Ram Sahay Panday (born 11 March 1933) is a Rai dancer from Sagar in the Indian State of Madhya Pradesh. The Rai (also spelt as Raai) dance was traditionally associated with the Bedia community which itself was associated with flesh trade. In spite of the fact that he was not a member of the community, he devoted his whole life to the practice and performance of the Rai dance and to secure acceptance and respectability to the dance form. His untiring efforts helped obtain national and international recognition to this dance form.
In the year 2022, Govt of India honoured Ram Sahay Panday by conferring the Padma Shri award for his contributions to art.
Ram Sahay Panday was born in a Brahmin family on 11 March 1933 in Maddhar Patha village in Sagar district in Madhya Pradesh. His father Lalju Panday was a farmer and Ram Sahay Panday was the youngest among four brothers. Panday's first exposure to the Rai dance happened when he was 14 years old. Fascinated by the dance form he began practicing it. In Madhya Pradesh, the folk dance of Rai is associated with the Bedia community. They are a nomadic tribe that had been notified under the Criminal Tribes Act. Also, some people associate the community with flesh trade. Because of the this stigma attached to the community and their dance form, Panday's family was totally opposed to his practicing the Rai dance form. Panday has been reported as saying "I was fighting with my family as well as the Brahmin community for practising this dance. I used to convince them that this is an art form nothing else but they ostracised me. But it only motivated me to take it to the zenith.” Even his children were ashamed of their father for being a Rai dancer.
In 1964, he performed Rai dance at Akashvani Bhopal in the presence of the then Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Govind Narayan Singh and many other dignitaries. They were amazed with the dance form and that event happened to be a turning point in his life as after that he began getting some respect in society. Today this dance of Bundelkhand has made its own identity for which a lot of credit goes to Ram Sahai Panday. Panday has been training young men and women in Rai dance for many years. In the year 2006, under the leadership of Panday, Rai dance was presented in Dubai by the Government of Madhya Pradesh.
In the year 2000, an organization named Bundeli Folk Dance and Natya Kala Parishad was established, where training is being given in the Rai dance.