Some of you are good dancers and all of you enjoy watching dance recitals. This post will help you to refresh your existing knowledge of the classical dance form of Kathak.
The word Kathak is derived from the Sanskrit word katha meaning story, and katthaka in Sanskrit means a story-teller. The ancient Indian bards or singing storytellers who recited katha are thus the origins of kathak in the 3rd and 4th centuries BCE (Before the Common Era).
There are four Gharanas or schools of Kathak – Jaipur, Lucknow, Benaras and Raigarh. Each gharana has its own distinctive style and features of performance. The Lucknow gharana is known for its nazakat or grace of abhinaya while the Jaipur gharana is renowned for its intricate footwork. Nawab Wajid Ali of Oudh was himself a kathak dancer and choreographer!
A short kathak composition is known as a tukra, a longer one as a toda. Within these two Kathak modes are various well-known compositions such as vandana, thaat, aamad, salaami, kavitt, paran, paramelu, gat, lari, chakkar and tihai.
The abhinaya or enactment composition is usually performed to a thumri, gazal or bhajan. Musical instruments accompanying kathak include the sitar, tabla, pakhawaj and harmonium. Dancers may wear as many as 150 bells on each leg, called ghungroo. The kathak ghungroo is unique in that the bells are woven into the holding threads.
Some famous kathak dancers include Shambhu Maharaj, Lacchu Maharaj, Achhan Maharaj, Birju Maharaj, Gopi Krishna, Sitara Devi, Rani Karna and Shovana Narayan.
In the video below, you may see a recital by the famous natraj Gopi Krishna of the Benaras Gharana, accompanied by Ustad Birju Maharaj (not the dancer) on tabla and Pandit Durga Lal on the pakhawaj.
I hope this was interesting. You may add more Kathak facts you know in Comments.