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History of Dance In India

Sculptural Evidence from all parts of India & the surrounding region points out to a rich tradition of Dance & Music that flourished over a thousand years ago. Over the course of time, the dance forms practiced in the different parts of the country were codified & developed distinct identities according to the geographic, socio-economic & political conditions of each region.

1. Bharatnatyam 5. Kathakali
2. Mohiniattam 6. Manipuri
3. Odissi 7. Kathak
4. Kuchipudi

Kathak Dance

Kathak is the most prominent classical dance from of Northern India, developed in the temples. The word Kathak comes from the original Sanskrit word “Kathakar” which means a storyteller. “Katha kahe so kathik kahave“, which means “one who tells a story is a storyteller”. A woman storyteller was known as “Kathika” & male storyteller was known as “Kathakar“. These recited the epics & mythological stories & added element of abhinaya i.e. expressional demonstration. They traveled around country entertaining & educating the people with sacred legends, folklores & mythology. While reciting they sang, danced & acted. By the 13th century this style had developed its own special features. In Medieval India, during Bhakti (devotional) movement, Kathak was greatly influenced by Lord Krishna cult. By the end of Mogul rule Kathak dancers evolved Vaishnav philosophy & Radha Krishna Tales became a powerful entertainment in the Mugal Courts.

In Kathak, each syllable is used not only to represent the sounds of feet & bells also to harmonize with the strokes of accompanying percussion instruments. During performance pieces of abstract dance may be recited before actual performance. This recitation or pedant is a mode of communication with the percussionist (s) who has to match & strike the syllable the dancer recites. Furthermore, the padant enables the audience to visualize & appreciate the rhythmic patterns before they revealed in dance.

Kathak dance performance can be divided in two parts i.e.
1. Nrittang (Pure dance portion)
2. Abhinaya (Expression)

Kathak dance performance begins with Nritta portion in which That, Amad, Toda, Tukda etc. are presented generally.
In abhinaya portion Gat nikas, Gat bhava, thumri, Bhajan is presented.
The use of ghungroos in Kathak is unparallel in the world.


There are two main styles of costumes in Kathak Dance.
• In the Muslim style gents used to wear chooridar pajama (A Pant almost like a pipe at the bottom near legs & spacious near thigh & waist), angrakha, dupatta & topi or pagri (Cap).
Ladies wear peshwaz (Frock with a lot of flair & volume) Chooridar pyjama, jacket chunri & topi.
• In the Hindu style ladies used to wear Ghagra (petticoat) – choli (Blouse) with Odni. Ghagra is a long ankle length skirt with a lot of volume which goes off the floor as the dancer moves fast & turns. A choli is a short blouse & a dupatta is a long piece of fabric about 2.5 to 3 meters long which is wrapped elegantly around the dancer the upper half of dancer’s body. Gents wear a long kurta & chooridar with dupatta wrapped around their waist.

Suitable ornaments on head, nose, ear, neck, and waist. & hands are also worn.

Accompanying Instruments

Main accompanying instruments in Kathak dance are
1. Tabla   2. Sarangi   3. Pakhawaj   4. Harmonium   5. Sitar 6. Sarod 7. Flute etc.

Themes of Kathak Dance

Main themes used in Kathak dance are:
• Slokas in Sanskrit/Hindi
• Bhajan(Devotional songs for Hindu gods & goddesses)
• Classical & light songs i.e.Thumri, dadra, kajri, hori etc.
• Darbari & ghazals
• Pure classical i.e. Paran, Tukda, gatnikas, Jugalbandi (Friendly competition), Sawal jawab(Foot work with tabla or pakhawaj & demonstration of beats)
• Tarana based on pagas
• Dance drama composition chosen from epics Ramayana & Mahabharata
• Any musical (Classical) composition.

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