Story of the graceful and story teller classical dance: Kathak

Everything in the universe has rhythm. Everyone Dances!

-Maya Angelou

The Indian culture is an amalgamation of several cultures thus making India a diverse nation offering a myriad of  elements  relating to the cuisine, the adroitness of its  artisans, literature, clothes and glorified architecture. The major forms of classical dances are namely Kathak, Bharatnatyam, Odissi, Kathakali, Manipuri, Mohiniattam, Kuchipudi.

I started learning this vibrant dance, Kathak when I was 9 or 10 years old and believe me it has really revolutionized my lifestyle. The tabla’s thekas along with the humble company of the harmonium (Indian piano), the melodies flute and sitar and the rhythmic  ghungroos create an ambience so divine and pure that it feels like we have time travelled back to the ‘Satya-yuga’ , the time when the soul incarnated for the very first time on the Earth. There are absolutely no words to describe the splendid feeling  where the light of Almighty itself encompasses you and you are now ready to take on the world.

“Katha Kaheso Kathak”. Kathak is formed from ‘Katha’, the art of telling a story, ‘Katha’. There are various Myths and beliefs associated with its origin of which the most prominent one is the one given in the volume, ‘Abhinaydarpan’, which states that Lord Brahma created Natya-Veda, the fifth Veda on Natya (play) by incorporating words from Rig-Veda, music from Sama-Veda, action from Yajur-Veda and emotion from Atharva-Veda. He then entrusted the same to Sage Bharata. Numerous celestial beings namely the Gandharvas, nymphs(Apsaras), Yakshas helped Sage Bharata to stage a prototype of the same at the launch of which many gods were present. It was here that Lord Shiva added his inputs and through his disciple Tando, taught the ‘Tandav’ nritya(dance) to all the gods and men. He also told Goddess Parvati to teach the ‘Lasya nritya’ to King Anirudha’s wife Usha who then passed the same to the Gopis of Dwarka. Ultimately in this way dance was brought to the Earth.

Many eons ago, the storyteller or Kathakars used to tell stories  regarding gods,goddess, historical ones through the medium of songs and drama ‘Abhinaya’. Thus the common man was presented with the puranas, itihas and mythology through the medium of enacting dramas. Soon artists took this old tradition on a larger platform i.e. to the place where the people of the bygone era used to meet frequently namely the temples. After yet another 100 years, the then kings, ‘Maharajas’ started using this art form as a means of entertainment. Earlier under the reign of the Hindu kings this art mainly consisted of  describing  the events and incidents occurring in the life of Lord Krishna right from his birth, adolescent, adulthood including his heroic deeds so as to connect with the common man and involved a lot of ‘Bhakti rasa’. But after the invasion of India by the Mughals. this scenario underwent a drastic change. The pious virtue of devotion was entirely eliminated and more of ‘Nazakhat’ as well as ‘Shrungar’ (Sensuousness and beauty) became a prominent part. Yet the end was good as some traditional people secretly protected the ancient art form and at the same time the Mughals also enriched Kathak by including new and varied movements, skills  and items. Thus the cumulative result was that Kathak became an art wholly complete from all respects.

The costume or attire of Kathak comprises of Lahenga Choli (long Banjara top choli or a shorter sari blouse style choli) and Veil(Women and girls)or Dhoti Kurta (Men and boys). Sometimes it is Angarakshakand veil (Women and girls) or Kameez Churidar-Vest(Men and boys)

Chakkar and innumerable Footwork ‘Tatkar’ are the conspicuous features of Kathak.

There are three major Centers or ‘Houses’ of Kathak:

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