Kathak: Traditional Indian Dance

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Kathak is one of the primary classifications of antiquated Indian established move and is customarily respected to have started from the voyaging troubadours of North India alluded as Kathakars or storytellers. These Kathakars meandered around and conveyed unbelievable stories by means of music, move and tunes very like the early Greek theater. The class created amid the Bhakti development, the pattern of mystical dedication which advanced in medieval Hinduism.

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Kathak dancer Arushi Nishank performing at Lucknow Kathak Sansthan.

The Kathakars impart stories through cadenced foot developments, hand signals, outward appearances and eye work. This performing workmanship that fuses legends from antiquated folklore and extraordinary Indian sagas, particularly from the life of Lord Krishna turned out to be very mainstream in the courts of North Indian kingdoms. Three explicit types of this sort is three gharanas (schools), which for the most part contrast in accentuation given to footwork as opposed to acting, are increasingly renowned to be specific, the Jaipur gharana, the Benaras gharana and the Lucknow gharana.

The foundations of this move structure follow back to Sanskrit Hindu content on performing expressions called ‘Natya Shastra’ composed by antiquated Indian theatrologist and musicologist Bharata Muni. It is assumed that the principal complete form of the content was finished between 200 BCE to 200 CE, however a few sources notice the time span to associate with 500 BCE and 500 CE. A huge number of stanzas organized in various sections are found in the content that isolates move in two specific structures, in particular ‘nrita’ that is unadulterated move which include artfulness of hand developments and motions, and ‘nritya’ that is solo expressive move that centers around articulations.

Russian researcher Natalia Lidova states that ‘Natya Shastra’ portrays different hypotheses of Indian established moves including Tandava move of Lord Shiva, techniques for acting, standing stances, motions, essential advances, bhava and rasa. Mary Snodgrass states that the custom of this move structure is followed back to the 400 BCE. Bharhut, a town in the Satna area of Madhya Pradesh, India remains as a delegate of early Indian craftsmanship. The second century BC boards found there shows figures of artists in various vertical postures with arm positions that look like Kathak steps, a significant number of which mirror the ‘pataka hasta’ Mudra. The word Kathak is concluded from the Vedic Sanskrit term ‘Katha’ which signifies ‘story’ while the term kathaka that discovers place in a few Hindu stories and writings implies the individual who recounts a story. Content based investigation shows Kathak as an old Indian traditional move structure that probably started in Banaras or Varanasi and after that spread its wings in Jaipur, Lucknow and numerous different districts of north and northwest India. Princess Jasmine and the Genie who might be the way to their future.

Improvisation in the Mughal Era

This old traditional move structure that was significantly connected with Hindu sagas was all around recognized by the courts and nobles of the Mughal time frame. The move performed in Mughal courts anyway adjusted an increasingly suggestive structure without having much reference to specific subjects connected before that imparted religious or otherworldly ideas. Extemporizations were made by the artists prevalently to engage the Muslim group of onlookers with arousing and sexual exhibitions which in spite of the fact that were not quite the same as the deep rooted moving idea yet contained an unobtrusive message in it like the affection for Radha-Krishna.

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Shinjini Kulkarni performing Kathak.

In the long run Central Asian and Persian topics turned into a piece of its collection. These included supplantings of sari with an ensemble that exposed waist, including a straightforward cloak in the outfit that exemplified the ones wore by medieval Harem artists and spinning while at the same time executing as done in Sufi move. When the pioneer European authorities touched base in India, Kathak as of now ended up popular as a court excitement and was even more a combination of antiquated Indian established move structure and Persian-Central Asian move frames with the artists being alluded as ‘nautch young ladies’.

Decrease amid Colonial Rule

Development of pioneer rule in the eighteenth century pursued by the foundation of the provincial standard in the nineteenth century saw decrease of different traditional move shapes which were exposed to derisive fun and demoralization including Kathak. In the end the social shame related with nautch young ladies included with exceedingly basic and disgusting frame of mind from the Christian teachers and British authorities, who held them and the Devadasis of South India as prostitutes, disrespected such frameworks. The Anglican evangelists were basic about Hinduism showed from the recommendation of Reverend James Long who proposed that Kathak craftsmen should grasp European legends and stories related with Christianity and get rid of the Indian and Hindu legends. The Christian ministers propelled hostile to move development in 1892 to stop such practice.

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photo via wikipedia
Kathak performance by Sharmila Sharma and Rajendra Kumar Gangani at the Guimet Museum (November 2007)

The book ‘The Wrongs of Indian Womanhood’ by Marcus B. Fuller distributed in 1900 exaggerated the outward appearances and erotic motions acted out amid Kathak exhibitions in Hindu sanctuaries and family works. The nautch young ladies were not just disrespected by the papers and authorities of provincial standard but at the same time were smothered monetarily by pressurizing their benefactors to stop budgetary help. The Madras Presidency under the British pioneer rule prohibited the custom of moving in Hindu sanctuaries in 1910. The Indian people group disliked such boycott catching oppression of such rich and antiquated Hindu custom on the affection of social change. Numerous established craftsmanship Pentecostals addressed against such segregation.


As Kathak is well known both in Hindu and Muslim people group the outfits of this move structure are made in accordance with customs of the individual networks. There are two kinds of Hindu outfits for female artists. While the first incorporates a sari worn in an interesting manner complimented with a choli or pullover that covers the chest area and a scarf or urhni worn in certain spots, the other ensemble incorporates a since a long time ago weaved skirt with a differentiating choli and a straightforward urhni. Outfit is very much complimented with customary gems, generally gold, that incorporates the ones decorating her hair, nose, ear, neck and hand.

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Musical instruments such as tabla and others (left) accompany a Kathak performance.

Melodic anklets called ghunghru made of calfskin lashes with little metallic ringers appended to it are enveloped by her lower legs that produce musical sound while she performs magnificent and awesome footwork. Head gems enhances her in the second case. Striking face make-up put on helps feature her outward appearances. Hindu male Kathak artists for the most part wear a silk dhoti with a silk scarf tied on the upper piece of the body which more often than not stay exposed or might be secured by a free coat. Adornments of male artists is very straightforward contrasted with their female partners and are typically made of stone.

The outfit for Muslim female artists incorporates a skirt alongside a tight fitting pant called churidar or pajama and a long coat to cover the chest area and hands. A scarf covering the head compliments the entire clothing which is finished with light adornments.

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