Regional Cultures: Kathak

Learning Goals:

Kathak: The word kathak is derived from the word ‘katha’ which means story. This dance form is associated with different parts of north India. The kathaks were originally a caste of story-tellers in temples of the northern parts of India. They embellished their performances with gestures and songs. With the spread of the bhakti movement, this dance form started evolving into a distinct mode of dance in the 15th and 16th century. In folk plays called rasa-lila, the legends of Radha-Krishna were enacted. These combined folk dance with the basic gestures of the kathak story-tellers.


Ruler's Patronage

Kathak was performed in court under the Mughal emperors and nobles. This is when it acquired its present features and evolved into a distinctive dance form. It subsequently developed in two traditions or gharanas in:


It grew into a major art form under the patronage of Wajid Ali Shah, the last Nawab of Awadh. By the third quarter of the 19th century it became firmly entrenched as a dance form in other adjoining regions as well. These include the present-day:

The emphasis in this dance form was laid on:


The perception of the British

Like any other cultural practice, kathak also was viewed with disfavor by most British administrators in the 19th and 20th centuries.

It was however continued to be performed by the courtesans and came to be recognized as one of the six classical forms of dance in the country after independence.

Classical Dance forms of India

Dance formRegion
KathakNorth India
BhratanatyamTamil Nadu
KathakaliKerala
OdissiOrissa
KuchipudiAndhra Pradesh
ManipuriManipur


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