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A Beginners Guide To Kathak Dance Gharanas

Kathak is a versatile and one of the most popular Indian classical dance forms prevalent all across the globe. The foundation stone for Kathak dance was laid down during the Bhakti movement, where the Kathakars or the storytellers narrated stories through rhythmic foot movements, hand gestures, facial expressions, and eye-work.

However, when talking about the evolution and history of Kathak dance, we would also like to mention the Kathak dance Gharanas and their significance. The word “Gharana” means house. During the time of the British Raj, kathak did not hold a good reputation and even the perception of the Kathak dancers was deemed upon.

Hence, due to all this fiasco Kathak lost all its importance in the 19th century. However, the kathak traditions were kept alive and all the necessary knowledge and skills were passed on from one generation to the other generation. And this led to the formation of 3 kathak dance Gharanas that were named after the distinctive Indian cities and that are- Lucknow, Banaras, and Jaipur. Before we start talking about the main 3 kathak dance Gharanas, let’s take a look at the history of Kathak dance.

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History of Kathak Dance

The roots of the Kathak dance form can be traced back to the Sanskrit Hindu text that is based on performing arts called ‘Natya Shastra’ and it was written by ancient Indian theatrologist and musicologist Bharata Muni. As per the data quoted by the Russian scholar Natalia Lidova, it states that the ‘Natya Shastra’ describes different theories revolving around Indian classical dance forms including ‘tandava’ by Lord Shiva. Tandava includes different methods of acting, standing postures, gestures, basic steps, and rasa.

A Comprehensive Guide to the Three Kathak Dance Gharanas

1. Lucknow Gharana

Lucknow Kathak Gharana

When talking about the main kathak dance Gharanas the first one that we would like to talk about is the Lucknow Gharana. Sri Ishwar Prasad of Allahabad believed that Lord Krishna had visited him in his dreams, thereby asking him to rejuvenate the art of Kathak. The dance traditions were carried by one of his 3 sons, Adguji who trained his sons and the legacy went ahead like that.

However, the Kathak dance slowly rose to popularity when it managed to reach the courts of the Nawab of Oudh in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, and other important Mughal rulers. The great-grandson of Ishwar Prasad-, was the first person to achieve critical acclaim as a Kathak dancer, and later on, he was also appointed as the ‘Guru of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah. As time passed by, his sons Binadin and Kalka carried on the legacy of their father.

Dancing Style of the Lucknow Gharana

Every kathak dance Gharana is characterized by a unique and distinctive dance style. Therefore, the Lucknow Gharana primarily focuses on grace, elegance, and naturalness in the dance. The Lucknow Gharana follows the Lasya style which is inspired by Goddess Parvati. The Kathak dance in the Lucknow Gharana is further personified by Abhinaya, bhavas, acting, which is improvised during various plays and dramas. Thumris are the true essence of this Gharana. Moreover, great dance personalities such as Pandit Birju Maharaj, Shambhu Maharaj, and Lachhu Maharaj are some of the famous kathak dance personalities associated with the Lucknow Gharana.

2. Jaipur Gharana

Jaipur Kathak Gharana

Jaipur Gharana is another important Kathak dance Gharanas that have risen to a lot of popularity. Well, initially it developed in the courts of the Kacchwaha kings of Jaipur in Rajasthan. The Gharana was founded by Shri Bhanuji who was trained in Tandava dance style by a sage.

Hence, his grandsons Hanuman Prasad and Hariprasad were known as ‘Devpari’ and received lots of appreciation from the people around them. They both were appointed to the Jaipur court. Even the dancers of the Jaipur Gharana were mostly engaged with court activities revolving around the Hindu kings, and everyone played an imperative role to keep the traditions of the temple alive through their aesthetically appealing Kathak dance.

Dance Style of the Jaipur Gharana

When talking about the dance style that is prevalent in the Jaipur Gharana, people here lay a lot of emphasis on technical aspects of dance, such as powerful and complicated footwork, multiple spins, and complex compositions on different beats and talas. Another factor that makes Jaipur Gharana unique is that there is greater incorporation of various compositions from the Pakhawaj, including parents.

3. Benaras Gharana

Benaras Kathak Gharana

Last but not least is the evergreen and the most popular Kathak Dance Gharana and that is the Benaras Gharana. The foundation stone for the Benaras Kathak Gharana was laid down by Janakiprasad, and it is also known as the Janakiprasad Gharana. He had 3 disciples namely- Chunnilal, Delhi Ram, and Ganeshilal who later passed on their Kathak knowledge to their kids. Sitara Devi, the daughter of Sukhdev Maharaj, is a renowned pioneer of this Gharana. Today, the Jaipur Kathak Gharana is headed by her daughter, Jayanti Mala, and Gopi Krishna, son of Tara Devi.

Dance Style of Benaras Gharana

In Benaras Gharana, the dance style is mainly characterized by the exclusive use of the natwari or the dance bols. And these are quite different from the tabla and even the pakhawaj bols. Another feature that makes Benaras Gharana different from other Kathak Dance Gharanas is that one can easily notice the differences in the thaat and tatkaar, and even the chakkars are kept to a minimum.

However, the chakkars in the Benaras Kathak Dance Gharana are taken from both the left and right sides with equal grace and confidence. It includes different prayers and mythological stories of Lord Krishna and Shiva. Benaras Gharana makes use of both the Tandava and Lasya styles of dancing.

Related Article: Top 8 Indian Classical Dance Styles With Its Origin States

Final Words

If you are new to the rhythmic beats of the Kathak dance then you must have proper knowledge about all the 3 different Kathak Dance Gharanas and their unique characteristics. Kathak is a graceful dance and it takes years of hard work and persistence to ace the dance form like a professional. Therefore, if you think that your child has a forte for learning and mastering the Kathak dance skills, then you can enroll them in online Kathak dance classes brought to you by PiggyRide.

It is an online interactive learning platform that offers immersive learning experiences and makes sure that your kids thoroughly enjoy themselves while learning a new skill. Discover our online Kathak dance sessions for beginners by highly experienced choreographers. Whether your child is a beginner, an intermediate, or at an advanced level, we offer comprehensive learning curriculums based on learning patterns. So, if you think that your little champ has a liking for the Kathak dance, then don’t wait and enroll your kids today in our online Kathak dance classes. Therefore, let your kids match their tiny feet with the beats of the tabla!

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Ridhi Dogra

Hi Friends! I am Ridhi Dogra.
I am working as a Content Writer with PiggyRide. I graduated from Delhi University with a bachelor's degree in Home Science and I did my post-graduation in Journalism and Mass Communication from Amity University. I am an avid reader, a passionate traveler, and a movie buff.

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Great article