Sumita Dutta – Tarana School Kathak of Dance

Kathak (Hindi: कथक) is one  of the eight forms of Indian classical dances, originated from Uttar Pradesh, India. This dance form traces its origins to the nomadic bards of ancient northern India, known as Kathaks, or storytellers. Its form today contains traces of temple and ritual dances, and the influence of the bhakti movement. From the 16th century onwards it absorbed certain features of Persian dance and Central Asian dance which were imported by the royal courts of the Mughal era.

The name Kathak is derived from the Sanskrit word katha meaning story, and katthaka in Sanskrit means he who tells a story, or to do with stories.

Kathaa kahe so kathak is a saying many teachers pass on to their pupils, which is generally translated, ‘s/he who tells a story, is a kathak’, but which can also be translated, ‘that which tells a story, that is Kathak.’

There are three major schools or gharanas of Kathak from which performers today generally draw their lineage: the gharanas of Jaipur,Lucknow and Benaras( in the courts of the Kachwaha Rajput kings, the Nawab of Oudh, and Varanasi respectively).

There is also a less prominent (and later) Raigarh gharana which amalgamated technique from all three preceding gharanas but became famous for its own distinctive compositions.

Kathak was later influenced by dancers and musicians from Persia and its themes changed from devotion to romanticism. It is the Persian influence over Kathak that gives it its similarity to another dance style – Flamenco, which was very much influenced by Gypsies from India.
Thus, with the Persian influence, Temple Kathak and Royal Court of Mughal Emperors’ Kathak became two distinct styles with different themes, costumes and music. Temple Kathak uses rich, dramatic expressions to tell stories of mythological and spiritual significance, while the Royal Court style focuses on improvised rhythmic displays, fast footwork and grandiose pirouettes.

The impressive features of both Temple and Royal Court Kathak have now been integrated into one style that balances the spiritual and physical aspects into one unified dance form.