Considered to be responsible for the development of Marathi “folk theatre,”  a dance form in India known as Lavani.  This highly “rhythmic dance” originated from the state of Maharashtra and is also performed in southern Madhya Pradesh and northern Karnataka. It is said that the word “Lavani” is derived from “Lavanya” which when literally translated means “beauty”. This art form blends dance and music together and explores a wide range of subjects, including society, religion, politics, romance, and more.

Lavani, the mesmerizing folk dance of Maharashtra, is a treat for those curious about the culture of that region. In addition, this dance form through the use of music essentially talks about socially relevant subject matters such as religion, politics, and romance. Furthermore, this dance style possesses two distinct forms namely “Phadachi Lavani and Baithakichi Lavani”

a. History/origin of the Lavani:

Lavani was originally performed by dhangars and shepherds in the Maharashtra district of Solapur. The state of Maharashtra and other Konkan regions are home to the traditional folk dance known as Lavani. This dance is not only a well-known dance but also a well-known musical style in Maharashtra. Soldiers leaving for battle or being stationed far from home were amused by the dance. This dance style was the most well-liked type of dance during the Peshawari Dynasty’s rule. Onstage and in the royal members’ private quarters, it was presented. Lavani songs discuss the creation of Dhangara and the shepherds’ god. These songs link Lavani to spiritual undertones. 

Lavani, who began recording in the 1560s, experienced ups and downs along with the emergence and dissolution of kings and empires. In Pune, where they were supported by the aristocracy, this dance style was at its absolute peak during the Peshawari Dynasty’s rule. The dance was performed in the 1980s and 1990s for the weary soldiers to give them a boost in the form of songs with political and religious satire. To further engage the audience and keep them entertained throughout the performance, the songs are suggestive in nature and contain sarcastic dialogue. 

The origin of this dance form is said to have its roots embedded in a poem written by a king Hala, who ruled the Deccan region in Maharashtra. These poems were supposed to have been presented in the form of an “anthology”. Furthermore, this dance style which essentially combined “song and dance” was created purely to motivate and provide entertainment to exhausted soldiers. In addition, a Lavani performance apart from the dancing also entails narrating stories linked to issues such as religion, love, and politics via song and music.

When Maharashtra was a war-torn state in the 18th and 19th centuries, the Lavana dance provided tired soldiers with entertainment and a morale boost. The Peshwa dynasty, based in Pune, gave the dance royal support at the height of its popularity during their rule. Lavani was elevated to new heights by Marathi poets like Honaji Bala, Ramjoshi, Prabhakar, etc. Lavani has largely been reduced to sensual entertainment, which is frequently presented in Marathi films in a stereotyped and cheap way, and has fallen out of favor in recent years.


Phadachi Lavani and Baithakichi Lavani are the names of the two varieties of Lavani. The former is when the performance takes place in front of a large audience on a stage at a local theater or somewhere else open to the public, whereas the latter is performed in a closed-off environment for a small group of people.

Lavani is typically performed standing up, but there is also a version that is performed sitting down or in the Baithi position.

The Prakrit Gathas, which describe the two types—the Nirguni Lavani, the philosophical form, and the Shringari Lavani, the sensual form—are thought to have been the source of both forms. The devotional music played during the Nirguni performance is well-known in Malwa.

Male poet chose to write and the female dancer performed the Shringari Lavani.

The Shrinagri Lavani was the version that was most frequently seen in theaters, and Hindi movies helped spread its popularity across the country because they frequently dealt with romantic love, particularly love between a man and a woman. Adultery, sexual activity, and even menstruation—all of which were to varying degrees taboo—were some of the more explicit sexual themes that they covered in their songs.


There are currently about 600 small troupes and 40 medium-sized troupes performing Lavani in the state of Maharashtra alone.

The art form’s former excellence and respect had faded. There was a widely held misconception about the dance form itself as a result of the rise in artist defamation due to the sensual nature of the content and the exclusive performances provided to relatively wealthy clients. They then experienced discrimination from the same society they had successfully amused for centuries after Bollywood movies prominently portrayed these artists and the dance in a poor light.

d. Costumes used in the Lavani:

Since the major performer in a Lavani is female the costume mainly used is a nine yard saree referred to as “nauvari” which is accompanied with heavy jewellery such as earrings, necklace, kamarpatta i.e. a belt tied to the waist, bangles etc. Although the saree is longer than usual, it is also more comfortable. Whereas the dance was originally created as a means of amusement for the soldiers, it has grown to become a respected and well-liked dance style throughout India.

In terms of the hairstyle, the performer forms a juda/ambada i.e. a bun with the hair. Furthermore, a large dark red bindi on the forehead is also applied by the dancer.

e. Music used in the Lavani:

The music essentially composed for the Lavani is high on the rhythm. The instrument used mainly during the performance is the “Dholki” i.e. a form of a drum. Furthermore, apart from the rhythmic music this dance form is also known for its erotic lyrics and a sarcastic tone that highlights the prevalent socio-political circumstances in the society. These ladies synced sensually to the catchy music and provocative lyrics. In addition, the song sung during the performance consists of a high tempo.

f. Training availability and the dance technique involved:

There are 600 or so small groups of Lavani performers in Maharashtra. Additionally, they have about 40 slightly larger Lavani dance groups. Lavani is traditionally performed in its entirety throughout the night. They draw the curtains with the burning of Manmatha’s mount once it is finished.

There are very few male performers known as Kinnars or Nats, despite the fact that these roles have historically only been filled by women. The Tamasha is a dance style that is closely related to Lavani.

In terms of technique, the performers tend to gyrate to a high tempo music generated using a “Dholki”. The dance is refined by the sound of the ghungroos, and the beats are quick. Due to this, the dance spreads energizing energy throughout the audience. In addition, to the high rhythm of the music and dance, the highly erotic and sarcastic lyrics that serves as a comment on the current socio-political situation adds a lot of colour to this dance form. As for learning this dance form, there are a number of schools throughout the state that provide basic training for all those interested in this “vibrant” dance form.

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