The famous Kathak danseuse, Uma Sharma

The origins of Kathak can be ascribed to the tradition of Katha or the art of story-tell
ing. The Kathak dance form originated in the north and at first was very similar to the Bharatanatyam. Persian and Muslim influences later altered the dance from a temple ritual to a courtly entertainment. The influence of the Mughal tradition is evident in this dance form, and it has a distinct Hindu-Muslim texture.

Kathak has been traditionally performed by both men and women.The dances are performed straight-legged and the ankle bells worn by the dancers adeptly controlled. Kathak has an exciting and entertaining quality with intricate footwork and rapid pirouettes being the dom-
inant and most endearing features of this style. The costumes and themes of these dances are often similar to those in Mughal miniature paintings.

Though not similar to the Natyasastra, the principles in Kathak are essentially the same. Here, the accent is more on footwork as against the emphasis on hasta mudras or hand formations in Bharatanatyam.

Two distinct schools of Kathak have emerged. The Lucknow Gharana or school and the Jaipur school. The Lucknow school focusses on expressional work and shows traces of Muslim court etiquette. The Jai-
pur school emphasizes on technical accomplishment, rhythmic footwork and circular pirouettes and has themes about Rajput (Hindu warriors) valor and popular Gods. However, in both, the theme of Radha-Krishna is central.

Kathak, based on bhava (mood), raga (melody) and tala (rhythmic beat) has its compositions based on North Indian classical music. Religious and devotional sentim-
ents are reflected in the first category while a clear cut in erotic taste and tang is reflected in the second category. The dancer himself usually does the singing. The expres-
sion numbers which are in Hindi, Hindustani or Urdu language pertaining to Krishna Leela legends from the Puranas or a love episode, are retold and interpreted through abhinaya, facial expressions and postures.

a photographic history of Kathak

Mudra ||  4000 years old! ||  Dance of Shiva ||  Bharatanatyam ||  Kathak ||  Kuchipudi ||  Kathakali || 
Mohini Attam ||  Odissi ||  Manipuri ||  Bibliography ||