(Last Updated on : 02/04/2015)
History of Kathak
has been a debatable issue as it was the style which evolved gradually during the course of several centuries, imbibing diverse influences. This dance had till then continued to flourish in the precincts of the temples till 14th and 15th centuries A.D
However, with the rise of the Mughal Empire and with the establishment of a state religion which did not believe in dance as a form of worship, some changes took place. As a result dancing figures disappeared in temple structure.
Influence of Bhakti Movement on Kathak
The Bhakti movement had influenced dance and music of north and south India. The compositions of Mira Bai, Surdas and other poets have references to the devotees dancing before the deity they like. While in sculpture there is no significant evidence about the dance but the miniature painting does provide rich evidence of the development of a dance which shaped up into the Kathak style. The beginnings of the Kathak dance can be traced back to the dance illustrated in Jain paintings and manuscripts. The dancer is depicted invariably in the ardhamandali position; the urdhvajanu Chari and the swastika Chari of the Natyashastra
Development of Kathak
By about the 16th century, the tight churidar pyjama appeared as the standard dress of the dancer. Despite wearing a full-skirted lehenga, the churidar pyjama below is seen. The anklets become a common feature of the paintings of this period. Before the 17th century the women danced to the accompaniment of the Mridanga and the Manjira. Many paintings of the period are illustrations of the ragas and the raginis on one hand and the nayikas on the other. Amongst the raginis depicted are the Nat narayani ragini, vasanta ragini and dipaka ragini. While the dance was not popular in the Mughal Court however the music was liked. The dance could not remain away from the growth and development of north Indian music, specially the khayal. The poetic compositions are secondary. The thumri
, a north Indian classical music
was closely associated with this dance. The artist presented variations of the one line of poetry sung. The masters of the thumri
became the masters of the abhinaya of north Indian dance and gave the dance style a literary content. The fusion of cultures developed Kathak in a singular manner, but although it was by now substantially different from the other Indian dance forms, the roots of the style remained the same. It still displays a similar pattern with the others, particularly in the hand-formations during story-telling, and some of the body-postures, for example the Tribhangi position, which is common to most Indian dance forms.
distinctions are clearly maintained by the Kathak exponents. Kathak was not influenced and actually given a direction by the Vaishnavite tradition of north India. In the very process of making interpretative dancing an abstract design, the dancer never forgot that it was an invocation to God. In the court, the Kathak experts gave up the literary content in order to demonstrate sheer technique. The Hindu myth and legend still remained and communicated itself in the interpretative portions of the dance.
Influence of Other Elements on Kathak
Kathak was influenced by the dancers and musicians from Persia. Kathak became two distinct styles in atmosphere, theme, costume and music. The Temple style defines the mythological and spiritual importance, and the Court style gave its attention to rhythmic displays, fast footwork and an enhanced body balance. The major theme of Kathak shifted from devotional to romantic ideas. In recent times, both the styles have been integrated into one distinct style that merges both the spiritual and physical aspects into one unified dance form. Kathak gradually changed in the due course of time with the emergence of different kings and there taste of incorporating the dance form. The specific emperors contributed to the growth, expansion and development of Kathak as a dance form into Gharanas, or simply called schools of dance, named after the cities or the places where they actually developed. The Nawab of Oudh, Wajid Ali Shah used to give patronage to dancers and also use to dance on his own. He performed himself with the ladies of his court with the basis of the Lucknow
gharana, giving importance on sensuousness and expressive emotions. The Lucknow gharana placed importance on the Abhinaya
and Natya elements of dancing with subtlety and grace. This contrasted sharply with the Jaipur
gharana, which became renowned for highly intricate and complex footwork, fast, sharp, and accurate dancing. The Banaras gharana was also created in this time.
Revival of Kathak
It was also during this period Kathak was performed by the tawaifs, who actually developed the dance form in parallel to its refinement in the court. The beginning of the Colonial domination in Indian landmass saw a steep decline in the dance form of Kathak. The British administration directly pointed out the dance form to be unlovely form of entertainment. The British directly associated the dance form as sole form of Tawaifs culture. To the British convention, it was an entertainment designed basically for the purposes of seduction.
In recent times Kathak as a dance form has again regained its popularity after the period of decline and now it is one of the eight officially sanctioned classical dance forms of India. At present the dance form is an amalgamation of all the styles once it had acquired in the past.