KATHAK
by Sapna Rangaswamy, Baroda


Dec 2000

Baroda is known as "Kala Nagar". Ms Hansa Mehta, a great visionary, thought about promoting performing arts at the university level. In1949 she started the Faculty of Performing Arts and in 1951 she invited Pandit Sundarlal Gangani to the faculty. Panditji brought with him "Kathak" from the Jaipur Gharana.

Belonging to Sujangarh, "Every mohallah has at least one very famous artiste. Kala is in the genes of the people of Sujangarh. My father has never been to school but he has written some poems in Brijbhasha on which today students dance kathak," son Jagdishbhai says.

Elaborating on Kathak, Jagdishbhai says that in the olden days, kings used to patronize and shelter artistes and would promote their art.

Raja Man Singh at Jaipur and Raigarh Naresh of Madhya Pradesh patronized the dancers of Sujangarh.

"Our art flourished in Jaipur and so our style of dance came to be called the Jaipur Gharana," explains Jagdishbhai.

The Jaipur Gharana has a very strong religious flavour.One of the founders of this style was Bhanuji who is said to have been taught by a saint. Kathak is popular for its delicate feminine movements but the Jaipur Gharana has a strong masculine bias. It exhibits the Shaurya (bravery) bhava. "It is Katthak in our style, not Kathak.The pronounciation itself carries the emphasis," clarifies Jagdishbhai.

Talking about the costume in Kathak, Jagdishbhai says that the followers of the Jaipur style wear Hindu style of dresses while the Lucknowi style was more influenced by the Muslim and Parsian garments.Among the Hindu costumes for women, the most popular is the ghaghra and odhani and for the men it is a silk dhoti with zari border. A silk scarf is tied around the waist. The upper part of the body is left bare except for the sacred thread.

The Lucknow Gharana costume is still the same as it was in the time of Emperor Jahangir, except that the skirt of the Angarkha is shorter now and reaches down to the calf. Jagdishbhai says, "There is a mention of Kathak in Ramayana. Rama was a great dancer himself and according to Hindu mythology, Luv and Kush were the first Kathak dancers. Which is why in ancient days this dance form was known as Kushiluv" (others are of the opinion that Kuchipudi village was named after the Kusilavas, a band of wandering brahmins well versed in Vedic literature, music and dance who made the village their home.)

An interesting sidelight of this conversation with Jagdishbhai was his saying that "Bharat Muni wrote the Natya Shastra sitting in the Himalayas. So, the origin of Bharatanatyam or for that matter all dance forms is from North India only!