of village folk music and city folk music
Pala and DaskathiaOdishaBallads of religious nature
ManganiarsNorth-west IndiaSongs of Alexander, local kings and battles
DhadiPunjabThey sing ballads of bravery
Basant GeetGarhwal, UttarakhandDuring Basant Panchami festival
Villu PattuTamil NaduReligious; Conquest of good over evil
Sukar ke BiahBiharCelebrating love between cosmological deities- Shukra and Brihaspati
Saikuti ZaiMizoramPraise of brave men, hunters, etc.
Lai Haraoba IsheiManipurSung by Meitei people during Lai Haraoba festival and is related to religion Sanamahism.
VeeragaseKarnatakaDuring Dusshera procession
ChhakriKashmirFairy tales, love stories
Bhuta songKeralaSongs against evils and ghosts
KhubakesheiManipurA song accompanied entirely by clapping
JhumairEastern-StatesQuite famous among tea-tribes of Assam.
BorgeetAssamInitially composed by Sankardeva and Madhavdeva in 15th–16th century and is associated with Ekasarana Dharma.
JhooriHimachal PradeshThis song celebrates the extra-marital romance.

Fusion of Classical and Folk Music

With time, the classical and folk music came together and other style emerged. These styles contain elements from both classical and folk music. Devotional music is one of the fusion music where both royalty and masses worship the deities. Some of the common styles are:

Sugam Sangeet

It emerged from devotional classical music like Prabandha Sangeet and Dhruvapada. Its sub categories are:


  • Bhajans owe their origin to the Bhakti Movement. The word bhajan is derived from bhaj which means ‘to serve’ in Sanskrit.
  • Bhajan is a popular form of devotional singing prevalent in north India.
  • It is usually sung in temples in praise of god or is addressed as a plea to him. Bhajans are usually sung in groups. There is a lead singer who sings the first line or stanza and is followed by the choir.
  • The compositions are usually based on Shanta Rasa. Stories and episodes from the Ramayana and Mahabharata are popular themes for bhajans, as are the episodes from the lives of Lord Rama, Lord Krishna and Lord Shiva.
  • Bhajan singing is usually accompanied by musical instruments like jhanj, manjira, daphli, dholak and chimta.
  • Meera Bai, Kabir, Surdas, Tulsidas, Guru Nanak and Narsi Mehta are some of the most significant names in bhajan singing.


  • Kirtans are another type of folk music usually sung by the Vaishnavas and are based on the love stories of Krishna and Radha. It is prevalent in Bengal.
  • Kirtans were transformed into song and dance congregations by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (15-16th Century CE), drawing inspiration from Jayadeva’s Geet Govinda.
  • Kirtans are of two types: Nama-Kirtana and LilaKirtana. The first involves constant uttering of the name and singing of the glory of God, while the second describes the various anecdotes of the Radha-Krishna love.
  • The singing of Kirtans is accompanied by musical instruments like mridanga and cymbals.


  • Qawwali is a devotional form of music, prevalent among the sufis.
  • The lyrics are in praise of Allah, Prophet Mohammad, members of Prophet’s family or renowned Sufi saints.
  • It is written in Persian, Urdu and Hindi and is composed in a specific raga.
  • Qawwali is usually sung in a group, with one or two lead singers.
  • Originally it was sung to the beat of the daff. However, now the Qawwali singing is accompanied by the dholak, tabla, manjira and the harmonium.
  • The Sabri brothers, Aziz Nazaan, Aziz Mian, Late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Late Aziz Warisi are important names in qawwali singing.
  • Originally, Qawwalis were sung in praise of God. In India Qawwali was brought from Persia around thirteenth century and Sufis enlisted its services to spread their message.
  • Amir Khusro (1254-1325) a Sufi and an innovator contributed to the evolution of Qawwali.
  • It is a mode of singing rather than a form of composition. In performance Qawwali presents a fascinating, interchanging use of the solo and choral modalities.


  • Shabads are devotional songs of the Sikhs sung in gurdwaras on religious occasions. They are ascribed to Sikh gurus and many Bhakti saint-poets.
  • Shabad originated as a musical composition around the 17th century CE. Guru Nanak and his disciple Mardana are credited with the development and popularity of shabad.
  • Shabads are sung to the accompaniment of the harmonium, tabla and often the dholak and chimta.
  • Today, three distinct styles exist in shabad singing. They are raga-based shabads, traditional shabads as mentioned in the Adi Granth and those based on lighter tunes.
  • The Singh Bandhu are today the most eminent shabad singers. D.V. Paluskar and Vinayak Rao Patvardhan also sang shabads.

Rabindra Sangeet

  • This is one of the most famous forms of composing music in Bengal. It recreates the music produced by the Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore.
  • The music is a mixture of classical elements and Bengali folk strains. There are more than 2000 Rabindra Sangeet presently sung and performed by music lovers in Bengal.
  • The themes of this sangeet range from worship of the one true god, devotion to nature and its beauty, love and a celebration of life. One of the most prominent emotions in the Rabindra Sangeet was also the strain of patriotism and to keep one’s nation above one’s own needs.

Haveli Sangeet

  • This was a type of temple music popular in Rajasthan and Gujarat.
  • It was originally meant to be sung in the temple premises but now is performed outside of the temple. It is currently practiced by a community known as the Pushtimarg Sampradaya or the community that believes in Pushtimarg as the way to salvation.

Gana Sangeet

  • Generally sung in chorus carrying some social message.
  • The most common form of Gana Sangeet is to sing about the patriotic feelings. They also include songs of protest against the malpractices in the society. They generally try to bring in a social message, for example, to urge people to stop the exploitation of women and children, etc.
  • One of the most popular examples of Gana Sangeet is our national song: Vande Mataram, which is sung in praise of our nation.

Some other varieties of the fusion of Classical and Folk are:

NameState of OriginPurpose
AbhangaMaharashtraIn praise of Vithobha God. Songs composed and sung by Tukaram, Namdev, etc.
BhatialiWest BengalAbout nature and daily life and sung by the boat drivers.
TevaramTamil NaduSung by the Shaivite Community like Oduyars.
KirtanWest BengalInvolves singing and dancing and takes inspiration from the Gita Govinda.
Sopana SangeethamKeralaOriginated in the temples, the theme is religious in nature.

Modern Music


  • Indian rock is a music genre that incorporates elements of Indian music with rock music, and is often topically India-centric.
  • In the 1960s, renowned Western acts such as The Yardbirds, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Doors and The Byrds were notably influenced by Indian classical music as a way of reinforcing the psychedelia in their music.


  • Jazz music in India originated in the 1920s in Mumbai and in Kolkata, where African-American jazz musicians performed.
  • They inspired Goan musicians who then imbibed jazz into the sounds of India’s Hindi film music industry.
  • There has been much interaction between Indian music and jazz music.

Psychedelic Trance

  • Psychedelic trance is a sub-genre of trance music characterized by arrangements of rhythms and layered melodies created by high tempo riffs.

Pop Music

  • Indian pop music refers to pop music produced in India that is independent from film sound tracks for Indian cinema, such as the music of Bollywood, which tends to be more popular.

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keshav aggarwal

Great Work Sir, May God bless with all the success you deserve