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Origins of Kathak

Kathak is one of the six classical Indian dance forms, along with the famous Odissi (West Bengal), Manipuri (Manipur), Bharatanatyam (Tamil Nadu), Kuchipudi (Telangana/Andhra Pradesh) and Kathakali (Kerala).

Kathak originated in North India, more specifically in Uttar Pradesh. It is known for its sparkling footwork, fast whirling movements and mimetic dance.

Indian flag and kathak dancer

The word Kathak is derived from the name 'Kathakars' meaning "story tellers". The dancers told stories from famous Indian epics such as the Ramayana, Mahabharata. These dancers were taught by temple priests who were well versed in dance and music. This style is called 'Hindu' dance.

How Kathak developed

This was prior to the advent of the Mughal dynasty in North India. With the Mughal rule, the dancers (females) were banned from performing in temples and made to entertain in courts.

They developed a style for pure entertainment of the emperors. It said that under the patronage of Emperor Akbar (mid-16th century) the performers grew and flourished. This style is called 'Mughal' dance.

kathak tabla instrument

Kathak, as a dance form depicts "life" and is based on the philosophy of the trinity - creation (Brahma), preservation (Vishnu), and destruction (Mahesh). It is characterised by static poses and a continuous flow of movements very near to everyday life. Equally, it highlights intricate footwork and soulful expressions.

Styles of Kathak

Kathak is a blend of Hindu and Muslim cultures. Therefore, the costumes are an amalgamation of Hindu Lehenga-Choli and Muslim Churidar-Kameez outfits.

Ghungroos (bells) are worn on the ankles and are used in Kathak to enhance the rhythmic patterns of the footwork/tatkar. They constitute a musical instrument of its own during a performance, where the dancer can interact or challenge the tabla players with his/her resonating footwork.

bollywood kathak kathak bells asian kathak dancer

Usually, as the dancer becomes more proficient, the number of ghungroos he/she wears increases.