What is Kathak Dance?
is among the six major classical dances of India and one of
the most dynamic theater arts in the world. The word Kathak
is derived from katha, meaning "the art of storytelling."
It is also synonymous with the community of artists known as
Kathakas whose hereditary profession it was to narrate history
while entertaining. With dance, music and mime these storytellers
of ancient India would bring to life the great scriptures and
epic so ancient times, especially the great Indian epics - the
Mahabharata and the Ramayana - and the Puranas of Sanskrit literature.
From its early form as a devotional expression dedicated to
the Hindu gods, Kathak gradually moved out of the temples and
into the courts of the rulers; the Hindu maharajas and the Muslim
nawabs (kings). With these rulers' cultural wealth and preoccupation
with lavish entertainment, a class of dancing girls and courtesans
emerged to entertain the palaces. Much later, during the mid-1800's,
Kathak enjoyed a renaissance and gained prominence among the
kings and zamindars (feudal overlords) not only as a form of
entertainment, but as a classical art form.
In the Hindu courts of the vast semi-desert of the principality
of Rajasthan, kathak developed in the Jaipur gharana (school),
a regional style emphasizing the technical mastery of pure dance.
To the east in the court of Wajid Ali Shah, the last nawab of
Oudh and himself a student of Kathak, the dance emphasized dramatic
and sensuous expression and developed into the style characteristic
of the Lucknow gharana.
This gharana is said to have originated with Wajid Ali Shah's
court dancer Thakur Prasadji.
The lineage of Kathak dance can
be traced from generation to generation, father to son, guru
to disciple. Thakur Prasadji's nephews, Binda Din Maharaj and
Kalka Prasad, excelled in the study of Kathak. Binda Din's three
nephews, Achhan, Lacchu and Shambhu Maharaj, helped carry the
Kathak tradition into the twentieth century. Achhan Maharaj,
and upon his death, Shambhu Maharaj, had among his many disciples
Ram Narayan Misra and Prohlad Das, respectively guru and father
of Chitresh Das.