The Beauty of Indian Folk Music

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


India is a land of diversity, and this is reflected in its music. Indian folk music is rich and varied, with each region having its own unique style. In this blog post, we explore the beauty of Indian folk music, and how it can be a source of joy and inspiration.

The Various Types of Folk Music in India

Indian folk music is very rich and diverse. There are different types of folk music in different parts of the country. Some of the popular folk music genres in India include Baul, Sufi, Ghazal, Qawwali, and Punjabi folk music. Indian folk music is often based on the themes of love, loss, and nature.


Bhangra is a type of folk music that originates from the Punjab region of India. The music is often upbeat and celebratory, and it is often accompanied by dance. Bhangra has its roots in the traditional music of the Punjab region, but it has been strongly influenced by Western pop and film music in recent years.


Bihu is the main agricultural festival celebrated in the state of Assam in India. It is celebrated three times a year and each Bihu corresponds to a different season. The three Bihu celebrations are known as Rongali or Bohag Bihu, Kongali or Kati Bihu, and Bhogali or Magh Bihu.

Bohag Bihu is celebrated in the month of April to mark the beginning of the Assamese New Year and the start of the spring season. Kongali Bihu is celebrated in October during the period of harvest, while Bhogali Bihu is held in January and marks the end of the harvest season.

Each type of Bihu has its own unique set of customs and traditions. For example, Bohag Bihu is typically celebrated with feasts and gatherings, while Kongali Bihu is a more somber affair during which people offer prayers for a good harvest.

Indian folk music is deeply rooted in the country’s rich cultural heritage. Folk music encompasses a wide range of genres, including bhangra, qawwali, lavani and Ghazals. Indian folk music has also been influenced by Sufi and Hindu mysticism.

The various types of folk music in India reflect the diversity of the country’s culture and traditions. India is home to myriad languages, religions and ethnic groups, all of which have contributed to the development of unique musical styles.


Dandiya is a form of Hindu folk music that is popular in the Gujarat and Rajasthan regions of India. The music is typically accompanied by dance, and the lyrics often deal with themes of love and relationships.

Dandiya is typically played on the dholak, a type of drum. The beats are fast and rhythmical, and the dancers often move in circles around each other as they perform.

The style of dandiya dancing can vary depending on region, but the basic steps involve tapping your feet and clapping your hands in time with the music.


Garba is a form of dance that originates from the state of Gujarat in India. It is usually performed during the Hindu festival of Navratri, and involves worshipping the goddess Durga. The name “Garba” comes from the Sanskrit word “garbha” meaning “womb”, and is seen as a symbol of fertility.

The dance is performed in a circle, with the participants clapping their hands and moving their feet to the beat of the music. The music itself is a mixture of traditional Indian folk music and modern Western beats. Garba is a very popular form of Indian folk dance, and is enjoyed by people of all ages.


Ghoomar is a traditional folk dance of Rajasthan, India. The distinctive feature of Ghoomar dance is the swirling movement of the dancers who wear long, flowy dresses. The skirts of the Ghoomar dress twirl out as the dancers swirl, making a beautiful and visually captivating spectacle.

Ghoomar originated in the Bhil tribe, and was later adopted by the Rajputs. Historians believe that Ghoomar was originally performed by women only, but over time it has become a dance that is enjoyed by both sexes.

The Ghoomar dance is often performed on special occasions such as weddings and festivals. It is also commonly performed for tourists who visit Rajasthan.

The Origins of Folk Music in India

Indian folk music is a genre of music that has its origins in the villages of India. This music is typically based on the traditions and culture of the people living in that region. Folk music is usually passed down from generation to generation, and it is often used to tell stories or express the feeling of the people.

The Vedic Period

The Vedic period is the earliest of the four periods in Indian history. It is named after the Vedas, sacred texts that were composed during this time. The Vedic period is often referred to as the “Golden Age” of India because it was a time of great peace and prosperity. The people of this time were very spiritual and focused on their relationship with the divine.

One of the most important aspects of Vedic culture was music. The Vedas contain many hymns and songs that were sung during religious ceremonies. These songs were passed down from generation to generation and became the foundation of Indian folk music.

During the Vedic period, music was used for both spiritual and secular purposes. Songs were sung to honor the gods and goddesses, as well as to commemorate important events such as births, weddings, and funerals. Folk music was also used as a form of entertainment. people would sing and dance at festivals and other celebrations.

The Vedic period came to an end around 1000 BCE, but the musical traditions that were established during this time continued to influence Indian folk music for centuries to come.

The Epic Period

During the Epic Period, Vedic Hymns were composed and sung in praise of the gods. These hymns were later compiled into the Rig Veda, which is the oldest of the four Vedas. The Rig Veda contains hymns that are addressed to various deities, and tell stories of heroic deeds. For example, the Purusha Sukta hymn is about the creation of the universe, and the Nasadiya Sukta hymn tells the story of how human beings came into existence.

