History of Dance In India
Sculptural Evidence from all parts of India &
the surrounding region points out to a rich tradition of Dance
& Music that flourished over a thousand years ago. Over the
course of time, the dance forms practiced in the different parts
of the country were codified & developed distinct identities
according to the geographic, socio-economic & political conditions
of each region.
Kathak is the most prominent classical dance
from of Northern India, developed in the temples. The word Kathak
comes from the original Sanskrit word "Kathakar"
which means a storyteller. "Katha kahe so kathik
kahave", which means “one who tells a story
is a storyteller”. A woman storyteller was known as "Kathika"
& male storyteller was known as "Kathakar".
These recited the epics & mythological stories & added
element of abhinaya i.e. expressional demonstration. They traveled
around country entertaining & educating the people with sacred
legends, folklores & mythology. While reciting they sang,
danced & acted. By the 13th century this style had developed
its own special features. In Medieval India, during Bhakti (devotional)
movement, Kathak was greatly influenced by Lord Krishna cult.
By the end of Mogul rule Kathak dancers evolved Vaishnav philosophy
& Radha Krishna Tales became a powerful entertainment in the
In Kathak, each syllable is used not only to
represent the sounds of feet & bells also to harmonize with
the strokes of accompanying percussion instruments. During performance
pieces of abstract dance may be recited before actual performance.
This recitation or pedant is a mode of communication with the
percussionist (s) who has to match & strike the syllable the
dancer recites. Furthermore, the padant enables the audience to
visualize & appreciate the rhythmic patterns before they revealed
Kathak dance performance can be divided in two
1. Nrittang (Pure dance portion)
2. Abhinaya (Expression)
Kathak dance performance begins with Nritta portion in which That,
Amad, Toda, Tukda etc. are presented generally.
In abhinaya portion Gat nikas, Gat bhava, thumri, Bhajan is presented.
The use of ghungroos in Kathak is unparallel
in the world.
There are two main styles of costumes in Kathak
• In the Muslim style gents used to wear chooridar pajama
(A Pant almost like a pipe at the bottom near legs & spacious
near thigh & waist), angrakha, dupatta & topi or pagri
Ladies wear peshwaz (Frock with a lot of flair & volume) Chooridar
pyjama, jacket chunri & topi.
• In the Hindu style ladies used to wear Ghagra (petticoat)
- choli (Blouse) with Odni. Ghagra is a long ankle length skirt
with a lot of volume which goes off the floor as the dancer moves
fast & turns. A choli is a short blouse & a dupatta is
a long piece of fabric about 2.5 to 3 meters long which is wrapped
elegantly around the dancer the upper half of dancer’s body.
Gents wear a long kurta & chooridar with dupatta wrapped around
Suitable ornaments on head, nose, ear, neck,
and waist. & hands are also worn.
Main accompanying instruments in Kathak dance
1. Tabla 2. Sarangi 3.Pakhawaj 4.
Harmonium 5. Sitar
6. Sarod 7. Flute etc.
Themes of Kathak Dance
Main themes used in Kathak dance are:
• Slokas in Sanskrit/Hindi
• Bhajan(Devotional songs for Hindu gods & goddesses)
• Classical & light songs i.e.Thumri, dadra, kajri,
• Darbari & ghazals
• Pure classical i.e. Paran, Tukda, gatnikas, Jugalbandi
(Friendly competition), Sawal jawab(Foot work with tabla or pakhawaj
& demonstration of beats)
• Tarana based on pagas
• Dance drama composition chosen from epics Ramayana &
• Any musical (Classical) composition.