Festivals, Dances, Theatre, Literature, Art in News

Art-form in news: Kathak


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Kathak

Mains level: NA

Kathak legend Pandit Birju Maharaj has recently passed away.

About Kathak

  • Kathak is one of the eight major forms of Indian classical dance.
  • The origin of Kathak is traditionally attributed to the traveling bards in of ancient northern India known as Kathakars or storytellers.
  • The term Kathak is derived from the Vedic Sanskrit word Katha which means “story”, and Kathakar which means “the one who tells a story”, or “to do with stories”.
  • Wandering Kathakars communicated stories from the great epics and ancient mythology through dance, songs and music.

Its origin

  • Kathak dancers tell various stories through their hand movements and extensive footwork, their body movements and flexibility but most importantly through their facial expressions.
  • It evolved during the Bhakti movement, particularly by incorporating the childhood and stories of the Hindu god Krishna, as well as independently in the courts of north Indian kingdoms.
  • Kathak is unique in having both Hindu and Muslim gharanas and cultural elements of these gharanas.
  • Kathak performances include Urdu Ghazals and commonly used instruments brought during the Mughal period.

Major gharanas

  • Kathak is found in three distinct forms, called “gharanas”, named after the cities where the Kathak dance tradition evolved – Jaipur, Banaras and Lucknow.
  • While the Jaipur gharana focuses more on the foot movements, the Banaras and Lucknow gharanas focus more on facial expressions and graceful hand movements.

Performance details

  • It involves both Nritta (pure dance) and Nritya (expressive dance).
  • Stylistically, the Kathak dance form emphasizes rhythmic foot movements, adorned with small bells (Ghungroo) and the movement harmonized to the music.
  • The legs and torso are generally straight, and the story is told through a developed vocabulary based on the gestures of arms and upper body movement, facial expressions, neck movements, eyes and eyebrow movement, stage movements, bends and turns.
  • The main focus of the dance becomes the eyes and the foot movements.
  • The eyes work as a medium of communication of the story the dancer is trying to communicate. With the eyebrows the dancer gives various facial expressions.
  • A Kathak performance can be solo, duo or team. In a technical performance, the speed and energy the dancers exchange with the audience increases in multiples, that is the tempo doubles or quadruples.


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