cA qrza'i/a%i lte "I the cArt"
4. Nautch Girls-by Baijnath.
5. Raigarh Raja's contribution to
Kathak-by "Rasdhari".
Badcground of Kathale-by
D. G. Vyas.
Technical terms pertaining to
Danct' in general and used in
Ltha"-hy Nirmala Joshi.
'I\e schools
.. Lucknow Gharana-by
Mohan Khokar.
L. Jaipur Gharana-by
. K. Saxena.
6. 'Menaka·. Pioneer of Kathak
Dance Drama-by Shirin
1. Nritta-by M. S. Kalyan-
2. Nritya-by Mohan Kholear .
1. The Role of Rhythm in
Kathale_by S. K. Saxena.
2. Raslila-An Operatic Drama
-by S. Awasthi.
3. The Kathak costumes in
Mughal Times-by C. L.
4. Some songs of Binda Din
Maharaj-by Nirmala Joshi.
Co Banaras Gharana-by
3. Hastas in Kathak,......by Maya
Couer is based on the Mughal Miniature: Kathak Dancers from the collection of Sir Cawasji
Jehangir, Bart.
Marg acknowledges with gratitude the aduice giuen in the preparation of this number by
Shri Mohan Khokar, Smt. Nirmala Joshi, Shri Lachhu Maharaj , Smt. Sitara Deui, Kumari
Damayanti Joshi, Shri Hazari Lal.
The IIntire layout of this issue has been carried out by D. H. Sahiar.
The sketches are by Shiauax Chauda.
Copyright of text, photos and sketches is reserued by Marg Publications.
Mulk Raj Anand
Shahid Suhrawardy
Hermann Goetz
Nihar-Ranjan Ray
S. Ramu
S. Seshadri
Jean Chatterji
Karl KhandaIavaIa
Articles, photographs & drawings sent with a
view to publication will be carefully considered,
but the editon will not undertake responsibility
for loIS or damage. All articles and illustrations
should bear the name and address of the sender,
and postage should be sent to cover their return.
M. J. P. Mistri
George Keyt
John Irwin
Durga Bajpai
J. P. J. Bilimoria
Andrew Boyd
Bishnu Dey
John Terry
Harry Pieris
PupuI Jayakar
Minnette de Silva
Otto Koenigsberger
R. von Leyden
W. G. Archer
Hilary Waddington
Annual subscription: Inland R... 20.00, U.K. £2,
U.S.A. $6.00 free). lU. 2/3sh/50c. extra
for Regd. Book Post. All cheques to be crossed
and payable to MARG PUBLICATIONS.
(nP. 25 extra on upcountry cheques) . Single
Copy Rs. 5.50.
MAR G PUB LIe A T ION S, 3 4 - 3 8, BAN K ST.. B 0 MBA Y.
After the production of two special issues on Bharata Natyam and Kathakalt.
Marg presents here the third of its series of special numbers on the classical Dance Art
of India. on KA THAK.
Actually. in the beginning was the Dance. the Rhythm of the Universe. which
began with creation. But. because the story of creation had to be retold and its
variegated. complex and subtle phenomena interpreted through the stories of the goda
and goddesses. heroes and heroines. the Dance-word became necessary. Katha is the
adumbration of these stories. and Kathak is the person who tells them. This is
the ancient Hindu theory. of the origin of the dance style. which came to be known
as Kathak.
The Dance-word is more than an academic phrase. It is the ebullience of the
soul-body. through the upsurge of all those vital energies, which, by their rhythmic
expression of dance, interpret the other mind of humanity in its search for «rar
It is the attempt of the dancer, not only to render the inspired message of e
Gods, but to embody that inspiration. In essence, it is the aspiration be(ti:
God, in the sense in which N jinsky wanted to become God. Only, in spite ?
deep religious sense, this great Russian dancer was instinctive in his approach. : am
a freak who has feelings and sensitiveness and I can dance like a hunchback. 0 L
an artist, who likes all shapes and all beauty", so Njinsky wrote in his diary. nbJ
other hand, Guru Lachhu Maharaj, perhaps the foremost exponent of pure th
Dance today, puts the same thing to us, and fuses the instinctive approach Ith eak
conscious approach when he says: "I raise my hands in That and I dance. sp
of Krishna or Radha and I dance, even as I keep seated while I speak." ub ce
Thus the urge for creation is the same in both, the upsurge and exh of
of surplus energies. But, while in the European dancer, it remains are
the highest calibre, in the Indian dancer it is the expression of all the souls WhIC tten
in torment, or ecstasy, through an accepted symbolic language, about the separa
of man from God or Radha from Krishna.
In Indian Dance Art. temperament is not enough. It has to be schooled by
the intricate processes of a conscious understanding of feelings and emotions and a
deliberate invocation of moods in a gesture language where every delicate phrase
and its various accents have been thought out far in advance. Njinsky may not have
gone mad if he had been a Hindu dancer. He might have understood his conflict
and found balance in the rhythms which arise from violences in the individual
soul and are yet personal.
The ancient dramaturgy of the Kathak style of dance percolated. through the
broken religious traditions of the Vedic period, and the classical renaissance into the
medieval Hindu revival. It is not quite certain. whether the pure dance aspects and
the expressions (Abhinaya) of moods and feelings, changed much by the time the
classical art found its imagery in the medieval Krishna-Radha cults. Certainly, it
fell into decay through the ups and downs of feudal history, until it was recognised in
its emotive aspects by the great Mughal Emperor, Akbar. From then on the musical
and dance content of Kathak tended to become secular. This process enriched
Kathak with the grace of Islamic choreography and costume. But. in the hands of
the lesser nobility, it also became a medium for the more febrile impulses. The poet-
king Wajid Ali Shah rescued it and restored it to the famous Lucknow Gharana,
whose descendants in Oudh, and elsewhere, have preserved whatever purity there
remains in it. The devoted Raja of Raigarh and Madame Menaka gave sustenance
to the style, at a time when it h ad become Nautch in Northern India. The surviving
gurus, honoured by the Sangeet Natak Almdemi of free India, and the many humble
unrecognised gurus, have begun to re-establish it.
The revitalisation of Kathak will depend on how far its various individual
Phractitioners wish merely to filmise its sensational steps, gestures and moods, and on
Ow far they wish to achieve the ecstasy of the ancient Hindu festivals,......,to dance in
order t o become gods.
Hallishaka--Bagh Caves
by D. ·G. Vyas
1. The Background of Kathak
While the word Kathaka is mentioned as such
in the Sanskrit literary works starting from the
Mahabharata. it is named as Kahuga in the Jain works
like the "Aupapatika Sootra" and Kalpa Sulra and is
used in the same sense. Although Brahmanism. Jainism
and Buddhism were prevalent simultaneously and the
literary works pertaining to them were written in
different languages. certain social and cultural patterns
and trends of art and literature were common to all
the three religions. The words. therefore. pointed to
the same institutions and conditions.
Katha as narration was then a distinct form of
composition intended for use hy rhapsodists and reciters.
As such it had music and dance. with Ahhinaya. among
the features of its technique. Knowledge was, thus,
conveyed to the people in a vivid and entertaining
One of the peculiarities of Indian social organisa-
tion is that certain professions become hereditary. and it
was so particularly in the fields of music. dance and
drama. The Kathakas have been known through
centuries as a community of dancers and musicians.
It is, therefore. not unlikely that their dance recital came
to be styled as Kathak by virtue of its association with
this community.
This hrings us to the position of dance in the North.
MUSic. as defined in the ancient treatises, is a composite
art consisting of singing. playing and dancing.
Numerous patterns of 'Desis' (folk music) will seem to
have dancing as their integral part. The development of
classical music has proceeded on similar lines, carrying
dance with it throughout its course.
The Karnataka music is related to the Bharat
Natyam and Kathakali schools of dance. The position
is slightly different in the North. hecause of the strong
tl:'ndency to treat dance in isolation. drawing only
incidentally upon music. However. Kathak and Manipuri
have to he acknowledged as the schools of dance related
to Hindusfani music. Among the two. Kathak
commands a much larger area for itself. Although
Kathak and Manipuri are different in styles. hoth have
a common hackground and are rooted in a common soil.
There are numerous references to dancing in
different forms in the 'Ramayana'. 'Mahabharala' and
other Sanskrit works. A few examples would suffice
to illustrate this point. The 'Tandava' of Shiva is
descrihed in detail hy Rajanaka Rathakara in his Hara
Vijaya Kavya of the early ninth century A.D.
Hallishaka. Charchari and Rasa are counted in the
category of Uparoopakas in the works of dramaturgy.
Hallishaka is introduced as a dance interlude in the
Balacharita of Bhasa. and Charchari in the Ratnavali
of Harsha. The performances narrated in the
'Harivamsha' were presumahly dance-dramas. hecause
they are stated to have heen danced; and ahove all
stands the Rasa of Krishna. vividly portrayed in the
Bhagavata Purana.
Hallishaka. Rasa and Charchari or Natyarasaka
are classical forms. Their technique was governed hy
the fundamentals and principles laid down in the
Natyashastra. Dancing presented in the court or temple
by a classical dancer was in the classical technique
irrespective of his communal or sectarian affiliations.
Now the point which has to be considered is what
• type of dance it could have heen which is suggested
in the examples quoted above and which is mentioned
in other literary sources. Or what were the techniques
of dance when it was performed by the Kathakas and
other artistes. during the several centuries?
One can guess that such dance was classical in
type and the authority by which it was governed was
Bharata Natyashastra, ever since this work was compiled
as a comprehensive treatise. Bharata Natyashastra has
been an authority for the whole of India. and not merely
in one or two regions. In other words. it embraces.
within its sphere. all the schools of dance which are
classical. irrespective of their regional distinctions.
Dancing. introduced as a sequence in the literary
compositions of the past, should not he taken merely
as a decorative aside. It is indicative of the importance
of dance which was in practice during those times.
Whether the form of classical dance which has survived
in the North represents the classical tradition conti-
nuously from the past is not certain. But this tradition
was elahorated as a style for a long time. It is rich,
varied. and resourceful and has been called Kathak in
the various periods.
The fact that dance was prevalent as a practical
art for over a thousand years is confirmed hy historical
evidence. Jayadeva and his wife Padmavati are stated
to have danced in ecstacy while singing Keertanas.
Vidyapati-the renowned devotee-composer is also said
to have danced madly, Apart from these individual
mystics. there were communities among whom dancing
was a profession.
Murakiya. Dadhi. Nahva. Bhagatiya. Bhanvaiya
(Bhavaya). Kanchani and Kurtaniyas (musicians) are
the names of the communities specified in the Ain-l-
Akbari. written hy Ahul Fazl in Persian in the reign
of Akhar the Great. Although the Kathak community
is not mentioned among them. its existence can he
estahlished as a historical fact. The part played hy
the Kurtaniyas. Dadhi. Natwa. Bhavaya and Rasa-
dharis. hesides the Kathaks. in the field of dance will
he reviewed in its proper context.
As a community of dancers. the seem to
have gained greater prominence following the advent
of the Mughal rule. In this respect. the notion which
is held hy some that there was almost nothing of art.
especially music and dance. hefore the advent of the
Muslim rulers. is completely untrue and misleading.
This was the age when Vaishnavism had already
estahlished a vast spiritual empire of its own. and it
had upheld the hest tradition of music. dance. poetry.
literature and painting. hecause it was fully alive to
the values of creative art and had adopted it as a medium
for worship and devotion.
Krishna and Radha are the presiding deities of
Vaishnavism. The precious art heritage of Vaishnavism
was huilt up on the hasis of the Leelas of Krishna.
during the Rajasthani-Mughal period. The Krishna
Leela. though it was hrought out in high relief hy the
Vaishnavism of this later age. had its origin in the
remote past. and it can he traced hack to the age of
the Mahabharata and of Bhasa.
Vaish"navism gained its enormous popularity.
hecause it was interpreted to the people through their
own languages and through the medium of music. dance.
drama. It is also the religion in which the scenes of
the various Krishna Leelas were depicted and Vriya
retained at this date its popularity as the centre of
During the period of the resurgence of Vaishnavism.
communities of artistes like Dadhi. Natwa. Charan.
Kalawant. Kurtaniya. Rasadhari. and also Kathaks were
residing in Vriya. Some of them have continued. till
late. the glorious tradition of music. dance and dance-
drama which hear the impression of Vaishnavism.
The dance which Rourished under the impetus of
Vaishnavism was pure Kathak in its style. technique
and forms.
The Kurtanas. which are mostly in the Vrija
language. make a resourceful music heritage of the
North. huilt up under the auspices of Vaishnavism. From
the point of view of music. they form an important part
of Hindustani music and furnish a great source for
Dhruvapad and Dhamar. They. moreover. throw
immense light on the conditions of art. culture and dance
during the Rajasthani-Mughal period. The list of
composers or Vaggeyakaras. includes among other
eminent names: Swami Haridas Maharaj. Surdas,
Tansen. Kumhhandar. Govindaswami. Nandudas and
In the Kurtanas. Krishna is named as Natavara and
is represented as the divine dancer with Radha as his
partner. Krishna is the hero and R dh L
h K
. a a. tne
t e urtanas. musIc compositions and of all
forms. solo. duet and group suggested in them
presents hoth of them in their most . t •
. In ense
Dance is the motif of numerous Kurt
intended to he danced and
of such compositions is that the Bola
Mrldanga and the conventional signs of T I
'T atkar' are included in their lines. a a
As poetic compositions. the Kurtanas
times of the composers and cultural cond'ti
locality which was Vriya Mandala. The
reRected in them must have he en much old
times of the composer. ·Nirtakar·. is the er
used in the Kurtanas for the communities of
It is evident from the dance Kurtanas
w.ere fully conversant with the classical
techmque laid down. in the Natya and Sangeet
Surdas Madan Mohan. for example. has retll'!lWod
chapters on Swara. Tala and Nritya. while extomal
heauty of the hans' performance of Krishna. In
Kurtan. he has indicated the order of hands. feet,
neck and emotional expression during dance
conforms to the principle of the classical tec:lullfcplt.:
As the divine dancer. Krishna is represented
perfect artist in terms like 'Vat(lJ1Qtyarcu • •
and 'Lasyabhedanipura'.
Kurtanas have presented him in poses Idee
J'ribhangi. 'Natauara' and Girdhari.
mentioned some gaits such as gatamayand (eJepI ••
Jlans. mrigamaral, udghat and sanel and
a distinctive type 'Nalauaragati'. It may he noted III
connection that the Kathak dance is well known '-'
The dance Kurtanas have suggested m
like urapa and tirapa and a variety of rnanclcda
bhramaris. As regards the Angika Ahhinaya they
referred to the various poses and movements of the
neck and arms. They have mentioned certain
expressions such as brijauitas. driguitas,
mandalaliasa and bhrikut'iuatas.
In respect of the hand movements. the K
have used the words 'Mastaka-Bheda Dikhaue'.
Krishna is represented as a perfect dance artiste.
'Mastaka-Bheda' in his case should he talcen in the
of Hastahhinayas of the different hands. The
of Krishna and Radha. as portrayed in the K
was ' a perfect art form and had all the classical
the Nritta, Nritya and Natya. and as such It
wide scope for interpretation (Ahhinaya),
Certain dance forms are continued as a ..... 11111!"1
in Vriya and other Vaishnavite regions. The R8Ia
danced with enthusiasm hy the Rasudharis in the
of dedication to Krishna and Radha, The
consists of a definite sequence which is strictly
There are. in addition, a few circular dances
the pattern of Hallishadha.
Charchari, which also means a cltltauda and tala.
, a dance-form exclusively intended for the spring. In
:he Vriya language, it is known as chauchar, thamar.
and is regularly played in the temples and other places
b the Brijavasis, during the days of HolL The special
compositions meant for the Vasant festival are
: the difficult dhamar tala, and for this reason they too
are known as dhamars.
Besides the Rasa and Vasant festivals. there are
Rasa Leelas which are hased on the various Krishna
episodes. In form they are Natya. dance drama. and
are enacted hy a class of artistes..-the Rasudharis. The
Kurtanas..-music compositions for the Rasa Leelas are
peculiar to each of them. From the point of view of
technique. the Rasa and Rasa Leelas are near classical
and not folk art forms.
Among other forms. mention should he made of
Dadhi dancing. According to the Ain-I-Akbari, Dadhi
was one of the communities of dancers. hut the name
and dancing peculiar to it were integrated in the
Vaishnavite system of dancing. Today the Dadhi which
is danced with Ahhinaya is presented in the temples
on the day prescrihed for it.
The Keertana type of music which helongs to the
Dhruvapad school is the music of the Vaishnavite
dances. It was. originally the music also of the Kathak
school which is detached from the temple. It has special
varieties like the Rasa. Dharkar. Mori. and accompany-
ing dance-compositions. The Keertanas are sung as a
part of worship in the temples hy the Keertana mandalis.
They are danced and interpreted hy the Rasa mandalis.
Both the Keertana and Rasa mandalis are functioning
until this day as traditional institutions.
If the dance suggested in the Keertanas is
constructed out of the details given in them. it will
be the classical dance that is Kathak. And if the Kathak
dance is viewed in the light of Vaishnavism. it will
seem to he essentially a temple dance with Krishna and
Radha as its principal deities. Additional evidences of
the classical nature of the Kathak dance and its asso-
ciations in Vaishnavism are provided hy their works
inthe Rajasthani-Mughal period. The movements. poses
and gestures of Krishna and Radha in paintings are
likewise suggestions of Kathak.
The Kathak dance is in all the classical forms such
as Nritta. Nritya and Natya. The erroneous view held
by some that it has no Ahhinaya is refuted hy the wide
range of bhaua darshana. the language of Vriya
and Kathaka. Ahhinaya is known hy the similar
word Bhava.
The footwork in the Kathak dance is often appre-
Ciated almost to the exclusion of its other features. The
foot movement is implicit in the conception of the art of
dance. The varieties of the gait and rhythmic palleries
of movement are dependent upon the feet. The Kathak
dance has simply emphasised the heauty of footwork
Its an unequal part of the classical dance technique.
It has not overdone the foot-movement.
The predominance of the tarya type which is one
of the distinctions of the classical dance in the North
is the result of some special conditions. The process
according to which the Lasya or feminine type had
spread in the Western influence is explained in the
Sangeet Ratnakara.
The Lasya hecame a favourite mode with the
dancers. hecause it has a wide scope of interpretation.
and. moreover. it was in conformity with the gentleness.
tenderness and modesty inherent in the Bhakti cult of
Vaishnavism. But the T andava type was not entirely
given up. Besides the popularity of the dance of Shiva.
the T andava. has heen also assigned to Krishna in
appropriate situations.
The age of Vaishnavism marked the eillorescence of
music. dance and painting. literature and poetry. This
was the golden period of Dhruvapad and Keertan in
music. and of Kathak..-the classical dance related to the
Hindustani music. But the tendency to view music and
dance only in the settings of the court of Muslim rulers.
has militated against a correct estimation of the whole
area of culture. which i ncludes the environments of the
temple. It has further led to detachment of the Kathak
dance from its religious hackground and from its original
music-Dhruvapad and Keertan school.
Dance and music were also in practice within the
folds of Jainism. As already pointed out. 'Kahuga' is
the word which is given as synonym of Kathak in the
Jain sootras and lexicons. While the Vaishnavite
Keertanas have special compositions for the Rasa and
Vasant festivals in a dance. the mediaeval Jain
literature of Gujerat shows parallel compositions in the
Razor and Fagus which were intended to he sung
and danced.
Bahuvaiya mentioned in the Ain-I-Akbari is one
of the communities of dancers. This refers to Bhavaya
of Gujerat. The Jain literature of Gujerat has referred
to Bhavaya and Tirgula. This is one and the same
community known. at present. as Nayak. and noted for
acting. dancing and music as its hereditary professions.
They are the communities which are traditionally
associated with 'Bharai' folk drama of Gujerat.
The Nayak community is Vaishnavite in helief.
but a small part of it. the Bhojak. is Jain. Bhojaks are
the people who have served in the Jain temples as
PUjaists and musicians. The dancing in Gujerat.
occurring as a feature of the Bhavai and. practised within
the ritual of Jainism. has heen hasically Kathak in its
style and form.
The classical dance. like music. was evolved and
elahorated as a system out of the art of the people-
the folk art forms. The Kathak dance seems to have
grown out of soil which has preserved its roots. If the
numerous Desi patterns in the several regions of the
North are carefully studied. they will present certain
elementary features of the Kathak dance. In style and
form. the Kathak dance is different from the other styles
and forms. hut it derives. equally with them. its authority
from the Natya Shasfra.

being the life-blood of
connected with this aspect are used
Anga (af1r)
'me units.
Of the Dasa Pranas
or ten elements of tal, the expo-
nents of Kathak make use of the
following terms:
Marking time by beats and other
movements of the hands. The
beats are called Tali or Zarb.
Each tal has a specific number of
Constitutent units of particular
varieties of taL
Speed or tempo,
The technique of dance is regu-
lated by laya. Each pattern in
rhythm is rendered mainly in three
tempos like Vilambit (slow);
Madhya (medium); Druta (fast) .
These are known in the voca-
bulary of Kathak dancers as
Tha (OTt) (slow); Doon
(twice the speed of Tha)
Chaugun (four times
the speed of Tha). Sometimes
Athgun (OJOTf) (eight times
the speed of Tha) is also used.
Apart from these there are more
complicated patterns in laya like
Paun (3/4 of the original
speed); Sawai Oi of the
original speed); Dedhi )
01 of the original speed). The
student's proficiency in technique
is marked by his skill in rendering
any rhythmic pattern in Anudruta
laya the fastest
pertaining to
tempo (or as some aealCl'llbe4.
atom speed),
The point where the tal II
. attacked' or accordtn, to
where the tal 'rests', 'I'Lea.
three points: Sum (ft)
Atita (aRfRr);
When the
follows exactly the same
as the song and dance
the stroke of the drum
together with the rh,rtlulllh!
of the hands, this is known
attack on the beat, Bum
if it comes after the heat
termed al'ita (aRfRr); and
the beat Anagata ( .......
Empty beats or rests are
Khali Each tal
three elements, viz. Sum (
Tali «(ffift) and Khalt (
Each of these is marked ."
movements of the handa.
tal is made up of an Avardi (.
cycle), a rhythmic arran,emeDt 01
syllables which EOI1lll the
scale of the time measure.
The mode of creatinlf
varieties of tal by usin,
general and used

In Kathak by Nirmala Joshi
] ali ( ;;mIT )
of the constituent units (Matras)
The exponents render rhythmic
patterns in Aadi laya (arm) or
cross-time scanning. i.e. changing
fractional measurements of the
matras of an avardi by cross-time
scanning and returning on the
sama after completing one or more
avardis, i.e. cycles.
For instance. a tukra
(rhythmic pattern) in Trital
can be rendered in the
laya of Ektal (12
beats) or Dadra
(6 beats) without violating the
time-scale or tntal played on the
accompanying drum. The climax
of the tukra and the drum should
be noted precisely on the sum.
When a tukra of a particular tal
is rendered in the laya of another
tal, to the accompaniment of
another basic-tal played on the
tabla. all three touching the
climax on sum together. this
difficult pattern in maintaining
the rhythm is termed Kuaad.
The species of tals are of five kinds
chatusra, tnsra, misra, khanda and
sankirna, having 4, 3. 7. 5 and 9
syllables respectively. In other
words the number of syllables
into which each constituent unit
of a tal is divided is termed 'jati' .
Tihai in different jatis rendered
with tntal as basic-time measure.
The tihai starts from sum and
touches climax on sum.
123.123; 123.123;
x 123.456 123.456;
123.1234; 123.1234;
xl234567; 1234567;
Bollati (imnmiT):
Yali (lfffi')
Sama (ijlf)
Srofogata«(>I1Jl.ldl) :
Pipilika (f1:rq1fuct;r) :
Gopuchha :

