|Snippets of Information |
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, narthaki.com, 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.