It is believed that Karagam is originated in Thanjavur, a village in Tamil Nadu. The villagers perform this dance in praise of the rain goddess "Mari Amman" and the river goddess "Gangai Amman" as a part of their custom. In this dance, the performers balance the water pot on their head very beautifully. Traditionally, this dance is performed in two types - Aatta Karagam is danced with decorated pots on the head and symbolizes joy and happiness, while the Sakthi Karagam is performed only in temples and is mainly danced for entertainment. Earlier it was performed only with the accompaniment of the Naiyandi Melam, but now it also includes songs. Most expert artistes are from the regions of Thanjavur, Pudukottai, Ramanathapuram, Madurai, Tirunelveli, and Pattukottai and Salem.
In the Karagam dance intricate steps and body/arm movements decides the skill of performer. This dance can be performed individually or in pairs, by both the sexes. Some of the steps that are widely used are similar to the circus acts; dancing on a rolling block of wood, up and down a ladder, threading a needle while bending backwards and many more. Today, the pots have transformed from mud pots to bronze ware and even stainless steel. The pots are decorated in many ways with the help of attractive flower arrangements, topped by a moving paper parrot. The parrot rotates as the dancer takes swings along these looks beautiful. When men perform this dance, they balance the pots filled with uncooked rice, surrounded by a tall conical bamboo frame decorated with colourful flowers. Drums and long pipes form the musical instruments that add vigor to the dance.