Prastara (SffiI'R)
12345; 12345;
1234567891 Ox
x 123456789:
T ntal is composed of 4-
beat units-hence it is
based on chatusra jati.
Is a variation in the 'boIs' or
syllables of tals belonging to the
same jati. A tal is classified
according to the number of units.
For instance. 'Chachar' and
'Rupak' are tals of misra jati-
each having 7 units. But they
differ in the bois.
Is the arrangement of Zaya. It is
the rhythmic arrangement of units
of slow and quick speed. This
technique is used in parans. The
units are called angas.
Some of the Yatis used in Kathak:
In which the angas of beginning,
middle and end are maintained in
the same Zaya.
In which the angas proceed from
vilambit to madhya and then to
druta. The composition resembles
the Howing course of a river.
In which the angas of the begin-
ning and end are in druta. and
middle in vilambil.
In which the angas of the begin-
ning and end are hi vilambit and
of the middle in druta.
In which larger angas are followed
by smaller ones.
In which the angas are· not placed
in a specific order.
Permutation and combination of
constitutent units to make up a
single variety of tal. This is
termed as 'Zaya ki bant' in Kathalc
3. Schools of .Kathak: -
The Lucknow Gharana of Kathak came into
existence about the beginning of the 19th century.
It was not the outcome of any sustained process of
evolution, but it appeared on the scene abruptly. This
happened during the time of Wajid Ali Shah, the last
Nawab of Oudh, or, as some are inclined to aver, during
the reign of his grandfather, Nawab Asaf-ud-Daulah.
Anyway, even if its genesis can be traced to a relatively
earlier period, it is known for certain that the Lucknow
Gharana matured . and shaped itself to become a
pJausibly individualistic art only during the time of the
last Nawab of Oudh.
It is a mere accident of history that this School of
dance came to be known as the Lucknow Gharana.
Previous to this, there was no tradition of dance in
Lucknow, at least not of any stylised mode of this art.
Thakur Prasad, a Kathak, migrated to Lucknow about
the beginning of the 19th century and became the Court
Dancer of Wajid Ali Shah: or, as some contend,
Thakur Prasad's father Prakashji, also a Kathak. came
to Lucknow during the time of Asaf-ud-Daulah and
enlisted himself as a dancer in the Nawab's service and
in this way laid the foundation of the Lucknow
Gharana. It is not known for certain where Thakur
Prasad, or for that matter Prakashji, were before coming
to Lucknow: the common presumption is that they
belonged to Handia, a village in the district of
Allahabad, but it is also held in some quarters that they
belonged to Rajasthan and came from the village of
Jaiatna in Jodhpur State. The important fact is that the
Gharana of Lucknow began with the coming over to
that place of either of these masters both of whom
apparently were Kathaks of the Rasdhari tradition.
Thakur Prasad had a brother, Durga Prasad, and
he also served
Wajid Ali Shah bec:am.e-J
he had so much respect for
used to allow him to sit next
from being a dancer
also a scholar and it
dance which was,
his house. Thakur
Binda Din, Kalka Prasad
these, Binda Din and to .....
in Wajid Ali's Court, while not much is known .Laat
Bhairon Prasad.
Binda Din and Kalka Prasad were inseparable. ...
whatever greatness and beauty the Luclmow GLanaa
of Kathak has today is largely due to the contrihulloM
made by these two luminaries. Both were dancen aad
both were teachers. But Binda Din, being rtEted wIlL
poetic leanings. proved himself to be an outatan_
composer, while Kalka Prasad's speciality lay In ...
mastery of rhythm. The two brothers pooled their taIaII.
worked jointly and created a style of Kathak wldc:la WIll
at once lyrical as well as precise. and
Binda Din was a great devotee of Krialma •
is said that he once had a vision in which he I8W ...
Lord who charged him with the duty oE pro .........
the art of dance. He introduced several
into the art of dance which was, so to speak. umLer J
to him by his father, and he also added a n 01
new items to the repertory. He composed score- tLea.
thumris, dadras and bhajans and these have.
become an integral part of the nritya content oE temPle
He built his own house at Lucknow and also 918. .-
dedicated to Bhaironji. He died childless. in I hat ",.,
with this the Lucknow School of Kathak lost. w
appropri ately be called, its chief architect. Kalka Prasad,
who was an inimitable tabla player and specialised in
layakari, died a few years earlie-r, being survived by
three sons, Jagannath Maharaj, Baijnath Maharaj and
Shambhu Maharaj, all of whom were trained in dance
by their worthy uncle, Binda Din Maharaj.
Kalka Prasad and Binda Din were both employed
as dancers in the Court of Wajid Ali Shah and it is
largely due to the great encouragement they received
from this Nawab that they were able to devote them-
selves wholly to the development . and propagation of
this art. Wajid Ali Shah was himself an accomplished
dancer and musician and intensively patronised both
dance and music. He was a poet in Hindi as well as
in Urdu, and he is believed to have been responsible
for introducing the thumri, both in dance and music.
He lived extravagantly, but his riches were • squandered'
mostly on dance and music. He had five wives, and
apart from these he maintained over 400 concubines, for
housing whom he built the Kaiser Bagh near his palace.
Chuttar Manzil, at a cost of Rs. 75 lakhs. His palace
always resounded with music and dance, but there was
one occasion in the year when a very special performance
was arranged. At this time, a setting purporting to
represent Indra's Sabha was created and women
dressed and made up as fairies and nymphs
danced for ten days and ten nights. On the last day,
the Nawab himself took part in the performance and,
according to the convention instituted by the Nawab,
after the performance, all his queens and mistresses had
to lavish gifts on him-gifts for the purchasing of which
he himself provided the money T A very happy creative
life, indeed, was lived by the Nawab. But this did not
last long. The British Government wished to absorb his
kingdom and intervened early in 1856, annexing Oudh
to British India. The Nawab then went to Calcutta.
taking with him all his costly jewels. He stayed there
till the end of his days in 1887. He was receiving a
pension of Rs. 12 lakhs a year from the East India
Company. which too he lavished on his twin passions.
music and dance.
The tradition of dance which was started by
Thakur Prasad, nurtured by Wajid Ali Shah and per-
fected by Kalka Prasad and Binda Din, went over
to Kalka Prasad's three sons. Of these, Jagannath
Maharaj was the eldest: he was also the good brother,
the achha one, so to speak, and hence he came to be
known as Achhan Maharaj. The second brother.
Baijnath Maharaj, was very naUghty as a child; hence
he came to be called lucha. but through usage this
became lachhu and it is by this name-Lachhu
he is popularly known. The youngest
brother Shambhu Maharaj was apparently more
amenable; it is possibly because of this that his own
name has stood him in good stead right through his
IifeI Actually, it is Achhan Maharaj, who was the true
recipient of the knowledge of his predecessors and it is
he who passed it on to the other two brothers. Achhan
died in 1946, thereby leaving a void which
nobody has really been able to fill. He is survived by
hi s son, Birju Maharaj , who is now the youngest
torch-bearer of the Lucknow Gharana.
The Lucknow Gharana of Kathak. we have seen.
attained maturity as well as perfection in the Court 01
Wajid Ali Shah. This Nawab was given to pleasures,
but its chief exponent, Binda Din was a devout person.
Hence the dance form that came into existence at this
time, attempted a compromise between the two ideals : '
it became secular in character but it did not divorce
itself from the Krishna-Radha theme, or, to put it
another way, it continued to present the Krishna-Radha
episodes. but with a sensuous flavour.
The Muslim patrons had no patience with mere
technical virtuosity, however dazzling it may have
been. They wanted to see an art which mirrored life
in all its moods, which projected life with all its passions.
Hence the Kathak which blossomed under their
patronage began to lay greater stress on mood, on bhava.
And so, eventually, the Lucknow Gharana of Kathak
came to be characterised as a dance which was graceful.
decorative, suggestive. expressive and sensuous.
Bhava. then. became the forte of the Lucknow
dancers. To present this. they created a number of new
items and also improved and augmented some others
which were already in the Kathak repertory. They
created many new gats and most of these are described
in certain Urdu books which were written during the
time of Wajid Ali Shah. Then, the thumri was evolved.
and this was followed by the dadra and ghazal.
The Lucknow dancers did not, however. simply
create new items for presentation in bhava: they also
evolved a technique of bhava-presentation. They
analysed human emotions. took inspiration and help
from the nayak-nayaki bhedas and their treatment in
poetry. and evolved a very effective system of expres-
sional dance. They regarded the face as the supreme
medium of expression and the eyes, in particular. as the
mirrors of emotion. In this way. their dance became
capable of expressing the subtlest nuances of emotion,
and each nuance in any number of ways. This paved
the way for the incorporation of sanchari bhava in the
nritya part of Kathak and it eventually became one of
the predominant features of the Lucknow Gharana.
It is to be noted that. in giving prominence to bhava,
the Lucknow Gharana did not completely divorce itself
from nrita. T oras and tukras and other nrita items
continued to be performed here. but they were not given
much importance. Some new bois of nrita were intro-
duced at this time and the tabla. as an instrument,
replaced the pakhawa; in their hands.
All that has been written of the Lucknow Gharana.
it shol;lld be pointed out, is not so true today as it was.
say. three decades ago. At present there is no rigid line
of demarcation between the two Gharanas of Lucknow
and Jaipur. for the technical elements of one Gharana
are freely used by the other.
h. Jaipur Gharana
by S. K. Saxena
The contribution which the Jaipur gharana has
made to the preservation and spread of Kathak dance
is very considerable. To this school goes the credit of
having given us some of our best Kathaks. The veterans
among the lovers of this dance-form fondly recount the
names and performances of the great old masters of this'
school. namely. Hari Prasad. Hanuman Prasad. Durga
Prasad and Shyam Lal. And. in comparatively recent
times. who among the lovers of Kathak dance. has not
heard of the great Jaya Lal. Narayan Prasad and Sunder
Prasad? It would. however. be difficult to maintain
that these modem masters have not at all been inDu-
enced by the Lucknow school. For instance. Sunder
Prasad. though belonging to the Jaipur gharana by
birth. has learnt a great deal from the famous Binda Din
Maharaj of Lucknow.
Before I pass on to trace the history of the Jaipuf
gharana. and to comment upon the art of some of its
better known exponents. some general observations
appear necessary. This school has prospered essentially
under the patronage of Rajasthan states. It is probably
lrue that. occasionally in its lesser representatives-the
Jaipur style has tended to present Kathak dance as
merely the mechanical display of rhythmic wizardry.
But. shall we not add in the same breath that it has never
allowed this art-form to degenerate into mere effeminacy
and sensuousness? Austerity may well appear mere
stiffness. but it is always the pre-condition of elevating
art. Most of the authentic representatives of this school
have been all-rounders. that is to say. accomplished not
only in Kathak dance. but in singing. and in tahla
and pakhawaj playing.
Yet. taken as a whole. the Jaipur gharana cannot
be said to be in a really good state today. though its
representatives certainly extend all over the country and
can justly claim to have initiated as great a mber of
pupils into the subtleties of Kathak dance a t
gharana. This is due to many reasons. Lac
patronage is one. It is a well -known fa t
the honouring of Pandit Sunder Pras
Akadami Award this year. the Jaipur
received scanty recognition. Even this veteran rep,
both Luckow and
known how many
scholarships for Kathak\
recommended to be
Jaipur school. But. a
progress has been
weaknesses. Its seldom get to,etL.
academic intent. liquor and drq, ...
heavily upon the prosperity of the gharana. ADd
the virtuous have suffered from neglect. The wllllllla: '
of Jaya Lal and Narayan Prasad. two of Ind •••
known Kathaks. are finding it exceedingly dII ... 1t
exist. I have met them personally. and tallced to
They reveal a keen. almost pathetic. colllcioUlDell
the tragedy which the dancer's desperate Iwtng
in its wake.
The history of the Jaipur gharana is not ...,
sketch. One finds here as much of story-teIIIof
fact. The description I am giving is baaed apGIl
personal remembrances. and documents in the ,......
sion of Sri Mohan Lal (eldest son of the late Han • •
Prasadji of Jaipur). who claims to have
corroboration of this account from their
bard. Pratapji. aged more than 100 yean. on the
of Hanuman Prasadji about 35 years afO: and -
account provided by Pandit Sunder Prasad. The
of the comments on individual artistes which follow If
be taken as an index. not necessarily of the 01
merit of the individual in question. but only
availability of data with regard to him. Per .....
other good exponents_I am reminded here of Sd
of Raigarh-should also have been cholen for Incll'fldlll!l-
treatment, but difficulty was experienced In CO
authentic data with regard to them. fad
The earliest name that living memory can f
upon in its attempt to trace the history 0
gharana is that of Bhanuji. a devotee of
is said to have learnt Shiva-T anJava from a
passed on the art to his son Maluji. who had two sons.
Laluji and Kanhuji. Both. the brothers learnt Shiva-
T andava from their father. Later. Kanhuji decided to
pick up another dance-form as well. so went over to
Brindaban. where he became a devotee of Krishna. and
ultimately succeeded in mastering the grace of La.sya
style. His two sons. Geedhaji and Shehjaji. specialized
respectively in T andava and La.sya styles. One of the
fi ve sons of Geedhaji was Dulhaji. The latter made
Jaipur his abode. and. as Girdhariji. was later recog-
nized as a distinguished exponent of both Shiva-
Tandava and La.sya styles.
Girdhariji had two sons. Hari Prasad and Hanuman
Prasad. Whereas Hari Prasad had no sons. Hanuman
Prasad had thrce.-Mohan Lal. Chiranji Lal and
Narayan Prasad. Besides being well-versed in Kathak
dance. the seventy-five year old veteran Mohan Lal
is recognized for his deep knowledge of the dhrupad-
dhamar styles of vocal music. He is at present on the
teaching staff of Sri Indira Kala Sangeet Vishwa-
vidyalaya• Khairagarh. teaching Kathak dance with
distinction. Chiranji Lil is now a Kathak dance teacher
at the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya. New Delhi. In
Kathak circles. he is known essentially for the immacu-
late tabla accompaniment he is capable of providing to a
Kathak dancer. Along with Sri Mohan Lal. he has in
his possession a substantial number of the authentic
patterns of the Hari Prasad-Hanuman Prasad gharana.
Delhi' s well-known Rani Kama. who first won wide-
spread recognition as a pupil of Narayan Prasad. is
now learning under him. But. so far as actual dancing
goes. Narayan Prasad. who died last year. was the most
famous of these three brothers. His eldest ll-year old
son-Charan Girdhar-popularly known as Chand. is a
very promising Kathak dancer.
Hari Prasad and Hanuman Prasad were in their
day a famous pair. Dancing together they would
provide a remarkable blend of virility and grace. which
earned them the name: 'Deo Paree ka /orha'. Hanuman
Prasad was a deeply religious man. About him a strange
story is current which. though difficult to verify. is at
least illustrative of the spirit in which he used to dance.
Eevery year on the festive occasion of Holi ka Phaag,
he would dance spiritedly at Govindji ki Dyorhi in the
Jaipur State temple, trying to delight the Deity with
both dancing and representational renderings of bl1ajans.
Once, however, he could not reach the temple in time.
The Deity had 'gone to bed', as they say, and the
temple door had been closed. But, even with the idol
thus cut away from his sight, Hanuman Prasad insisted
upon dancing. He began singing his favourite bhajan:
'Men suno, men suno, hei Rama', delineating, at the
same time, the significance of the text through various
postures. After some yearning rendering of 'men suno',
it is said, the temple bells tinkled; and, when the artiste
came to the words 'Narsingh roop turat Han dhaaro' ,
himself tearing across his dupatta in a frenzy of emotion,
the door of the temple suddenly broke into two.
Sometimes it is wise to allow the breath of a fable
to temper the fact. Let the lovers of Kathak dance realize
that the readiness with which it can appeal to the human
eye is not the best thing about it. Great classical art
has an elevating quality. The latter issues from loftiness
of conception and dignity of execution. The promoters
of Kathak dance today are faced with a challenge.
Bharata Natyam, with its movements of remarkable
amplitude and sculpturesque poses of delightful
symmetry and grandeur, is able to conjure up an atmos-
phere of massiveness and dignity as compared to which
the average Kathak dancing of today appears frail. In
our fold, even the thaat is not presented with the amount
of self-possession which it really needs; and, generally,
the total aesthetic effect of a Kathak recital is one of
neatness, Ruency, sparkle and general appeal rather than
that of depth, inclusiveness or encompassing quality and
loftiness. The difference is due more to the dancer's own
attitude to the art-form in question than to the distinc-
tive idiom of the latter.
Hari Prasad and Hanuman Prasad had an array
of brilliant artistes as their cousins,-Shyam Lal,
Chunni Lal, Durga Prasad and Govardhanji. I have it
on the authority of Pandit Sunder Prasad, that all these
celebrated Kathaks owed a great deal to one Shankar
lalji who is said to have been an old man of seventy,
when they were just old enough to receive lessons, and
who. as a thumn singer. could make his presence felt
even after a full-fledged recital by the great khayaaliyas
of old. F ateh Ali_Ali Bux. Shankar Lal had no son.
but his daughter's son, Badri Prasad. later distinguished
himself as a Kathak. One of the sons of Shyam Lalji
is Sheo Prasad •• tOW with the Simla Radio. A brilliant
light music composer. he is married to one of the
daughters of Narayan Prasadji. Chunni LaI's two sons,
Jaya Lal and Sunder Prasad. have both won recognition
as two of the country's very best Kathaks. Durga
Prasad, younger brother of Chunni Lalji, was a versati le
man. excelling not only in Kathak dance. but in singing,
harmonium and tabla playing, and even astrology. He
had no son. but it was he who coached Jaya lal and
Sunder Prasad into the artistes they grew up to be.
Durga Prasad' s teacher is said to have been his maternal
uncle, Natthoo Lalji. Govardhanji's son Khem Raj has
distinguished himself as one of the country's famous
Mm music directors.
at Jaipur. Jaya Lal made
ind.ividual to the recognition :nd
zation of Jalpur style as a distinctive form
dance. He took his early lessons in KathaIc daace
his father. Chunni LaI. who was accompliaLed ba
playing, and later learnt at the feet of his uncle
Prasad, and also from Binda Din Maharaj of La..L.
Thus equipping himself. he visited
Calcutta. and the States of Raigarh.
Bheerwarhaa and Manorpura. presentinll and t:eec....
Kathak dance wherever he went. Besides Leta, •
Kathak dancer of note, Jaya Lal Was a taLla
pakhawaj player of the highest class. and was LeId
awe by recognized exponents of these inab.. ...
Introduction of remarkable rhythmic subtlety.
intricacy and grace into Kathak dance. tLrou,Ia
medium of long parans in particular. has been Ida
effective contribution to this art. By experta he
deemed as peerless in bollaya and virile danclq (
rasa) and also in parhant, that is. the recitaHon of
text of patterns. His most famous pupil hu
Jayakumari. though prohably another pupil of
Kartik of Raigarh. is no less known. Jaya Lar.
Ram GopaI. now in Calcutta. is himself a K.tW
dancer of great merit. Among his other pupila ...
Sohan Lal of Madras, Radhey Lal and Sheo Datta.
Loth in Delhi. and Hira Lal who taught KatLak duce
for quite a few years at Sangeet BharaH. New DeO.L
Jaya Lal was 70 when he died in Calcutta about litem
years ago.
One of the hest Kathak dancers in Lu daJ.
Nrittyacharya Narayan Prasad died on Septemher 12.
1958, at the young age of 48 years. He was awarded
the honorific title of 'nrittyacharya hy the AD-Jadla
Gandharva Mahavidyalaya Mahamandal at BeItaaa III
1957, in recognition of his contrihution to the pro.,.,..
tion of Kathak dance. His more important pupils. 10"
of them working as dance teachers in dillerent .....
of the country. are: Bahu Lal Patni of Jalpur. Kanda
Lal, Professor of Dance, Music Collete. BaNda
University. and Shankar Jha of Dehra Dun. SLalruntwla
Jain. and Pushpa Batra. Better known 01 Lu =
pupils at the capital are Rani Kama and
Mathur. As a dance teacher at the
Mahavidyalaya. New Delhi. for twelve yean. un 01
end of his life. Narayan Prasad had the opportunItY J
initiating many young students into the subtletfea
Kathak dance. ......
Narayan Prasad's dancing would he aII __ .....
loveahle. The chiselled manner in which he ....
every detail. complete lack 01 impatience in w tevtr
he did on the stage, and the dignity of Lu
instinct with tenderness-all this, hesides accu;:..,
lal and anga, made his recitals appear cons
classical. The /aipur gharana of 'Hari Prasad- Hanuman
Prasad' . to which he helonged. strove for dignity of
appeal and grace. Hari Prasad excelled in bolder work.
in aCcuracy. variety, Ruency, expansiveness and suhtlety
of rhythmic manipulation. Hanuman Prasad was
known essentially for his skill in presenting the gentler
hues of dance. Narayan Prasad's style sought to blend
the excellences of hoth. His mother was a close relative
of the well-known Jaya Lal. So, from his childhood,
a rich environment contrihuted to Narayan Prasad's
growth as a dancer.
His public performances hegan at the age of eleven.
Later, he won recognition as a Kathak dancer at several
music gatherings and conferences held at Jaipur,
Baroda, Kanpur. Jamhusar. Ajmer and Raigarh. The
'guni jan khana' of the Jaipur State. where he worked
as a dance teacher for a numher of years, always gave
him the regard he deserved. He had the distinction
of dancing also at Raigarh, that unparaIIeIIed seat of
tahla, pakhawaj and Kathak dance experts, accom-
panied hy his nephew Kundan Lal. His dancing was
not confined to trital. In fact, such difficult timing-
measures could he deftly managed hy him as Laxmi
101. Braftma tal and Dhamar. The veteran pakhawaj
player of Rampur. Ayodhya Prasad, who sometimes
prOVided accompaniment to Narayan Prasad, fondly
recounts the latter's skill in layakari to this day.
Some other important features of Narayan Prasad's
performing ahility were: such chakkardar patterns in
Ektal as allow no respite between 'their sub-sections.
commonly called bedam; parans which, hy just varying
their manner of movement, can he danced in different
tals without losing any of their bols or textual syllahles;
three such successive countings of eight. that the first
one is danced in vilambit. the second in madhya, and
the third in drufa, with the last one landing immacu-
lately at a sama; and adroit manipulation of laya in terms
of patterns of anaagat and ateet variety. A really
reposeful rendering of 16 matras-called dheema tntal-
would invariably bring out the master's self-possession in
dance. And it was always a delight to see him presenting
the 'boat gat': the entire audience would feel heing
gently rowed along with the dancer. Excellences such
as these made his lecture-cum-demonstration per-
formances at Baroda University in 1956 remarkahly
Narayan Prasad could also sing thumn, bhajan
and khayals effectively. A favourite thumri of his own
composition was: 'Yeh ansuaa kaahe bhar laayi pyaari
Raadhika'. The appeal of the way in which he used to
bring out. through varying poses and gestures, the
textual significance of the song was irresistihle. In
Khayal-singing, Narayan Prasad' s tans were admirahle
in respect of controlled power. Huency and distinctness ..
c. A Note on Benaras Gharana and its offshoot in Lahore
It is generally believed today that there are only two
Gharanas of Kathak-the Lucknow and the Jaipur. But some
orthodox exponents are prepared to give recognition to a third
Gharana-the Janki Prasad Gharana. This Gharana, it is
claimed, is as old as the other two, and it originated in Rajasthan
but had its development and maturity in Benaras. For this
reason, this Gharana is also sometimes referred to as the Benaras
It is held in some quarters that, previous to the Jaipur
Gharana, there was another Gharana of Kathak in Rajasthan,
which was known, after its founder, as the Shyamal Das Gharana.
This Shyamal Das Gharana later bifurcated and gave rise to
two Gharanas, the Jaipur and the Janki Prasad. The Jaipur
Gharana developed in Rajasthan while the Janki Prasad
Gharana went over to Benaras.
Janki Prasad had three chief disciples, Chuni Lal, Dularam
and Ganeshi Lal . Chuni Lal stayed in Rajasthan but the other
two, who were Janki Prasad's brothers, went to Benaras.
Dularam had three sons, Bihari Lal, Puran Lal and Hira La!.
Bihari Lal toured several parts of North India and gave . .
numerous dance performances. He later settled down in Indore, '
Where he was employed as the Court dancer. He had three
SOns, Kishan Lal, who worked as a dance teacher in Bombay
and died there, and Mohan Lal and Sohan Lal, both of whom
are now teaching dance at Dehra Dun. Puran Lal was also
for a long time in Bombay and he is survived by two sons,
Madan Lal and Ram Lal, both of whom are now teaching
in Patiala. Hira Lal, the third son of Dularam, served
In the States of Bikaner and Indore, and he spent his last days
at the latter place. .
Ganeshi Lal, the second brother of Janki Prasad, had three
sons, none of whom is now living. These sons were Hanuman
Prasad, Shiv Lal and Gopal Das. Hanuman Prasad worked
as the Court dancer in several States, including Jammu, Patiala,
Bikaner and Nepal. He also worked for some time as a dance
teacher at the Sangeet Bharati, Delhi. He oied in 1952, at
the age of 80, in Delhi. Hanuman Prasad is survived by three
SOns, Naval Kishore, Bansi Dhar and Onkar Prasad, all of
whom are now at Delhi and doing dance tuitions. Shiv Lal,
the second son of Ganeshi Lal, was more of a tabla player than
a dancer and he spent most of his time with his elder brother,
Hanuman Prasad. Shiv Lal has left three sons, Sukhdev and
Durga Prasad who are in Rajasthan and who are not following
the dance profession, and Kundan Lal who is at Delhi giving
dance tuitions.
Ganeshi Lal's third son, Gopal Das, spent most of his
time in Lahore. He was popularly known as Pindit Gopal and
he also worked for some time as a Court dancer in the State
of Patiala. He spent his last days' in' Lahore', where he died
about 25 years ago. He is survived by a son, Krishan Kumar,
who is now a disciple of Shambhu Maharaj . . Pandit Gopal
played an important part in the development and spread of
Kathak in Lahore and the rest of Punjab, and he made numerous
disciples who earned a good name for themselves as well as
for him. Bhurey Khan, who is also known as Ashiq Husain,
is a disciple of Pandit Gopal and he, in turn, has a number
of disciples who are well known, including Hazari Lal, who is
now teaching at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Bombay, and
Tara Chaudri, who is presently running a school of dance in
Today, the principal exponents of the Janki Prasad
Gharana all of whom are hereditary masters, are: Krishan
Kumar, of Pandit Gopal, Naval Kishore, Bansi Dhar and
Onkar Prasad, sons of Ganeshi Lal, Kundan Lal, son of Shiv
Lal, and Sohan Lal and Mohan sons of Bihari Lal.
The distinguishing feature of the Janki Prasad Gharana
that in nrita, only dance bols,- or syllables, are used,
and bois of the tabla and pakhawaj are never employed. These
mark a distinct variation from the Jaipur and Lucknow
Gharanas where the nrita is composed mostly of t(lbla and
pakhawaj bois. Then the Janki Prasad Gharana does not
give importance to speed but believes in executing steps .and
movements in . slow or moderate tempo and with grace and
precision. There are also some differences in the anga and in
the movements and postures which are used in the Janki Prasad
Gharana, relative to those employed in the othe.r two ·' Schools.
The historical veracity of names, dates and relation-
ships, much less their standing as artists, is open to
question, further study and research. The skeleton
genealogical tables are to be supplemented with larger
truths of cultural history to make them really useful.
During this study one is faced with several improba-
bilities and seeming contradictions. It would, therefore,
be advisable to avoid putting implicit reliance or
jumping to hasty conclusions based on these tables.
These are useful. however, when other evidence is
available to corroborate and offer scope for possible
revision by comparing the evidences.
Though, no one can vouch for the authenticity of
the genealogical order presented here, certain general
facts can safely be adduced from the available evidence.
For instance, all the persons mentioned in these tables
are said to have been dancers themselves. The traceable
ancestry of the families does not go beyond 150 years.
The earliest name in the tables is barely that old. It may
also be observed that, if the nomenclature '/aipur
gharana', which has definite geographical oonno
is to be accepted, the families must have lived In or
the state of Jaipur. This is, however, not correct. AI
families commonly grouped as '/aipur oluaran.'
been the natives of western part of Rajaathan. I.e.
state of Bikaner. Their long association wltla tIae
of Jaipur and the economic pressures reaultIna III
migration to Jaipur state must have been 1'eapcMn .....
for such nomenclature. It is equally intereatlllf tv
that the -families of 'Kathak gharana' claim to
to a single, clan, viz. KathaL:. a sub-cute
Brahmins. In the opinion of many, this claim fa
to question and further verification.
The tables given here are exclusively in dtrect
01 descent of each family. Another equally
cant line of succession can be traced amon, tlte
of these families. Any assessment of tlae contrtLall.
of these families in preservation and diuem1n ....
Kathak art must necessarily take into account tlte .,. .. 11
line of succession of Master-Pupil tradiHon.
Table No. 1
(no issue)
Table No.2
(no ...... )
Table No.3
(narne not known)
living at Bombay
(no issue)
(no issue)
Table No. 4
(name not known)
(name not known)
living at / aipur
(no issue)
(Three minor sons living at Delhi)
Table No.5
(name not' known)
~ ___________ IL-__________________ -'
- ---1:- --------\
(naJrnl not known)
I- I .. ------r-__ _
- ,
'- 1
1 __ - --.- _--.
1 .
1 1-----.
Kathak performed as a Nautch Dance (From a lithograph dated 1959, Ram Gopal Collection)
Today. Indian dance is an art which is much
respected. which is admired by all and pursued by many.
Its greatness and richaess have been recognised and
acknowledged not only in the country of its birth but
also in other parts of the world. This is indeed
remarkable. especially when one recalls that hardly three
decades ago this very art was considered unseemly and
branded as a pursuit fit only for the vulgar and the
depraved. That was the time when very little was
generally known of Indian dance. when the world was
content to refer to this art in its entirety as 'Nautch'
and to its expositors as 'Nautch-girls'.
The word Nautch-wah. or Nautch-girl. simply
means a dancing-girl. but this particular connotation
gained currency only during the time of the Moghuls.
Dancing-girls. needless to say, existed in India from
very early times, but the specific class of professional
dancers known as Nautch-girls came on the scene only
when the curtain rang up on Moghul India.
When the Muslims became the rulers of this
country, they brought with them many of their customs
and habits. good as well as bad. There is no denying
that some of the Moghul Emperors were great reformers
and men of action. but at the same time. it should not
be forgotten that. generally. their zest for a hfe of
pleasure and enjoyment was equally strong and tameless.
They considered entertainment a necessary part of life.
Hnd one of their principal diversions was the dance.
Of course, there were dancing-girls in India even
before the advent of the Moghuls. but apparently there
were not many among them, who were prepared to dance
and to entertain the feudal overlords in the manner
they wanted. This led to the wholesale importation of
professional dancing-girls from Persia. and thus was
laid the foundation of an institution which in later years
came to represent the be-all of Indian dance. It is
recorded that there were four main types of professional
dancing-girls who came from Persia, namely. the
[..olonis. Domnis, Horckenis and Hentsinis. They
brought their own dance when they came to India, but
they promptly adapted this to suit the ideals of their
new masters, and in doing so they borrowed freely from
the main stylised dance form then extant in North India,
namely, the Kathalc Thus, gradually, a new form of
Kathak began to shape itself-the Kathak of the Nautch-
walis; and this. while it made an attempt to retain the
basic graces of the Kathak then in vogue. divested itself
of much of its spiritual Oavour and. swinging to the
other extreme. directed itseU towards sensualism.
Eventually. the dance of the Nautch-girls came to be
associated with voluptuoumess and lasciviousness. and
the dancers came to be categorised as women of easy
virtue. And it is this impression of Indian dance and
dancers that the European and other travellers who
visited India between the 16th and 19th centuries
carried with them when they returned to their countries.
Little wonder. then. that for over 400 years the world
continued to regarrt Indian dance as an ignoble art. as
something which was encouraged purely for its
carnal appeal.
As a class. the Nautch-girls were generally well
patronised by the feudal rulers. many of whom
retained whole sets of them in t heir service or as inmates
of their extensive harems. The standard of decorum
being thus set. it did not take long for the nobles and
the rich and. later. even for the ordinary people to learn
that the Nautch-girls really had something to offer. In
this way. by degrees. several castes of dancing-girls came
into existence in the different parts of North India and,
side by side. they also came to be divided into different
classes. each being intended for patrons of a particular
social bracket. As time went by. the Nautch-girls
progressively realised that their patrons were more
interested in the dancers than in the dance; hence. to
make adjustments, they began to use dance not as an art
but as an artifice. as it were. to help them in their
If one were to peruse the notes written by the
chroniclers and travellers who were in India during the
last five or six centuries. one would find ample references
to the Nautch-girls as a class. And. invariably. it would
be found that these references put a greater accent on
the dubious character of these girls than on anything
to do with their dance. Right from the time of the Slave
Dynasty to the present century. there are several
references, and here. by way of illustration, are some
which have been culled at random:
Writing about Kurra Khan. the second son of
Sultan Balban (1266-1286) of the Slave Dynasty,
Ferishta records that "he inaugurated a society of which
musi cians and dancing-girls were members and which
used to meet at the Prince' s palace." Continuing.
Ferishta writes that "in the reign of the Bahmani King.
Mohamed Shah II (1378-1397). we have a good example
of how the vitiated taste of a king can spread its
infection so as to affect even those who have made
education their profession. The King was much addicted
to baser pleasures and his Court became the resort of
musicians and dancing-girls from Delhi. Lahore. Persia
and Khurasan."
From the period of the Moghul Emperors we have
many examples. Abul FazaI. for instance. has much
to say about the state of the arts during the time of
Akbar (1556-1605). In his Ain-i-Akbari he writes :
"The Akhara is an entertainment enjoyed by the ri ch.
The performers nre dancing-girls. A set consists of four
dancers. four singers and four instrumentalists (wi.
the pakhawaj. owpunk. rabab and junler), and
are also two others who stand by with lighted torcLe..
In the same work the author also describes the diI
types of professional dancers who existed at that
and among these he lists the Nutwah,
Bhugleye. Bhunweye, Kanjari and Nut castes o( d.. •
The pattern of life set by the feudal lord. ...,.."
ways. emulated by those who followed. "'-F:
Instance, about Chatrapati Shahu 0707-177D) •
Maratha ruler. it is written that he ordered rood"';"'"
dancing-girls to be kept in his zenana. Bajlrao B.IW
. (1720-1740), the second Peshwa ruler, went one ...
further: it is recorded that. in the latter part of Lia life.
he became so enamoured of a beautiful danclnt-trbl of
Muslim extraction. named Mastani. that he com,.....,
neglected his duties and obligations as a ruler.
In 1810. Francis Buchanan wrote about the ...
in the district of Bhagalpur. in Bihar. He Itata ...
describes the different types of dancing-girls of the l'eIIoD.
and among these he mentions the Mirasi. Bat, Rwn.na.
Kheloni. Domni and Nariyal castes of dancen. ,....
incidentally shows that there were several cute. of
dancing-girls. even in a single region of the C01Dltry.
It is said that Maharaja Ranjit Singh. the lJoo of
the Punjab. was. like some of his predecessors. vert lead
of the nautch. Some idea of this can be had from tLe
Journal which was kept by the Hon. W. G. 0aL0me.
Military Secretary to the Governor-General of india ..
that time. At one place this Journal records that "Lot.
is rather a celebrated dancing-girl at the Comt 01
Lahore. Ranjit Singh received her with the trIbate
from Cashmere about two years ago." Continubl" tLe
same Journal records at another place: "In the evenlaf,
a detachment of the dancing-girls arrived with maak:
and fi reworks. The establishment of this corpa fa ODe
of Ranjit Singh's capricious whims. He originally L.d
150 dancing-girls. who were selected from amont the
best in Cashmere. Persia and the Punjab. lotus told
me that she was the owner of seven good villates whlch
she had received at different times from RanJlt SiDth
as marh of his favour."
It is evident from the interest taken by the varIoID
Courts in the Nautch girls. that they reduced dance.at
merely to entertainment. This does not mean that tt.e
Kathak style whi ch the Nautch girls practise (eU Into
complete decay. Some of these practitioners were hIfIdJ
accomplished dancers who devoted their whole ItftI to
learning this art. The fact that their patrons had reduced
them to a low caste naturally brought a bad name
the dance art as practised by them. Besides. the I t'*
noblemen and courtiers were more interested
bodies than in their art. Indian society dfainl
and the whole concept of creativeness fell into
Today after three decades of renascent elort ODjail
part of enlightened pioneers. Indian Dance
emerging before the still corrupt. ignorant an debt ,..
middle sections of our society. And perhaps the Le
people owe to the hapless Nautch (mK: .....
recognised for preserving the countmUlty 0
style. at a time when the caste-ridden feudalistic
may well have consigned it to oblivion.
5. Raigarh Raja's Contrihution to Kathak
by · Ras dh art '
Like any other traditional art in India. Kathak. too.
has had its share of patrons and promoters. The number
of those who have helped. in various ways. to further
this art is not too large. but two names stand out-of
Wajid Ali Shah who belonged to the last century. and
of the Raja of Raigarh who belonged to the present one.
Both were rulers. both were dancers. and both served
Kathak with a zeal which made it appear as if that
was the only purpose and mission of their lives. Wajid
Ali Shah patronised the Lucknow gharana and
encouraged the leading exponents of this School. But
the Raja of Raigarh patronised both the Lucknow
liharana and the Jaipur gharana. as well as their
offshoots; and this patronage extended not merely to
the principal exponents but to all Kathak dancers of
his time. Indeed. whatever differences. whatever rival
claims Kathak exponents of the hereditary fold may have
today. on one point they are all agreed: that the Raja
of Raigarh was. literally. the patron saint of Kathak
dance. its greatest benefactor.
Raigarh was a sizable state in the Chhatisgarh
region of Madhya Pradesh. and its ruler. with whom
we are concerned. was Raja Chakradhar Singh. He
had only one passion in life-Kathak dance. but apart
from this. he was also interested in the pakhawaj and
tabla; and. to a lesser degree. in musical forms. such as
the Dhrupad and the Dhamar. As long as he ruled.
Chakradhar Singh every day of his life in an
atmosphere saturated with dance and music. He
engaged the best available vidwans to teach him Kathak
end the pakhawaj and tabla. and he invi ted experts from
all over the country to perform at his court.
Chakradhar Singh had several large rooms and
halls in his palace but none of these was set apart for
dancing: dance practice and performances used to take
place anywhere and everywhere. according to the mood
of the Raja. He had his own practice regularly. but.
more than this. he enjoyed seeing the performances of
others. From time to time. he invited leading exponents
to his palace. but there were scores of others who came
uninvited_he received everyone of them with grace
and respect and saw the performance of each; and if
there was anything for him to learn from any of the
Visitors. he did not hesitate to do so. Any Kathak dancer
or player of the pakhawaj or tabla who visited Raigarh
stayed there as a guest of the Raja. and before leaving
each was given cash and token gifts according to his
Of the various Kathak dancers. who served at the
Court of Raigarh. the foremost were Jai Lal and Achhan
Maharaj; and. next in importance. Mohan Prasad and
Narayan Prasad. None of them. incidentally. is now
living. Jai Lal served at Raigarh for about seven years.
He was brought there. as. indeed. was nearly every
master. to train the Raja's pupils. Kartik. Kalyan.
Phirtu and Beman. The Raja spared neither pains nor
money to get what he called his 'prize finds'. Kartik
and Kalyan. trained in Kathak: they were ordinary
boys belonging to the Raja's menial staff. but when
trained, there was hardly a dancer who could compete
with them. Kartik and Kalyan are still living. but when
the Raja left this world it seems he took away all their
initiative and inspiration. It is a pity that these really
accomplished dancers have. since the Raja's demise.
preferred to recede more and more into their shells.
The Raja was an expert in the pakhawaj and tabla.
but his hunger for learning was insatiable. He had
outstanding tabla players such as Munir Khan. Azim
Khan. Nahan Khan and Qadir Baksh in his service.
Once. it seems there was a technical contrQversy and
in this Qadir Baksh humbled his colleagues. The Raja
ascribed this to Qadir Baksh' s superior knowledge of
the pakhawaj. and. convincing himself that a more
intimate knowledge of the pakhawaj would some day
stand him in good stead. he seriously set about to find
a worthy guru for himself. His choice fell upon Swami
Ram Das. the leading pakhawaj player of the time.
but no attraction seemed to be too great to prompt this
veteran to leave his home-town. Ayodhya. The Raja
then approached Swami Thakur Das. who had the
honorifi c 'Mridang Arjun'. and became his disciple.
The Swami came to Raigarh and stayed there and
taught the Raja for fourteen years. To assist him he
also called other experts. notably Vasudev from Gaya.
Shambhu from Bandha and Makhan from Mathura.
each of whom was an expert in a particular anga of
pakhawaj technique.
Performances of Kathak dance used to take place
practically every day in Raigarh. But the major occa-
sions came at the time of certain annual festivals . such
as Basant. Holi. Ganesh Chaturthi. Dassera and
Diwali. Ganesh Chaturthi. in particular. was celebrated
on a very lavish scale. the proceedings lasting for well
over a month. At this time. scores of Kathak dancers.
many with their musicians and disciples. some with
their families as well. came from all over the country
and assembled at Raigarh. Raigarh played _
everyone who came, and incidentally relieved ibelf 01
thousands of rupees every year. Every day and
night there were performances in two diff t __
f h
eren --..:
one 0 t ese was for the Raja and a select audience
here only reputed artistes were allowed to perf'orm.
other was for the janata, as it were, and in tbia d...
performances by ordinary artistes. At the ClO
SIon of the festivities, the Raja gave gifts and aw..r.
to all who had come to Raigarh and partici ted III
festivals. pa
Raja Chakradhar Singh was a dynamo of eneI'ff.
He was a staunch Vaishnava, simple in his habib.
he normally ate llnd dressed austerely. He had
but it apparently needed considerable
tion on his part to visit any of them, for hia de,. ....
nights were mostly spent in the company of dancen aad
musicians. He spent lakhs to satisfy his paulOD ..
dance and music and, in the bargain, proved himIeI.
thorough misfit in matters of statecraft: 10 ......
eventually, the Resident had to intervene and uL: ....
to leave the gadi, which was given to his son. A. ...
as he ruled, the Raja had a faithful secretary and ad9I.
in Bhushanji, who was a scholar. an aesthete and •
rasika; the Raja always referred to BhwhanJi ..
• -. nial companion' and never tired of sayin, how ......
was obliged to him for the guidance he received
e ery step in his life.
Raja Chakradhar Singh died about Meen ,-
a o. He died a frustrated man, deprived u he was
t means to continue to indulge in the one pudaa
th t sustained him as long as he was on the fld
in our time, the greatest patron and devotee J
use of Kathal<. He always considered ........
ent and no sacrifice seemed too much to hbn to
a i the knowledge and experience he destred. It
said th he often purposely provoked his teachen.
well as others who performed before him. and prodcW
them to enter into heated discussions-to get tLe ....
out of them. He had immense respect for 11,11 KatMil
and he himself was a dancer of no mean merit. It
said that once Jai Lal and Achhan Maharaj and ....
other dancers were having a discussion about fI-:
Raja, who was present at the discussion. got up
showed over 20 different ways of carrying the
Seeing this Achhan Maharaj got up and Lurred
Raja and kissed him and said: "You are an .,.",
Natwar Krishna." Certainly, he was a devotee
6. Men a k a: Pioneer of Kathak
by Shirin Vajijdar
"It was reserved For Menaka to do for the Indi an Dancing
what Profesor Bha t·khande did for Indi an Singing" .
This tribute to the la te Menaka's magnifi cent
a hievements in, .lI1d services to. the Cl assical D a nce
Art of India was very si gnificant. because of the occasion
on which it was paid. he and her Ball et had just
returned to Indi a after having 'won for Indi a a nd
la sical D a nce, three Honour Pri zes at the 1936
International D ance Olympiad. held in Berlin in connec-
tion with the Olympi c games. The Menaka Ball et had
carri ed away more Honour P rizes than a ny other ba ll et
of t he seventeen na ti ons which took part .
enaka first a ppeared on the dan tage i n
Bombay in the yeil r 1926. Madame P avlova was present
at thi s perFormance. a nd thi s doubtle s encouraged the
Indi a n danseuse.
S he was then already a hi ghl y trained musician.
and had devoted years of study to the mas tery of Kathak
of the Lucknow chool. Her earli es t teachers were the
grea t mas ters. P a ndit Sit aram Misra. Ma haraj Vaidya-
nath Misra and Guru Ram Dutt Misra. She also studi ed
Kathakali under G uru Karunakara Menon and
Manipuri under G uru aba Kumar Singha.
Apart From t·he training in solo recit als of Ka thak
for the realisation of the form a nd sequence of thi s
dance style, M.enaka inil'ia ted a new kind of choreo-
graphy into Kathak. ada pting its techniques for
drama ti c purpo e. ' he formed a Corps de Ballet of
ta l nted dancer fll1d musicians. And she cr eated
evera! ball ets. which he took on tour. Her first three
ball ets. Deva Vijaya Nritya (a theme from Hindu
lythology) . Krishna Leela (adapted from Visnaya
Padavali of Vidyapati) a nd Menaka Lasyam (the
story of the temptation of Maharishi Vishwa-
), individua ll y formed the second half of a n
_ ......., - ing performa nce, a nd were preceded in the fi r t
small items of divertisements.
of thes ballet . in Ka thak I: echnique.
and called for still greater efforts on her part,
'B""'lII{TToeItake a much more ambitious proj ect of a full
(a piece lasting two and a half hours)
different variations of Bharata Natyam.
Ii and Manipuri could be used for
For thi s purpose he tool< Kalidasa's
Malcwikognimitram. a nd successfull y
he took two years to do it. And it was
a "brilli a nt'ly conceived and brilli antly
ball et" .
:Vlenaka made
to dance art. She d
beating of the rhy
usually danced. and made ski!
Ragas were knit together to
the dance a nd tra nsition from
so that the sentiment of
,-,nhindered. With all that. the
encha nting rhythm. Tala. so
patterns of Ka thak dance. It
music a nd not at all "ref
till rememher the heavenly
her child. Shakuntala. to lay at the
before going back to Heaven (in
Lasyam) , danced to a poignant and
Raga hadava Sampoorna. Bhaira i.
Menaka inAuenced the dance in
as pect. Because of her ari stocratic
high social standing. she had to face
before she could appear on the stage as
a rt had. up to tha t time. been
caste basis, and these classes had
o tracised. Since then. her pioneer
and many women from the m
followed her lead.
Menaka' s well -trained group of
a nd musicians. repeatedly vi sited our principal citi es and
presented Clas ical Dance in its matchl es beauty and
puri ty. regardl ess of cost and effort. She won the esteem
of her countTymen. and was awarded a gold medal for
services to Classical Dance. by the Bengal Music
Associ ation. Addresses were presented to her at Karachi .
Hyd rabad. La hore. Colombo. etc. Then she vi sited
Burma. Malaya and Indonesia. She then went to
Europ in 1936 a nd gave over 750 performances in all
the capital of the Continent. Bombay City gave her an
enthusiasti c recept'ion on her return to India from the
D ance Olympi ad, Berlin.
When she cr eated her new ballet. Malavikagni -
mitram. she toured Jndi a again in 1939. But the war
cut short her tour.
H r work cr ated a demand for a Centre. where
Cl ass ical D a nce could be learnt. To meet thi s demand.
Menaka took the logical tep of opening the famous
'Nrityalayam' at Khandala in 1938. It was a residential
inst·it-ute. where young aspirants w ere provided with
ex ell ent opportunities of learning and studying the
class ical dance techniques extant. under the personal
1. Scene f Tom AI alavikagnimit ram
2. Scene from Krishna Lila : Menaka and Ram
Narayan Misra
supervision of Menaka, who was assisted by hereditary
teachers. They were also helped to receive
the ordmary school education. After Rourishing for lour
or five years. war brought this institution to an end.
Among the distinguished colleagues who helped
her in designing dresses and decor for the ballet wtft
Karl Khandalawala and Manishi De. Dr. Raghavan.
the Sanskrit scholar, advised her on stories for the
themes. Ram Narayan Misra was her male
partner. Musician Ram Chandra Gangoly, and a treat
master of Tabla, Vishnu Shirodkar, were her colleallJel
in devising music for the ballets.
Menaka restored to Classical Dance, the "Nautch"
(Kathak) which Ananda Coomaraswamy (1917)
described as "one of the most beautiful and moving arts".
Those who know in what a precarious condition this
style was when she took it up, will understand the
significance of her efforts to restore it to its pristine
beauty and to give it a new and vigorous life.
The world Wdr made touring even in India difficult.
and enforced inactivity. and a serious illness carried her
away on 27th April , 1947. She had no children of her
own, but she left behind many brilliant dancers of her
troupe. Krishnan Kutty. Ram Narayan Misra. Bipln
Sinha. S hirin V ajifdar. hevanti, Damayanti. Malati
and Vimla and others. who had come to her in their
youth and whom she had brought up and trained a
Menaka (in private liFe Lady Leila Sokhey) was
born on 151-h Odober , 1899. in a Kul een Brahman
fa mil y of BarisaI. H er fa l-her hri Pyare Lal Roy wa
a bi g landlord. he was educated at Loreto Convent.
Darj eelin g a nd showed great promise as a violinist. Sht'
was laken 10 E ngland in 1909, where she was admittt-d
to St. Paul' s Gir ls' School. London. There she won
the Lupton Schola rship for violin for two years in
succession. h er graduatin g from the school. sht'
appeared on the con ert stage in London. She latt'r
marri ed Captain ahib Singh Sokhey of the Indian
Medical ervice. who later became Director of tht'
HaFfkine I nstitute. and was knighted in 1946, and
promoted to Ihe rank of Major General.
Marg acknowLedges its debt to Major General s.s. Sok-;;;"
for suppLying the information in this article, and photos.
II. The Technique of Kathak:
1. N ritta by M. S. Kalyanpurkar
The concept of Art in India has in a sense heen
part ly formal. necessitated perhaps by the highl y
intell ectual and punctilious type of living of our a ncient
peopl e. This is not onl y true of dance but also of other
forms of art. Just as an Indian icon " is neither a memory
image nor an idealisation but a visu al symbolism, ideal
in the mathematical sense", or instrumental music
which presents perfedion of suara combina tions; so al 0
the nriLLa aspect of dance expresses certa in rhythmic
pa tterns interpreted by the feet, hands, and other limbs
of the body. In the Abhinaya Dal'pol1.a oritLa i s
considered as pure dance:
" Bhauabhinayahinom lu nritLantityab/li,dhiyaLe "
The Dasarupaka explains furth er:
" NriLtam Lalalayasrayam"
riUa is thus meant to convey a sense of pure
joy of movement and rhythm. But inspite of its abstract
nature it is not devoid of ' rasa' as is often misunderstood.
A in 'instrumental music or alapa in vocal music, rasa
lies in the correct u se' of the svaras and their combina-
tions, so in nriLLa I-he bea uty li es in the correct renderi ng
of the rhythmic patterns by the feet a nd graceful move-
ments of the limbs. In such pure form of art. an
appreciati ve a udi ence recreates the pi eces in their own
mind and derives pl easure according to the for ce of
individua l experi ences. Every one of the audi ence enjoys
a dance pi ece in hi s own way; " like a Kamadhenu,
it yields to the spectator just what he seeks from it, or i,s
ca pable of understanding·'.
kill in nrULa ha always been considered vital for
t he art of dance. as, besides its inherent beau ty.
il s knowl edge is fundamenta l for I-he performance of
good abllinaycl ex pression.
In Kat-hak. the nritta a -pect is predominant. The
various pi eces danced. bring out the bea uty or rhythm
in all its Forms.
These rhyt hmi c compositions are call ed ' bolas'.
The 'bolas ' have dillerent features and compositiona l
peculiarities. On the basis of thi s they are classifi ed
into the following types:
1. Ganesha Vandana
2. Amada
3. Thata
4. Natwari
S. Paramelu
6. Paran
7. Kramalaya
8. Kavita
9. Toda
10. Tukada
11. Sangeet
12. Padhant.
1. Ganes 11 Vandana : To offer saluta tion to
Lord Ganesha, the dis peller of obstacl es and diffi culti es,
at the commencement of ceremonies is time- honoured
tradition. All religious ceremonies begin with the
chanting of Sri Ganeshaya namah. Abhinaya
Darpana advises the commencement of dance with
"Praising Ganapati, the lord of mura;a (drum) and the
sky one should pray to the earth." (Introductory
benediction). The Sangeet Sara of Jaipur is more
precise. It says : "At the beginning of the dance, recite
compositions on Ganeshji and dance accordingly" .
G anesh Vandana is a composition in whi ch words in
praise of Lord Ganesha are bl ended with other dance
bolas, the whol e forming a rhythmic piece. Formerly
t1tis was the first piece danced by the Kathak dancers.
It is interesting to see that thi s almost lost tradition is
being revived by the Kathak teachers of today.
G an gan ganapaU gaja mukha mangala gita
gida gita gida thun thum tat ta t thei - jaya
jaga vandana va - kra lu - nda da ni dha ta -
vigha naha rana, sukha kara, nadha gena dhage
dhimi kita dhimi kita thudan - ga thudan
_ ga dadhi gana thei. thudan - ga thudan - ga
dadhi gana thei thuda n ga thuda n - ga
Jadhi gana thei.
2. A mada: Amada is a Persi.a n word which
means advent or coming. This pi ece is danced in
the beginning of the perfor mance a nd is composed of
n characteristic pattern of Nat vari bolas and hence is
classed separately as amada. The Natv ari bolas used
hert' are:
" ta thei tat thei ta thei tat thei thei tathei-
ta the; thei thei ta t tat ta".
To ma ke it more impressive perhaps, a convenli ona l
pakhawa; or paramelu is prefixed to it as foll ows:
dha ta ka thun ga - dha ge di ge La
dha din ta ddhe Ua kida dha ta kka t hum ga
tald tata ka - tita ka ta gadi gana ta th i tat
thei ta thei tat thei thei ta thei - ta thei thei tat
tat ta.
ome people a re of opin ion tha t amada is a piece
played as a r hythmic prologue on the tabl a or Lhe
pakhawaj just befor e the commencement of the d
Though thi s theory is debatable it cannot be'

