Kathak Dance

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    In News

    • Recently, India’s leading Kathak exponent and Padma Vibhushan awardee, Pandit Birju Maharaj passed away.

    About Pandit Birju Maharaj

    • Birth: 
      • He was born on February 4, 1938, into the family of Kathak revivalist Ishwari Prasadji.
    • Original name:
      • Initially his name was ‘Dukh Haran’, which was later changed to ‘Brijmohan’, a synonym of Krishna. 
      • Brijmohan Nath Misra was then shortened to ‘Birju’.
    • Early age career: 
      • Right in the early part of his career, Pt Birju Maharaj was sent by the Government of India to represent India at various festivals. 
      • He toured Russia, USA, Japan, UK, UAE, France, Germany, Italy, Austria and the Czech Republic among other countries.
    • Gharana:
      • He was the torchbearer of the Kalka-Bindadin gharana of the Lucknow style of Kathak.
    • Awards received:
      • He was conferred the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award at the young age of 28. 
      • He has variously received the Kalidas Samman, Nritya Choodamani, Andhra Ratna, Nritya Vilas, Adharshila Shikhar Samman, Soviet Land Nehru Award, Shiromani Samman, and Rajiv Gandhi Peace Award apart from an honorary doctorate from Banaras Hindu University.

    Kathak Dance & It’s Evolution

    • About:
      • Kathak is one of the main genres of ancient Indian classical dance and is traditionally regarded to have originated from the travelling bards of North India referred as Kathakars or storytellers
      • These Kathakars wandered around and communicated legendary stories via music, dance and songs quite like the early Greek theatre

    • History:
      • The roots of this dance form trace back to Sanskrit Hindu text on performing arts called ‘Natya Shastra’ written by ancient Indian theatrologist and musicologist Bharata Muni. 
        • It is presumed that the first complete version of the text was completed between 200 BCE to 200 CE, but some sources mention the timeframe to be around 500 BCE and 500 CE. 
        • Thousands of verses structured in different chapters are found in the text that divides dance in two particular forms, namely ‘nrita’ that is pure dance which comprises finesse of hand movements and gestures, and ‘nritya’ that is solo expressive dance that focuses on expressions.
      • Russian scholar Natalia Lidova states that ‘Natya Shastra’ describes various theories of Indian classical dances including Tandava dance of Lord Shiva, methods of acting, standing postures, gestures, basic steps, bhava and rasa. 
      • Mary Snodgrass states that the tradition of this dance form is traced back to the 400 BCE. 
        • Bharhut, a village in the Satna district of Madhya Pradesh, India stands as a representative of early Indian art. 
      • The 2nd century BC panels found there illustrate sculptures of dancers in different vertical poses with arm positions that resemble Kathak steps, many of which reflect the ‘pataka hasta’ Mudra
      • The word Kathak is derived from the Vedic Sanskrit term ‘Katha’ which means ‘story’ while the term kathaka that finds place in several Hindu epics and texts means the person who tells a story. 
      • Text-based analysis indicates Kathak as an ancient Indian classical dance form that presumably originated in Banaras or Varanasi and then spread its wings in Jaipur, Lucknow and many other regions of north and northwest India.
    • Instrument and Music:
      • A Kathak performance may include a dozen classical instruments depending more on the effect and depth required for a particular performance. 
      • However, some instruments are typically used in a Kathak performance like the tabla that harmonise well with the rhythmic foot movements of the dancer and often imitates sound of such footwork movements or vice-versa to create a brilliant jugalbandi. 
      • A manjira that is hand cymbals and sarangi or harmonium are also used most often.

    Contributions for Bhakti Movement

    • The genre developed during the Bhakti movement, the trend of theistic devotion which evolved in mediaeval Hinduism. 
      • The Kathakars communicate stories through rhythmic foot movements, hand gestures, facial expressions and eye work. 
      • This performing art that incorporates legends from ancient mythology and great Indian epics, especially from the life of Lord Krishna became quite popular in the courts of North Indian kingdoms. 
      • Three specific forms of this genre that is three gharanas (schools), which mostly differ in emphasis given to footwork versus acting, are more famous namely:
        • the Jaipur gharana, 
        • the Benaras gharana and 
        • the Lucknow gharana.
    • Lucknow Gharana:
      • The Lucknow Gharana of Kathak was founded by Ishwari Prasad, a devotee of the Bhakti movement. 
      • Ishwari lived in the village of Handiya situated in southeast Uttar Pradesh. 
      • It is believed that Lord Krishna came to his dreams and instructed him to develop “dance as a form of worship”. 
      • He taught the dance form to his sons Adguji, Khadguji and Tularamji who again taught their descendants and the tradition continued for more than six generations thus carrying forward this rich legacy that is well acknowledged as the Lucknow gharana of Kathak by Indian literature on music of both Hindus and Muslims. 
    • The development of Kathak during the era of Bhakti movement predominantly focussed on the legends of Lord Krishna and his eternal love Radhika or Radha found in texts like the ‘Bhagavata Purana’ which were spectacularly performed by the Kathak artists.

    Source: TOI