Kathak is one of the ten major forms of Indian classical dance. The origin of Kathak is traditionally attributed to the traveling bards of ancient northern India known as Kathakars or storytellers.

The term Kathak is derived from the Vedic Sanskrit word Katha which means “story”, and Kathaka which means “he who tells a story”, or “to do with stories”.Wandering Kathakas communicated stories from the great epics and ancient mythology through dance, songs and music in a manner similar to early Greek theatre. Kathak evolved during the Bhakti movement, particularly by incorporating the childhood and stories of the Hindu god Krishna, as well as independently in the courts of north Indian kingdoms.

Instruments & Music

A Kathak performance may include a dozen classical instruments depending more on the effect and depth required for a particular performance.

However some instruments are typically used in a Kathak performance like the tabla that harmonise well with the rhythmic foot movements of the dancer and often imitates sound of such footwork movements or vice-versa to create a brilliant jugalbandi. A manjira that is hand cymbals and sarangi or harmonium are also used most often.


Relationship with other art forms

The north Indian Kathak dance differs from the south Indian Bharatanatyam in several ways, even though both have roots in the Hindu text Natya Shastra. Kathak expressions – particularly in Hindu devotional styles – are more introverted and withdrawn, while Bharatanatyam is more extroverted and expansive. Kathak is normally performed in a standing form with legs and torso typically straight, while Bharatanatyam extensively utilizes bent knee form (ara mandi, half sitting position that is somewhat similar to Demi Plié ballet move).

   Kathak is also different from Kathakali, though both are Indian classical dance traditions of “story play” wherein the stories have been traditionally derived from the Hindu epics and the Puranas. Kathakali emerged in the southwestern region of India (modern Kerala), and is distinctive in its elaborate codified colorful makeup, masks and costumes. Kathakali traditionally has been troupes of predominantly male actor-dancers, who dress up as hero, heroines, gods, goddesses, demons, demonesses, priests, animals and daily life characters. Both dance forms employ elaborate footwork, choreography and hand gestures, but Kathakali integrates south Indian martial arts movements such as leaps and jumps. Both dance forms trace their roots to classical Sanskrit texts, but Kathakali has relatively more recent origins, more closely follows the Hastha Lakshanadeepika text and began flourishing in the 16th century. While each has a different musical and dance language, both deploy a host of similar traditional Indian musical instruments.

According to Miriam Phillips, the Indian Kathak and the Spanish Flamenco dance share many visual, rhythmic and kinesthetic similarities.

The Dress and the Ghungroos


Ghunghru or ghunghroo are the small bells the dancer ties around his or her ankles. The Kathak bells are different from those of other Indian dance styles, as they are not affixed to a pad or strip of leather, but rather are individually woven along a thick string.

The usual number of bells is 100 on each ankle, although for the initial stages of learning or for children, 25 and 50 belled strings are widely available to allow the dancer to get used to them.


Kathak is a wonderful blend of Hindu and Muslim culture. The costumes are very gorgeous for both Hindu (Lahenga-Choli) and Muslim – (Churidar-Kameez-Vest) called Angrakha. As the dance style itself has changed to reflect the different regions and cultures in which it found itself, so too has the costume and performance dress of the dancers.


One of the most striking features of Indian classical dance is the use of hand gestures.

Speaking in dance via gestures, rather than orally, in order to visually convey outer events or things, as well as inner feelings, two classifications of specific traditional ‘MUDRA’ (hand/finger gesture) are used in Indian Classical Dance, and indeed are a prominent part of the dancer’s vocabulary.


The footworks in kathak is called tatkaar. The movement of feet with rythm or beat of instruments which will harmonize the sound of ghungroos with the music.


The walking movement with each beat or rythm is called chaal in kathak.


The rotation or turning movement in kathak is called chakkar.


For every dance form expression is the most important factor. through expressions the dancer communicates to the audience. A performance can be rated on the basis of the expression. The more expressive the dancer is, the more effective will be his performance.

These are some basics related to Kathak.