3. Thata: 'Thata' in general means decorat.
f I d h
Ion ora
grace u a ttitu e. T ese attitudes or postures are talcen
(thata bandhana) before the amada is danced. Thato
is used in another sense also as ' thata ka barat • In
thi s the da ncer stands with one hand held to th:
.1Od the other hi gh and aloft, and moves his eye
s, eye..
brows, neck. shoulders, arms, chest and wrists to the
accompaniment of slow rhythm played on the tabIa.
4. Nat wari : 'Natawara ' is an epithet of Lord
Krishna, whi ch means " the b es t among dancers". It fa a
b.eli ef that when Natwara subdued the monster-serpent
Ka liya a nd da nced on its hoods, the sounds la Ihei and
Lat were produced. It is perhaps due to this belief that
a ll bolas composed of yllables ta, thei , tal and their
derivatives such as digidigi. tram, tigdha, are classed u
Nat wari by the Kathak masters:
ti gdha di gidigi di g tho digidigi thei tata _ ta
thei ta thei t igdha thei tigdha digidigi diltLo
digidigi thei tram thei tigdha digidigi diltLo
di gidigi thei tram thei tigdha digidigi diltLo
digidigi thei tram thei.
5. Paramelu : The term ' paramelu' is composed of
the two words ' para' meaning different and 'me'"
meaning union. The Paramelu pi eces are composed by
cl everly blending the sound syllables of various percus-
sion ins trument such as, nagara, pakhawaj, jhan,.
rnejeera, tasha, dapha etc. with natwari bolos. The
sound sylla bl es however by use have become conven-
tional a nd ome of these are-thari, kuku, jhanaka,
r1ivanga, dhilanga, jhangara, jagajaga, thudanga,
jftangajhanga etc.
J aga j aga thari thad kuku thari naga thad
dhimi kita taka naga thari kita thun lIa
tharika tharika tharika tanaga dhimiki tatalua
jagaja gajaga thun. thun-thun-ta-thun-lIa-
takat hun -ga- dhimita thunga
dhimiki tatah j agana gathari
dhimiki ta l'a ka theita theita
thei-theita theil a thei-theita theita thei.
6. Paran : Next we come to a variety of compo-
ilions pl ayed exclusively on the pakhawaj. Thesj are
call ed ' parans'. Th ese are for ceful compositions an are
da nced with vigorous movements :
Kitatah I'hun-thun nati tata "
dha dinta kiddha dinta kati tadha dinta
til'a dhadin la ki dadhet - dha dinta kati ta
dh h
· ta a
_ thun - I' a dha kati ta a - t un -
kati tudha - thun - ta dha.
h I
I k wn as "'a,kar
7. Kmmalaya : T is is popu ar Y no d
f b dh " I " . b ' .. In this the an
/-Ii a a f or imp y paLra a/ana. , ,,.,,,
with the basic' tatkar' of the tala, rent
· ' f . 1 dId to show I e
t et taL 0 tnta a an I'l en procee S d there
f 1 F
the stu ents
laya jatis, a nd ends in a as t aya. or t with
b I
f th art interpre
are et patterns. ul t 1 masters 0 e II form.
's should rea y
t' xtempore improvisati ons.
by Lachhu Maliaraj .
e. & f, PARAN and PARAMEL
26 by Bir;u Mahara; .
by Lachhu Maharaj ,
by Birju Maharaj .
by Sitara Devi.
by Sudershan Kumar .
\ ------
han Kumar.
I)y Gopi Kn han and Suder han Kumar.
part of the nat wan but due to its exclusive character
it is cl assed separately.
8. Kauita : ' Kavita' is a poetic composition set
to lala. The metres used usually are 'sawaiya',
' ghanakshari', 'panch-chamara' etc.; very often a nalwari
piece is affixed to it. The meaning is interpreted by
vari ous ges tures, while laya is marked by the feet.
Though abllinaya is evident in these compositions, it is
cIa sed under nriUa because the rhythmic aspect is
predominant :
mura liki dhuna suna bajata mri danga dhuna
dhudhu kitadhudhu kita dhuki tadhu kita thei
tana taka rata utha hera taphe rata chita
chan dracha pala di gidigi nadigi digina digidi gi
digidigi thodigi digitho digidigi di gidi gi kdan
kidta thei yaka thei kidta the; yaka thei kidta
thei yaka thei.
9 & 10. Toda and Tukada: Nothing definite is
known about these terms. Some use them in the sense of
the whol e nritta performance when they say" tode lukde
nacho". Others are of opinion that ' toda' in dance is
composed on the same pattern as the todas for sitar,
which are of a fixed pattern, with 'dara dida dran dadida'
as bolas. ' Tukada' is supposed to be a small piece of the
nalwari variety.
11. Sangeela : When any dance bola, be it natwari,
parameLu or paran, is r ecited in swaras it is call ed
'w ngeela'. The late Maharaj Bindadin perhaps wanted
to onvey thi s idea when he says in one of hi s padas:
'Sangeela nachal'a taguna tharikita latta Ihei thei Iram
dhetta", b ecau e in thi ' Iagun tharikita' is paramelu,
"atta thei thei tram' is natwari and ' dhetta' i part of a
paran. T he Rasadharis of Mathura a nd Vrindavan
re it e all dance bolas of the Rasaleela set to a raga. In
my opinion thi s is the true form of sangeeta. Thus
\angeeta' i s not variety of bola but the mode of musical
rc itation of a ny bola.
12. Padhant : The word ' padhant' i derived from
the anskrit word pathana meaning recitation. In a
Kathak performa nce ' the G uru, or the da ncer him elf.
r cites the bolas to b e danced. markin g time of the taLa
with hi ha nd-cl a ps. The es ential points to b e observed
in padhant are, correct pronunci ation, accents a nd
intonation of the bolas. In Sangeeta Ratnakara one of
th q ualiti es of a dance teacher mentioned is, " mukha-
uadyes/lU kouidah". Explaining thi s the commentator
says that the t' mukhauadya" means recitation of the
sounds produced on the muraja (drum).
In the compositions of the va rious bolas use is made
of the jalis a nd yati.s.
latis: 'Jatis' are of fi ve kinds: ' C/lOtasra', ' risra' ,
' Khanda', ' Mi ra' a nd ' Sankeema'. The name signify
the kind of laya used . ' Chatasra' is four beats of the boLa
coinciding with four of the tala. 'risra' is three beats
coinciding with four of the ta la . In ' khanda' fi ve b eats
coincide with four ; in ' misra' seven and in ' sankeema'
nine beats come within the timing of four b(' ats.
Yati s : The ' Yati s' are al so fi ve in number a nd
they are vi suali sed patterns of ' laya '.
(i) Sarna-even. (ii) GopuchchllO-like the tail of
a cow, beginning with slow or broad Laya whi ch goes on
tapering and ends in a fast tempo. (iii) Srotagata-like
a river fast a nd noi sy in the beginning but graduall y
becoming slower. (i v) Mridanga-shaped like a
pakhawaj, tapering or fast at both ends and broad in
the middl e. (v) Pipilika or Damaru-shapcd like an
ant or clamaru. broad at both ends and narrow in the
middl e.
These jatis a nd yatis ca n be used in any type
of composition.
T he musical accompa niment to N ritta is call ed a
laflara whi ch is just a one-line musical pi ece. Thi s in
a sense is monotonous as the same line is repeated over
and over a gain, a nd erves more to ma rk the time and
has Ie s musical va lue.
I have given in bri eF an account of the N ritta in
Ka thak as it exists today. There is much scope For
perfect ion a nd innovations. lew expressions are needed.
but they should be introdu ed by the rn a ters of the art.
who a re well ver ed in the techni q ue a nd are not
lacking in imagina tion, For it needs a creative and
di sciplined mind to produce such work. Experiments can
b e made a t composing da nce on themes like ' tri ual' ,
'chaturanga', 'tarana' and 'sargam' ,
The list 0/ items in N ritta, giIJcn in t he text, is slightly di ffere nt
from the list f ollowed /01' illustrations due to exigencies 0/
layout .
2. Nritya
e Dadra
by Mohan Khokar
ritya. which is an import a nt aspect of Indi a n
class ical dance. impl ies the rendering of the meaning
or import of a song or story through sugges tive faci al
expressions. codifi ed gestures of th e hands and symboli c
postures of the body. All form of classical dance in
India include N riLya in their technique. there being
pertinent vari a tions in the manner in whi ch the i nt er -
preta tion i eff ected in each style. The techni cal Jay-out
of Katha k. too. provides ample .scope for N ritya. there
being distinct items in thi s style of da nce whi ch are
intended specifi call y for ex press ional di spl ay. However.
it deserves to he pointed out th at. while Kathak. like
other forms of Indi a n cl assical dance, h as a vari ety of
il ems which involve the expressional rendering of a song.
or of a seri es of songs. it has al so a set of Hems whi ch
have no words. no song. bul' onl y expression. This latter
a ttribute of Katha k ...... the use of mime ......puts thi s dance in
a class b y itself. for there is no other r ecogni sed form of
classical da nce in India whi ch incorporates thi s facet of
Abhinaya in its technique.
Kathak was originall y a religious dance; hence the
songs that accompani ed it in its formation periods were
of a religious character. After the chants of the Vedas .
the earliest type of classical music in India is known
to have b een that of the Chhandas. This was followed .
in the Medi eval period. by the Prabandha styl e. of
whi ch the Gila Govinda is a prominent example. After
thi s came the music of the Keertans and the DhrupaJs.
It is not known if Kathak was danced to the ChhanJas
and the Prabandhas. when these were the onl y forms of
sl'yli sed music exta nt in I·he country; but it is certa in
I·hat Keertans and D/lrupads were, from the very b egin-
ning. u sed as song-ma terial for Kathak. Prabandhas,
such as the Gila Govinda. were a lso used. and are still
used. in Kathak. hut they were probably intToduced into
the repertory of thi s dance a fter the advenl of the
Dhrupad and related forms of music.
The next phase in the evolution of the religious
and styli sed music of N orth Indi a saw the emergence
of forms such as the Hori. Dh.amar. Pad and Bhajan.
all of whi ch were eventuall y adopted for use by the
Katha k dancer. After thi s. as a res ult of Muslim
inAuence. Ihe styli sed music of N orth Indi a ceased to
be essenti a ll y reli gious in character a nd new forms of
ong a nd singing. exemplifi ed b y the Thumri . DaJra
a nd Ghazal. were ushered into existence. This new
music was of an amorous character and. being in tune
with Ihe mood and Ihe lemperament of the rul ers a nd
the pahons of I·he time. it was appropri ated by the
Kathak da ncers ~ ho. by now. were obli ged 1'0 confine
their art to th ent erta inment a nd edificati on of onl y
the feudal rul ers and their nobility.
The Ndtyaitem in Ka thak. which are b ased on
songs . are named a fl er the styles of sin ging in whi ch
th ey are render d. Thus. Kath ak has Dhrupads and
Keertans. Horis, D/'amor . Pa.cls a nd Bhajcms, a nd
Thumri.s. Daclras and Ghazals. When renderin g
A b/'inaya for any of the e items. the da ncer himself or
herself doe the sin ging a well. Thi s impli e th at a
Ka lha k da ncer who present s Bl1aua. is expected to b e
an ex pert vocali st as well. The nua nces of emotion are
regislered on the face. and 10 a ugment the overa ll effect.
a. "Pragate Brij NaudalaI"
His mot her beckons him . ..
2 and lift s him up to hug him,
3 but he indulges in pia), . . .
4 and childish pranks.
5 His mother says: " May he be
blessed wilh a long life . . .
6 .. . who fou ght Kansa . . .
7 . •• and slew him ...
8 ... ruthlessly."
it Bhaj01t performed by Birju Maha raj.
The composition is of Binda Din.
Radha is waiting in despair because she has
been lold that Krishna is sporting with
anot her woman.
" He has his body and limbs
smeared with sandal paste",
"H e wears the
Pilamber of gold"
h. "Haririha mugdha vadhu"
., Enjoying I he dance." Radha's sakhi tells her:
" He is there" . . .
" He wears garlands of the
choicest flowers" .
" And a bewitching smile plays on his
face" .
An Ashtapadi from the Gita GOlJinda, rendered by Maya Rao.
" I n the company of a
woman of passion and
.1 & 2 "[ make entreaties to him, but
he does not listen to me . .. "
c. "Kahe rokat dagar pyare NandalaI
3 & 4 " . . . M')I necklace he has
and he refuses to return It.
Section of T humri perform;!
b')l Birj u Maharaj . corn
sit ion is of Binda Dm.
I. "I nto which lane ... . "
1. "Has Shyam gone?"
l. "Is it that lane he ha.s gone
t "Ah,1 see, it is that lane he
has gone into."
j, "As the surma enters the
eJle so has he entered the
lane of my vision . .. "
6. " ... He has entered the
lane the parting 0/
my hatr . ..
i. " ... Even as the bottle 0/
perfume is opened .. .
gunyya kon galin gayo Shyam ..
. performed by Shambhu Maharaj. The opening line of this Thurm'i is " Bata do
kon gal in gayo ShJ,am". The pictures show how the dancer de velops the theme
Sanchari Bhava.
" See for yourself,
he teases me amidst
all my companions"
d. "Mohe chherhp. dekho saL narin me.
" ... he teases ... "
Thumri Andaz, performed by KUll1udini Lakhia,
e. "Nikas chaI he tUIU ko Iai ke Sanwariya ..
A Dadra performed by Shambhu Maharaj . In this Radha entreats Krishna to take her
away, to take her far from the sakhis and gopis so that she can have Krishna all to herself.
She further says that if he will not take her away, she will have to take him away.
I me to yourself . . .
:L'ill lake lOU. "11' pull you by' the hand. ,. 10(('
f. Hori Gat
1. Radha pours water into the pot for prepar· 01
for playing Holi. III, C ow.4
Krishna, seeing this, says, "Wait my t"rn"
Drenched with water sprayed by Krishna Ratlla .
the water on her face . • •• ,.,.,
And also her arms.
S. After changing her clothes she comes a,ain to if Ir
is still intent on mischief. I.. _ .....
6. Krishna again showers coloured waltr on her.
Rendered by Damayanti Joshi.
g. Kaliya Mardana Gat
I. Krishna asks his mother fo r permission 10 go out and play.
2. The ball is thrown up ... and caught .
'3. The ball falls into the river; Krishna is perturbed.
-t . He finds his way in the water.
S. He sees the serpent Kaliya, who bites his leg.
6. Krishna pulls at Kaliya.
7. Krishna thrashes Kaliya.
8. Kaliya subdued, Krishna dances a dance of victory on his
Rendered by Gopi Krishna.
.h. "Krishna kanhaiya nagar natwar panghat par tum gLer
She drops her pitcher and tries
to escape.
He again catches her by the
She gets annoyed.
A nd asks him why he teases her.
5. She says: "You lad,
I'Ll teach you a lesson .
6. " I ·/l pul kajal in yottr eyes".
7. " Adorn "our face wit h a nose-
fi. " Put rings on your fingers.
A Kavita Tora by Rani Karna. The compoSitIOn is by Ihe lale Narayan Prasad .. The theme is as
Krishna meets Radha at Ihe village well and begins to tease her. Sh e drops her pacher, frees herself an her
10 escape. Bul again by the arm. At this she and as ks why he .. '
and Ihen tells hIm that she WIll teach hIm a lesson, one day, b" dresSIng hIm liP lzke a gnl and leasmg
Seeing Ih is, Nn.rayon ( colII/Joser ) will beat his drum and cali everyone to see His plight.
i. Ahhisarika Gat
Rendered by Rohini Bhate. In this Cat, the
Abhisarika Nayika is presented; she goes out
determined to meet her lover, no matter
many difficulties she may have to encounter
on the way.
j. Palta of Gat
T hese two figures show the Palta, by
Kumudini L akhia, used to link consecutive
sequences of a Cal .
I. She thinks: " 1 must meet him no matter what
" I'll go, even if it is pit ch dark, or iJ there is rain and
lightning . .. '
3. " Th e snake may come out to bite me ... "
4. " Or the thorns rna,' ent er my fOOl "
5. " I'll remove my bells, so that nobody kno ws when
I move 011/ "
6. " But I will meet 1Ily lover!"
k. Nayika-Bhedas
who is proud of her charms.
who receives the lover wit h a warm
who J'epents after
has gone.
bashful, she draws the
her face.
her lover
eil over
determined to meet her lover, no
matter what the obstacles thaI
hinder her.
fully dressed and adorned
expectation of her lover.
Hastas are also brought into play. It must be noted.
though. that Kathak does not have a rigid code of
hastas, nor such a rich one. as is found in the Bharata
Nat yam and Kathakali systems of dance. Kathak
dancers do use a number of 'conventional Hastas, but
they do so without deliberation. for they are generally
not versed in what may be called the science of Hasta-
uiniyoga, as propounded by the early writers of Hindu
dance and dramaturgy.
Though not much in vogue now, Dhrupad and
Keertan were originally the only forms in which nritya
in Kathak was presented. The Dhrupad style of singing
came into being during the time of Raja Man Singh
Toomar of Gwalior (1486-1518 A.D.). This style was
evolved by blending the shastraic music. then prevalent.
with certain elements borrowed from the regional folk
music of the time. Once founded. this school of music
rapidly built up a prodigious following, and for several
centuries, it continued to be the leading form of
shastraic music in North India.
Dhrupads are generally in Braj-bhasha. but there
are also compositions in other regional dialects. such as
Magadhi. Gaurhi and Apabhrans. Each composition
has two to four stanzas and the theme generally pertains
to the p r ~ i s e and glorification of some deity. Vira-rasa
is predominant in these ' songs, and after this come
Karuna, Shant a and Sringara. The singing is done in
a fixed style. with no ornamental Hourishes. and the
puce is dignified and majestic, only sober talas such as
Chautal. Sool and Tiura. being used to provide the
rhythmic framework. Keertans are related in style to
Dhrupads. but they can. unlike the latter. also be sung
In chorus. The Leelas of Krishna. which are staged by
the Rasdharis of Brajbhumi. were formerly performed
to the accompaniment of Keertan music only. Some of
the Keertans deal with dance and some have rhythmic
syllables of Kathak and pakhawaj incorporated in their
text ; this shows that Keertan music was formerly
intimately linked with the religious dance of the time.
Some of the prominent composers of Keertans whose
compositions have been used in dance are Krishnadas.
Govindaswami. Haridas and Surdas.
The Dhrupads and Keertans are in a form of poetry
which is generally chaste and uplifting. The descrip-
tive part of the poetry is generally direct in approach.
but sometimes similes are also employed. The words
or things which are commonly used for drawing
parallels in description. it is claimed. are sixteen. four
of these being flowers. four fruits . four birds and four
animals. The Howers are kamala. champa. kumuda and
kCltaki; the fruits. anar. shriphala. bimba and kadamba;
the birds. hansa. kokila. papiya and saras; and the
animals, gaja. mriga. sinha and meena. And even as
these similes are used to embellish the poetry. they serve
as ornaments to adorn the bhaua of the dancers.
Related to the musical form Dhrupad. is the
Dhamar. which is also known as Hori. The songs of
Dhamar and Hori all pertain to Krishna and his
dalliances with the gopis during the Holi festival. The
songs are mostly in Braj-bhasha but there are also
compositions in certain other regional dialects. such
as Bhojpuri and Auadhi. The Dhamar is intended to
be rendered solo, while the Hori can be sung by one
person or by a group of singers. The Dhamar is sung
in Dhamar tala. while the Hori uses the Deepchandi
or Chanchar; these three talas. incidentally. have
fourteen beats each. but they all differ in their structural
The other items of Nritya. which were in vogue as
long as Kathak was a religious dance. are the Pad and
Bhajan. Both of these are devotional pieces. These
items are still performed in Kathak. though to a very
limited extent. The songs are rendered in ragas. but
improvised tunes are also freely used. It would be
pertinent to point out here that in Kathak the appella-
tion Ashtapadi is used not only in connection with
Jayadeva' s Gita Govinda but also to deSignate any Pad
which has the same scheme of versification. Some of the
prominent composers of Pads and Bhajans. whose
compositions are used in Kathak are Surdas. T ulsidas.
Mira and Kabir.
The next stage in the development of Kathak saw
the addition of a new set of items to the nritya content
of this art. This occurred towards the fag-end of the
Muslim hegemony in Northern India and it was
apparently the result of a revolt against the puritanical
rigidity that had come to characterise the musical forms
then predominant. To suit the temperaments of the
leisurely and sensual Nawabs of the time. w mode
of music and dance-the Thumri ......was i d
was rapidly followed by
and Ghazal.
The name. Thumri. it is be d. is derived from
the word thumku. meaning a graceful and balanced
stamping of the foot. It is evident. therefore. that the
Thumri was created as a song for use with dance. Wajid
Ali Shah. the last ruler of Oudh. is believed to have
created the Thumri. and Kadar Piya. Sikandar Piya.
Lallan Piya and Akhtar Piya. court musicians of the
Nawab. are said to have perfected it. A Thumri has only
three or four lines of poetry. but each phrase is repeated
again and again. and every time with a new grace. a
new lilt. a new musical nuance. The singing is done
in classical style. but only simple ragas such as Peelu.
Bhairavi. Kafi. ]hinjhoti, Pahari and Khamai are used.
The main melody follows one raga, but the performer
has the license to tinge this with tonal shades of
other allied ragas. The Thumri is essentially a love ditty
and its dominant rasa is Sringara. The language is
Braj-hhasha or Hindi or Urdu or a mixture of all of
these, but there are also compositions in certain regional
dialects, such as Bhojpuri, Maithili and Magadhi . The
words are invariably full of amorous significance, but
sometimes they also lean towards frivolity or even
When rendering a Thumri in dance a Kathak per-
former generally sits before his audience, covering his
legs and feet with a shawl. He sings a line or a phrase
of the song and at the same time does Bhava for it.
He sings the same piece again and again, modulating
his voice to suit the different Bhavas he wishes to create
and project. His forte is Sanchari Bhava, and with this
he is able to weave many allusions, some of which are
realistic, some allegorical. His face mirrors the hhava
he has in mind. and the eyes, in particular, are signi-
ficantly expressive. The hands and the body are also
brought into play, but their role is only secondary
compared to that of the face and the eyes. Sometimes,
before taking up the Thumri proper, the dancer prefaces
it with what is called the Thumri Andaz. In this the
dancer sings only the first phrase or the first line of
the song and does very subtle Bhava. As he sings his
body opens out, like a bud becoming a Hower, and
gradually, almost imperceptibly. one can see the Bhava
seeping through his form and coming to surface again.
There is a continuous feeling and How of expression,
but it is all done in a very ,subdued manner. Often,
the dancer punctuates his liquid movements with a few
stylised poses, these adopted to provide tangible
links, as it were, to make. the delineation more effective
and readily The Thumri Andaz
partakes of the nature of ' ll prelude and it helps consi-
derably to create the mood, in the dancer as well as in
the audience, for the Thumri proper which follows.
The Dadra, like the Thumri, is a love lyric. It is
so called because it is sung only in Dadra tala. The
language is mostly Braj-hhasha or Hindi and the
melody ',is based on a light raga or on some folk tune.
The Gh'azal, -:which is of Persian origin, is also a love
song, but it is only in the Urdu language. The Ghazal
is generally ' sung on ap. tune, but sometimes
a simple raga is used as the basis of the melody. The
Dadra and Ghazal. both of which originated as musical
forms, entered the realm of Kathak almost as soon as they
were created. Though rarely performed now. they were,
like the Thumri, very popular in the courts of the Muslim
Nawabs of the last century.
The Bhava items enumerated so far are those wLtda
use songs and melodies as accompaniment. Apart from
these, Kathak has also items which use recitative poetry.
The simplest of these is the Kavita. In this the dancer
recites a Kavita, or poem, in a rhythmic manner. laylnf
particular stress on the accented syllables. and at the
same time, he shows Bhava to express the meanin, 01
the words. The Kavitas are mostly in Braj-bhaaha and
the majority of these deal with the diversions and
escapades of the deified heroes of Hindu mythololY with
Krishna, the Eternal Lover, providing an oft-recurrln.
theme. In some Kavitas, apart from the text. there are
also Bolas, or rhythmic syllables of dance, and these are
also set in the pattern and the framework of the vene.
Such compositions are known as KavUa TorGI 01'
Bnmaina Parans; they are in Braj-bhasha and the,
generally recount the attributes or tell of certain inddentl
in the life of some god or goddess. The Kavitas and
Kavita T oras are invariably recited in a fast tempo. the
technical name for this recitation being Parhant. Often.
the dancer does Parhant once. showing its rhythmic:
structure by clapping the hands, and then does it alaln.
accompanying it this time with dance, As the
tion is generally fast, it is understandable that t
accompanying Bhava is not sustained but jerky. If t:ii
may use that word. The entire item unfolds f
apace, so that the beholder at best catches merIJ
Heeting glimpses of the salient moments of the ren i
ing. Nritya is done only for those portions 0
the recitation where there are words: the other portions.
that is, the Bola sequences, are rendered in nritkl.
Belonging to the same category as the
and Kavita T ora are two other items. that ...
Vandana and T andava. The Vandana is an invO:::
piece and it is intended to be performed at the
of a recital. This item was much in vogue when
was markedl y rel igious in form a nd pi rH. but nowadays
thi da nce is sel dom. if ever, seen. The compositi on
i in the for m of a Kavi ta or a Kauil.a T ora and it is
in pra ise of some deity, such as Ganes h. araswal' i,
Durga or Mahes h. orne V andanas, a ft er the ma nner
of Kauita T oras , a l 0 incorpora te rhythmi c Bolas of the
pakhawaj or da n e in their compo iti on ; such compo-
si li ons a re known as Parans, the Ganesh Paran being
an oul ta ndin g exampl e of t hi s vari ety. The T andaucl
compositions, too, have the same structure and the same
ma nner of rendering as the Kavitcls a nd Kauita T oras.
T he theme of the T andavas. however, i limi ted. for t hese
compositi ons perla in on ly to the tTiumpha nt da nce of
some deit y. T here are three types of T andauas genera ll y
used in Kathak. namely, Krishna Tandclua, S hiua
Tanci aua and Rauana T anclcLVcl , but somet imes a fourlh
\ ar iety..-Kalika T andaua, is a lso recogni sed.
T he nritya aspect of Ka thak, as r emarked a t the
oulset. also emb races items whi ch have no on g or
recila ti on but onl y expressiona l da nce. S uch items
belong to t he realm of mime and it would b e pertinent
to ilera te here tha t mi me is a very importa nt a nd
distingui shing fea ture of Ka thak dance. The item in
r alhak in whi h mi.me finds its full es t express ion is the
G a l. a nd of thi there are a few vari eties.
]n the Gat, the dan er takes a n idea or a theme a nd
pre ent il s mea ni.ng through suggestive a nd allusive
faci al expressions and styli sed movements a nd sta nces .
T he simples t form of Gat is the Gat -nikas; in thi s the
per former takes a few steps forwards, the manner of
doi ng thi s bein g related to the theme of the in ter-
preta tio n, and t hen adopts a signi fi cant pose. Fulne
of expr ss ion, however, finds its pl ace in items of
Gat-bhava. In Gat-bhava the dancer takes a n act ion or
a t heme, story or episode and interprets it through mime.
ometimes the subj e' t of the interpretation is very
simple, but its beauty li es in the way. rather, in the
variety of ways in whi ch it is rendered in Gat -bhava.
T hus, for example, in the Ghunghat Gat, the dancer has
to show the act ion ' of pulling the veil over the
face. wh ich he presents in so many different ways :
the manner in whi ch each type of ayaki would do thi
can, in fact, b e Faithfull y portrayed onl y by an
accompli shed Katha k da n er. Or. take a nother simpl e
theme: that of Kri shna playing the flute. There a re
numerous representa tions of thi s in traditional Indi a n
pain ting and sculpture, a nd, if one studi es these closely.
they will all be found to be more or less alike. However.
a Kathak da ncer can portray thi s very theme in scores
of different ways: he ca n present Kri shna in different
emotional sta tes and show how he would raise the flute
to his lips and play it in each situation. The exlent to
wh ich any simple t heme can be developed a nd
elaborated in Ka thnkis trul y remarkabl e.
T he rendering of Gats is a lways accompani ed b y
mUs ic: thi s musi i in th form of a refr a in whi ch j
played on orne 'inslrument, such as the Sarangi. and the
rhythmic element is provided by the labla. \ I\1 hen
p r forming Gats, the ,abla a nd the lehra, or musica l
refr ain, keep fun ti oning in a fas t tempo. but the dance
it elf is rendered in a much slower speed . In Gats whicl,
have a n ela bora te theme. or in whi ch there is more than
one characl er to be portrayed. t-he dancer invari ably
executes Pall.a to link the consecuti ve s quences. The
Pall.a is a movement in whi ch the da ncer teps to one
. ide and a l' the same lime a ll ow hi s body 10 compl ete
a revoluti on.
When performin g GaLs, the da n er invari a bl y
presents a number of them together. However. it is to be
noted that it i not binding on the dancer 1'0 have any
speCia l sequence whil e doing Gats consecuti vely. One
Gat may lell of somelhing and immedi a te ly a fter Iha l
the dancer may show a nother Gat whi ch may have no
li nk wha tsoever with the preceding Gat. Before doing
a ny Gat il' is customa ry for the performer to acq ua int
the a udi enc with its theme. T he themes of Gats can b e
broadly di vided into three types : Gats whi ch deal with
simple actions. GaLs perta ining to Krishna a nd Gal s
based on other mythol ogical cha racter or episodes .
T here a re numerous Ga.!s of each type in vogue. some
of the common ones b eing those pertaining to Hori ,
Pangflar. Gagri , / amuna Tat , Panihari, Bansuri, Mukul.
Cherh-Char/l , Govardhan, Kaliya-Marclana, aD,
Baan, Ghunghat , A nchal, Ram V anauas, Draupadi
Cheer-Harana, Maricha-V adha, A lwlya Uddhara ,
Samudra Manthan, ita Harana, MahahharaLa, Laua-
Kusha and Shankar-Parvati.
nother type of mime that is presented in Kathak
is when showing the different Galis. GaLi mea ns ga it,
a nd it is a part of the N ritya aspect of Kathak to present
the gaits of certa in a nima ls a nd bird and types of
women. The Galis are don in the form of lyri cal
movements a nd simpl e steps and there is not much by
way of facial expression. Exampl es of Gatis based on
the movements of a nima ls a nd birds are Gaja-gaU,
S inha-gaLi, Hansa-gali and Mayur-gati. Galis are also
presen ted to show the character of differen t types of
women, examples of such Galis being the Hansa-
gamani, Gaja-gamani, Sankani, Danka ' Chaturni.
There is yet another way in which Ka t e
mime a nd tha t is in presenting the Nayika-
t'ri tl y spea kin g, thi part of Ka thak ca
in Gat -bhava. To show the character a n
teri ti cs of a N ayika, t he Katha k
actions and movements which are a soc
parti cul ar type of woma n and a t the sam
VffL __
care to fl avour hi interpreta tion with the
, hi ch is representa tive of the Nayika in u
present ation of Nayika-blwclas in the for
not done b y many Ka thak da ncers..-a t I
po iUon now, whatever may have b een tr
However, thi should not b e viewed too s
must be conceded that practica ll y every
da ncer performs a nritya item, whether t
a Thllmri or a nything else in hi s Ie er
rea te a nd proj ects. whet her he is ar
the pi ture of a pa rticul ar Nayika, heroine, or
hero, or of va rious combina tions of t he e
( Phot os by cou rt esy, Shri M ohall Kho kar )
3. The Hastas in Kathak
by Maya Rao
I . Radha applying Surma.
2. Plucking flowers (Samdamsa Hasta).
3. Hands showing a variet y of GhunHghat
k)i Gat
( Katakamukha and Ardhapataka as a .
4. Krishna playing 011 the flut e.
5. K rishna picking up a stone.
6. Radha embracing Krishna (Mrigasirsa and
Katakamukha Hast as) .
Ka lhak employs a seri es of des tures to int erpret the
varied ri chness of creation. Yet it does not follow the
ys tem of memori sin g the hastas as a code under their
prescribed names. as we find in Bhara ta Nat yam or
Ka thakali. In Ka tha k the body as a whole is visualised
as the prime medium of expression. H ence its gestural
language is not classifi ed separately.
For instance. if th e dancer intends to represent the
moon . not only will hi s hand show the Arcl1w-c!lClnclrct
[-[asta, but his body will also bend in an arch to suggest
the idea of the crescent moon.
In place of the codified gestures, Kathak has
evolved a system of its own in imparting tTa ining in the
language of ges tures-through gal , gClt -nikas and
ga L-bhava.
In gal., th e da ncer takes the stance a ppropriate to
the 11.asl,a symboli sing a certain idea: whil e in gat -nikas
he moves forwa rd formin g a posture with a gait,
appropriate to the charader portrayed. In gat -bhaua
which i s in the form of condensed story telling, short
pieces depiding seasonal themes and episodes from
epics or legends, of th e favourit e deiti es, are re-told
th rough a varied use of hastas, embellished with suitable
expressions a nd stances.
Thus we see that there is a definite sys tem of
representing obj eds and ideas through the hastas, whi ch
conforms to the rul es laid down in the ancient texts on
dance and dramaturgy. U nfortunately these hastas are
not known to the Kathak dancers by their textual names.
However, we can infer that in the history of Kathak,
there must have b een a stage when the gestures were
studi ed in strict accordance with the shastras. But later
on, the teachers must have drifted away from the texts
retaining onl y the usages of the gestures whi ch they
handed down to their di sci pl es.
In support o( rpy contention , I shall illustTate the
opening item of Kathak. performed as a n invocation to
the stage and presi din g deity, as taught by Shri
Shambhu Maharaj. This is known as the Rang-Manch
ka Tukra. It is performed in the order given b elow:
A fter taking her position on the stage, the dancer
comes forward, proceeding first to the right, with the
right hand stretched towa rds that direction and left ha nd
res ting on the bosom: the palms of both hands face
downwards. Thi s is repeated to the left , with a
respective change in th e hands. After this the dancer
ta kes a turn with th e symbol of holding Rowers above
the head, a nd then bring down the ha nds offerin g
pus hpanjali to the left. The same order of movements
is repeated for the se ond time with hands folded in
a namaskar in place of the hands holding Rowers. Then
the tempo is rai sed from tha, dun to c1lClugun, revealing
a few beautiful movements a nd the final e i marked by
a namaskar. After this the dancer takes her position to
the left of th e stage.
On an anal ysis thi s piece strangely reveals a striking
imilarity to the push.pcmjali described in 'Sangeeta
Darpancl' , a treati se written in the 17 th century by
C hatura Damodara. who was patroni ed by Emperor
J ehangir. According to thi book which gives deta il ed
descriptions of the dance sequences preval ent at that
time. the dancer opened her recital invoking the bl essings
of Parvati, originator of the lasya vari ety of dance by
r eciting a verse :
BhavcLtam Bhutaye Bhuyat Bhavani ......
Angikrtcl Susangeeta Bhangi Mudi!
rendering this invocation.
shown by moving forward,
' Bh.LL /aye' with alapallava
'Bhuyat' with an enCircling
hasl.a, ' Bhavani' with aniali
and so on. Further, the wei
to be rendered in all the
Employing the ango, upanga
dancer should move first to the
and then turn round Signifying
directions, after which she bows
pushpanjali in pushpaputa hasla. She tou
with anjali hasta.
The close resemblance between these
mentioned, shows that the Kathak
forward the frame-work of gestures and
cribed for pushpanjali in an empirical ma
the literature connected with it.
Swabhavika Hastas : Similarly a
can easily find the various hastas used
da ncers. in the suppl e and Howing movements of their gat
and gat-bhaua. Hastas like pataka, In-pataka, shikhara,
kapiLtha, kataka-mukha, chatura, hamsasya etc. are used
singly as well as in their various combinations, to denote
obj ects and characters identi cal with those mentioned
in the texts. But to a Kathak dancer . who is oblivious
of their technica l names. these hastas have no separate
entity of their own. He merely uses them as swabhauika
ltastas , in other words, gestures which are employed
in tinctively. For instance. he may use a combination
of hastas like kapiUha and shikhara to represent Rama,
but he will refer to it only as Rama ki gat.
Hastas Vibrant with Life : Further, it may be
mentioned that in Kathak the gestural language is
neither conFined to codifi ed hastas nor is it mechanically
decora tive. In thi s system. each finger throbs with life,
modu lating the hand movements to echo the changing
moods of th e them .
For insta nce, take the pal,aka hastas whi ch are u sed
to indi cate the blowing of winds or movement of waves.
If the da ncer intends showing the waves i n a fury, the
mood is ca ptured by violent, broad movements of the
pataka hasta. On the other hand, if he intends showing
the tranquil waves, a rare suppl eness is shown in the
undulating movements of the Fingers in the same ha.sta.
ga in while the balmy breeze of Vasant (Spring) is
re pre ented by a languorous wave of pataka hasta, the
frost-bitten wind (of Winter} is shown with a stiffening
of the Fingers in same hasla.
imil arl y various hastas are used to depict subtle
shades in the mood of a character. For instance, in the
ca e of a nayika waiting anxiously for the a rri val of
h er lover, the ends of her veil are gentl y dra wn over
the face with kataka-mukha hastas a nd removed as
slowly with tri-pataka hastas. to reveal the yearning
desire in her eyes. In the case of a nayika who is sure
lover's fidelity. the veil is drawn over the face
the right hand holding the kataka-mukha
as swiftly by the left hand in ardha,-
to reveal the triumphant smil e playing on
a nayika in her varying emotional a ttitudes
in at least ten vari eti es of hastas. But to
dancer all these are known as vari eti es of
nnl,JDjDn(u! Hastas representing Rama. Arjuna or any
legendary heroes. change according to the itua tion
ich they are placed. For instance, Ra ma, as a
n Ayodhya. is represented by hastas describing
and other distinctive symbol s of the court.
case of Rama, as an Exile in the fores t, the
Nlrlrp"pnt-ing him will cha nge accordingly.
estiue gestures: Bes ides these hastas govern-
and experience. Ka thak has adopted with
s the suggestiue type of gestures . in whi ch
is portrayed through the association of ideas.
instance. the idea of a river is conveyed by
the rowing of a boat or with gestures of
A deer is picturised by showing the prancing
with an alacrity in the u se of the mukul
hastas. The agility of the animal is
m VPv"(l by the darting glances whi I, accompa ny
Srawan or the Rainy season is brought to the
spectators. by showing all the favourite pas times asso-
ciated with the ,;eason. The description is furth er
elaborated by shOWing the impact of the sea on of
romance on parted lovers. To quote another insta nce
of suggesti,ve gestures. a peacock is introduced by first
showing the clouds and rain. two objects which inspire
t he beautiful bird to sing and dance.
Again. the pangs of separation in a nayika are
conveyed most poignantly by depicting the restl e s
Right of the chakor to the distant moon. Thi s is shown
with a dexterous manipulation of the fingers in the
kartari-mukha hasta. supplemented by the movements
of eye-brows which rise alternately. suggestive of the
flapping of wings.
With the synthesis of the Hindu a nd M.uslim
cultures. a set of decoratiue gestures were introduced in
Ka thak which became an integral part of 'gats' carrying
the aroma of the court. Descriptions of these gats are
found in various books written during the last century.
Each of these gats symbolises not only a concrete obj ect
but also a n abstract quality. These gats whi ch a re in the
nature of 'Angaharas' mentioned in Bharatarnaua and
Natya Shastra Sangraha, give graphic detail s of
compositions along with the position of the hands. A
careful study of these will b ear testimony to the fact
that tlwy have been composed according to a certain
system of aesthetics. The scholars who wrote about them
were so parti cular about maintaining the authenticity
a nd aes theti c quality of the e gats, that they deemed it
neces ary to illustrate them l es t they should be mis-
represented. According to the author of 'Naghmat-ul_
HineZ', written in the last century. descriptions of three
hundred and sixty such gats were given in a book written
b y Prakash Kathak. (the great grandfather of Shri
hambhu Maharaj). nfortunately we do not have a
full account of all these gats. which. if obtained. would
reveal the whole gamut of gestures. However. book
written during the fast century give detailed accounts
of a few gats prevalent at that time. 'Ghunchae-Raag';
'Saut -uZ-Mubarak-' (written b y Wajid Ali Shah) and
, Clghmal -ul-Hind' mention 14 gats, while 'Madan-ul-
Musiqui' describes 2l.
hort de cription of these gats will serve as an
illustTa tion to the new set of gestures. which were
introduced over a hundred years ago.
Pari : VVith her hands stretched out to resemble
th e wings of a fa iry, the dancer moves forward
and backwa rd without turning her back to the
a udi ence. H er expression suggests that she is submerged
i n the ocean of love. (T he position of the hands is
identi cal wit h pataka hasta) .
Salaami: Placing her right hand on the forehead
with the palm hollowed and fingers slightly bent.
the da ncer moves forward and backward as in
the previou [tat. H er gaze rests on the left hand
which is dropped in its normal position. (The position
of right hand is identical with sarpa-sirsha hasla
inverted whil e the left i identical hasta).
Fariyad: Rai sing the right
with its fingers bent into the
thumb placed on the index
proceeds forwa rd. with left hand d[(>PI>eCIA111!:!
position. H er pleading eyes are fixed on
(The forma tion of the right hand
mushti hasta).
Mukut: With both the
head to de cribe the crown,
interlocked . the dancer moves
linger of the rai sed hands. (The ha
with uaishnaua hasta).
Anchal: With the right hand
head as if to hold the veil. and l eft
in its normal position. the dancer
her gaze on the left hand.
Muskurati: With the right h
lower lip, es pecially the middl e
lip ; a nd [eft ha nd placed
dosed a nd thumb jutting
he looks over the
pa tron alternately.
identical with pataka.
Muaddab: With
placed on that of the left and h
d lk I d
· 'fi d g ' t keeping er
ancer wa s wit 1 a 19nf e al . 'd real
on the navel. (The formation of the hands IS I en I
, ith the sampula 'Jasta) .
Husn : \ Vi th her right ha nd placed on th e bosom
a nd [eft hand dro pped in its normal position. the dancer
wa lks gracefull y lookin g at h r bosom and then a t the
left hand a lt·ernately. The fingers of t he ri ght ha nd are
d rawn together.
Ghunghat : With the right hand placed on the
head to hold the ed ge of the veil firml y a nd the other
ha nd raising th e vei l from the face. the dancer pro eeds
forwa rd with the gaze res ting on the bo om.
Mehboob: With the eil n over her face
a nd ha nds dropped in their normal position . the
da ncer goe forward. with hes itant step' to suggest that
. he is on a tryst.
Naaz: With the right hand placed in the middle
of th e ches t like a pillar, with its elbow resting on
the pa lm of t-he left hand. which is placed across the
, a ist. the dancer proceeds forwa rd. H er chin res ts on
t he Fingers of th e right ha nd.
Gamza : With the right hand placed on th e head
a nd left hand dropped in the normal position. the
dancer walk with a swaying gait. The fingers of the
r ight ha nd a re bent. H er eyes res t on the bosom.
Ada: With both her hands placed on the sides
a nd gaze lifted towa rds the sky. the dancer walks
forward modes t/ yo
These gats whi c h seem to have won universal
acclaim. a re common to all th e books mentioned above.
T he seven gats in addition to this. found in 'Madan-ul
lusiqui' are:
Kri shna or Kanhai yyCl Gat: With her hands
ugges ting th e holding of the Rut e to the [i1>s. the
da ncer proceeds forwa rd a nd describes a circl e going
down on her knees. (The position of th hands is
identical with chatum hastas).
Sayaka: With her hand stretc hed towards the
the da ncer walks with a hes it a nt gait . her qui ck
frightened gla nces suggesti ng the impact of li ghtning.
Kari shma : Placing the right ha nd obliquely on
t he ri ght s'ide of the head with fingers in level with
I he eye. a nd left hand on the chin. the dancer moves
forward with a res tra int. H er eyes a re directed towards
II, bosom.
Do Dasti : With her right ha nd pl aced near the
left shoulder and left ha nd held tra ight. the dancer
moves First to the right a nd then to the Icrt , looking in
t he direction in whi h her ha nds a re held.
Jaclu : Holding the peshwaz with t-he two Fingers
of her ri ght hand and placing it on her head. the da ncer
moves forward. The left hand rema ins in it s norma l
po ition . (The positi on of her ri ght hand ;s identi cal
with the hamsasya has/a of atya SI1astra).
Mehbooba: Holding the ends of th e peshwaz
on either side. the da ncer walks forwa rd with her gaze
directed towards the patron. (The position of the ha nds
i ' identica l with the lw msasya hastas of Abhinaya
Darpana) .
ng the edge of the peshwa:; wit h
placing it on her wai st. the da ncer
ri ght and returns to the left.
rds the right. her steps a re in
hile returning. they become soft
Apart from the wealth of ge' tur s
bhaua as seen hilh(· rlo, there a re
used in nrirta whi ch conform to
hinaya Darpana, Bharatamaua a nd
of them are employed in rendering
a n opening item in the repertoire.
has lOB in rendering rhythmi c
pa Hems like ParalnBlllQ _ HU",".,U and Paran where the
movements of pI illQ pakhawaj, manjira
an4 other instrume out in the gestures of
the h\,nds. In fact in old book on music in
N or th India a 'Haslak' is as the gesture of the
hand which echoes the e feet marking time
tq the paramelu.
er variety of
ces of the
rhythmi c
shown us the close
between hastas used in Kathak a nd those
found in the texts. I sha ll enumerate the hastas whi ch
can be identifi ed with those from Abhinaya Darpal1a,
Bharatarnaua a nd Natya Shastra Sangraha:
Asamyukta l-lastas..-(Single ha nd ges tures ) :
Pataka. Tri -pataka. Ardha-pataka. Ka rtari -mukha.
rdha-cha ndra , Arala. Mushti. Shikhara. Ka pittha.
Ka ta ka-mukha. uchi , Padma-kosa. Sarpa-shirsh a.
Mriga- hirsha, imha-mukha. Kangula. AlapalJ ava.
Chatura. Bhrama ra, H amsasya. Samdamsa. Mukula.
amyukta /-fastas..- (Combined ha nd gesture):
Pus hpa-puta. An jali, Chatllrasra, Dol a. Avahitta.
Pata ka-swast ika. Ka lasa. V a is hnava. Ham a -pak ha.
Karkata. wastika. tsanga. Chakra. P asa. Kilaka.
Samputa. Matsya. S hankha. N a ga-ba ndha. Kha tva .
ra ruda . Kataka Vardhmana. Tilaka.
NriUa /-fastas..-according 10 BharaLarnava and
Natya hastra Sangraha:..-Udvritta. Talavakrta.
Aviddha vaktra. C ha turasra. Swastika, Vipra kirn a.
·uchi -mukha . Rechita. Pallava. Kesabandh. Lata. Kari-
has ta. Dandapaks ha, Pak avanchita. Pakshapradyotab.
rdhwa ma nda li. Pa rsva mandali . Alapadma. Jnana.
Lalit a . Mudra. a linipadmakosa.
nd according to Abhinaya Darpana: Pataka .
wastika. Dola, Aniali . Ka taka-vardhana. Sakata. Pasa.
Kil a ka . Kapittha. ikhara. Kurma, Humsasya and
Alapadma .
In conclusion, we may say t·hat. as these gestures
a re a lready in vogue. they may be studi ed and class ifi ed.
so that a standa rdi sed form of them can be made a n
essenti a l part of the training of a Kathak dan er.
( Photos by courtesy, Maya Rao )
III. Music, TheIne and
1. The Role of Rhythm
by S. K. Saxena
assume that the reader has a fair knowl edge of
dance and rhythm. My attempt here is only to
in analysing this knowl edge. I propose to adopt
point of view_grammatical. psychological
The object of my analysis is Rhythm a a
of Kathak dance.
remarks appear necessary with regard
the field of 'taal' . I have to make
crudely, due to limitations of space.
iere movement of things in space or of ideas in mind,
is just a fact, not value. It becomes laya on getting
involved with the mind flowing along with it. D efinite
understanding necessitates measurement of laya in term
of extent, speed and manner of movement. This
gives us taal!
That which makes tbis measurement pos ibl e is the
unitary being of the "matra'. But its being 1 / 16th of
'tritaal' is only the grammatical. not the entire, signi -
fi cance of the matra in this timing-cycle. As experienced ,
the matra has a distinct psycho-aestheti c setting, whi ch
gives it the value it has. First, it signifies a di stinction
which thought everywhere needs. To think of something
is at once to hold onto, or to interj ect, a di stinction
therein. A ' matra' is the recognition of this primal
affirmation of thougbt, wben it hu to deal with a Aow.
It gives the mind a foothold, as it were, into the being
of laya. Secondly, the experience of a ' matra' is a t once
one of beauty, of the accents of a Row, and not one of
the mere succession of detached units. A flow tha t
a ffirms as it slides, and slides over what it affirms-thi s
is the bas is of our experience or 'layakari', providing a t
once the grammatical and aestheti c fundaments of the
la lter. The numberless manifestations of rhythmic charm
only shuFne and re-shuf1le the constituents of thi s ori gina l
experi ence. Discreteness within or against continuity-
I-hi s is to my mind the very breath of ' layakari' . H ence,
in the very basic ' bols' of 'tatkaar' in Kathak dance. we
have at the outset the contrast of err with q.. matra
a sserting. through an emphatic stroke of the dancer'

