Dancers' Paradise



Kathak is the most popular form of classical dance in northern and western India. The term ‘Kathakaar’ is mentioned in the great Indian epic, Mahabharata, and refers to a narrator or a storyteller. The term also means a chief actor.

Originally nurtured within the holy precincts of Hindu temples, Kathak journeyed through the courts of the Mughals and the nawabs and acquired an exclusive form and style, very distinct from the other classical dances of India.

The two main gharanas or styles of Kathak are Jaipur and Lucknow that flowered in course of time and acquired multi-faceted forms. The Jaipur gharana is known for its Tandava-style, with vibrant bols (rhythmic syllables) and stiffness in the presentation, whereas the Lucknow gharana is identified with its graceful movements, showing the mughal influence. One of the chief reasons for this development was Wajid Ali Shah, the Nawab of Awadh, who was not only a chief patron of this art but was himself a good Kathak dancer. The Jaipur gharana however, remained free from Mughal influence.

The characteristic features of Kathak are the pirouettes (rapid whirling), recitation of bols and tatkaar (the footwork). The choicest compositions in the Kathak repertoire include those of Meera Bai, Surdas and Vidyapati, which are ideal for abhinaya sequences (facial expressions).

Some of the legendary exponents of Kathak include Maharaj Bindadeen, Lacchu Maharaj, Shambhu Maharaj, Kalika Prasad, Durga Lal, Gopi Krishna (all past) and other living maestros like Birju Maharaj, Shaswati Sen, Shovana Narayan, Maya Rao and Vijai Shankar Singh.

To be continued

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