- Religious and Aesthetic
Kathak is one of the most dynamic theatre arts in the world originated from
Northern India. The word kathak derives from katha, a story. Kathak
dance is evolved from traditional recounting of Hindu myths by Brahmin
priests called kathiks (story tellers), who used mime and gesture for
dramatic effect. Their role was therefore to teach the great scriptures and
epics of ancient times, especially the great Indian epics the Mahabharata,
the Ramayana and the Puranas written in Sanskrit and Brajbhasha.
Kathak is also known as Braj Raas.
Kathak dance is revived through three periods: 1.
Ancient or Temple period, 2. Medieval or Court period and 3. Modern or Stage
period. During the Bhakti (devotional) movement period in ancient
India, kathak was greatly influenced by Krishna-culture. This dance form is
used as a devotional expression dedicated to the Hindu gods. With the advent
of Mughal period (1526-1761), kathak gradually moved out of the temples and
enter into the courts of the rulers; the Hindu maharajas and the Muslim
nawabs. Through the patronage of these rulers, kathak took its current
form and a class of dancing girls and courtesans emerged to entertain the
palaces. Lucknow and Jaipur cities of Northen India became two major centres
of kathak patronage from which two distinct gharanas (styles) of
kathak emerged i.e. Lucknow gharana (flourished under patronage of
Muslim rulers) and Jaipur gharana (flourished under Rajput kings of
Jaipur). During the mid-1800's, kathak enjoyed a renaissance and gained
prominence among the kings and zamindars (landlords) not only as a
form of entertainment, but as a classical art form. Developments in the
modern period include the use of kathak in large-scale dance dramas,
pioneered by Pandit Birju Maharaj, the leader of the Lucknow gharana.
Kathak is characterized by rhythmic artist's
footwork danced under the weight of ankle bells, graceful body movements,
and the dramatic representation of themes of Krishna, Radha, Shiva, Parvati
and other characters of Hindu mythology alongside Persian and Urdu poetry. A
dancer represents all of the characters of a story through a rich statuesque
gestures, facial expressions and spectacular spins. Both men and women
perform kathak which is also used to present dance dramas of historical
tales and contemporary events.
In kathak, each syllable is designed to represent
the sounds of feet and bells in harmony with the strokes of the accompanying
instruments such as tabla and pakhawaj. The notable features
of Kathak are the intricate footwork and the Tihai, a spinning
movement in one spot at great speed. Music composition is based on lyrics
such as Thumri, Dadra, Ghazal and Kavitas.
Kathak dance usually consists of two parts,
nritta and nritya. Nritta, the technical aspect, is a pure
dance form focusing on technique, a fusion of rhythm and movement.
On the other hand, nritya emphasises abhinaya, which is the
recounting of a story or song through mime, hand gestures and symbolic body
postures. The artist uses a variety of free movements and interprets a story
or poem through own imagination and creativity. Many stories and songs of
medieval origin are in praise of Lord Krishna.
The dance performance commences after Ganesha
Vandana (invocation) and follows the following sequence: Amad
(the dramatic entrance of the dancer on stage); Thaat (a slow,
graceful section); Tukra, Tora, and Paran (improvised dance
compositions); Parhant (rhythmic light steps), and Tatkar
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