What is Folk Music in India?

what is folk music in india

India boasts a vibrant folk music heritage. Each region has its own distinctive genre that captures the culture and way of life.

Folk music may have become less popular over time due to the introduction of contemporary genres like pop and rap, but it remains vibrant. No traditional festival or celebration would be complete without its accompaniment.


India is a land of diversity, with each region having its own distinct culture, food and music. This is due to the many ethnic groups living here which has created an incredibly vibrant and fascinating culture.

One of the best ways to understand a state or region’s culture is through its folk music. These songs often accompany dance performances.

Bihugeet is a form of folk music associated with Assam and popular throughout northern and eastern India. This song has sweet melodies and soulful lyrics that tell stories related to nature, love, relationships and social messages.

Music has been passed down orally through generations, making it a vital aspect of Indian culture.

In the past, these songs served not only to entertain and commemorate special events but they also served as a means of passing down knowledge from generation to generation. Since India’s indigenous people had limited resources for recording history, they relied on songs to help them retain important information.

Religious leaders also used this type of music to spread their messages across the country. It gave identity to each region and eventually became a cultural staple across America.

Dholki music is the main instrument of this folk genre. This musical instrument provides rhythm for dancers and helps them perform songs correctly.

These songs are commonly sung during festivals, celebrations and rituals. Men and women sing them equally.

Bihu folk music is a type of folk music often performed during the Bihu festival in Assam. This celebration marks an important milestone in Assamese life and its music exudes energy that celebrates spring. With upbeat beats that honor nature’s bounty, participants’ playlists reflect this energy well.

This festival stands out among others due to the unique soundscape created by Assamese music and heartwarming lyrics.


Baul is an Indian folk music that draws upon Sufism, Vaishnavism, and Tantra philosophy. In 2005 it was declared by UNESCO an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

The music of the Baul is a reflection of their inner struggle to find communion with the divine and find divinity within themselves. This philosophy can also be heard in their lyrics, which often use language that cannot be understood by non-specialists.

Their mystical approach to life is evident in their lyrics that express a yearning for God without any reference to names found in Hindu, Islamic or Buddhist religious texts. Instead, these songs emphasize celestial love and urge people to look within themselves rather than seeking Him out in temples or churches.

They possess a distinctive dance pattern and they often perform at fairs and festivals around the country, to the delight of audiences. At celebrations such as Joydev Kenduli in Birbhum and Ghospara festival in West Bengal, many Bauls come together to entertain attendees.

Recently, Bauls have seen a resurgence in popularity within rural Bangladeshi society. Their music and way of life have had an immense impact on Bengali culture; this can be seen through Nobel Prize Laureate Rabindranath Tagore’s compositions.

Recently, the music of the Bauls has been blended with Western instruments and modern arrangements to produce albums that have become widely popular throughout Western culture. However, some experts feel this fusion takes away some of its original essence as Baul music.

The Bauls’ primary instrument of choice is the ektara, a one-stringed drone carved from epicarp of gourd or goatskin. They also use other instruments like dotara (fretless lute), khamak (one-headed drum with plucked string) and other instruments in their music making.

They use a number of symbols to symbolize their spiritual journey, such as the phool-flower, Neer-water, Moner Manus-soul’s companion and Tribeni-confluence of three rivers. Other common emblems include Daraza/Dooar-door, Chandra-moon and Padma-lotus.


Music plays an integral role in Indians’ lives. It expresses their culture, traditions and lifestyle. From bhangra in Punjab to garba in Gujarat, to kajari in Maharashtra and even folk songs of Bihar – India offers a vast array of musical genres.

Lavani is a widely popular folk music genre in India, prevalent across the country. It combines traditional song and dance with energetic Dholak beats. Lavani often features in theatrical performances with socially charged or sensually charged lyrics.

This genre can be traced back to the 1560s, when it gained popularity during Peshwa rule. Renowned Marathi Shahir poet-singers such as Parasharam (1754-1844), Ram Joshi (1762-1812), Anant Fandi (1744-1819), Honaji Bala (1754-1844), Prabhakar (1769-1843) and Saganbhau Sathe (1 August 1920 – 18 July 1969) played an important role in its growth.

These legendary poet-singers elevated Lavani to new heights, replacing dholki with tabla. Women performing this traditional dance wear nine yard long sarees as they move to the rhythmic beats of their dholki drums.

In the past, dance and music served as entertainment for war-torn soldiers during the Maratha period. Nowadays, this folk art forms are an essential element of rural theatre performances.

This dance form was once performed by beautiful women wearing nine-yard sarees who sang seductive and sensual songs with double entendres and suggestive lines. It was considered to be sultry and hot, with audiences appreciating its eroticism.

Recently, many captivating Lavani songs have been rediscovered. These melodic tunes featured captivating dance moves and choreographies meant to draw in both men and women alike.

The genre has a long history and can be divided into two major categories: Nirguni (philosophy) and Shringari (sensual). Generally speaking, the former tends to be more eroticized and explicit while the latter leans more on sensuality and light-headedness.

These songs have been sung in a variety of languages, mainly Sanskrit and Hindi. Sung together as one chorus, they convey social messages such as freedom, community strength, and patriotism.


India boasts a vibrant cultural diversity that has resulted in numerous musical genres. These include folk music, classical music and thumri.

Indian music mainly consists of folk songs and dances that are passed down orally from generation to generation. These songs serve both recreational purposes as well as teaching people important life lessons.

Some of these songs are inspired by legends and myths, often featuring themes such as love, devotion, relationships, social messages and humorous stories.

These songs serve to pass along important information to the next generation and help people identify their villages and culture. Religious leaders such as Adi Shankaracharya and others use songs to spread their teachings across India.

Kajari is an Indian folk music genre popular in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar regions of the country. It’s sung during rainy season when dark clouds gather and people express their joy at having rain bring relief to parched earth.

Classical Indian music is renowned for its captivating melodies. This genre of music has its own distinct sound that’s exclusive to India, performed on instruments like the veena, bansuri and sitar.

Hindus and Muslims alike are well-acquainted with these types of songs. They’re commonly sung during weddings, the birth of a child, and other joyous occasions in life.

This type of Indian music, originally from Bengal, centers on themes such as love, devotion, affection and humanism. It’s a form of light classical music with gentle melodies accompanied by taals which are typically associated with kathak dance.

Kajari music has its heyday with Girija Devi, Savita Devi and Begum Akhtar; this genre of music having a melancholic tone that is perfectly complemented by instruments such as sitar, veena, bansuri and santoor.

Indian folk music can be traced back to 1500 BC in Vedic literature. Some even speculate that some songs may have been as old as the Hindu epic Mahabharata itself!