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Give a detailed description of Kathak, a popular classical dance form of north India.



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The term Kathak is derived from Katha, a word used in Sanskrit and other languages for story. The Kathaks were originally a caste of story-tellers in temples of north India, who beautified their performances with gestures and songs. Kathak began evolving into a distinct mode of dance in the 15th and 16th centuries with the spread of the Bhakti movement. the legends of Radha-Krishna were enacted in folk plays known as rasa lila, which combined folk dance with the basic gestures of the Kathak story-tellers. Kathak was performed in the Mughal court. Here, it acquired its present features and developed into a form of dance with a distinctive style. Afterwards, it developed in two traditions known as gharanas-one in the courts of Rajasthan, Jaipur and the other in Lucknow. Kathak grew into a major art form only under the patronage of Wajid Ali Shah, the last Nawab of Awadh. By the third quarter of the 19th century it was firmly established as a dance form not only in these two regions but also in the adjoining areas of present-day Punjab, Haryana, Jammu & Kashmir, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. Emphasis was laid on intricate and rapid footwork, elaborate costumes as well as on the enactment of stories. Although most British administrators never favoured Kathak, it survived and continued to be performed by courtesans. It was recognised as a classical dance form after the country got independence.

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