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Dance - Kathak

* 25 May 2022
May 13, 1856 changed the cultural history of Calcutta. It was the day when the deposed Nawab of Awadh, Wajid Ali Shah, a connoisseur of the arts, landed in the metropolis and spent his last 31 years here. He had brought to Calcutta the refined culture of Lucknow. Among other things he laid the foundation of Lucknow gharana Kathak in this metropolis. Besides being a well trained musician, Wajid Ali Shah was an accomplished Kathaka who was mentored by Thakur Prasad - the father of Kalka and Bindadin Maharaj.
The Kathak history of Calcutta did not stop here; it was further enriched by Jailal  Maharaj of Jaipur Gharanedar Kathak when he came to Calcutta nine decades later in 1946. He was a loving teacher and a performer, whose son Ramgopal Misra set up school in the city and taught aspirants the art of Kathak.  It is therefore interesting to see that both Lucknow gharana and Jaipur gharana Kathak were taught in full swing in the city. Aspirants of Kathak in Calcutta got the opportunity to learn the best of both gharanas. Even to this day most of the Kathakars in the city are well versed in both the gharanas.
Source: Hey Purushottam by Tapati Chowdhurie,, 25 May 22

The Banaras gharana was founded by Pandit Jankiprasad. It is said that his in-laws gave him a single composition written on a scrap of paper as dowry, expecting him to create his wealth from it. He was offended and walked away from his marriage, dedicating himself to dance. Our gharana is known for its Natawari compositions, where rhythmic syllables correspond to the sound created by the feet striking the ground. When they are played on the tabla and pakhawaj, they have to be translated into bols that these instruments can play. People who have accompanied me in the past, like Latif Ahmad Khan and even Zakir Hussain, were very proficient in making quick translations. Now it is very hard to find tabla players who can do that. We also strike the heels a lot; that is something other gharanas don't use much.
There is no Mughal influence in the Banaras gharana because its dancers were never employed by Mughal courts. They worked for Hindu kings and so you see a lot of bhajans, padas and thumris in it.

Raigarh Gharana was established by the Maharaja Chakradhar Singh in the princely state of Raigarh  in Chhatisgarh in the early 20th century. The Maharaja invited many luminaries of Kathak (as well as famous percussionists) to his court, including Kalka Prasad  (the father of Acchan, Lacchu and Shambhu Maharaj) and his sons, and Pandit Jailal from Jaipur gharana. The confluence of different styles and artists created a unique environment for the development of new Kathak and tabla compositions drawn from various backgrounds.Some of renowned dancers of this gharana are Late Pt.Kartik Ram,Late Pt.Phirtu Maharaj,Late Pt.Kalyaandas Mahant,Late Pt.Barmanlak,Pt.Ramlal,Alpana Vajpeyi,Suchitra Harmalkar,Mohini Moghe,Bhagwaandas Manik,Bhupendra Bareth,Vaasanti Vaishnav etc.

Kathak, originally an ancient temple dance of North India, evolved as a dance greatly influenced by the social, religious and political backdrop over the years, representative of the prevailing society. Music and dance were an integral part of worship in the Vaishnava and Bhakti movements. Poetry of the time incorporated actual dance-syllables (bole) indicating that there was a strong interdependence between the works of Bhakti poets and the Kathak dancers. Hindu mythology and especially the exploits of Radha and Krishna were ideal sub­jects for music and dance; therefore, performing artistes were a part of religious ceremonies and social functions.
During the Mughal era, Kathak transformed from a temple dance into a court dance, patronized by the Mughal rulers. Islam, being intolerant of idolatry, the religious content gradually altered in order to suit the tastes of the patrons and the dance became sensuous in nature. It soon lost its religious flavour and changed into a medium of entertainment. In the process, it enriched itself and became a synthesis of Hindu and Muslim cultures. There was a greater stress on rhythmic footwork, fast pirouettes, and subtle intricate movements. Competitions between court dancers raised the level of accomplishment and dexterity of the dancers.  Towards the end of the colonial era, numerous cultural organizations and teaching institutes were functioning all over India. There were various stage performances and Kathak conferences in India and abroad. Western dance forms, especially ballet, had a significant influence on Kathak.
The main Gharanas (families) of Kathak are the Lucknow, Jaipur and Benaras Gharanas. Named after the cities in which they evolved they have their own distinctive styles.