Another type of folk music that originated during the Epic Period is Bhakti music. This type of music is devotional in nature, and was sung in praise of Hindu deities such as Krishna and Rama. One of the most famous Bhakti folk songs is the Bhajan, which is still sung today by Hindus all over India.

During the Epic Period, folk music was also used for storytelling. These stories were often about heroes and goddesses, and were intended to teach moral lessons. One famous example of a story that was told through folk music is the Ramayana, which is an epic poem about Prince Rama’s quest to rescue his wife Sita from the demon king Ravana.

The Classical Period

The origins of folk music in India can be traced back to the Vedic period. It is believed that the Rigveda, which is the oldest of the four Vedas, contains hymns that were sung by the ancient Aryans. The Vedic period lasted from about 1500 BCE to 500 BCE. During this time, the Aryans settled in various parts of India and developed their own languages and cultures.

The classical period of Indian history began in about 500 BCE and lasted until about 1200 CE. This was a time of great political and cultural change in India. The two major religions of Hinduism and Buddhism were founded during this period. Indian music began to develop into its own unique style during this time.

During the classical period, two new musical genres emerged: dhrupad and khyal. Dhrupad is a form of devotional music that was often sung by bards who accompanied themselves on the vina, an instrument similar to a sitar. Khyal is a more elaborate form of vocal music that was developed in the royal courts of North India. It is characterized by beautiful melodies and intricate ornamentation.

The classical period also saw the rise of Carnatic music, which is traditionally associated with South India. Carnatic music is known for its rich melodies and complex rhythms. It reached its height of popularity during the reign of the Vijayanagar Empire (1336-1646 CE).

Bollywood, or Hindi film music, is a modern form of Indian music that has its roots in traditional styles like dhrupad, khyal, and Carnatic music. Bollywood films are known for their lavish musical numbers, which often feature colorful costumes, energetic dancing, and romantic storylines. Hindi film music is extremely popular in India and around the world

The Modern Period

During the last quarter of the nineteenth century, a number of important changes took place in the social and cultural life of India which were to have a profound effect on Indian music. The most important of these was the impact of Western classical music which was introduced into India by the British during the colonial period. Indian musicians began to experiment with Western musical forms and instruments, and this led to the development of what is known as “Hindustani classical music.” Another important development during this period was the rise of the film industry in India, which popularized a new form of light music known as “filmi.”

During the twentieth century, Indian music developed rapidly in both Hindustani and Carnatic traditions. New schools and styles emerged, and there was a growing trend towards fusion and cross-pollination between different traditions. In recent years, traditional Indian music has been increasingly influenced by Western popular music, resulting in the emergence of new genres such as “Indie-Pop” and “Bollywood.”

The Instruments Used in Folk Music

Folk music is often associated with simple instruments like the flute, tambourine, and drums. However, there is a lot of beauty in the simplicity of these instruments. In this article, we will be discussing the different instruments used in folk music.

The Dholak

The dholak is a two-sided barrel drum played with the bare hands. It is a very popular folk instrument in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. It is also used in Bhangra music. The dholak is usually made of wood, with two membranes of goatskin stretched over the ends. The right hand membrane is smaller than the left, and has a higher pitch. The dholak is usually played with one hand on each membrane, using a variety of strokes including slapping, pinching and rolling.

The dholak developed from an earlier instrument called the dolaki or dolya. It first appeared in India in the 16th century, and quickly became popular all over the subcontinent. The word “dholak” comes from the Hindi word “dhol”, meaning “drum”.

The dholak is used in a wide range of music genres, from traditional folk songs to modern Bollywood hits. It is often used to provide the rhythm for dancing. Dancers will often hold one end of the drum while they dance, or even wear it around their waist.

The Dhol

The dhol is a type of drum that is commonly used in Indian folk music. It is usually made from wood, with a skin stretched over one end. The other end is open. The dhol is played with two sticks, one in each hand. The player strikes the skin with one stick and then the other, making a very distinctive sound.

The dhol is most commonly used in Punjab, in the north of India. It is also popular in Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Maharashtra. In Punjab, the dhol is often used to accompany the bhangra dance. Bhangra is a very energetic folk dance that originates from the Punjab region. It is often performed at weddings and other special occasions.

The Shehnai

The shehnai is a conical oboe with a tapering brass tube. It has a double reed at the top, and six to eight finger holes. It is the most commonly used instrument in Hindustani classical music, especially for dhrupad, and often accompanies the sitar in north Indian folk music.

The shehnai originated in India, and was used in royal court orchestras as early as the 16th century. It is thought to have descended from a medieval instrument called the shawm. In the 19th century, it became popular as a solo instrument, and by the early 20th century it was an essential part of north Indian wedding ceremonies.

The shehnai has a distinctive mellow sound that is often associated with auspicious occasions. It is commonly used in film soundtracks and Bollywood songs to create an atmosphere of celebration or joy.