feet. its (relati ve) independence as against the Row of
the timing-pattern ; the li stener ontinuing the Row of
' laya · imaginatively. inspite of the defiant ' matra'; and
the Row of the pall ern creatin g tin y tufts of such accents,
strokes or bols around the ' matras as are not normally
marked on the tabla' and so fall between the 'matras',
thus r ela ting to ' [aya's' own self-oF all thi s vari ed beauty
of rhythm the raw ma teri al is provided by the mind's
perception of di screteness in the continuity of Row. The
total fact-the di screteness or individuality of accents,
not merely in itself. but a diversifying the Row-is to be
perceived by the lis tener. or else he will remain wholly
in ensiti ve to the charm of ' layakaari'.
Layakaari is the temporal representation of the
diverse as articulating, vivifying. and variegating and
manifesting. but. IJY no means exhausting or disrupting
the original continuum. And. considering that the raw
ma terial of beauty. here. is onl y the mind as interjecting
di stinct ions into ideall y ap prehended motion. the more
one ma nipul ate rhyt hm in numberl ess way. the more
deepl y is he imbued-often visi bly to the point of
with a sense of infinity of ' laya'. It is not without
that, when it comes to the arti culation of a really
pattern. the ' parhanl ' of a veterer Kathak such as
rityacharya N arayan Prasad of Jaipur g
or Acharya Sunder Prasad. the
representative of both Lucknow and Jaipur
deepens into a tone of di stinct wo
experi ence of ' layakari'-not the merely
arti cul ation of a pa ttern . for . I repeat. '
manner and ' matms ' reall y means the
ment with a Row-is. in normal human
most obvious experi ence of infinity
a mount of help From the senses.
subj ect ive element. the m
experi ence of awe and -in
dwindles into a merely
possibili ty of the deepening
experi ence of the ever more
Kathak dan e). collapses forthw
Rhythm envelopes the visible aspect of Kathak
dance in a tissue of ideality, rarefying it, as it were, and
tempering the merely visible with the fineness of the
imaginatively apprehended. Specific timing patterns
(all set in tritaal) are to be analysed later in this essay.
but, by way of anticipating for the reader one of my
ultimate conclusions. I may here say that the really
subtle moments of rhythmic appeal speak largely to the
understanding. though certainly they are also perceived,
because heard by the ear. And the understanding which
enjoys 'layakaari ' in Kathak dance knows distinctively
what timing cycle is being employed; Rows uninterrupted
with the otherness, not separateness, of the patterns being
woven across it; and even deviates readily along with
the performer's deliberate ramblings into patterns which
cut and cross. at delightfully varied angles, the 'thekaa's'
own frame, without for a moment forgetting the manner
and speed of the latter-the true aesthetic matrix of the
temporal aspect of the recital. so that the effect of
variety, of contrast, of deliberate slackening and gather-
ing up of speed, is never lost. Such a sustained.
penetrating inclusive and elastic effort of attention is not
easy, and that is why the aesthetic charm of layakaari is
often missed.
(a) THAAT: We may now pass on to consider
the different aspects of Kathak dance from the viewpoint
of rhythm. Generally, a Kathak dance recital begins with
'thaat', which is a beauteous opening posture providing
that initial transmutation of the merely physical into the
aesthetic which is necessary, if dancing is to appear a
creating of beauty. But the statuesque quality of the
posture is not mere stillness ; rather, it is self-possession
.-creative energy held patiently in check and allowed
to manifest itself in the quiet, yet varying Row of
'laya', rather than through the impatient. diversified and
sparkling form of jugglery with 'taal' and footwork. The
graceful movements which the dancer's body here
executes-without really leaving the spot of standing-
are technically called 'kasak', 'masak', 'duran', 'muran',
all of which present the figure as teeming with the
subdued strength of 'Zaya'. Whether executed with the
eyebrows, neck, wrist or waist, these movements are
soft, gliding, continuous. wavy, full, and supple. A
'thaat' brings out the continuity or the Row of 'laya'
rather than the discreteness of 'matras', the latter
appearing rarely except in the 'sum' which. when
attained, must needs be signalled by a sharp, and clearly
defined (not obtrusive) movement or turn of the neck
or the eyes, or a stroke of the feet. If the 'tabla' player
presents a simple 'thekaa' when the 'thaat' is being
struck, the net aesthetic impression produced by the
' wrist' and other movements of the dancer. in the mind
of an understanding onlooker, will be one of the Row
of 'laya' as animating and running through the 'matras'.
(b) AMAD: We now come to the 'amad'. It
is certainly an Urdu word which means advent or
coming. But, coming of what? This is precisely the
question which remains to be clearly answered by the
interpreters of Kathak dance. Some are of the opinion
that the pattern called 'amad' is really to be played
on the tabla and that it heralds the advent of the dancer.
But, this tells us nothing about the aesthetic character
or the temporal design of the' amad'. Our understanding
of the 'aamad' should, on the one hand, mark it oll
dearly from the ' thaat' and other facets of Kathak dance;
and, on the other. give us a clear idea of the amad's
own nature. To my mind, an 'amad' in Kathak dance.
as probably also in the 'gatkaari' of instrumental music,
is a pattern which emphasizes the manner of gaining
access to the ' sum'. Its net aesthetic effect is that of the
pattern gathering up-in its last sub-section, which,
because of the 'upgathering', moves fast with its inner
accents very closely knit. yet without eclipsing or
blurring one another-its loveliness, as it were, to be
delivered finally at the 'sum'. The orientation of the
approach at once underlines the pivotal quality of the
goal. which appears to determine the movement from
the end-side; and so, the 'amad' also emphasizes the
'sum' as the aesthetically centra\, and that in the very
act of outlining the manner of approach to the 'sum'.
TRAL: Some remarks as to the nature of the 'sum'
or the focal point of the timing cycle here appear
necessary. The thakaa, as the ground of all 'layakaari',
must have a character of its own. It must have some
centralized significance; it must appear -as a structural
unity with a distinctive centre. That centre is the 'sum'.
But, I hasten to add, the aesthetically central is a fount
of value; it does not merely have a specifk location in
the timing-cycle, but must appear as determining the
beauty of that which encompasses it. Now, if the 'sum'
is to reveal its true character as an aesthetic centre, or its
legitimate place in the economy of the' thekaa', it must
appear distinctive in two ways. First, it must have an
unmistakable sharpness and definiteness about it,
whether this suggestion is conveyed by a stroke of the
feet or through a sharp turn of the neck. Also, let us
not forget that the 'sum' is intended to mark the
{relative} cessation of the Row or 'laya' as marked by
the 'thekaa' or as manifest in a temporal pattern, and
that, therefore. on attaining to the 'sum', the dances
must grow statuesque, if only for a brief instant; or else,
the pattern would appear not completed. but only over-
reaching itself into the subsequent one, and the danein",
as a whole, would seem a bit too Howing. deficient
clearly in definiteness of inner, temporal accents-a
blurring or interfusion, not distinctness. of details.
Secondly, the 'sum' should appear not merely as the
last stroke or 'matra' of the 'thekaa' or the pattern, but
as the logical culmination of a self-evolving movement.
Putting the two together, it might be said that the 'sum'
should not merely come but emerge. The manner in
which the pattern gains access to the 'sum' is the 'amad',
and the exact point at which (or the manner in which?)
this movement originates is 'nikaas'. It is the clearly
identifiable, because distinctly designed, character of
the 'amad' understood as the manner of gaining access
to the 'sum' which makes the old masters say that the
advent of (or approach to) the 'sum' should be visible
from a distance, as it were-from its point of emanation
or 'nikaas', to be precise.
ANALYSIS OF AMAD: A characteristic
'a.mad',1 employing only the basic 'boZs' or textual
symbols. of Kathak dance is as follows:
(ffiT ffiT q"T ffiT dl ffiT ffiT ffiT
I 5 8 9 12 13
aa q"a q"amr)
S 9 13 16
( ffiT ffiT q" T ffiT m ffiT mr ffiT ffiTffiT
1 9 11 13
(ffiT ffiT m ffiT ajT ffiT ffiT ffiT ffiT ffiT
1 5 6 7
ffiTmr aT ffiT m ffiT d1 ffiTT m
--8 9 12
m ffiT q"T ffiT ffiT aT q"a q"T)
13 15 16 1
The three main sub-sections of the above pattern
are each put within a brackets: and. when actually
danced or played at the tabla. the third sub-section moves
quicker (in respect of 'laya') than the second. and the
second moves quicker than the tirst. Different exponents
of Kathak dance present widely different patterns as
'amads', and it is very difficult to define this aspect of
a Kathak recital. But. two theoretical considerations
certainly give us some help in this direction. First, in
so far as it comes quite early in a regular performance.
it appears safe to say that an 'amad' should employ
only the basic' boZs' of dance such as the ones quoted in
the pattern above.
Secondly, the How of 'taaC', upgathering iteself
visibly as it were. to gain access to the 'sum'_this indeed
appears to be the main aesthetic character of 'amad',
understood as a distinct aspect of Kathak dancing.
Aesthetically, a true 'amad' always appears as a tribute
to the 'sum'. A 'thaat' is danced in slow speed. The
How of 'laya' here is evenly spread throughout the timing-
cycle: it may. and does. certainly vary in its manner
of movement. but (excluding perhaps the 'sum') it does
not show up any particular 'matra' or sub-section of the
timing-cycle as more important than the rest. Finally.
the stage-space covered in dancing a 'thaat' is very little.
An 'amado presents some features which are quite
different. It may well begin slowly, but. generally in the
second sub-section, it soon quickens itself. the process
rising up to a climax in the tinal sub-section. If it is
properly danced, it shows up the manner of gaining
access to the ·sum· .......and. therefore. also the latter itself-
as aesthetically more important than the other parts of the
pattern and the timing-cycle. Here much more ground
is covered in all directions than in 'thaat·. And.
generally speaking, we may say. that. as contra-
distinguished from the thaat'. an 'amad' emphasizes the
self-activation of 'taaZ' rather than the subdued
processence of 'laya'. the brilliant. inwardly differen-
tiated. successive and diverse aspects. rather than the
self-possession. of dancing.
(c) NIKAS: Quite a popular 'nikaas' is the
following one:
ffiT !q"T a q"
1 (A) 8
q"T q-{
14 (C) I 6 (D) 9
(F) 8
10/ late Hanuman Prasadji 0/ Jaipur Gharana.

