Performing Art

This can be broadly divided into Indian Music forms, Folk Music, Dance forms, Martial Arts, Tribal Arts, Languages, Theatres, Puppetry and traditional activities

Indian Dance


  • Classical Dance forms like Bharatnatyam, Kathakali, Kuchipudi, Manipuri, Kathak, Odissi and Sattriya dance forms.
  • A general idea about the Features of these dance forms
  • Similarities and dissimilarities.
  • Difference between Hindustani and Classical Music- Styles
  • Other forms of Music- Ghazal, Khayal etc 
  • Martial Arts – Kalaripayattu, Gatka, Mardani khel, Silambam, Sqay, hang-Ta – their styles or weapons used and region famous for.

Example: Silambam is a weapon-based Indian martial art from Tamil Nadu. The term silambambu referred to a particular type of bamboo from the Kurinji hills in present-day Kerala. Thus silambam was named after its primary weapon, the bamboo staff.

Famous Tribal and Folk Arts

Folk music and Communities associated

Example: The Manganiar and related Langha caste are Muslim communities in the desert of Rajasthan, India. They are famous for their classical folk music. They are the groups of hereditary professional musicians.

Theatre Forms and Puppetry forms

Example: Bhand Pather, the traditional theatre form of Kashmir, is a unique combination of dance, music and acting. Satire, wit and parody are preferred for inducing laughter. Bhand Pather are mainly from the farming community, the impact of their way of living, ideals and sensitivity is discernible.

Example: The string puppets of Karnataka are called Gombeyatta. They are styled and designed like the characters of Yakshagana, the traditional theatre form of the region. The Gombeyatta puppet figures are highly stylized and have joints at the legs, shoulders, elbows, hips and knees. Episodes enacted in Gombeyatta are usually based on Prasangas of the Yakshagana plays. The music that accompanies is dramatic and beautifully blends folk and classical elements.


Note: Try to find relevant issues from newspaper and prepare it from there as well. This way on daily basis, you will be in touch with culture. We will explain this strategy on how questions will be asked from Current Affairs in our Daily MCQ’s

Indian Languages Classical language; Recently, few languages were added to the category of classical languages, so UPSC asked a question in 2014.


Theatre and Puppetry forms – not every form is important, if there is any news regarding a particular form, google it out and note down as shown in the example above. Also IASbaba would also frame questions based on current affairs so that you don’t miss out important questions from this section.


Few Examples from Previous Year Question Paper’s


With reference to Dhrupad, one of the major traditions of India that has been kept alive for centuries, which of the following statements are correct?(2012)

 1. Dhrupad originated and developed in the Rajput kingdoms during the Mughal period.

2. Dhrupad is primarily a devotional and spiritual music.

3. Dhrupad Alap uses Sanskrit syllables from Mantras.

 Select the correct answer using the codes given below :

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1, 2 and 3

(d) None of the above is correct

 Solution (b)



How do you distinguish between Kuchipudi and Bharatanatyam dances?(2012)

1. Dancers occasionally speaking dialogues is found in Kuchipudi dance but not in Bharatanatyam.

2. Dancing on the brass plate by keeping the feet on its edges is a feature of Bharatanatyam but Kuchipudi dance does not have such a form of movements.

 Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

 (a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2

 Solution (a)



In the context of cultural history of India, a pose in dance and dramatics called ‘Tribhanga’ has been a favourite of Indian artists from ancient times till today. Which one of the following statements best describes this pose?(2013)

(a) One leg is bent and the body is slightly but oppositely curved at waist and neck

(b) Facial expressions, hand gestures and make-up are combined to symbolize certain epic or historic characters

(c) Movements of body, face and hands are used to express oneself or to tell a story

(d) A little smile, slightly curved waist and certain hand gestures are emphasized to express the feelings of love or eroticism

 Solution (a)


With reference to the famous Sattriya dance, consider the following statements: 2014

1.   Sattriya is a combination of music, dance and drama.

2.  It is a centuries-old living tradition of Vaishnavites of Assam.

3.  It is based on classical Ragas and Talas of devotional songs composed by Tulsidas, Kabir and Mirabai.

Which of the statements given above is /are correct?

A.      1 only

B.      1 and 2 only

C.      2 and 3 only

D.     1, 2 and 3

Solution: D



Note: Now check some of the questions framed from current affairs, to give more insight about its importance and how to pick such issues form newspapers.

