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- 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. Lord Ganesha

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 (footwork).

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Last updated February 20, 2004