14 (E) Iii
The tirst begins. at the 'sum'. C and D are danced
by employmg a spiral turn of the waist sUlfg tiv 1
a 'meend', because of which the entire pattern caiW
'.meend ka nikaas'; and at the tinal mr a PGIe
IS struck at the 8th mat'ra" leaVing the gap from tLe
9th to the 1st matra or the sum' to be filled up by the
imagination of the audience.
Here. the following remarks appear necessary.
First, the truly appreciative enjoyment of a 'ni£aa,'
consists essentially in the ability of the onlooker to
complete ideally the timing-gap between the moment-
deliberately made distinctive by reinforcing the final ft
,",ith a gentle distinctive turn of the neck by tLe
dancer. and, what is more. with a very sharp on 'tLe
left one' by the tabla player-at which tht:: dancer stopa
short. and the focal point of the timing-cycle or tLe
'sum'. so that. as a matter of concrete experience, cia.
full throb of delight comes only when the latter,. .....
to come or emerge. From the viewpoint of rhythm. It
appears safe to detine 'nikaas' as a pattern. the 'amad'
of which is supplied by the onlooker's imagination, the
gap covered here being distinctly longer than in tLe
case ·of a pattern of 'anaagat' variety.
gination. which experiences what (or as) tLe
eye and the ear do not. plays a very vital part
in the enjoyment of a Kathak recital. can hardly be over-
stressed. and yet this is precisely what is so o&.
ignored by the interpreters of Kathak dance. The pIa,
of imagination. while enjoying a Kathak recital. I repeat.
consists to a very great extent in appreciatinlf Ib
rhythmic variety and charm. Even the very basic 'bo' ..
of dance are required to be taken as what they actuall,
are not if danced, imagination thus being allowed. 01'
rather expected, to play freely from the very outset.
Dancing the basic 'boZs': aT .rt mr, the feet
can certainly appear to emulate the sharpness of 81'
and but how can they in any way reproduce tLe
measure of continuity which the articulation of
essentially involves 7 The feet_not the upper parts 01
the body which may well suggest continuity throuth
Howing movements such as 'kasak' and 'masak'-are
absolutely incapable of reproducing continuity, U
opposed to sharpness, discreteness and succession of
'boZs'. Such 'bois' as are certainly executed.
-with a fair faithfulness of euphonic form, if not or
euphonic content-by the feet or by the toes, to he
precise, but even here the net impression is, one
of quick succession, not one of continuity which
the last letter demands. The conclusion is, therefore.
irreSistible, that the little suggestion of anj
inclusiveness which as spoken involves, IS expect
to be supplied to footwork by the onlooker's imalfinatioD
which 'parhant' or the articulation of 'bols' seeica to
help in this respect.
The aesthetic fundaments of the temporal
of Kathak dance are prOVided not by the cool int .::
which calculates or counts the number of rrudras, of
by our imaginative identification with the diveraitJ
" . d' .t...! d not dtsruptiDl'
matras punctuatIng or IverSIlYln.. ud
the How of 'Zaya', and with the continuity and v OdD
movement of 'laya'.
Secondly, it ;s important to see how. during actual
dancing, the execution of a 'nikaas' is affected by the
'boZs' played by the accompanist on the tabla. In fact.
the latter here provides what the former <:Ioes not-that
is, a close tilling of strokes or 'bols'. Thus, when the
man doing 'parhant' recites only such 'boZs' as:
m q-{ ffiT, m q-{ ffiT,
and the danseuse is executing only simple, leisurely
'rounds ', the tabla player diversities the vacant inclusive-
ness of the latter by playing a closer array of 'boZs',
such as: eTT fen>rr 'lia, aT fa;;rr cpij'
or even the more compact succession of the following
tn fen>rr q"iTfae f'liG <.i'fi
The aim of aesthetic creativity is here obvious_
illustrating the ever-limited grasp of the 'matras' by
highlighting the unused space of time or ' laya' left by
them. through an interjection of 'bois' into it.
Even like the tabla playing, the bodily movements
of the dancer try to reinforce. by imitating or just
suggesting, the euphonic manner and content of the
articulation of 'boZs' or 'parhant' which accompanies
the dancing. There are many effects which mere
footwork can never accomplish_such as the amplitude,
depth or elongated and tremulous quality of 'boZs'. And
so here we have to fall back upon the suggestive quality
of the movements of the upper part of the body. To
me it appears generally true to say that. whereas the
footwork is intended mainly (not entirely) to mark. or
copy. the intervals of time between the accents of a
pattern recited. the movements of the upper part of the
body try essentially to capture. by just suggesting. the
sound-effects of the 'bols'. To take an instance. the
'boZs' f'Jflf6 and n in 'parhant' have two main
of sound as emanating or
diversifying itself from a common centre. as in the
pronouncing of and and the temporal
closeness of Cf and the former merging itself quickly
into the latter. The one is the euphonic content. and
the other the temporal form, of the 'boZs' . In dancing
them, the footwork imitates the latter. and the 'ang'
or general bodily bearing suggests the former through
a wavy Hourish of the palms crossing each other over
the head.
Again. the 'bol' has a weighty. elongated
quality which footwork cannot suggest. and which is,
therefore. sought to be conveyed through a movement
of the arms which suggests inclusiveness and continuity.
Of course. here the feet too have to be emphatic
in their strokes. The dancing of the following 'paran',
a composition of the late Nrittyacharya Narayana
Prasad of Jaipur 'gharana', illustrates the points
discussed above:
ia f<fe f<fe
r' (A) 4
'fllT fae
13 (0) 16
S (8) 9
GRTcrcr, eTCf'a'lm eTd d 'I '$j d 1 q'T
r (E) 8 9 (F) 16
S (H) i2
(C) 12

