KATHAK is a word of Sanskrit language and it literally means story or story teller, one who reads aloud “Puranas’ i.e. “Kathakar” or “Kathavachak”. It is from the word Katha the word ‘Kathak’ developed and became popular which means a caste engaged in singing, playing instruments and dancing.
Learned people have said ‘One who tells story is called Kathak’. It is evident that the dance Kathak relates to story (Katha) and the tradition of the story telling is quite ancient. Instances are found in Vedas, Puranas and other scriptures e.g. in the court of Lord Rama, the disciples of Sage Valmiki i.e. Lava and Kusha narrated the story of Lord Rama by singing and enacting the same. In fact, this dance form has its origin to the period of Lord Rama. The storytellers who followed this style were called Kushilava and later on were called “Kathak’. Similarly, the story of Lord Krishna i.e. “Bhagvata” was narrated in the temples through songs and dances.
In the medival age, when large scale destruction of temples took place, these story tellers called ‘Kathak’ lost their shelter and began to scatter and found refuge in the courts of Kings orNawabs and started creating dances according to their respective tastes and to establish themselves in the court, they innovated to create extraordinary effects. It is also believed that in the Muslim age, Kathak had to be totally transformed. Hindu culture was destroyed and Kathaks had to absorb the court’s pomp and show and sense of pleasure. In this age, Kathak style of dance emerged as a means of entertainment and sensual pleasure. In this age, Kathak style of dance emerged as a means of entertainment and sensual pleasure. In this age the “King” replaced the Lord and “Devdasis” became “Saki’. The dance imbibed Muslim literature, Ragas and Beats and poems like Ghazals. Thumri became subject of dance form. The dependence of Kathak dance on the court brought the artists (Gunijan) and the audience both closer to prostitutes as a result of which the standards of morality began to dilute. The system of “Gharanedari’ also developed around this time. The three houses of Kathak i.e. Lucknow, Jaipur and Banares were founded.
During the declining phase of Muslim rule, Nawab Wajid Ali Shah and thereafter Nawab Rampur, Raja Chakradhar Singh etc. made their contribution to keep this dance form alive but generally during the European age, this dance form almost became extinct.
However, during last few decades, the attitude of society towards Kathak has undergone a change and with the establishment of music institutes, the image of Kathak has improved. As a result, boys and girls of cultured families were attracted to this dance form.
Kathak is the classical dance form of Northern India. In the performance of Kathak, the artists enjoy a lot of freedom usually not available in other dance forms. Each Kathak dancer begins the dance in his or her unique way and organizes the performance according to his preference. However Kathak dance performance is usually divided in two parts: (1) Nrit and (2) emoting. Kathak begins with Nrit under which ‘Thath’, ‘Amad’, ‘Tode’, ‘Tukde’, ‘Paran’ and ‘Tatkar’ are performed. Under emoting aspect, ‘GatNikas’, ‘Gatbhava’ and ‘Thumri Bhav’ or ’emoting a poem’ is performed. In Kathak dance, “Ghunghroos” are actually used in a unique manner. Each ‘Bol’ emanating from ‘Tabla’ and ‘Pakhavaj’ is matched by the dancer through the Ghunghroos. The spectacular aspect is performance of ‘Bhramris’.
The costume of Kathak: Women usually wear Lehnga Choli and Dupatta while performing Kathak. Male dancers wear Churidar Paijama, Kurta and Angarkha and tie a Dupatta in the waist.