Skip to main content

A storytelling form, Kathak has cultural elements of both Hindu, Muslim gharanas

By Swati Pillai*
Artists have a responsibility to offer an experience that will both reach audiences at their current state of mind and understanding and take them a notch higher. Kathak is the only dance form influenced by both Hindu and Muslim cultures. When it started in temples hundreds of years ago, it arose as a form of storytelling, moral instruction and a prayer offering to the Lord.
In Kathak, the audience is offered a visually and mentally uplifting experience. The music and the dance combine bodily modulation with rhythmic accuracy, playing with one’s mind while touching the heart. With the rhythm being an important aspect of Kathak without challenging the visual side of the performance, this unique aesthetic combination demonstrates the wonders of Indian classical dance culture.
I feel I was born to propagate Kathak in bringing its past glory. India is one culturally rich country, where almost every state has its language, cuisine, and dance forms. When it comes to dancing, India has traditional, classical, folk, and tribal dance styles, and all are simply amazing. As classical dancers, most of us do have the divine power in the back of our mind, and we offer our dance as a prayer to the Lord, as well as to entertain the audiences through that prayer.
All the incredible classical dances that originated in the country during ancient times are very special and precious. Among all these dance forms one is Kathak. Throughout history, quite unlike most classical art forms, Kathak has seldom been performed as an offering to a deity, instead from its earliest stages, it has been a recital directed at an audience comprising its patrons as well as the common people. Late Pandit Birju Maharaj’s perseverance, sincerity, passion for teaching, and incorporation of daily life examples into his teaching are admirable.
I believe teaching is a continuous learning process for a teacher. Indian classical dances celebrated across the globe for their enriching and mesmerising virtuosity can be traced back to centuries old ways of storytelling, performed as much for entertainment as for the spread of cultures and knowledge.
Each classical form is built upon layers of complex histories that often converge at the intersection of culture, art, politics, and even conflict, readjusting its structures and boundaries in the light of revolution and reform. Consequently, varying styles of the art form find new homes and families to become gharanas, yet other dance forms are added to the ever-dynamic definition of what constitutes as classical.
I would say my teaching style is a mix of being both warm and demanding. My love and passion for dance reflect my teaching style. I provide caring and emotional support but also have high expectations from my students. Having said that, I make sure my students are having fun in the classroom by finding the right balance between their artistic development and enjoyment. I try to be a positive role model so my students not only learn this beautiful form of Indian classical dance but also use discipline and practice in their lifestyles.
My breath and my joy is Kathak. Dance has been a breakthrough for me personally. Through dance I found myself, and within myself, I found God.” Swati believes it is important to think deeply about the form, continue training rigorously, and attempt one’s own interpretations to shape your journey. She stated that evolving with the dance form to find your own artistic voice is truly important.
I love sharing the craft that I have acquired by observing my gurus. My ultimate goal in teaching Kathak dance is to cultivate inner peace, a positive attitude and composure through expressions. I feel blessed to practice and share various aspects of a ‘Kathakaar’ , a storyteller by expressional and rhythmic Kathak compositions with my students.
Kathak is commonly regarded as one of the seven classical dances of India and is the only one from North India. Kathak has been enriched greatly by the contributions of musicians, dancers, professional women artists, and court and landlord patronage. Kathak is an elegant dance form of Northern India and revolves around the concept of story-telling related to Indian ancient and mythological culture. It is further characterised by intricate footwork, body movement and precise rhythmic patterns.
Kathak performances include Bhajan and Urdu ghazals because this is commonly used in both the codes as well as in temples too
Kathak is one of the 8th major forms of Indian classical dance. The origin of Kathak is traditionally attributed to the travelling birds in ancient Northern India known as kathakers or storytellers. The term Kathak is derived from the vedic Sanskrit word Katha which means story and kathakar which means the one who tells a story or to do with stories. Wandering Kathak communicated stories from the great epics and ancient mythology through dance, songs and music.
Kathak dancers tell various stories through their hand moments and extensive food work, the body moments and flexibility but most importantly through their facial expressions. It has both the influences of Hindu and Muslim Gharana and cultural elements in it. Kathak performances include Bhajan and Urdu ghazals because this is commonly used in both the codes as well as in temples too.
Kathak is found in four distinct form called Gharana name after the cities where the Kathak dance tradition evolved they are Jaipur, Banaras, Lucknow and Raigarh. Teaching has been a sacred and relaxing experience for me. By teaching, I learn and by learning, I get inspired to teach more. I would say the hardest part of my job is to learn and try to understand different students' perspectives. It is definitely hard to match kids’ exuberant energy.
India, in any terms, shines like a unique brilliant star in the horizon of classical dance. It is here that the classical dance forms are considered to be bhakti yoga path to spirituality and worship; it is in this sub-continent alone that our deities are also revered as classical performing artistes.
In its delineation, it breathes the fragrance of our Indian philosophy and practices of life such as yoga. Where every Indian classical dance is rooted in the rhythms of the taal, Kathak is in fact the only one in which the taal itself is brought to life.
Some of the most well-known taal structures like the tritaal [16 beats], jhaptaal [10 beats], chautaal [12 beats], and dhamar [14 beats] are often taken to the stage by a performer and highlighted through compositions like thaat, amad, toda, paran, and tatkaar [footwork]. Evolving with the dance form to find your own artistic voice is truly important. My gurus have inspired me to keep questioning, find new ways of expressing creativity. People might love it or hate it, but one must have the courage to dance your own dance, to express your truth.
It is important to think deeply about the form, continue training rigorously, and attempt one’s own interpretations to shape your journey. I personally look up to being an international artist with new innovations without taking the main essence of Kathak so that I can spread and teach whatever I have learnt can be beneficial for the next generation to retain their interest in Kathak.
It would be great if I can make something which is like complete package for them so that they can get connected to God meditate and learn about the spiritual knowledge about culture and of course the main routing of Kathak but today I feel vindicated world dance day is widely accepted by the dance community organisation and most importantly by the audience.
I hope when my students leave the classroom they feel energized and eager to come back to the next class. I also hope every dance practice session is a stress reliever for my students after their busy day at school or at work. Finally, my hope is that they take away the joy and happiness from dance that will ultimately provide a more focused approach in whatever they choose to do.
---
*Budding classical Kathak dancer