(G) "
<fT'f tf'T aT, <fA <fT
13 (I) 16t It (J) 4 5 (K) 9
f'liCcf'fi' m, WRfT
13 (L) 16 1 (M) 4. St (N) 8
f'liG<fRtfr.rerr f'liCcf'fi' <fAtf'T
9 (0) 13 1 (P) 4 S
q"T, !q"<fdT f'lie<fT'f <fTiI tf'T
(Q) 8t
9t (R) 12 13 (S)
An analysis of the above pattern should bear out
many of the general remarks made by me earlier with
regard to the aesthetic, grammatical and psychological
nature of 'layakaari' in Kathak dance. The various
pieces above indicate the temporal length of the different
sub-sections of the pattern in terms of 'matras '. Thus,
the tirst sub-section A begins at the tirst 'matra' or the
'sum' and ends at the close of the fourth 'matra'. There
is, however. no pause between the last 'bol' of this
section and the initial • bol' of the following one. that
is. B. Gaps. in the sense of absence of 'boZs', (though
'laya' as lapse of time is obviously present all along)
OCcur only between I & J. K & L. M & N. 0 & p, Q &R.
1£ I now read the pattern according to the indications
given above, the movement is as follows. From A upto
the beginning of I. the How of ' laya' is almost wholly
even. and so easy to follow. If there is anything striking
here. it is only the euphonic charm of the 'boZs', not the
temporal manner in which they move. And yet. even
from the viewpoint of the latter, there are certain details
which deserve notice. and which. though very brief.
contribute substantially to one's enjoyment of 'layakaan'
or the varying movement of 'laya', and which are
absolutely necessary if the 'parhant' is to have its desired
aesthetic effect. Thus, the err which comes at the end of C
slightly overflows the 12th 'matra' as it ends: and in
G. while executing which the dancer too suggests quick
succession with footwork. the is to be pro-
nounced loosely, so that the "!" appears coming
immediately after the q" and not stiffly along with
the latter. in which case the relaxed. dancing character
of 'parhant' would be impaired. Again, the 'boZs'
and in F and H respectively, are to be
articulated with their last letters perceptibly elongated:
or else, not only the aesthetic design but the temporal
accuracy of the pattern will be marred. The really subtle
moments of rhythmic manipulation. however. occur only
from T onwards. Thus. the entire bunch of 'boZs'
encompassed in T is reeled off rapidly. in a rolling
manner without a break and also without accentuating
any ·bol'. within the time taken up by about 31 matras,
ending slightly before the 'sum' which obviously comes
at the 1st 'matra'. It is precisely this deliberate ending
of the piece a little before the 'sum'. which here provides
the real charm of 'layakaari'. The effect is further
enhanced by the fact that the following cluster of 'boZs'.
I begins slightly after the 'sum', the central point of the
intervening gap-that is, the 'sum'-being affirmed only
by or in. imagination which at no time forgets the How
of 'laya', and not by speech. The (J)
commencing shalply and drawing itself out across 21
'mafras' constitutes another accent of grace.
How many 'matras' the el'l:tire pattern. or every
sub-section of it occupies-this is the grammatical aspect
of the matter. The psycho-aesthetic aspect consists in
the mind's imaginative experience of how, across the
background of the continual How of 'Zaya' as marked by
the'thekaa' or the playing of the basic timing-cycle, the
pattern-as recited, played on the tabla or danced-
appears Howing with a variform grace of manner, first,
evenly for some time, occasionally showing a 'boZ' or two
overHowing the ' !natra' which seems to contain it. then
quickening itself effortlessly into a closer succession
of unaccentuated boZs (I), withholding itself daintily
fTom an actual contact with the 'sum', resuming again
from a little after the latter, the avoidance of the 'sum'
on both the sides serving as a delightful experience of
what has been called the "wanton heed and giddy
cunning' of musical creativity, and highlighting, in the
very act of excluding it, the 'sum' as a distinct, though
imaginatively apprehended, accent. The charm of this
varying manner of movement, will be wholly lost on
a man who is not able to hold on to the 'thekaa' in the
midst of all this patterning, In 'Zayakaari', as perhap
nowhere else, bereft of its ground, a pattern is
immediately a maze,
The last 'boZs' of the pattern coming almost
immediateZy before or after the 'sum' (mlf) provides
us, respectively, with two well -known kinds of rhythmic
manipulation,-'anaagat' and 'ateet'. An important
question that we have here to face is this: do 'onaagat'
and 'ateef' describe only an individual 'boZ' or 'stroke'?
My answer is an emphatic 'no' . Certainly, it is only the
last 'boZ' which is 'seen' to fall before or after the 'sum',
but the reason of its aesthetic appeal is not confined to
it. rather, it consists in the entire manner of movement
of the preceding 'boZs '. In vocal music, things may be
different from what they are in dance, though certainly
they are not as different as they appear to be. We should
not thinl, that aesthetic effect in the case of the vocalist
who emphatically nods his head, either immediately
before or after the 'sum', while showing 'Zayakaari',
consists merely in the nodding. Taken by itself, the
nodding is merely a physical act. Its suggestiveness here
is due essentially!/) the fact that it is seen to come before
or after the 'sum'. The layman does not perceive this
relation, and so remains wholly unaffected-in fact, he is
only amused- by the nods.
But even if he were not thus incapable, the listener
can hardly be expected to derive real aesthetic enjoy-
ment out of such exhibitions of 'ateet' and 'anaagat' by
the classical vocalist who, forgetting that its aesthetic
suggestiveness is rooted essentially in the How of 'Zaya'
which contains and animates it, fails to preface it with
a systematic movement of 'Zaya', so that the 'matra'
appears to degenerate into a mere isolated stroke.
Merely stopping this side, or landing that side of the
'sum' is only to be able to time the stroke correctly;
it does not be(;ome an aesthetic act unless it is done
according to a design. The Kathak dancer knows this
well. I quote the following pattern to serve all
an illustration of the true 'anaagat' variety:
'Sf 1fT'fT
1 5 8
(1m f'tic tifT!:fTtifT
11 13 16t
This is a pattern which requires very rapid
utterance, with hardly any breathing time between
of inner accents. The division of the pattern :::
separate sub-sections, with their length in tenns r
matras indicated below each, has been done only
facilitate 'parhant'; it does not mean any real lap
anywhere. The opening 'fT begins before the 'auna'
falls at ."' in the the •
commg as a tmy spurt after the slightly lengthened
and followed immediately by Provide.
a really delightful ' boZ' or turn; and, proceedin,
electrically, the pattern ends a little before the 'suna',
Analysis reveals that the distinctive effect of the &rat
is due to the fact that it is sandwiched
between on the side and a very close array 01
'boZs' on the other side : 'fr so that.
in the limited time granted to it, it has to assert itself-
and, as it appears, to keep the two sides apart--witL
the quickness of a Hash the movement of its 10und
assuming the following manner:
The three 'kittaks' which follow later in this pattern
do not have this effect, because they are not followed
by such a compact filling of 'boZs', As regards 'parhant',
the 'boZs' here differ not only in their euphonic content.
but in the varying accent that they receive, Thaa.
whereas the first 'fT is accentuated, the followm,
is spoken in an evenly relaxed
manner, the stress returning slightly again in the ...
Accent in speech is 'laya' as determining the Bow
of sound and making it significant; and the 'par"""
of the rhythmic patterns is a remarkably succeulal
attempt to create beauty out of this one element 01
speech, leavin g aside the latter's thought-conteat
altogether, though the contribution made by the sound 01
'boZs' to the total effect cannot be ignored, But, the
more important thing to note here is the fact that the
pattern in question has a distinct design-it bemt
clearly manifest in its sequence of 'dhaas', first ODe,
then two, and finally three; and that its entire &ow
moves so breathlessly, and with such a coercivenello
that, as the Gestalt psychology of perception would haw
it, the mind Hoats naturally and with relish aaG" the
little gap between where the pattern ends and the
closely following ' sum',
An 'ateet' pattern deviating from the 'sum'_in tLII
case, overHowing the latter-in a similarly well desiped
manner is as follows:

