Kathak- The Dance which Narrates Stories.

Kathak is one of the main classical dance forms in India. India has around 7 classical dance forms including Kathak- Odissi, Kuchipudi, Manipuri, Kathakali, Bharatnatyam, MohiniAttam.

All these classical dance forms are different from one another yet equally beautiful. Their artistic connection to our roots is beautiful. Moreover, they all tell stories in their way and very beautifully.

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 Kathak has a very famous expression that clearly defines its meaning- Katha kahe so Kathak Kahawat means whoever tells a story in a dance form with a song is a Kathak. This dance form is all about narrating the stories of gods and goddesses in a very graceful and mesmerizing way. Dancers use various hand movements also known as mudras. Along with footwork, spins also known as chakkars, and most importantly facial expression called abhinaye.

Without expressions, this dance seems to be lifeless.

History of Kathak

Kathak is a marriage of Hindu and Muslim cultures. It originally prevails from northern India. Kathakars used to communicate their stories or spiritual stories via dance, music, and expressions.

Mostly they used to describe Krishna– a Hindu god. Through dance, they would express short stories of Kanha’s childhood. Certainly, how he used to play around with women (gopis) of his village. Besides, how he protected his village from every trouble. Also, they beautifully depict Radha-Krishn Raasleela. The love which everyone admires to have.

Pandits used to encourage these kathakars . As they used to depict the scenes from epics like Ramayana, Puranas, Vedas, and Mahabharta.

This art was passed from generation to generation from guru to shishya.

Kathak was also a very big part of the Mughal Era. Kathakars were called by Mughal emperors for court entertainment and powerful rulers. Further, kathak received royal support from one of the Nawab of Awadh- Wajid Ali Shah. Then, Kathak was divided into three different schools (Gharanas)

Kathak Gharanas

Lucknow Gharana, Jaipur Gharana and Banaras Gharana

All these gharanas have a very different touch, style, and technique. They all had their unique feature.

Jaipur Gharana focuses more on warrior depictions. The movements are sharp and expressions are bold. The sharp movements are accompanied by an aggressive warrior attitude. Along with strong body posture, sharp footwork, and many spins.

Lucknow Gharana is more of graceful and delicate movements, expressions, culture, love, and sringaar (16 sringaar of stree). Gazals are the heart of this Gharanas.

Banaras Gharana gets its essence from the River Ganga which depicts spirituality. Bhajans and Bol Banana is a specialty of this Gharana.

Evolution of styles.


Kathak comprises of a combination of two styles: Nritta and Nritya.

In style Nritta, the performer performs pure dancing and going from slow to fast pace and then reaching the climax of the dance. It has two compositions. Tukda is the shorter one whereas Toda is the longer one.

In the second style Nritya, the performers play with expressions to convey a story, also known as Bhaav Bataanaa.


In earlier times, performers used to wear sarees due to the influence of Hindu culture. Perhaps during the Mughal area, there was a change in the attire of performers. They wore Anarkali suit with pajama and a dupatta or odhni. It was tied around the waist of the performer. Performers wear ghunghroos on their feet. They are not fixed on a leather band rather they were tied on a string which they wrapped around their ankle.

Nowadays, kathak demonstrates diverse cultures and traditions. It acts as a bridge between the Mughal and Hindu era. There was a time when these classical dances started losing their place in society. But some respected artists like Pandit Birju Maharaj, Kumudini Lakhia, etc. contributed their whole life to this art. Hence, became an inspiration to many dancers.

Eventually, classical dance forms such as Kathak got their eminent space back in society.

Author: Varnika Narota

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