Comments

TRENDING

North Gujarat gram panchayat bars villagers from dealing with Muslim hawkers, traders

By Our Representative  A gram panchayat in North Gujarat has barred its residents not to buy anything from Muslim traders and hawkers. An order of the Waghasan group gram panchayat of Tharad taluka of Banaskantha district dated June 30 states that the decision has been taken in the wake of beheading of a Hindu tailor after he posted a derogatory writeup on Prophet Mohammad in Udaipur. The gram panchayat resolution says, anyone seen buying or selling any commodity from a Muslim hawker or trader would be fined Rs 5,100. Bringing this to light, Mujahid Nafees, convener, Minority Coordination Committee, in a letter to Gujarat chief minister Bhupendra Patel, says, the state government should take legal action against the panchayat chief who has signed the “unjust” order. The letter says, the act of the sarpanch and other signatories is a violation of rule of law of the state and threat to peace, pointing out, the move is in violation of Article 15 of the Constitution, which says that none

Unlike Soviet Union, Russia is no friend to India: Ukrainian scholar tells 'Indian friends'

Counterview Desk In an open letter to "dear Indian friends", Anastasia Piliavsky, born in Odessa, Ukraine, studied at Boston and Oxford Universities (on a Rhodes Scholarship), and now teaches at King’s College, London, has said that she faces "deep moral dilemma", personally and professionally, over the "astonishingly unified Indian response to the war in Ukraine." Based on her interaction with a "number of thoughtful and caring Indian friends", in this letter, she says, she is "reeling at the ubiquitous silence at, justifications of or outright support for Putin’s terror, which now prevails in India, at the ubiquitous #IStandWithPutin and #istandwithrussia hashtags." She insists, India must understand, "Unlike the Soviet Union, Russia is no friend to India. Soviet leaders, beginning with (the Ukrainian) Nikita Khrushchev – who declared hindi rusi bhai bhai – built up deep political and cultural exchange with India." Text : I

Technocratic globalism, tyranny? Health Ministry warned: bill to 'enslave' Indians

Sandeep Pandey, Tushar Gandhi By Rosamma Thomas*  Union of Concerned Citizens, a group comprising Magsaysay Award winner Prof Sandeep Pandey, human rights activist Tushar Gandhi, former judge of the Bombay High Court BG Kolse Patil, pediatrician Dr Jacob Puliyel and several renowned Indian citizens have written to the Union Health Minister cautioning him against tabling the draft Public Health Bill in the Monsoon Session of Parliament. “The Public Health (Prevention, Control And Management Of Epidemics, Bio-Terrorism And Disasters) Bill, 2017 and a Prospective Bill of 2022 as discussed in news articles, is straightforwardly violative of Fundamental Rights of the citizens of India and therefore, Ultra Vires of the Indian Constitution. It contravenes several International Treaties and Conventions including the Nuremberg Treaty of 1947 which was enacted to ensure that no country would repeat such inhuman medical atrocities on fellow human beings”, the 12-page letter reads. “Strangely, t

