Set in royal India, this was first performed in 1877 at the Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersberg and tells the tale of the young warrior Solor and his love for the temple dancer Nikiya.
The three act ballet starts with Solor returning from a tiger hunt and the High Brahmin declaring his love for Nikiya. Solor and Nikiya meet in secret, but are seen by the High Brahmin, who vows to kill Solor.
In Act I, scene 2, the Rajah announces that Solor should marry his daughter, Gamzatti as a reward for his successful battle.
However, Gamzatti over hears the High Brahmin telling the Rajah of Solor's love for Nikiya. Enraged, Gamzatti tries to bribe Nikiya to leave Solor, but she refuses. Nikiya tries to kill Gamzatti and flees. Gamzatti vows to kill Nikiya!
Scene 3 sees celebrations at the palace for Solor and Gamzatti's engagement. Nikiya has to dance for the couple and is given a basket of flowers, into which Gamzatti has placed a snake, which bites her. She refuses an antidote and decides to die.
In Act II Solor is smoking opium to heal his grief, and dreams of being reunited with Nikiya whilst in the Kingdom of Shades. The warriors start to prepare Solor for the wedding.
In Act III the wedding ceremony begins, but Solor cannot say his vows, the gods are furious and destroy the temple, burying everyone. The spirits of Solor and Nikiya are reunited in eternal love.