In the Hindu, Friday Review section, articles on History and Culture are published. These questions are framed with reference to it. Samsara was mentioned with reference to Buddhism. Now, solve these questions…

Samsara’ is associated with which of the following

1.      Buddhism

2.      Jainism

3.      Hinduism

Select the correct option

(a)   Only 1

(b)   1 and 2

(c)    1,2 and 3

(d)   2 and 3

Answer: C





  Match the following correctly

1.      Meenakari:  A form of jewelry

2.      Padayani:  A dance of Karnataka

3.      Dollu Kinitha:  A drum dance of Kerala

(a)   1,2 and 3

(b)   Only 1

(c)    Only 2

(d)   Only 3

Answer: Only 1



 With reference to “Sankirtana”, consider the following

 1. Ritual singing, drumming and dancing of Manipur

2. It encompasses an array of arts performed to mark religious occasions and various stages in the life of the Vaishnav people of Manipur plains.

3. It is practiced at the centre of a temple, where performers narrate the lives and deeds of Krishna through songs and dance

4. It is inscribed on the Representative List of the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

Incorrect statement is/are

(a)   1 and 2

(b)   1,2 and 3

(c)    All

(d)   None

Answer: None



With reference to Koodiyattom, consider the following statements

1.  It is a classical Tamil theatre tradition, believed to be 2000 years old

2.  This art form is played with music and dance along with natya.

3.  It is officially recognized by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity.

Identify the correct statements?

(a) 1 ,2 and 3

(b) 2 and 3

(c ) Only 2

(d) Only 3 

Answer: Only 3



Note: Recently, Sankirtana was inscribed on the Representative List of UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Same way, Koodiyattom is officially recognized by UNESCO as a masterpience of the oral and intangible Heritage of Humanity. Both the news came in The Hindu. This is how you have to link Current Affairs with Culture. IASbaba will frame more such questions in the daily MCQ’s. And once you get a hang of it, you will be more confident in predicting and solving such questions from Culture.


Folk Music:


A community of people called Manganiyars is well-known for their (2014)

A.      martial arts in North-East India

B.      musical tradition in North-West India

C.      classical vocal music in South India

D.     pietra dura tradition in Central India

Solution: B



Martial Arts:


 With reference to India’s culture and tradition, what is ‘Kalaripayattu’? (2014)

a.  It is an ancient Bhakti cult of Shaivism still prevalent in some parts of South India

b.  It is an ancient style bronze and brasswork still found in southern part of Coromandel area

c.  It is an ancient form of dance-drama and a living tradition in the northern part of Malabar

d.  It is an ancient martial art and a living tradition in some parts of South India

Solution: D







  • Ancient Literatures like Veda, Upanishada, Shruti and Smriti etc.
  • Buddhist and Jains literature– Features, Vinaya Pitaka and Tri Pitaka, Scholars associated, purpose of these literatures
  • Sanskrit Literature , Sangam Literature and famous scholars- Aryabhatta and Kalidas etc.
  • Important writers Poets and their works – Kabir, Meera, Surdas etc


Example (2014 Prelims Questions Paper):



Consider the following statements:

1.    ‘Bijak’ is a composition of the teachings of Saint Dadu Dayal.

2.    The Philosophy of Pushti Marg was propounded by Madhvacharya.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

A.      1 only

B.      2 only

C.      Both 1 and 2

D.     Neither 1 nor 2

Solution: D



Questions on ‘Specific terms’ from culture


  • On regional traditions
  • Tribal Arts
  • Handicrafts and crafts of specific regions

Note: Tribal arts and traditions are regularly in news. The Hindu has a separate section on it where articles on Music, Dance, Traditions, Art and Culture of specific era are regularly updated. You should focus on them but smartly, since reading the entire article is ‘not’ relevant from the exam perspective.


Note: While preparing from texts, focus on such terms and make a list of it. Keep on revising them. Now we will check, if it is possible to form such questions from current affairs or not?


Few examples from current events: Taken from The Hindu

With reference to India’s culture and tradition, what is “Chenda”?

1.      It is a type of flute

2.      It is a cylindrical musical drum

3.      It is a type of puppetry found in South India

4.      It is an ancient music form prevalent in Western India

 Solution: 2


  With reference to Indian culture and tradition, what is “Pookalam”?

1.      It is the traditional design done using flowers of different varieties and hues.

2.      It is the traditional way of cloth painting.

3.      It is a tribal festival of harvest season.

4.      It is a type of musical instrument prevalent in South India.

 Solution: 1




A popular feature of Mughal period was ‘Naqqar Khana’. What is it?

 1.  Stepped pulpit in the Jama Masjid or Friday mosque from where the khutba was read.

2.   Drum house from where ceremonial music was played

3.   A shrine of square plan

4.   An occasional meeting place where especial guests were welcomed.

 Answer: 2



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