Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Kathak, the Soul of Indian Classical Dances

Kathak is a fascinating Indian dance and one of the 8 classical dances of India. The Kathak classical dance originated from the Northern part of the Indian sub-continent. ‘Kathak’ derives its name from a Sanskrit word - ‘Katha’, which means story and ‘Katthaka’ means someone who tells a story. In the modern times, Kathak has taken the first position as the Classical Dance of India.

Origin of Kathak classical dance

The origins of Kathak can be traced back to the ancient north Indian nomadic bards. These nomadic bards used to be popularly known as ‘Kathaks’, which meant ‘storytellers’. These kathaks performed their dances in the temple courtyards and village squares. The Kathak dance form is majorly based on the moral tales and mythological stories inscribed in the ancient Indian scriptures. In the Kathak dance form, the recitals are expressed through facial expressions and hand gestures. To enliven the enigmatic mythological stories, the Kathak dance in the ancient times, used to be accentuated with vocal and instrumental music and stylized gestures.


The modern Kathak dance carries only traces of the ritualistic and temple dance moves and has a strong influence of the Bhakti movement. During the 16the century, Kathak classical dance absorbed a great deal of Persian dance form alongside the dance form of Central Asia. These dance forms were majorly performed in the royal courts during the Mughal era.

Schools of Kathak dance

The classical dance form of Kathak has three ‘gharanas’ or schools. These three schools of Kathak dance have left their strong influences in shaping the modern Kathak of India. These three gharanas of Kathak dance are –
v  Kathak gharana of Jaipur - born in the royal court of the Rajput kings of Kachawaha
v  Kathak gharana of Lucknow - born in the royal court of the Nawab of Oudh
v  Kathak gharana of Benaras - born in the royal court of the Varanasi
Besides these three prominent Kathak gharanas, there is also a less prominent gharana in Kathak dance form. It is known as the Raigarh gharana of Kathak. This Kathak gharana inherited and amalgamated all three gharanas of Kathak, but, became popular for its own unique compositions.

Types of Kathak Dance

Kathak classical dance can be categorized into two types, which are –
v  Nritta or pure dance
v  Nritya or expressive dance

Music to Kathak

For Kathak dances, music is usually provided by the sitar and tabla players.

Stages in Kathak dance

v  Vandana
v  Thaat  
v  Aamad
v  Salaami
v  Kavit
v  Paran
v  Parmelu /Primalu
v  Gat
v  Ladi
v  Tihai

Costume of Kathak

Ghunghru forms one of the integral most parts of Kathak dance costume. Ghunghru or ghungroo, as they are often spelled, are tiny bells which are wound around the ankles of the Kathak dancer. The Kathak bells are woven along a string and each ankle has around 100 of these bells. Lehenga choli with the combination of odhni (veil) is the traditional costume for Kathak dancers. Sometimes though, the lehenga is replaced by a similar costume called ‘ghaghra’. The mughal costume for women Kathak dancers is the ‘angrakha’ combined with a legging called the ‘churidaar’. The accessories worn with this Kathak costume include a cap called ‘bandi’ and a belt made of precious stones or zari.

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