(I<ti ?ff<: ?ff<:
I - . .. .. .. '" 8 9 ' ''1l
IS 2 3 10
'ff'fnr'f 'ffcrf.T'f erferfif''f f'fl1H 'fC'ffOR me
11 2 3
?ff<: ¥:Tn: ¥:ff<:
13 .... .... ..:I .. 4 5 · .. 10
'f+IT'R' ;rTii"fuc: 'ff'ffif'f mtrT
i1 14 IS 6
'fll'ffif., 'ff'fflr;r 'ff'q ."... a''''
7 14 's ,
'in: ... ?ff<: "i"!:.?fn: ...
9 16 I
'flffCJ;c <1Tiffuc: 'ff'f11R" 'ff'fm'f 'ff'fflr'f
l' 10 II 2
That the euphonic quality of 'boZs' and the order
in which they are disposed contribute vitally to the
net effect of the total How is borne out clearly by the
following pattern in which the first and third
sub-sections, repeated twice later, present a distinct
designing of 'boZs', suggesting 'sawaaZ'-'javaab', as the
Kathaks would say:
mOR 'ffOR fif'f fOR m'f'f
I 4 S 8
I 12 13 IS
q-{ q-{ q-{ m m
16 2 3 S
mOR flf'f!:fT fif'f flr<f 'f11fct;c
7 W II U
m q-{
IS 2 3 S
q-{ m (Ii' q-{ q-{ m m q-{
6 0 9 11
fif., 'fT 'fm'f fif., m'f
13 16 I '" 4
ff.J(F'flc::a'fl elffiif 'fffilf m m
8 9 11
aT m
12 14 IS
In the end, I may be allowed to cite a pattern which
is to be danced in vilambit 'laya', and which, besides
illustrating how 'boZs' may be interjected as tiny tufts
of sparkling accents either between the successive
'matras' or across anyone of them, lends itself to some
linear representation-which, as many Kathaks and tabla
players confirm. constitutes the faint, yet necessary,
psychological basis of aesthetic creativity, during
'parhant' or playing out of patterns-and suggests
a truth of profound theoretical importance with regard
to our system of rhythmic manipulation. (Fig. A).
The figure below aims at indicating the varying
How of layu-sometimes relaxed and easy-paced, and
sometimes moving very fast. The change in manner is
indicated by the number of 'bols' which the particular
section of the 'thekaa' embraces, more 'boZs' suggesting
a compact filling in leisure time, and more Huent
'parhant', and quicker dancing. The dotted lines
represent the quiet How of ' Zayo'-that is, without 'bols',
The pattern begins a little before the 'sum' with
in which it is really the 'f which fall s emphatically at
the 'sum', Relaxed or closer CUTVes (of continuous lines)
suggest respectively similar character of the How of 'boZs',
The most stretched-out articulation runs in the case of
or or, 'fT which traverses almost two 'matras' and the
longest spell of quick 'parhant' is demanded by the
closing 'tiyaa' .
Theoretically, the important thing to note here is
this, The 'tiyaa' or the division of 'Zaya' into three equal
sub-sections-with which the pattern ends, proceeds
breathlessly 'bedam', and, if correctly articulated, ends
at the outer edge or the 'sum', as it were, The suggestion
may appear, but is not, fantastic. Being in 'taaZ', like
being in 'svara', does permit of qualitative distinctions,
Two men may both be 'in svara', and yet one may be
more 'in svara'-more fineZy musical-than the other,
Even so, two strokes on the tabla may both be on the
'sum' in the settinll of their respective 'thekaas', and yet
one may be more at the centre of the 'sum' itself than the
other. Or else, why is it that the sharp Ifi in
c1hamaar, appears more deli ghtful as 'sum' that the
'sum' of any other 'thekaa'? The lesser the time which
the utterance of a 'boZ' occupies, the more centrally does
it pierce the core of the 'matra', In a way, 'layakaari' is
the aesthetic demonstration of the infinite divsibility of
10 It II i3 \4 lS If. t
, CJ coo c::so
• -== :J:::; =!s r' '\:jr'----" &0,4\ 0c::'""o 0 "'d (
< ....-' C> V U 4Qi U e
'-IT <IT -- ffi - '1fT
Fig, A
2. Raslila-An Operatic Drama
by S. Awasthi
Raslila of the Brajbhumi is the most ancient and
most developed folk drama. It is also the most represen-
tative of the folk dramatic art. its conventions and
presentational methods. It has a continuous. unbroken
tradition of more than 400 years. Its various components.
the spoken word material. music and dance. as well as
its presentational devices. are so traditionalized and
stylized that. in spite of new inHuences and importation
of new materi al. in the form of prose dialogues on
contemporary themes. songs composed in new metres
of folk as well as modern variety. this form of operatic
drama has survived in its original character and retains
its thentrical vitality as well as its ritualistic character.
Today. Raslila. even in its decadent form. provides
theatrical enjoyment and religious experience to vast
audiences in whole of Northern India and in many parts
of Southern India as well. The Krishna legends.
presented in these lilas and their spoken word material
drawn from the rich heritage of medieval Vaishnava
poetry. is an integral part of the Indian literary culture.
and these Raslilas awaken histrionic sensibilities. provid-
ing aesthetic enjoyment to the audiences belonging to
different geographical areas and language groups.
This temple opera seems to have evolved out of the
great tradition of recitation of the lila-kavya much before
the advent of the great religious poets of the medieval
period. who produced a literature of lyrical songs singing
the episodes of the life of Krishna. This tradition of
recitation reaches a culminating point in poet Jayadeva
in the 12th century; and it is manifested later in the
devotional songs of Chandidas and Vidyapati; and it
embraces the whole of Northern India with regional
variations in poetic and musical content.
The tradition of recitation got new impetus in
the hands of the Vaishnava reformers and poets of the
Vaishnava cult in the 16th century. The rise of magni-
ficent temples. during the 16th and 17th centuries helped
the growth and consolidation of this dance-drama by
providing an arena for its performances. It was the
temple culture that enriched the dramatic elements of
the Raslilas and gave them the gaiety of religious
ceremonial. And for the last 400 years. the temple was
the theatre-hall of the Raslilas. imparting theatrical
virtues to it.
The stirring devotional music. the impressive
architectural background. the simplicity and conviction
in delivery. the element of devotion to awaken the
sensibilities of the spectators are the unique contribution
of this form of drama. which was born in. and grew
round the temple. And now when. after residing for
several centuries in the temple. it has left its original
home and is wandering about in the streets. it still
preserves those elements cultivated in the temple.
There is complete lack of authentic documentary
evidence to determine the origin of the Raslila. There is,
(\n the one hand. the assertion that the medieval Raslilas
are related by an unbroken tradition with some of the
ancient dramatic forms mentioned in the Natya Shastra
and other dramaturgic works. On the other hand. its
efBorescence in the 16th century makes some believe
that its history should not be carried beyond the 16th
century. The material. however. for a scientific investi-
gation of these two opinions is so meagre and
unauthentic that it is difficult to rebuild its history with
any kind of certainty. This situation is complicated by
the fact that the origin and growth of the lila-natakas
is shrouded by many legendary anecdotes.
The only written document is 'Ras-Sarvasva' by
Shri Radha Krishna. which gives some facts about early
history of Raslila. On the basis of this book and other
secondary material we can say that the present dramatic
and presentational form of the Raslilas was created in
the 16th century; and that the most valuable contri-
bution in the development of this form is that of Swami
Hari Das and Shri Narayan Bhatta. The third important
name in the history of Raslila is that of Shri Ghamand
Dev. who was a great organiser of Raslilas. These
religious reformers and poets accepted the dramatic form
as an effective medium for a deeper religious experience
of their teachings and organised 'RasasthaI' and
'RasmandaI'-arenas for Ras performances-in the whole
of Braj area.
Ras. Rasak. Natya Rasak. Hallisak. Charchari,
Sangeetak. Geyarupak. Satak or Sattak are some of
the terms denoting dramatic dances and ballad-operas,
mentioned in the Natya Shastras, Harivansh-purana,
Kavyanushasan, Kamasutra and many other dramaturgic
and literary works. The characteristics of these indicate
that they are all a variant of some kind of musical and
operatic drama; and in their formative character. they
all belong to one c.ommon genre. The three component
parts of all these varieties are Kavya, Sangeet and
Abhinaya; and they seem to be a sort of popular
theatrical entertainment in which singing and dancing
and highly stylised and choreographic acting played a
dominant role. It would be interesting to note that some
of the elements of most of these ancient forms of musical
drama are still found in some form or the other in the
present day RasliIas and other musical dramas of secular
The Rasak has been included in the secondary
forms (uprupak) in the Natya Shastra and had three
dance varieties-T alrasak Dandrasak and Mandalrasak.
In course of time. Mandal-Rasak became more popular.
as it was discovered to have greater theatrical potentia-
lilies; and it is this dance variety that is predominantly
employed in present day Raslila performances. though
there are elements from all the three varieties. Similarly.
if we compare the Raslilas with the Hallisak Sangeetak
Geyarupak and Natya Rasak we find that the elements
of music. dance and pantomimic acting are common;
Hallisak dance is especially considered the precursor of
the Ras dance. So. in spite of the lack of proper historical
evidence. we can safely conclude that there has been a
tradition. with periodical gaps. of this variety of musical
drama for more than 2000 years.
The dance content of the Raslilas falls into two
categories: one. the stylised and traditional variety
practised in the 'NUyaras'. the prologue of the Rashla;
and the other. simple mimetic dance borrowed from the
folk tradition and other sources of dance art and
practised in the main Lila. The role of dance in the
dramatic scheme of Raslilas is decorative in the
'Nityaras', and functional in the Lila. While the one is
still technically elaborate and complicated dance. the
other is simple with limited movements and expressive
The present formalized style of dancing practised in
the NUyaras has an elaborate codified system of com-
positions and movements of the dramatic characters in
the acting area or Rasmandal and of rhythmic patterns
and Gat-bhava. The general rules and practices in
rendering the dance sequences also indicate the
combinations of the drama tis personae. while presenting
a particular sequence. In these dance sequences Krishna.
Radha and Gopis stand in various compositions and
groupings. hand in hand. or with Radha and Krishna
with their hands around each other's neck (Galbahiyan).
and moving in circles and semicircles; standing apart
in striking poses; intermingling; throwing their hands
in the air with tIle beats of their feet; or presenting
whirls (Bhramaries) in lightning speed; or displaying
jumps and slow and magnificent gait. with the move-
ments of the eye-brow and the neck.
Some of the Parmul (bol-patterns) of the dances
of Krishna and Radha as well as the group dancing
of all the characters in the Raslilas. are given below
for a technical understanding of the rhythmic patterns
of the dance:
A 'Parmul' of Krishna's dance:-
Tikat tikat dhilang, dhiktak rodeem dhilang, takto.
T a dhilang, dhig dhi lang , dhiktak, todeem todeem,
dhetam dhetam.
Dhilang dhilang dhi lang , fuk gadgin thei.
T ata ta ta thei, ta ta ta fa thei, ta ta ta ta thei.
A 'Parmul' of Radha's dance:_
Tat trang, thun thun to, dhiktoo trang, thun thun to.
T a tllUn thun, dhik thun thun, dhik tak, thung thung tak.
Thung thung tak, thung thung i'hung tak gadgin thei.
T a ta ta ta thei, ta ta ta ta thei, ta ta ta ta thei.
A 'ParmuI' of Sakhi's dance:_
T attuk dam, dhirkit tak, tirkU, nagam nag am, too too
tran to.
Ta tring, ta ta tring, tafthugam thug am, tatthugam
thug am, thug am, thugam thug am tak, gadgin t1hei.
T a ta ta thei, ta ta ta ta thei, ta ta ta thei.
A 'Parmul' of Group dance by all the characters:_
Thei thei thei thei thei, tatta theyi thei.
Theyi theyi theyi theyi theyi thei thei tao
There is no sufficient historical evidence to deter-
mine a link of artistic relationship between the Raslila
dancing and the Kathak style of dance; and it is all the
more difficult to say which style has borrowed from
which. However. there are some basic facts which prove
and show many points of resemblance between the two
styles of dancing. In the portrayal of emotions and
situations. and in the general mode of story telling by a
vivid pantomimic gesture language. the two styles have
a common charactP\'. Apart from the gestures, in the
movements. turns. I auses and groupings of the characters
in Raslilas during the dance and pantomime for
depiction of the episodes. we find resemblances.
The main reason for these resemblances is obviously
the common thematic material-the Krishna lore. which
demands the portrayal and expression of similar senti-
ments and situations from both these dance styles. So.
the dance-creators. both the Lila type and the Kathak.
conceived similar dance gestures and movements in their
imaginative visualisations of the Krishna legend. Some
of the main 'gats'-the 'murali gat' and the 'pang hat
gat'_are common to both. Similarly, some of the 'Kavitta
bois' and 'Natvari bois' are also common. 'Ta thei thei
tat', the root-words (bi;-akshar) of Kathak dance have
been referred to by the Vaishnava poets in their Kirtan
The probable reason for the artistic similarities and
resemblances between these two styles of dancing is
that both of them have developed in the accompaniment
of the kirtan, dhrupad and other variaties of dance-
songs. The kirtan songs composed by the Vaishnava
poets abundantly display dance motifs and specific
gestures and movements. Most of these kirtans and padas
were actually dance-songs written by the poets and
music composers. intended to be sung and interpreted
through dance and 'abhinaya' simultaneously. This
becomes clear by the peculiarity of these kirtan songs
that the 'boZs' of mridang and conventional words of
the dance, known as 'tatakar' are inserted in the very
text of the compositions. The joint art activity of singing
and dancing is the special feature of the whole
ritualistic of the Vaishnava cult.
Surdas in one of his padas points out this essential
relationship and the joint art activity of dancing and
'Nritya karat ughatat sangeet pad'
Some excerpts from the ras-padas are given below
to show the insertion of bols in the padas:
" Ras menrityat ri rasbhine.
thunkat thun thunkat apat jhapat jhat,
jhran jhran jhrakatat jhine."
"Shri Haripriya bhidi bili jhin,
na na na na na na na na kine."
"Lal-sang ras-ras let man rasik ravani,
gragrata, gragrata, tat tat tat theyi thei, gaU line."
"nacTtat Lal gopal ras men sakal braj-badhu sange,
gidigidi tat thug tat thug thei thei bhamini-rati ras
" sange.
If we scrutinize the literature of ras-padas written
by score of Vaishnava poets. we find many technical
terms and expressions in the padas which indicate many
points about the character of the ras dance. The word
'mandaI' which occurs so often indicates the circular
movements in the dance. There are terms like urap,
firap, lag-dat, horha-horhi, hastak-bhed, mandhas,
bhru-vilas, galbahiyan, bahanjori, padpatak, kartari,
phanda---which indicate some of the basic features and
elements of Raslila dance. Some of the lines from
various ras-padas are quoted below to show the technical
import of these terms in their proper context:
'horha horhi nritya karen, rijhi rijhi ank bharen,
ta ta thei thei.'
'bhaunh mor.:lni, nain pherani
hastakni gati chhavi.
'gati sudhang nrityati braj nari,
hav bhav nainani sainani dai, rijhavati girivar
pag-pag pataki bhujani latakavati,
phanda karani anup.'
('phanda' seems to be a popular equivalent for the
classical technical term,'pindi'. This term denotes
a special feature of the ras dance-the formation
or circles and semi-circles by holding one another's
hands. at the end of a "charan" or pad).
'nirtat mandaI maddha Nandlal.
urup tirap tan let nat nagar gandharva guni rasal.'
'taisiya mridu pad-patakani, chatakani kartaran ki.
har har men urajhi, urajhi bahiyan men bahiyan.
'urap lirap lag dat fat-tat-tat thei-tathei-thei.
'let gati man tatathei hastak-bhed
sarigamapadhani ye sapta sur nandini.'
'mandhas. bhruvilas, ras-Ias, sukhnivas.'
While the dancing in the 'Nityaras' part of the
[ila-natak has a classical and technical character, the
dancing in the lila proper is very simple-sometimes very
near the ordinary gesticulation of daily life, borrowing
mostly from the foIl, dances of several varieties. specially
the dance accompanying the 'Rasika' songs of the Braj
area. The gat or the gestural scheme takes fragmentary
lines of song and with simple movements of hands and
eyes, conveys the underlying emotions of the words.
There are not many variations of combinations and
patterns of dance. Simple dance sequence; , however,
are punctuated by dramatic sits. rises, jumps and circular
movements in rising tempo.
The prim any 'hastak' or the postures as used in
the Kathak dancmg are also prevalent in the Raahl
The most common 'hastak' is the one hand held ova;;
the head, the other extended in front. forming a right
angle, bisecting the line of the head. These ha.ta£.
have a significant dramatic function in the lila-natalc.
as they punctuate the dance sequences and register
a dramatic situation in all pictorically effective
manner. They also provide relief both to the dancer.
as well as the audiences. Together with the practice of
'hastak', the dancers often present the two basic bod,
movements-the whirl (Bhraman) and the sudden halt,
in the manner of the Kathak dance.
The dramatic function of the dances in the hla
proper, is only secondary-supplementing the text_by
interpreting its meaning and intenSifying the mood and
the emotions of the story. There are. however, short
sequences of dancing which have purely decorative
character and are meant to give relief to the chorus,
singing the dramatic text. This pantomimic dandng in
the lila proper is gradually decaying and losing gestural
expressiveness for want of sufficient training and leneral
artistic and aesthetic background of the artists.
The dramatic structure of the Raslila has three
main parts: the 'Nitya-ras' the Sangeet and the lJla
proper. In the first part of the Raslila, Krishna and
Radha are seated on the Singhasan built on a simple
platform; and chorus presents a 'manglacharan.' After
the 'manglacharan' the chorus sings a number of devo-
tional songs drawn from the devotional poetic literature
of all periods. Gopis perform 'arti, , and invite Radha
to come to Ras-mandaI. The Gopis take their place. and
Krishna stands and requests Radha to join him in the
Ras performance. Radha agrees. Krishna and Radha
then come and stand in the main acting area with the
Gopis; the chorus starts singing and the dance berrina.
There is an elaborate procedure of the grouping of
characters and their dance is the prologue of the
After the completion of this first part, the "Nilya-
ras', the second part, the 'Sangeet' starts. In this part of
the Lila-nataJ(, Krishna himself or a Gopi stands in the
acting area and gives a discourse in prose as well as vene
compositions on the glory of 'bTlakfi', 'upasana', 'karma'
or any other serious philosophical theme. After the
discourse, the chorus presents devotional sonls, which
are often not directly related with the Lila to be enacted
or even with the Krishna legends. This part of the ul ..
natak. however. creates a suitable atmosphere for the
operatic drama and prepares the audience for a deep
theatrical experience.
The third part of the Ras-lila is the Lila proper.
which is based on some episode of the life of KrI.hna.
This part of the Lila is so well structured that e a ~
entry and exit of the characters and the deliverY BIlCI
exchange of verse dialogues and short dance sequenh'
are all dramatically significant and contrihute to t e
building of the play-structure.
The allocation of the dramatic dialogues to vartCMD
characters and the narrative portions to the c:honu It
so cleverly planned that there is a continUOU. moYCdterf
in the story with proper dramatic stresses and pauses.
T here is yet a very interesting point about this propor-
tionate division of the spoken word material among the
characters. that the many verses and songs that do not
seem to belong to any character or the chorus. gradually
assume dramatic specification.
While the padas and songs composed in' several
metrica l varieties are musically ri ch and significant. the
styles and laws of their reci tation and delivery are very
interest ing and dramatically meaningful. Verse dialogues
of the Raslilas are very often repeated by the actor; and
t here are several variations and combinations and styles
of delivery. Sometimes the character speaks the line of
a pada and the chorus repeats it ; sometimes a character
renders a line in simple reading in the prose style and
a lso explains the content in eloquent and verse-like
Brajbhasa prose; sometimes. however. this explanation
is dropped and the lines are only recited or sung.
T hese various styles and patterns of the delivery of
dialogues are followed in accordance with the context
of the situation and the character of the pada or song
delivered. Whatever pattern and style of the delivery of
verse dialogue may be adopted by the characters or the
chorus of the lila-natak. they show great dramati c
potentialiti es because it is in this character of the delivery
of verse dialogue that the operatic character of the Lila-
natak is strengthened and emotionally enriched.
The stage. which is only a demarcated acting area
on the same level on which the audience take their seats.
and which has simple structure-a platform (Chauki)
with a 's inghasan·. usually built by placing a couple of
chairs.is always a simple and informal affair. But it is
this theatrelessness of the Raslila that gives rise to some
very simple presentational laws and conventions.
There is no attempt to provide a scenic represen-
tation of the story situations and actions in the acting
area. Thus. there is no attempt at localisation and the
'stage' is left as an uncommitted neutral area which can
serve as 'locale' for any dramatic action; and the actors
can freely move from one stage locality to another. from
the houses to the bank of Jamuna; from one grove to
another or from Gokul to Mathura; and there is no
break in the story of the play. The characters. while
singing and presenting their dialogues. inform the
audience about the change of the locale as weIl as the
development in the story of the play. It is because of
this non-specific, informal character of the Raslila stage
that various phases of action or the story units of the
play get related to one another without any damage to
the plot-structure and dramatic illusion.
The use of a simple curtain held by two persons,
in the manner of Kathakali dance-drama. at several
points in the course of the play. has many dramatic
functions. It helps in bringing the new characters to the
acting area without being seen by the audiences; it is
sometimes used for 'setting' a new scene or a 'jhanki',
which is a sort of tableau presented at many points in
these Raslila plays.
The series of tableaux presented in the Raslila
performances are the most interesting feature. In many
climactic points of the story. these tableaux present the
episode in a pictorially effective manner. and indicate
stages in the development of the story. It is with the
help of these tableaux that the dramatic structure of the
Lila-natak is planned in short scenes and suitable units
of story material. These tableaux in a Raslila divide
and arrange the narrative material of the lila-natak in a
dramatically significant way.
T ableaux are the dominant element in the visual
pictorial arts of the medieval period. Painting, theatre,
civic a nd royal pageantries, and religious and fes tive
proces ions with Roats and pantomimic scenes. all have
shown a liking for tabl eau pictures and made them a
basis for artistic treatment of their themes. Raslila has
followed thi s medi eval art tendency. and has skilfully
based its entire dramati c scheme on this artistic
Apart from these full -Hedged tableaux. the Raslil a
plays abound in eloquent and expressive 'close-ups' of
si ngle and double characters. These 'close-ups' of
dramatis personae create exquisite and charming stage
pictures, very much like the medi eval paintings of the
Kri shna legend. This relationship between the theatre
a nd the art is the most fascinating aspect of the study
of this variety of folk drama.
It was between the 16th and 19th centuri es. when
the artists were painting Krishna episodes in different
styles and modes. that the lila-plays were simultaneously
emerging in the templ es out of the temple dancing and
singing of devotional songs with rich musical content.
The contemporaneousness of these two artistic torms-
the Krishna-Iilas and Krishna-paintings-made their
mutual exchange easier and more fruitful.
It is. however, difficult to say who borrowed from
whom; but there is no doubt that there has been a
constant and living exchange between the two; and.
probably, the process of borrowing and giving has
alternated during the course of two centuries of their
co-existence. Main points of similarity and mutual
exchange are: costume; locale; scene composition;
pattern of plot-structure and multiplicity of scenes.
The dominant principle of 'vertical projection' in
the medi eval painting is reRected in the straight and
narrative character of the development of story
in these Raslilas. Conventions of Oriental art aIlow
simultaneity of scenes. depiction of a series of tableaux
or story-incidents within the range of a single painting.
And it is this art convention that has greatly shaped
and determined the character of Indian folk theatre of
all regions and of all types and varieties, especiaIly, the
processional and pageantry drama based on the life
of Rama and Krishna.
This survey of the most developed folk drama of
Northern India clearly indicates the composile 'character
of the folk drama. and the various sources from
which it borrows its tehcniques and conventions and
art material. It is so broad-based and deep-rooted that it
presents the entire artistic and cultural life of the people
in horizontal and vertical dimensions simuitaneously.
3. Kathak Costunle in MughaI Times
by Dr. C. L. Fabri
1. Ruler entertained by Dancing Girls. Nurpur, c. 1765
2. Raja Balwant ~ i n g h of Jammu being entertained by a Boy Dancer and Mus 'cians.
Jammu, c. 1750
3. Mian Brij Raj Deu of Jammu with courtiers and Dancing Girls. Jammu. c. 1775
( Photos by courtesy, Vic toria and Albert Museum, London )
Our amateur and professional ballet dancers are so
fond of " inventing" ancient costumes, especiall y
pretending to know what "Mughal court da ncers" wore,
Ihat any piece of solid evidence, however small. should
be welcome. especially if it is quite unexpected.
ow, the miniature reproduced herewith ought to
be well enough known. for it is a page from Akbar-nama
in the Indian Section, Victoria and Albert Museum.
datable to the period 1600 to 1605 (Akbar's death).
Nevertheless, to my' knowl edge, no one has so far drawn
attention to the extraordinary costumes the dancers are
wearing. When my friend K. de B. Codrington First
gave me thi s series of photographs, almost fifteen years
ago. I first thought that the dancers were European:
the resemblance to the French LuLu skirts of the ballet
dancers is so striki-ng.
However, they cannot be European women, for the
luLu was not yet invented ' in 1600: and they are Indian
women on every count. The prima ballerina wears a
muslin turban, the three members of the corps de ball et
who also wear Lulus have less elaborate head-ornaments.
but again. not European. They wear pyjamas in the
Indian fashion: they have anklebells such as were never
worn·by western dancers: they are dressed in bodices in
the Indian fashion ...... the second dancer shows clearly that
the choli was ti ed down with a cross-string or ribbon .
thus probably leaving a bare back ...... and they are bare-
footed : another Indian characteristic. Their hairdress.
their personal ornaments. including earrings, armlets
and bracelets. all declare them to be Indians: and even
the mudra of the first lady dancer, signifying "I salute
you!" is purely Indian. Even the musical instrument is
llS Indian as possible : a mridanga. And all the women.
dancing and playing music, have dupattas or orhnis.
emi -transparent head-kerchiefs.
The face and attitudes of the spectators are worth
noticing. Akbar looks · down indulgently at this old
spectacle. From his cushioned seat on a verandah: but
all the ladi es of the court are truly shocked: a great deal
of whispering and scandalized turning away goes on:
an attendant in front has to calm the noisy remarks of
I·he women: whilst one lady in the lovely Central Asian
d,ess. vigorously counts her beads, half hiding her face
with her long sleeves. In the background another
attendant. it appears, discourages a peeping femal e from
entering. The horror and disgust of the harem cannot
be mistaken.
The skirt that the dancing women are wearing over
the pyjamas reaches not quite to the knees, and consists
of three short and evidently very stiFF skirts, gathered
in plisse folds, and each protruding further than the
one above. The similarity to the structure of the Lutu
is surprising in the extreme. This is exactly how the
lutu is built up. The material. however, is quite diFFerent
f(\lm the tutu's. It is solid, coloured and patterned with
horizontal stripes, giving the fals e impression that there
are more than three skirts, one over the other. (S
Fig. 4, on p. 21. Marg, Vol. VII, No.1).
As the original is 100 small. I have made as exact
i'I copy as I could. (See Fig. 2).
Fig. 1 is a carefully made copy from a miniature
published in the Art of India and Pakistan by
Condrington, Irwin Gray (Faber & Faber, 1950) Plate
88. This is a Raj as thani miniature illustrating the Raja
Megha. and Basil Gray dates it between 1610 and 1620.
The ma le dancer wears a skirt. in every respect similar
10 those shown in the Akbar-nama. Here too the skirl
does not reach down to the knee and consists of three
superimposed pieces, each smaller than the one below,
from some stiff material in various colours: in brief, the
compl ete LuLu. The dancer wears a pair of white
tight pyjamas and he too has ghunghurus or anklebells,
ilS also the Roating scarf thrown across the shoulders.
It is interesting to note that both in the Akbar
miniature and in this Rajashtani picture, the mridanga
player (a girl in both cases) wears a different dress from
the rest; a boldly Raring long skirt, almost bell-shaped.
The other personages in this latter miniature are all
dressed in solid three- pi ece outfits: choli. ghagra and
dupatLa. and they play the Rute, the cymbals and a
sIring instrument.
How is it possible, one may well ask, that this
remarkable tutu-shaped ballet skirt occurs so rarely. and
seems to have disappeared soon after its first occurrence?
Vvhy do we have only a few representations, of which
one is from about 1605 a nd the other from, say, 1610',
The probable answer is that Jehangir's new fashions
gained the upperhand. During this elegant ruler's reign,
fashions changed rapidly at the court: and when, early
in his reign, completely transparent skirts were intro-
duced, under which the boldly coloured pyjamas could
be seen, most of the young people took to it. You can
see the young J ehangir surrounded by attendants in
Plate 131 in The Art of India and Pakistan, most of
Ihe courtiers, male and femal e, having taken to the novel
mode du jour. However. it did not last long.
That the dancers would take to the last "craze",
seems likely. In. any case. when the darbaris and the
umara have all adopted, later, once again solid brocade
and happy opaque materi al, it appears that the dancers
continued to wear transparent skirts and under them bold
red, green pyjamas. Thus, in the seventeenth and
eighteenth century, dancers and performers of ragas are
often seen in thi s special dress : while all others wea
heavy materials, the dancers sport the light silks an
muslins over their hose.
As late as 1750 we see this dress in Lady
Rothenstein's miniature. reproduced in the Fab;r
Gallery, Rajput Painting (Basil Gray), in •
Krishna, Radha. Brahma. hiva. all the earthly kmg
and all the music-making girls. wear solid dresses: only
the two dancers go through th,eir sreps with. completely
transparent skirts. through which their tights can be seen
in brilliant red and green.
These representations. of course. are well known.
from many ragas and nayika pictures: but the staggered
ballet skirt of Akbar's last years. between 1600 and 1610
is worth nothing as an oddity. not entirely
restricted. it seems, to the Mughal court but known in
Rajasthan too.
There is, however, one final and welcome .piece of
evidence, the date of which, I believe, bears out the
suggestion that early in Jehangir's reign the multiple
skirt of the ballet dancer gave way to the more
f&shionable musin Oimsiness and the churidar pyjama.
This comes in a leaf of the Rasikapriya published by
Coomaraswamy in the Metropolitan Museum Studies,
Vol. III, PI. 1 (1930) under the title "Two Leaves from
a Seventeenth-century Manuscript of the Rasikapriya".
Fig. 3. Here, under the caption Lilabhavalakshanam
('The Lover's Dramatic Behaviour' is Coomaraswamy' s
translation), Krishna, the Eternal Lover, appears with
his friends in front of the lady's house, and to the
accompaniment of a mridanga drum and cymbals, he,
and a friend of his, perform a ballet act. Krishna is
dressed in an akbari ballet skirt-this time only two of
them, not three-made of gathered, plisse cloth ' and
Oaring out boldly. one farther than the other, reaching
several inches above the knee: underneath, he wears a
light-coloured pair of tights. But his friend, interestingly
enough, has taken to the newer fashion: he wears an
absolutely transparent muslin skirt, under which he
sports brave-coloured churidar pyjamas. Now the point
to observe in this (see Fig. 5, on p. 22, Marg, Vol. VII
No.1) is that the friend is not one of your slightly clad,
happy-go-lucky cowherds. He is as smart as the latest
news from the court at Agra or Delhi, with a fashionable
turban, elegant, longsleeved coat buttoned across the
shoulder, and a sash in the latest mode, with embroidered
edges: in fact, he even has the row of frills on the left
side, under the armpit, that was the dernier cri in the
1610-1620 period.
Coomaraswamy dated, in 1930, this set of leaves "a
little before or after A.D. 1060". I do not think anyone
today would give it so early a date, neither would anyone
consider the Rasikapriya illustrations "simply Mughal".
as he suggested then. As Basil Gray points out in a
brilliant article in Marg VI, 3 pp. 18FF., the question of
the interplay of Mughal and Rajput painting is not an
easy one, and I now feel it is far more difficult to separate
these mutual inOuences than we once fondly thought.
But perhaps it is fair to suggest that Coomaraswamy's
Rasikapriya is Rajput work with a very strong inOuence
from the Mogul Court, and that its date is nearer 1620
than 1610. In that case this charming miniature in which
Krishna and a very fashionable gentleman friend per.form
their antics to excite the curiosity of the ladies of the
house. in' a kind of serenade at night, fully supports our
con,clusion that the multiple ballet-tutu of Akbar's court
out of fashion soon after Jehangir's accession: it
was then replaced by the diaphanous skirt through which
the tight trousers could clearly be seen.
This brings me to a very tentative suggestion. I
believe one would not be far wrong to say that every time
in the 18th century when we meet a picture of a lady
with diaphanous skirt, quite transparent, and showing
the brightly coloured legging underneath, we have to
deal with a lady who belongs to the class of entertainers:
a dancer. The lovely lady with the hawk the frontispiece
of Mr. W. G. Archer's Indian Painting in the Punjab
Hills, or the boy dancer (PI. 2) both wear such
diaphanous skirts. No one else does in the 18th century.
it seems to me. except dancers.
If this contention. that the staggered tutu-shaped
ballet skirt disappeared between 1605 and 1615, is true,
a new light may be shed on the dating of Archbishop
Laud's miniatures, in the brilliant study by Mr. Stooke
and Mr. Khandalavala (The Laud Ragamala
Miniatures, Oxford 1953) . Mr. Khandalavala demons-
trates with great apparatus that the miniatures are closely
related to Deccani miniatures of the 16th century, and
he concludes, after careful consideration of all the
evidence, that these famous paintings were made
approximately in 1625. The evidence is marshalled so
well that one hesitates to bring in fresh evidence for a
slightly earlier date. I do so fully conscious of the weak-
ness of my novel evidence, but dress is always an
important help in dating, and it is just possible that these
Laud miniatures are ten years older than suggested by
tvlr. Khandalavala.
The point is that there are only two dancers in' the
series, in Plate I, "Malhar Raga" and in Plate XVII.
"Vasanta Ragini"'. Both feature a dancer in a staggered
tutu-skirt. of three pieces (as in Akbar' s time). As the
two are almost entirely identical, I have copied only one,
which is seen in my Fig. 3, p. 20. Marg, Vol. VII, No.1
born the Malhar Raga. Two points emerge clearly that
no one wears this kind of skirt except a dancer: and
that nowwhere in the Laud manuscript is there anyone
wearing the diaphanous skirt of Jehangir's early reign.
Now it is quite possible that far down in the Deccan
fashions arrived somewhat later: and dancers, are
u wandering tribe of people, must have brought to the
courts of Deccan the staggered skirt, and they may not
have brought the transparent skirt of later days. If I
suggest a date of about 1615, . allowing for some delay
in the adoption of Mogul fashions, I do so with great
Whatever be the date of the Laud miniatures, the
four examples quoted here, prove that such skirts were
restricted to ballet dancers, and that they were wide-
spread enough to be known in Agra and Delhi. in
Rajasthan and in ' the Deccan.
4. Some Songs of Binda' Din Maharaj

"fffif -q' lfn:T II II
it if IfT<r I
f<R:T if' II II
Look how he teases me
The ever alluring Banwari !
He waylays and hurls abuses at me.
The incorrigible mischief maker,
He pays no heed to my entreaties.
Says Binda, "I know not what to do ?"

mif 'fn:T I
or'ttT IfRir I
If(fC'HT I
qlT I
f<R:T I I
Behold the maidens of Braj
Coming with swaying gait
As though intoxicated!
Mala adorns their necks,
BincIi shines on their foreheads,
And Kundal dangles on their ears.
They come in swaying gait,
Revealing their faces
Like the flashes of lightning.
Having spotted, Behari
They fall at his feet
And put the"ir arms round him
Says Binda, "0 Girdhari,
Be meciful to me".

<r<:'f <iij- iiIl:a;' m>if I
If'ifT Of>ifa Gfl<T,
it \9"T\9" IT' :l;fT>if I
Iff\;f 1f\9" >;flj'
If<:CiT I
f\9",fT :l;fT>if I
How can I go to Jamuna to fetch water?
Holi is in full swing!
Listen to the tumult and deafening sounds of the Mridang
and Dupha.
Look, what that darling of Nanda does.
He paints the faces of Gop'is with colour,
He seizes them and gives them a violent shake
And forcibly kisses them
Says Binda,
"Thus did Shyam set on Sakhis today!"

it \9"T\9" If"fRT I
'ifTm mr<: 11' \9"TOf 'fiT 'fiR If'ifRT I
\9"ffl .;rlfT OfR<: :{If 'fir 'liRr,
'";rR if' m I
;;raif lJi<: 'It lJiT<:T lfRT'
GfJi>fT if';, omr m I
'Flf ;:rr;:ra I'
Son of Yasoda is engrossed in the riotous play of colour.
The lanes are slushy with Chandan and Gulab.
The Gulal flying in the atmosphere
Has painted the sky red
And the patches of clouds above
Appear like bags of colour.
Daubed are the faces of all
With black and white mixed in o'il
In vain do they try to wash off the colour
And fair faces are dark now.
Heaven rejoices, Gods beat the drums rma shower flewer,
Says Binda, "Glory be to thee
o maidens of Braj,
Dancing with Krishna in ecstacy."

