Kathak is a classical Indian dance form that has evolved from the oral tradition of expression story-telling. Kathakars or story-tellers narrate stories related to ancient mythology, legends, and epics especially those of Lord Krishna, through this dance form. To make the recitation more effective, mimes and gestures were possibly added to it in the later years. Kathak developed from the Bhakti movement (theistic devotion) that evolved around the medieval Hindu period.
Into this performing art, the dancers incorporate rhythmic synchronization of the facial gestures, eye expressions, and body movements and steps. Kathak constitutes three specific dance forms (Gharanas or schools) that differ from each other in the footwork and gestures. They are:
- The Lucknow Gharana
- The Jaipur Gharana
- The Benaras Gharana
Its past and evolution
Bharata Muni, the ancient Indian musicologist, and the astrologist, is responsible for Kathak’s earliest records written on the Sanskrit text on the performing arts of Natyashastra. The term Kathak is procured from the Sanskrit Vedic term, ‘Katha’, meaning story and Kathaka, as mentioned in various Hindu epics and mythologies, means the person who tells the story.
During the Mughal era, Kathak underwent a considerable transformation when the age-old reciting techniques of the dance transitioned into an art of dance focusing on eroticism and sexual charm. This transition was influenced by the courtly Mughal dances to impress the audience, however, it still maintained its authenticity such as the Kathak dancing of Krishna-Radha romance.
The founders of different schools of the dance form such as Janaki Prasad (Banaras Gharana), Bhanuji (Jaipur Gharana) and Ishwari Prasad (Lucknow Gharana) are some of the major personalities who are known worldwide as adroit Kathak practitioners. It is known to have originated in Benaras and later spread out to Jaipur, Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow and others northwestern Indian parts. In the Lucknow wing, Sambhu Maharaj is an eminent persona associated with Kathak.
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