Protesters demand release of Teesta Setalvad, Sreekumar, seek review of SC order

By Our Representative  Protests broke out across India on June 27 following Teesta Setalvad’s arrest demanding her immediate release. Sabrang India , a site run by Setalvad, claimed she was “arrested on trumped-up charges after the Supreme Court dismissed the petition moved by Zakia Jafri demanding an investigation into the larger conspiracy behind the 2002 Gujarat violence.” The protesters also demanded release of former DGP Gujarat police RB Sreekumar, also arrested simultaneously. The protests were preceded by over 2,200 people from across the globe signing a statement demanding their immediate release. Leading signatories such as People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) general secretary V Suresh, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) convenor Medha Patkar, former Naval chief Admiral Ramdas. “The state has used the observations made in the judgment to falsely and vindictively prosecute those who had struggled for justice even in the face of state callousness and complicit

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Electoral bonds scheme 'compromises' voluntary nature PM relief fund donations

By Rosamma Thomas*  The Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF) is meant to collect voluntary donations from the general public, either individuals or organizations, to enable assistance to people in times of natural disaster, or for expensive medical treatment. That fundamental voluntary character of the fund, however, has changed in recent years.  The gazette notification of January 2018 announcing the Electoral Bond scheme states, in Clause 12 (2): “The amount of bonds not encashed within the validity period of fifteen days shall be deposited by the authorized bank to the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund”. The Union government has, thus, through notification, directed funds to be deposited into what was meant to be purely voluntary. Commodore Lokesh Batra, who has been campaigning for transparency in government functioning, holds that once a gazette notification has been issued directing that funds be deposited into the PMNRF, the character of the whole fund has changed,

'Highly abnormal': AltNews journo's arrest suggests 'deterioration in media freedom'

By Bharat Dogra*  Leading media organizations have come out in strong support of recently arrested journalist Mohammed Zubair. These organizations include, among others, the Editors Guild of India, the Press Club of India, the Delhi Union of Journalists and DIGIPUB, a platform for several important digital media organizations. All these organizations have condemned the recent arrest of the noted journalist and demanded his immediate release. While leading human rights organizations and political parties have also made somewhat similar statements, the strong support of media organizations is particularly important as the effort of the authorities has been to try to present the arrested journalist as someone who has been indulging in irresponsible journalism.  In such a situation the support of those media organizations who are familiar with his work and who are most capable of judging the quality of his work is very important. In this context it is important that some media organization

Majoritarian silence helping Hindutva forces 'handover' national resources to corporates

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*  The majority of Indian citizens are witnessing the persecution and everyday violence against their fellow citizens who are Muslims and religious minorities. The growing assaults on reason, science, secularism, Indian democracy and constitution are going to be landmarks in Indian history of diminishing democracy and citizenship rights. It is clear that Hindutva ideology is directly promoting sectarian politics of hate which is dangerous for the unity and integrity of India, peace and prosperity of Indians. The majoritarian silence helps in empowering Hindutva and their electoral dividends. From witnessing the persecution in the sidelines to the active participation and cheering loud or silence accelerates violence against our neighbours and our fellow citizens. How and why do majority of Indians stay silent and contribute to the persecution of their fellow citizens who are Muslims and religious minorities? The question baffles me as an Indian because I have gr

Electricity Bill: Centre's reform measures contain 'carrot and stick package' for states

Counterview Desk  The Peoples’ Commission on Public Sector and Public Services (PCPSPS), claiming to be a network of eminent academics, jurists, erstwhile administrators, trade unionists and social activists, seeking consultations with stakeholders with those who are against the government’s decision to monetise, disinvest and privatise public assets/enterprises, has said that the proposed Electricity (Amendment) Bill-2022 will have far-reaching impacts on the finances of states. Insisting that the proposed Bill would lead to “assault on India’s federal structure”, in a statement, it says, it would weaken the finances of states’ power distribution companies, have adverse impact on utility employees, cripple the states' finances, impose a heavy cost burden on the smaller subsidized consumers (especially farmers), and benefit only corporate business houses. “States cannot afford to ignore the far-reaching implications of the Bill on their economy, finances, agricultural and industria

Cops 'refuse to register' complaint after BSF shot landless worker off Bangla border

By Our Representative  Kirity Roy, secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), and national convener, Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity (PACTI), in a complaint to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), referring to the incident of “firing and execution” of a poor Muslim youth, has alleged that the 26 year old was was shot at “without giving any warning” one and half kilometers inside the Indian territory from Bangladesh border by an on- duty Border Security Force (BSF) personnel. Stating that the person, Ruhul Mondal, belonged to an Other Backward Class (OBC), and hailed from Ramnarayan Para village under Sagarpara police station in Murshidabad district, West Bengal, Roy in his representation said, the BSF person who shot at him is “attached with Singpara Border Outpost, 141 Battalion”, underlining, the BSF has now floated “self defense theory” to cover up its operation. According to the BSF officials, the incident took place in the jute fields in