The Sarangi

The Sarangi is a traditional folk instrument from India. It is a string instrument that is played with a bow, and it has a very unique and beautiful sound. The Sarangi is often used in traditional Indian folk music, and it is also a very popular instrument in Bollywood movies.

The Styles of Folk Music

There are many different types of folk music in India, each with their own distinct style. One of the most popular styles is Rajasthani folk music, which is known for its energetic and upbeat rhythms. Another popular style is Sufi folk music, which is known for its soulful and spiritual lyrics.


Sufi music is based on the works of Sufi poets, and often has a spiritual element to it. The lyrics often focus on love, and the music is meant to induce a state of ecstasy. The most common instruments used in Sufi music are the harmonium, tabla, and sitar.


Punjabi folk music is the traditional music of the Punjabi people, an ethnic group from the Punjab region of South Asia. The music is a mixture of Persian, Indian and Afghan influences. The lyrics are typically in Punjabi, but may also be in Hindi or Urdu. The music is typically based on stories from the Sufi tradition and often has a spiritual theme.


Rajasthani music is a very popular form of folk music which is practiced in the state of Rajasthan in India. The music has a wide range of styles and genres, which can be broadly classified into two main categories: folk and classical.

The classical style of Rajasthani music is heavily influenced by the Hindustani classical tradition, and is typically performed by professional musicians who have undergone years of training. The folk style, on the other hand, is more commonly practiced by amateurs and often incorporates elements of folk traditions from other parts of India as well as from Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Rajasthani music has been extremely popularized by the work of renowned musician Mohammad Rafi, who was born in the state of Rajasthan. Rafi’s work spans both the classical and folk traditions, and his songs are known for their catchy melodies and beautiful lyrics.


Gujarati folk music is a musical style performed in the Gujarati language. It is usually performed by a small group of musicians, with one singer and one or two accompanying instruments. The music is often based on traditional Gujarati folk tunes, but may also include elements from other genres such as Hindustani or Carnatic music.

The instruments used in Gujarati folk music include the dhol (a type of drum), the dholak (a hand drums), the manjira (a type of percussion instrument), the harmonium (a type of keyboard instrument) and the shehnai (a type of wind instrument). The music is often based on traditional Gujarati folk tunes, but may also include elements from other genres such as Hindustani or Carnatic music.

Gujarati folk music is often used for religious ceremonies and festivals, as well as for entertaining guests at weddings and other social gatherings. It is also sometimes used as a form of therapy, to help people relax and de-stress.

The Popularity of Folk Music in India

Folk music is the music of the people, and it has been around for centuries. In India, folk music is extremely popular and there are many different types of folk music. The music is often passed down from generation to generation and it is a part of the culture. Folk music is often used for weddings, religious ceremonies, and other important events.

Film Industry

Indian folk music is popular not only in India but all over the world. The films produced in India are often based on folk tales or feature folk songs. Even the popular Bollywood films often make use of Indian folk music to create a unique atmosphere.

Indian folk music has a rich history and is an important part of the country’s heritage. It is believed to date back to the time of the Vedas, which are Hindu scriptures that were written between 1500 and 600 BCE. The Vedas contain references to various musical instruments and styles of singing, which suggests that music was an important part of ancient Indian culture.

Folk music played an important role in the development of classical Indian music, as many of the classical styles and methods were adapted from folk traditions. Indian folk music is also significant for its influence on western popular music, as several famous western musicians have been inspired by Indian folk tunes.

Television Industry

The Indian television industry is one of the largest in the world. It has been growing rapidly, with more and more people getting access to television sets. This has led to a rise in the popularity of folk music, as people are exposed to a variety of new and interesting sounds.

Folk music is an important part of Indian culture, and it is enjoyed by people of all ages. It is often used in film and television productions, as it provides a unique and authentic sound that can add to the atmosphere of a scene.

There are many different types of folk music in India, from the traditional sounds of the north to the more contemporary styles of the south. Whatever your taste, you are sure to find something that you enjoy. Why not explore some of the different genres and see what you like best?

Social Media

Popular Indian music is often based on traditional Indian folk music. This style of music has been passed down through the generations, and it is still popular today. The popularity of folk music in India can be attributed to its simple melodies and catchy rhythms. Folk music is often used as a form of entertainment at social gatherings, such as weddings and festivals.

Recent studies have shown that folk music can have a positive impact on mental health. The catchy rhythms and positive lyrics can help to improve mood, reduce stress, and promote relaxation. Folk music can also help to boost cognitive function and memory.

While folk music is enjoyed by people of all ages, it is particularly popular among young people. Social media has played a big role in the resurgence of interest in this type of music. Platforms such as YouTube and Spotify have made it easy for people to discover new artists and share their favorite songs with friends.

If you’re looking for something new to listen to, why not give Indian folk music a try? You might just find yourself hooked!

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