Kathak is the major classical dance form of northern India. The word kathak means "to tell a story". It is derived from the dance dramas of ancient India. When the patronage shifted from the temples to the royal court, there was a change in the overall emphasis. The emphasis shifted from the telling of religious stories to one of entertainment. Today, the story-telling aspect has been downgraded and the dance is primarily an abstract exploration of rhythm and movement.

Kathak was primarily associated with an institution known as the tawaif. This is a much misunderstood institution of female entertainers, very much like the geisha tradition of Japan. It was a profession which demanded the highest standards of training, intelligence, and most important, civility. It is said that it was common for royalty to send their children to the tawaifs for instruction in etiquette. Unfortunately, when the British consolidated their hold over India during the Victorian era, this great institution was branded as mere prostitution and was outlawed. This set the artform of kathak into a downward spiral that was not reversed until Independence when there was a reawakening in interest in traditional Indian artforms.

Musical Instruments Used To Accompany Kathak

  • Bansuri
  • Dilruba
  • Esraj
  • Ghungharu
  • Harmonium
  • Pakhawaj
  • Santur
  • Sarangi
  • Sarod
  • Sitar
  • Surmandal
  • Tabla
  • Tanpura

History of Kathak

The story of Kathak begins in ancient times with the performances of professional story-tellers called kathakas who recited or sang stories from epics and mythology with some elements of dance. The traditions of the kathakas were hereditary, and dances passed from generation to generation. There are literary references from the third and fourth centuries BC which refer to these kathakas. The two texts are in the archives of Kameshwar Library at Mithila.

Prominent Artists and SNA Awardees

  1. Shambhu Maharaj 1955
  2. Baijnath Prasad "Lacchu Maharaj" 1957
  3. Sunder Prasad 1959
  4. Mohan Rao Kallianpurkar 1962
  5. Birju Maharaj 1964
  6. Damayanti Joshi 1968
  7. Sitara Devi 1969
  8. Gauri Shankar Devilal 1974
  9. Roshan Kumari 1975
  10. Rohini Bhate 1979
  11. Kartik Ram 1982
  12. Kumudini Lakhia 1982
  13. Durga Lal 1984
  14. Uma Sharma 1987
  15. Reba Vidyarthi 1991
  16. Ramlal Bareth 1995
  17. Rani Karnaa 1996
  18. Sunderlal Sathyanarayan Gangani 1998
  19. Shovana Narayan 1999-2000
  20. Rajendra Gangani 2002
  21. Sunayana Hazarilal Agarwal 2003
  22. Urmila Nagar 2003
  23. Saswati Sen 2004
  24. Tirath Ram Azad 2005
  25. Munna Shukla 2006
  26. Geetanjali Lal 2007
  27. Shashi Sankhla 2008
  28. Prerana Shrimali 2009
  29. Malabika Mitra 2010
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