Kathak is an ancient dance form from northern India. Its origin is traced back to the traveling bards of ancient northern India, called Kathakars. Their dance forms were based on epic poetry, and their music was highly regarded in the region. Today, the dance form continues to evolve.
Dance form of northern India
Kathak is a beautiful dance form from northern India that is based on the concept of storytelling. This classical dance is the only dance form in the world to have connections to both Hindu and Muslim cultures. It represents a unique synthesis of artistic genius from both cultures. It is also the only Indian classical dance to be married to Hindustani music.
Kathak has three major gharanas, which are based on geographical areas. These are Jaipur, Lucknow, and Benares. The styles of these schools vary slightly in repertoire and interpretation.
The origin of Kathak is unclear. Some sources attribute it to Krishna. Others say it is an offshoot of a chain dance, which involved a stylised way of walking and bending. This may be one of the origins of the form, but it must be viewed in context with other influences. The dance may have derived from the Jakkadi, which was performed by women in the Mughal court. It has documentation in ancient literature, and some of its forms survive.
In the Mughal era, Kathak dance gained Royal patronage and became an integral part of court culture. During this time, royals were entertained by this form of dance, which incorporated elements of fusion from other dance forms. In particular, the Persian dance style introduced spinning and straight leg movements to the dance.
The evolution of Kathak has been closely linked with the work of Shobha Deepak Singh. The young dancer got the Kathak bug from her mother. She first learned the art from a school teacher and then took lessons from Kanhaiyalal and Uday Shankar. Her interest in the arts eventually led to her working as an arts manager, with an initial interest in pursuing a PHD under B.N Goswami. She was among the first to be awarded a scholarship from Guru Shambhu Maharaj.
During this time, Kathak dance evolved from a storytelling form to a form performed on a proscenium stage. The movement was also influenced by the Bhakti movement, which focused on stories of the Lord Krishna and his incarnations. This added a new level of emotion to the dance and introduced a new range of musical forms and lyrics.
Kathak has been influenced by both classical and contemporary dance styles. Its basic movement is expressive and gives away information about a person. It can tell us about their sense of confidence or how they view space and their surroundings. The movements in Kathak are rooted in rhythm and play with movement to convey meaning and messages without the use of words.
Although Kathak has its roots in Hinduism, its messages are universal. The artists’ interpretation of its meaning is subjective and transcends religious boundaries. As a result, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to its influences.
Kathak has many different Gharanas, or regional styles. The term is derived from the Hindi word ‘ghar’, which means house. In order for a particular style of Kathak to be considered a Gharana, it must be practiced by members of the same family. David Neuman, a noted scholar of North Indian art and culture, has outlined two key requirements for a Gharana to qualify.
Kathak is an ancient form of dance that has changed and evolved throughout the centuries, largely due to social and political forces, innovative contributions by individual artistes, and regional stylistic idiosyncrasies. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, communication between artists was sporadic and inefficient, which led to the development of distinct Gharanas. Often, this resulted in artists not recognizing and appreciating the works of other Gharanas.
Famous personalities associated with it
Several famous personalities have been associated with Kathak. Maharaj Bindadin, who is often referred to as Lachhu Maharaj, was a prominent exponent of the dance form. He was born to a family that was well known for its tradition of Kathak, and was a student of his father, Shri Kalka Prasad. He was particularly gifted at displaying emotion and grace, and performed Kathak sequences in several iconic films.
Birju Maharaj, who lived in exile from his home country of India until his death in 1998, was one of the most celebrated artists of the art form. In the early 1950s, he began his professional career as a dance teacher. This led to the development of his career and the founding of the Bhartiya Kala Kendra in Delhi, which gave him the opportunity to continue his work. He composed many dance dramas and graced many prestigious music conferences. While he had a busy career, he remained dedicated to the art form, and he was revered as a god of Kathak.