'fiT '9<:
Sl'TaIf TT -{if
;f<fT m<fTt I
tflft if ClfTt II 'fiT II
'3'<flJiT it '9<: T I
iiIlCfT GffflT I
f;;n:rT >ifTt ( mt) 'fiT II
Why have you come to me now, my love
Having spent the night in sport with my rival J
No-Do not fall at my feet for forgiveness
Your eyes tainted red-tell a thousand tales.
Go back to her and make her happy!
Do not talk to me.
Says Binda,
"I am burning within
But he does not heed."
'li \9"T :
Iff1Jf <:T'G!CT
'liT'fi 'li'fiR II
'Cfif <:N
i 'Cf'if 'Cf'R I

;q'R I
'3'"a 'ifflflJiT
'3'a a<r lfR I
If'fg '<{if
'fT'ifiI IfR II
olfTlf lfrfu <:Tf'Cf'fiT

'fiT "'IJ;flf f<r":T;;ra
\9"ilfT IfTfa<r 'fiR I ( 'li", )

;;n:r ;;n:r I
'liq-T lJi<:T
lJi<: I
Behold the happy sight
Radha and Krishna are seated on the /hoola,
Fastened on bejewelled pillars!
Rocked by the gust of gale .
The /hoola swings back and forth soaring h'igher and luglaer.
Roaring clouds dark and thik
Gather above in mighty array
And a gentle breeze
Floating on its fragrant wings
Sprinkles the earth with soothing showers!
Matched in contrast
Behold the dark and fair
Seated together are they-
The dark-hued and the moon-faced-
Like the clouds and the lightning!
And his Mukut ?
Is it the peacock dancing at the sight of the clouds J
Behold the universe on this swing!
Radha, the moon
Shining against the dark sky-Krishna!
And these shimmering pearls
On their garments?
Aren' t they the stars?
All sing your glory:
Brahma, Shiva and sages alike
"0 M ercifu/!"
Pleads Binda Din, with folded hands
"Bestow the bounty of mercy on me!"
The eldest son of Kalka Prasad, Jagannath Maharaj,
popularly known as Acchan Maharaj, was, really speaking, the
only one who received knowledge direct from his father as well
as from his uncle, Binda Din Maharaj. And when Kalka Prasad
and Binda Din died, it was left to Acchan ,Maharaj to train his
younger brothers, Lacchu Maharaj and Shambhu Maharaj .
Acchan Maharaj was a master and .there are numerous stories
related about his dance and about how he outwitted his rivals
in the field. He served for a long time in the State of Raiga.rh
and he also had the occasion to serve as the Court dancer in
some other States of North India. His body was unwieldy but
when he danced he virtually transformed himself and became
a model of grace and agility. True to the tradition of his
Gharana, he excelled in bhalla, but he was also an exponent of
nritta. He died in 1946, and with this the Lucknow Gharana
truly lost its foremost representative. He is survived by a son,
Birju Maharaj, who has already proved himself to be a very
worthy successor.
She belongs to a family of classical musIcIans in Bengal .
She has spent several years in learning Kathak. She had
her early training under Soh an Lal .and Jai La!. Later, she was
awarded a scholarship by the Ministry of Culture and she had
intensive training under Shambhu Maharaj . At present she is
a well-known Kathak dancer in Bengal and is teaching the
same art at the Bengal Music College, Calcutta.
Popularly known as Birju, Brijmohan Mahar.ai . is the
youngest torch-bearer of the Kalka-Binda Gharana of Lucknow.
As a child he was trained by his father Acchan oMaharaj, but the
latter died when Birju was only ten and thereafter Birju was
trained by his uncles, Lacchu Maharaj and Shambhu Maharaj.
He is also an expert in the tabla and pakhawaj and, rhythm
being in his blood, he is ceaselessly creating new patterns of
dance beats. He is a very accomplished 'dancer and he can
perform nritta and nritya with equal ease. For the past few
years, he has also been trying to compose full-scale ballets in
Kathak. He has already produced 'Phag Lila', 'Govardhan Lila',
' Malati-Madhav' and 'Kumara Shambhava' and he himself has
danced the principal role in all these ballets. He has given
numerous dance performances all over the country and, today,
it is almost impossible to think of a music and dance conference
without Birju M raj taking part in it. At present he is
working as a K teacher at the Bharatiya Kala Kendra,
New Delhi. In ry way, Brijmohan Maharaj is a worthy
successor to his at father, Acchan Maharaj.
Chiranji Lal er brother of the late Narayan Prasad
and son sad of J aipur. He was trained in Kathak
by his for some time under Binda
Din Maha time in the States of Udaipur
and Raig years he is in Delhi and teaching
Kathak Mahavidyalaya. After the death of
hi d, he has taken the responsibility of
o Narayan Prasad's four young sons.
dancing very early in life. As a
. _ ......... _IL_ by Sitaram Prasad and Madame
ent on a dance tour of Europe
. went with her. When she
... and more intensive, training
j brothers, Acchan, Lacchu and
arata Nat yam, Kathakali and
Manipuri, from outstanding experts in the
a view to understanding the finer .
techniques. She began her professional
in f937, and since then there has been nO_ .... " .. /5
has danced in many parts of the world. She
of two Indi an cultural delegations, one to China, in 1953, and
the other to Japan, in 1958. Damayanti Joshi is essentially a
purist and loathes glamour and dazzle. She is one of the few
dancers who have really understood the finer points of Kathak
and a performance by her is invariably marked by a lucid
delineation of the many delicate nuances of this art. Having
been trained by masters of both Gharanas, she is equally at
home in nritta as well as nritya and, as far as the latter is con-
cerned; she is one of the very few dancers who can faithfully and
vividly portray the Nayak-nayaki bhedas through the medium
of Kathak.
Gauri Shankar belongs to Bikaner and he had his early
training in Kathak from his father, Devi Lal, and his uncle,
Shiv Lal. Late!:, he also studied under Sunder Prasad. His
professional dance career began in 1934, when he danced at the
Allahabad Conference. Two years later he joined ,Madame
Menaka and accompanied her on a dance tour of Europe. Here,
when he danced at the International Dance Olympiad at Ber.lin,
he was awarded one of the highest Prizes. The party returned
to in 1938. Gauri Shankar then went to Santiniketan and
worked with Gurudev Tagore for a short time. After this he
toured the country on his own and gave numerous dance
performances. In 1942 he again joined Menaka's troupe, but this
was disbanded after a year. Gauri Shankar then opened his
own school at Bombay, known as "Pracheen Nritya Niketan".
This school is still functioning and has trained over 200 pupils.
Gauri Shankar has also composed some ballets in Kathak
Gopi Krishan belongs to a family of singers and dancers.
He is the son of Sukhdev Misra, of Banaras, who was for a long
time a Court musician in Nepal. He has three sisters, Alakhnanda
and Sitara, who are dancers, Tara, who is a singer, and two
brothers, Pandey and Chaubey, the latter of whom is also a
Kathak dancer. Gopi Krishan is now 26 years of age. He came
to Bombay as a child and studied in a convent. He finished his
schooling in Bombay and then went to Calcutta, where his
father gave him intensive training in Kathak. He then returned
to Bombay and started his career as a professional dancer. He
directed dances in several films and also danced in a number
of them. His big break came when he starred and danced in
Shanta ram's "Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baje". This picture rocketed
Gopi Krishan to fame. Taking advantage of this opportunity,
Gopi Krishan toured all over the country and gave hundreds of
dance performances and, through these personal appearances,
added immensely to his popularity. Gopi Krishan also studied
Kathak from Shambhu Maharaj and Bharata Nat yam from
Govindaraj Pillai. Gopi Krishan is an accomplished Kathak
dancer, but he does not believe in blindly following any tradition.
He has, therefore, introduced certain new features in his Kathak.
Hanuman Prasad is the son of Gangaram, a Kathak of the
Jaipur style. He was trained in dance by his father as well as
by Dhanalal, a Kathak of merit. He has taught at Delhi and
Meerut and now, for several years, he has been in Bombay. He
is also a poet and music composer. Though he is a Kathak
dancer following the Jaipur tradition, he excels in bhava and his
thumris, dadras and ghazals are always a treat to behold.
present he is working as the Kathak teacher in the Hillgrange
School, Bombay. '
A leading exponent of the Jaipur Gharana, Hazari Lal
belongs to Bikaner . . His father, Hanumanta Ram, was a noted
sarangi player and. his brother, Satya Narain, was well known as
a tabla artist. Hazari I4Uearned from both. Later, he became
a pupil of Shiv KathaJc qancer of .the J aipur Gharana, .who
is now pver 80 years "{)Lm. this he became a pupil of
Sund\:!,' Prasad and .had under him. After
startI ng ' his professional career, gave dance performances all
over North India and was also invited to perform at the darbars
of Raigarh, Gidhor and Paruna. He worked for three years as
a Kathak teacher at the ' Bhatkhande Sangeet Vidyapeeth,
Lucknow, and now, sirce 1949, he is the chief Kathak instructor
at the Sangeet Samaj . College, Meerut.
. \
An outstanding exponent of his time, Jagannath
Prasad was born in Bikaner State and he died in 1946, at the
age of p4. He was a disciple of Nathulal, who was for some
time the Court dancer at Gwalior, but he also learnt from
Chuni Lal and Gopal Das, both of whom followed the Janki
Prasad Jagannath Prasad spent a long time at Banaras
and afte-r that he served as a Court dancer in Indore and Nepal.
He was a>man of deep religion and his dance was always an
expression of his devotion to Lord Krishna. He composed some
kavitas and other items of nritya. He is survived by a son, Radha
Knshan, who is now teaching Kathak at Pilani.
Jai Kumari is the only daughter of the great Jai Lal of
the Jaipur Gharana. She was trained by her father and for
many years there was no Kathak dancer who could compete
with her. Her forte was layakari. She performed, ...
conferences and won acclaim everywhere. The d
father was a great shock to her and, since then, she
left the dance field. For some years she served
teacher at the Bani Bidya Bithi; Calcutta. Now 35,
she lives at Calcutta, with her mother, and gives private tuition
in Kathak.
Acknowledged, by common consent, as the doyen
Jaipur Gharana, Jai Lal Misra was born about 1885
died in 1949. He was first attached to the Court of
after that he also served as a Court dancer in
Jodhpur, Sikri, Raigarh and Maihar. He was for
Nepal as well. He stayed for about 8 years at
taught Kartik and Kalyan. Apart from being
dancer, Jai Lal was also an expert on the tabla
and he was also a qualified musician. Jai Lal was
his father Chuni Lal' Jai Lal spent the last three years
.his life at Calcutta, as a Kathak teacher in the Bani Bidya
Bithi. He married twice and he is survived by two children,
Ram Gopal and Jai Kumari, both of whom arc Kathak dancers
and both of whom, with their respective mothers, still continue
to stay at Calcutta.
Mohanrao Kalyanpurkar is one of the very few educated
men who have taken to Kathak as a profession. Originally a
student of science, he left college before graduation, to devote
himself fully to Kathak. He had intensive training under
Sunder Prasad and, side by side, whenever there was an
opportunity, he also took lessons from Acchan Maharaj as well
as Shambhu Maharaj. In 1937 he started a school of Kathak
in Lucknow- the Maharaj Bindadin School of Kathak, but
two years later, he was appointed Head of the Department of
Dance at the Morris College of Hindustani Music at Lucknow.
This College is now known as the Bhatkhande Sangeet Vidya-
peeth and Mohanrao still continues to be in charge of the Dance
Department. Apart from being a teacher, Mohanrao is also
an accomplished dancer, and he has given numerous professional
performances. He is also a composer and has composed many
kavitas and toras in Kathak and also directed and presented
a number of Kathak ballets, such as 'Shakuntala', 'Malati
Madhav', ' Meghdoot', ' Vikramorvashiyum' and 'War and Peace'.
Today he is the examiner for Kathak at many schools and
institutions throughout India and also a judge for various
awards in dance instituted by the Government of India.
I These two dancers, who once formed an inseparable pair,
were brought up by the Raja of Raigarh. He arranged for their
training and employed vidwans such as Jai Lal and Acchan
Maharaj for the purpose. When the Raja was living, these two
were in great form and there were very few dancers,
even among hereditary professionals, who could compete with
them, at least in tayari. These dancers arc nol1 well known today,
for after the Raja's death, they have preferred to remain in th
background. This is indeed a great pity, for they are both
artistes and brilliant performers. They are both
still m Ralgarh, though they are not connected with Katbak
any more.
. Krish!ln Kumar belongs to Janki Prasad Gharana and
IS one of Its foremost representatives at present. He is the IOn
of Pt. Gopal and the nephew of Hanuman Prasad both
outstanding dancers of their SchooL He was trained by Iili uncle
Hanuman Prasad and, later, by Ashiq Hussain. In 1947 he
started a Kathak school at Bareilly and, apart from running
he toured several parts of North India giving KathU
performances. He came to Delhi in 1958, to ,,'ork in "Malali
Madhav", the ballet produced by the Bharatiya Kala Kendra
Here, he came into close touch with Shambhu Maharaj and
decided to his disciple, in order to learn the Lucknow
style of him in this, the Ministry of Culture
has Krishan Kumar is already an
accompl and and 10,
today, he is learning ............ Iio1II•t
..-UlrsDlP by the
She has also worked With
opposite him in twO Kathak
"Kumara sambhava".
Kundan Lal a Kathak exponent of the Jaipur Schoo, t:r
trained by his u'ncle Narayan Prasad, the .nothd
Kathak who is now no more. He went to RaIgar he went to
Prasad when the latter was in service there. After. this f 5 yead
Bihar Madhya Pradesh and toured these regIJr came
and gave dance performances at several tuitions.
to Bombay and stayed there f01" 15 years, .glvK!thak, indudiDI
He trained a number of film actresses 10 . orking as a
Swarnalata, Paro and Jabeen. Since 1953 he IS tthe Baroda
Kathak instructor in the Dance 0
Younger to Acchan Maharaj and elder to Shambhu
Maharaj, Lacchu Maharaj is at present the seniormost exponent
of the Lucknow Gharana. He was trained first by Kalka Prasad
and then by Acchan Maharaj. He started giving professional
performances when he was ten, and today, at the age of 58, he
still continues to do so. For a long time, he has been at Bombay.
Here he runs his own dance school, 'Nntan Nritya Niket'. He
has also composed some ballets in Kathak technique. He trained
his daughter Kausalya in Kathak and about 15 years ago, she
was a very popular artist, though now she has retired from .thes.e
fields. Though he is popularly known as Lacchu Maharaj,
real name is Baijnath Prasad. In 1957 he won the Akademl
Award for Kathak dance.
Mohan Lal is the son of Hanuman Prasad, of Jaipur, and
the elder brother of Chiranji Lal and Narayan Prasad.
learnt the Jaipur technique from his father. and went t?
Lucknow and learnt for some time from Bmda Dm Maharaj.
He then toured several States, among them Raigarh,
Gidhor and Baroda, and gave Kathak performances: After thiS
he went to Jaipur and worked there for some time as the
Court dancer. After a stay in Bombay, he remained for a long
time at Delhi teaching Kathak to his own disciples. Now, for
a year, he is' at the Sangeet Vidyalaya at Khairagarh, as a
teacher of Kathak.
Maya Rao is perhaps the only dancer from South India
who has mastered Kathak. She belongs to Bangalore and she
had her early training in Kathak from Sohanlal of Jaipur, who
was at Bangalore. While still a student, in 1946, she started a
school of dancing in Bans:alore, and fir.st
institution in South India to prOVide mtenslve trammg In
Kathak. After qualifying for the Honours Degree i!1
Maya Rao went to Jaipur and for two. years received traIning
in Kathak from the best teachers aVaIlable there. Soon after
that she was awarded a Government of India Cultural
in Kathak, and she began her. further. training
under Shambhu Maharaj. Shambhu Maharaj found In her a
very diligent and promising pupil, and he has on more than
One occasion admitted that he has trained her to an extent to
which he has not trained any other pupil in his whole career.
Maya Rao also has the rare distinction of having danced duets
with her Guru, Shambhu Maharaj. She has composed some
ballets in Kathak and also carried out researches pertinent to
that art. She is now on the staff of the Bharatiya. Kala Kendra,
New Delhi but she still continues to be a pupil of Shambhu
Maharaj since a year, also of Sunder Prasad, thus getting
the benefit 01 the best training from the foremost exponents of
both Gharanas.
Pooviah Sisters were pioneer students of Pandit Sunder
Prasad and Pandit Jayalal of Jaipur, whose devotion to Kathak
became an example to many other young women of our country.
Sita Pooviah eldest of the three sisters wrote thesis for a Doctor's
Degree on Kathak, which is hitherto unpublished.
Radha Krishan was born in Nepal where his father,
Jagannath Prasad, a Kathak exponent of the Janki
Gharana was in service as the Court dancer. Radha Knshan
had his training in Kathak from his father. After his father's
death he went to Dehra Dun where he worked as a dance
teacher in "Sangeet Samiti". After 5 years' stay in Dehra Dun,
he joined the "Sangeet Bharati", Delhi, as a Kathak teacher and
worked there for 3 years. Since 1953 he is working as a Kathak
teacher at the Birla College, Pilani. He is also the author a
book on Kathak, "Nrityakala Manjari", which is in Hindi.
Radhelal Misra is a disciple of J ai Lal. He was with Ram
Gopal for some years and he Europe .with him. Among
his disciples the name of Kumudml Lakhla IS we.ll known. He
is at present teaching Kathak at Sangeet Bharao, a school of
music and dance in New Delhi.
Ram Gopal is the only son of Jai Lal, the doyen of the
Jaipur Gharana .. He was borrl: at Raigarh, his father
was in the service of the Raja there. Ram Gopal received
training in Kathak as well as in tabla and he achieved a very
high degree of proficiency in both. He has danced at several
music conferences and worked as a teacher at Bombay and
Madras. He is at present only years of age. !:Ie now
Kathak at the Bani Bidya Bithl, Calcutta, and IS also a vlSlong
instructor attached to the Kala Vikash Kendra, Cuttack.
Rani Karna is today one of the leading dancers of Delhi.
Having taken an Honours Degree in Science at the Delhi
University, she is now a student of Sanskrit and Russian.
However, dancing has always attracted her and she has spent
all her spare time learning this art. She had her early training
under Birju Maharaj and, after that, under Narayan Prasad.
She is generally accepted as the foremost pupil of the late
Narayan Prasad. Rani Karna has given a number of Kathak
performances at Delhi and at other places, and she is beginning
to acquire a professional status.
Ratan Shankar is the young son of Gyan Shankar, who was
for many years in Lahore. Ratan Shankar has been trained in
Kathak by his father, an outstanding master himself. Ratan
Shankar has made some appearances on the professional stage
ill Bombay and he has unanimously been proclaimed a brilliant
performer. His tayari and luyakari in footwork are especially
noteworthy. .
Though she had made some effort to learn dance before, it
was in 1946 that Rohini Bhate started her serious study of
Kathak. She had her early training from Sohan Lal, of the
Jaipur Gharana. After this she had occasional lessons from
Manna Lal of Bombay, and from Mohanrao Kalyanpurkar of
Lucknow. In 1952 she went as a member of the Indian Cultural
Delegation to China. Rohini Bhate has made an earnest study
of the ancient and authoritative shastras on Indian dance and
dramaturgy and tried to use this knowledge to improve her
technique. For over a decade she has been running a school of
Kathak at Poona. known as "Nritya Bharati". This school has
trained numerous pupils and has twice won the first prize in
Kathak at the Inter-University Youth Festivals at Delhi. Rohini
Bhate has given numerous performances alI over the country
and has also appeared in music and dance conferences.
She has worked as an examiner in Kathak, both at Lucknow
and Jaipur. She has composed a number of ballets in Kathak
style and she has written several articles, in Marathi, and also
two books, one on the technique of Kathak and the other on
her own experiencCl as a dancer.
Roshan Kumari is the daughter of Fakir Mohammed, a
noted tabla player, and Zohra Jan of Ambala, a famous playback
. singer, who worked for a long time in Bombay. Thus, she was
/ brought up in an atmosphere of music and rhythm. She received
Sitaram Prasad was a disciple of Binda Din and h
of Acchan Maharaj . He sl'. rved as a COurted'WU a
In Ralgarh and also in Nepal. About 1935 he came to
and settled down there. He had a number of pupils pro' y
among whom were Menaka, Zubeida and Manora:n.. Dl1Dent
, ./, her training in Kathak, first from K. S. Moray and then from
, Sunder Prasad. She also learnt Bharata Natyam for some time
from Govindaraj Pillai and ·-M.ahalingam Pillai of Bombay, but
she did only to upderstand, the technique of that art, not
to perform It. She has. presented Kathak at numerous conference! . Like Jai Lal, .is an outstanding artiat of th
'.'. in all parts of the country. She has' oetJen been aske4. to dance J alpur Gharana. He IS a dIscIple of J ai Lal Sunder prasad
for important dignitaries who have, from time to time;'come. to Devi spent most of time in Bombay and Calcu
'- India from v,llrious foreign -countries. She has also danced in a glvmg twuons m Kathak. HIS famous pupils are Bel !:I
number of and Bengali films, including "Jhansi Ki Ran$." ". Jharna, of Calcutta. He also trained Sunalini Devi Leda aDan.
"Mirza Gliallb", "Waris", "Parineeta", "Basant Bahar" ar.d ' \ and 1:tam Dhan. who i.s now working as a teacherea:
"Jalsaghar". She is now in Calcutta, where her parents Ludhlana. Sohan Lal IS also an expert in the tabla and
settled down. . ./ <fCOmplished vocal musician. an
I ,' j .
Shambhu Maharaj is the youngest of the . three $on( ' Sudershan Kumar is a sincere and devoted student of Kathak
of Kalka Prasad and nephews of Binda Din. He was trained in who already made a mark in the field of dance. After hia
Kathak, by his uncle Binda Din and then by his eldest academiC career, he began to learn Bharata Natyam Manip .
brother Mchan Apart from concentrating on dancing, and Kathak, but eventually decided to stick to only styl=
Shambht/ Mahara] . also learnt classical Hindustani music, the Kathak. He is a pupil of Hazari Lal who teaches Kathak
especiiY the " thumri-anga, which he mastered under the at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Bombay.'He has already given
gui?an :«3 0 Rarumuddin Khan who was the younger brother of some p.erformances, ,,:hich have appreciated, and he hu
MOlZU, 'lin K.han, a prominent thumri exponent of his time. thus laid the foundatiOn of a prommng professional career.
Shamllhl1 Maharaj is ,equally at home in music and dance, and it
is by/\ri!tue of that he cal) do equal justice to both nritya and
d.ance perforIllances, and today he enjoys a repu-
tatJ6n which IS the envy of. every Kathak artist. He has won
numerous awards and titles, among them ' Nritya Samrat ' which
was bestowed upon him at a major music and dance conference
held in Dehra Dun, and 'Abhinaya Chakravart i, which was
given to him at .a conference in Madras. He is also the recipient
of two of greatest honours in the field of Indian art: the.
'Padama Shri', which is made by the Rashtrapati and the
Akademi Award; which is made by the Sangeet Natak Akadenp.
True to the ideals of his Gharana, Maharaj excels In
bhava and he has also earnest efforts to revive the )ise
of Ashtapadis and of certain thumris and bhajans and other
!,ritya pieces in Kathak.' has trained hundreds of pupils,
mcluding' most of 'the Oovernment of India scholarship-holders
in Kathak. Shambhu 'Maharaj is convinced that the Kathak
we have today was origi nally the ' Nat wari' dance and he is
striving hard to restore it to its pristine purity. Since 1955 he
is working as the Head of the Dance Department at the Bharatiya
Kala Kendra, New Delhi.
Now aged over 80, Shiv Lal is a veteran who has spent his
whole life in the service of Kathak. He belongs to Rajasthan
but, early in his life, after getting some training from
G.urus he to Lucknow and became a disciple of
Bmda Dm MaharaJ. He then served as a dancer in the States
of Mysore and Nepal. He also worked for some time as a
teacher of Kathak in the Vishnu Digamber School, Bombay.
Due to old age he is not doing any work now and is spending
his time at his native village, Sujangarh.
She is the daughter of Sukhdev Misra who was a Court
musician in Nepal. She was trained in Kathak first by her
father and then by Acchan Maharaj. She also had lessons from
Shambhu Maharaj . About 15 years ago, she was a popular
film actress. She has given numerous Kathak performances all
over the country, and she has also danced outside India. Her
dancing is always brilli ant and full of life.
Sunder Lal to Suj angarh, in Raja,sthan, and he ia
the son of a noted tabla player of his time. Sunder
Lal was trained m Kathak by a number of outstanding muten
of the Jaipur Gharana, including Shiv Narain Jaganoatb.
Sunder Hazari Lal and Gauri Shankar. Sunder La! ia
a very pohshed performer and his demonstration is alwaY'
marked by unusual grace, charm and technical perfection. He
has worked as a dance teacher in Bombay, Delhi and MeeruL
He is also an expert in the tablll and has often given recitals foa
AIR. He is also a composer and has a number of Kathak kavit4
and tora..s to his credit. Since 1951 he is working as a Kathal
teacher m the Dance Department of the University of Baroda.
Sund.er Prasad is the younger brother of Jai Lal, the doyen
of the Jalpur Gharana. He had his early training in Kathak
from his father Chuni Lal and from his brother Jai Lal. But
he was only a boy when he was taken to Lucknow and put
under the charge of Binda Din Maharaj. In this way, quite
early in life, Sunder Prasad acquired the knowledge of
the Jaipur Gharana as well as the Lucknow Gharana. He has,
therefore, evolved a system of Kathak which utilises the best
elements of each Gharana. Sunder Prasad became a professional
dancer from the age of about 20 and, since then, he has given
many dance recitals in all parts of the country. But more than
a performer, he has been a teacher. He first started a school
of Kathak in Bombay, which he called the Maharaj Binda DiD
School of Kathak. He spent over 30 years in Bombay and
trained numerous disciples, among them Sunalini Devi, Pooviah
sisters, Menaka, Mohanrao Kalyanpurkar, Sohan Lal, Hira Lal
and Roshan Kumari . After Bombay he went to Madras and
trained some pupils. Since 1958 he is in Delhi, as a Kathak
teacher at the Bharatiya Kala Kendra. In recognition of his long
service in the field of Kathak, in 1959 the Sangeet Natat
Akademi honoured him with the Award for Kathak dance.
(These sketches are arranged in alphabetical order of thl! lIam.s
of Guru and contemporary artists. )
This IS your
In a picturesque mountainous drive
from to Mahad. you
can VISit the ancient fort of Pratab-
garh. This fortress is 3543 feet above
and was built in 1656 by
ShlvaJl, who at this fort defeated the
army of Sultan of Bijapur.
From the bastions of Pratabgarh, you
have a magnificent view of the
Western Ghats, an area which depicts
the rugged beauty of India. And
wherever you motor in this vast
country, your trip wilJ be more
pleasant, and free from 'car troubles',
when you drive on Caltex petroleum

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful