• Characteristics of the Jaipur Gharana.
    • The Jaipur Gharana prospered in Rajasthan.The beat is considered to be the principal component of this dance form.This dance is greatly influenced by Tandav (Shiva’s dance). For this reason, this style of dancing focuses more on the theme of valor. This gharana incorporates long and elaborate parans (spins) in the dance. This gharana is credited for the single legged spin in kathak.The dancers of this gharana tended to dance more on religious passages such as the compositions of Surdas and Tulsidas. Because of this, the dancers of Jaipur gharana were highly religious. They would mostly dance in temples. This gharana specializes in dance based on poetry. The dancers of this gharana do not display any vulgar movements or expressions. This dance style demonstrated that the kathak dance is not simply about flashy movements or attitude, but is also about depicting the stories of Ram and Arjun. The dancers of the Jaipur gharana took special interest in religious literature. Despite being illiterate, these dancers performed religious stories very well.

This dance form remained largely untouched by Muslim influences because it prospered predominantly in the courts of Hindu rulers. Since the Hindu rulers mostly preferred vigorous dances, the Jaipur gharana displays strong footwork in the dances. This gharana is the best in demonstrating tathkar (footwork). These dancers are very skilled in elaborate and complex taals such as Dhamaar, Ektaal, Ashtmangal, Brahma, and Ganesh. This gharana emphasizes the emotions in gaits (gath bhav) over the gait movements (gath nikaas). They specialize in dancing to bols (notes) created from sounds similar to tabla, pakhawaj or bird sounds.  However, this gharana does not pay as much attention to the hand gestures (mudras) as it does on the purity of foot movement.


  • Characteristics of the Lucknow Gharana
    • The Lucknow Gharana is a primary Gharana of Kathak dance form. This Gharana is famous for its beauty and grace, with extra emphasis on the body. This gharana specializes in emotions and expressions. Dances in this gharana are beautifully performed not only to bols/sounds, but also with pakhawaj accompaniment. They do not have the tradition of dancing to songs with lyrics. Laasya or Pramal or Paran are often seen in this dance style. The feet movement does not get much attention. This Gharana typically has short todas and tukdas, but they are performed beautifully. This gharana contributed the standing tathkar style. They have a tradition of dancing the todas with various matras. Attitude/Thaath is also an important component of this dance style. This gharana emphasizes the gait movements (gath nikaas) over emotions in gaits (gath bhav).
    •  Bindadeen Maharaj was the principal dancer of this gharana. He enhanced the preeminence of this gharans by writing hundreds of thumris. This dance specializes in emoting to thumris.


  • Kataksh (leer): Kataksh is expressed using the eyes. Kataksh is exercised by sweetly using the side eye look. This look is employed while depicting beauty and seduction during thumri and various gaths (gaits).
  • ‘Pramal’ : The Pramal toda is represented with those todas into which the bol (sounds) of table, pakhawaj, dance and poetry are combined together. 


Aspects of Nartan (Performing Art): Nartan has three main parts

  • Nrit: Graceful movement of body parts based only on taal, but without any involvement of bhaav (emotion) or abhinaya (acting) is referred to as Nrit. Nrit lays emphasis on taal (beats).
  • Natya: When thoughts and feelings are expressed using dialogue without any musical accompaniment, such a performance is referred to as Natya (drama).
  • Nritya: Nritya (dance) is the expression of thoughts and feelings in the context of any event or a story object presented within the boundaries of a taal, accompanied by melodious music. 


Laasya: Laasya is displayed by women. This dance form is soft and tender. Melodious music and tender expressions are utilized in this dance.


Taandav: The Taandav dance was performed by Lord Shiva. This dance is particularly performed by men, or to depict masculine characters. This dance has a fierce nature. Fierce or angry expressions are displayed to the accompaniment of vigorous music.

The Tradition of the Jaipur and Lucknow Gharana

It is said that the Shri Ishwari Prasad from Chulbul village was the very first promoter of the Lucknow Gharana. He was a resident of Allahabad. According to an anecdote, Shri Krishna appeared in Ishwari Prasad ji’s dream and instructed him to nurture Kathak dance and write a book on this art form. He set out to write a book on this dance, and when he was done, he trained his three sons, Adagji, Khadagji and Tularamji on the principles of the dance.

Shri Ishwarji passed away at the age of 105 when he was bit by a snake. His wife performed the Sati rites along with him. Shri Tularamji became an ascetic following the death of his parents.Khadagji did not participate in the field of dance. It was up to Adagji to propagate the training he received from his father. Adagji had three sons — Prakashji, Dayalji, and Hiralalji, and he trained all three of them in the dance form. Prakashji moved along with his brothers to Lakshmanpur in Lucknow following the death of Adagji.  Lucknow was ruled by Nawab Asifdaulah at that time, who appointed Prakashji as the royal dancer. Lucknow Gharana is said to have originated at this place.

Prakashji had three sons — Durgaprasad, Thakur prasad and Mansinh. Durgaprasad ji had no interest in dance, and Prakashji focused on Thakur prasad ji and Mansinhji for dance tutelage. Durgaprasad ji later agreed to learn dance upon the insistence of his older brother, and became the disciple of Thakur prasad ji. 

Thakur Prasad ji was appointed as the dance guru in the court of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, and revived the Natwari dance form of Krishna leela, which was at the risk of being forgotten. Nawab WAjid Ali Shah used to organize Indrasabha in his court along with Krishna Rasleela while Thakur Prasad ji was in his service. The Nawab had 360 wifes. All the wives played the roles of Gopikas and the Nawab would himself dance among them as Krishna. The Nawab took a special interest in the subject of Krishna leela, which led to a rise in Natwari dance during this period.  Thakurprasad ji died in the year 1885. Durgaprasad ji had three sons — Bindadeen, Kalka and Bhairon Prasad.


Bindadeen Maharaj was born in the year 1832 in Lucknow. He was a disciple of Shri Thakur Prasad ji. He was already dancing with full attire and preparation at the tender age of 12. 

When the mutiny of 1857 broke out, Thakurji took his family away to some village and then returned to Lucknow after the mutiny ended. It is said that Maharani Kalika of Bhopal once came to Lucknow to watch Kalka ji and Bindadeen ji’s dance. She was so impressed with the dance that she rewarded both brothers with Rs 12 lakh. Soon after that, Bindadeen Maharaj went to stay in Nepal. It is said that he brought lakhs of rupees in wealth and property back to Lucknow from Nepal. 

Bindadeen Maharaj was a devote of Lord Krishna. After achieving mastery over taal (beats) in dance, he also presented beautiful bhav (expressions and emotions). He composed around a hundred and twenty five thousand bhajans and thumris, which is an incredible and praiseworthy accomplishment. He was an expert in making expressions that enhanced the intent of the words. He also created several new gath and gath nikaas formations, which is remarkable. He always kept his younger brother, named Kalika, with him for company. Both the brothers performed dances together, and were jointly responsible for the proliferation of the Lucknow Gharana. Shri Bindadeen Maharaj as also a skilled tabla player. Shri Bindadeen Maharaj passed away at the age of 80 years.

Bindadeen Maharaj was succeeded by many other skilled artists in the Lucknow Gharana, including Acchan Maharaj, Shambhu Maharaj, Birju Maharaj and many other well known performers. 


Lucknow Gharana has a special place of importance among the multiple Gharanas of Kathak dance. This dance is famous for its beauty and special emphasis on limb movements.  The uniqueness of this Gharana is that dancer expresses the emotions while also singing. The todas and tukdas of this Gharana are short, but beautiful. This Gharana also focuses on variations in the matra at which todas are started. The dances extensively employ gath nikaas (dance movement), with less focus on the gath bhav (emotions in movement). Kalka ji and Bindadeen Maharaj were the principal propagators of the Lucknow Gharana. Bindadeen Maharaj himself started dancing to thumris, such that over time dances to thumris became the hallmark of this Gharana.


Jaipur Gharana

The Jaipur Gharana played a pivotal role in preserving and spreading the Kathak dance form. Many of the Kathak dance scholars belonged to the Jaipur Gharana. The most influential of these were Shri Harihar Prasad, Hanuman Prasad and Shyamlal ji. Jaipur Gharana boasts of two different dance styles, one developed by Narayan Prasad ji, and the other by Jailal ji. Narayan Prasad’s dance style emphasized the accompaniment of songs and poetry, whereas Jailal ji’s dance style focused more on the accompanying sounds of tabla and pakhawaj.  The history of this Gharana is not known with much clarity, but some useful pointers were provided by Mohanlalji, who was the son of Hanuman Prasad. According to him, Shri Bhanu ji was the first artist of the Jaipur Gharana. Bhanu ji was an ardent Shiva devotee. It is said that he received training in Shiv Tandav dance from a Saint, and then passed on this skill to his two sons – Laluji and Kanhuji. 

Kanhuji moved to Vrindavan where he became a Krishna devotee. He returned to settle in Jaipur after learning the lasya (seductive?) aspect of dance. Kanhuji had two sons – Geedhaji and Sahajaji. He taught the tandav style to Geedhaji and the lasya style to Sahajaji.  Geedhaji had five sons, one of whom was Dalhaji. Dalhaji remained in Jaipur and gained fame with the assumed name of Giridhari. Giridhariji gained expertise in both the tandav and laasya dance styles. Giridharji had two sons – Harihar Prasad and Hanuman Prasad. Both brothers were expert dancers and provided instructions in darbari (royal court) dance. This pair of brothers was commonly known as dev-pari (god and fairy) in recognition of their excellent artistry. Harihar Prasad, who was the older brother, specialized on the Tandav style, and performed beautiful chakradhar paran and tathkar. 

Hanuman Prasad’s dance represented the Laasya style. He excelled in expressing emotions. His dances were very graceful because of his special fondness for emotions and expressions. Hanuman Prasad had three sons – Mohanlal, Chiraunji lal and Narayan Prasad. 


Shri Chiraunji lal

Chiraunji lal ji received dance training from his uncle and older brother. Later he started focusing on playing the tabla, and became an expert in accompanying all kinds of Kathak dancers on the tabla. He was so spontaneous in playing tabla with any dancer that it always seemed like he had been accompanying that dancer for years. He served as the Director of Dance for two years at Delhi University.


Shri Narayan Prasad:

Narayan Prasad ji was born in Jaipur in the year 1910. He was quite handsome and always danced with elaborate presentation. He used to imbue beautifully delicate expressions in his dance. His dance tutelage started when he was eight years old. He only learned the tathkar steps for the first two years. Soon after that, he added on several todas and tukdas to his repertoire, and became famous as a child artist at the age of 10-12 years. In his youth he received the honor of becoming nominated the royal dancer in the Raigarh court. He played tabla and pakhawaj very well, and also sang beautifully. Emoting was his favorite subject. He held the opinion that beautiful music was an essential accompaniment for acting out emotions, and that emotional expressions lose their impact with music. 

Narayan Prasad ji was conferred the honorable post of Nrityacharya (Dance Maestro) in recognition of his superior Kathak Dance Artistry (Shresth Kathak Nritya Kalakar) in the Belgaum Session of the Akhil Bharatiya Gandharv Mahavidyalaya Mandal in the year 1957. He also served as Dance Instructor in Delhi University. He was not only a gifted dancer, but also an accomplished instructor. He passed away in the year 1958. Many performers dance to songs penned by Narayan Prasad ji to this day. He was a Krishna devotee, and his dance compositions were based on Krishna Leela stories. Krishna Leela flourished as a Kathak dance theme under this creative direction. Narayan Prasad ji had four sons and three daughters. Of them, Charan Giridhar and Tulsi went on to become expert dancers. 


Specialty of Jaipur Gharana

Jaipur Gharana specializes in layakari, the rhythm of beats. This Gharana is strongly influenced by the Taandav dance style, and the dancers of this Gharana typically tend to dance to stories about bravery (veer ras). This dance employs long parans, a particular specialization of this gharana is pirouettes on one foot. Exhibitionist displays by dancers of this Gharana are also typically only around the passages from Surdas and Tulsidas. This Gharana stays away from Shringar ras and its associated seductive themes, choosing devotional themes instead. The dancers prefer to dance to the accompaniment of songs and poetry. The dancers of the Jaipur Gharana give a strong impression of being religiously minded. They have demonstrated that Kathak dance is not simply about ostentations and pretentious exhibitions, but also about refined and cultured movements. This Gharana flourished under the sponsorship of Hindu rulers. These rulers were fond of story themes around bravery, and so the dances of this Gharana, performed in the Hindu royal courts were principally oriented towards veer ras.  The dances of this Gharana place a lot of importance on the preparations of the leg movements. The Jaipur Gharana is largely untouched by Muslim influences. 

The second distinct style of Jaipur Gharana is essentially a derivative of the original style, but with a distinct technique. The second style takes on more of the tabla sounds in its bols. Shri Shyamlal, Chunnilal, Durgaprasad and Shri Govardhan were some of the famous dancers of this style. Chunnilal ji had two sons – Jailal ji and Sundarlal ji. Both of these learned dance from their father before moving to Lucknow for advanced dance instructions under Bindadeen Maharaj. 


Jailal Ji:

Jailal ji was born in the year 1885. Not only did he learn dance from his own father, but also sought dance training from several other dancers. He was the royal dancer in the Jaipur court. Subsequently, he also spent periods of time in the royal courts of Jodhpur, Sikri, Raigarh and Mehar. He served as a dance instructor in Rajgarh for 12 years. His daughter, Jaikumari, was known to be a superior dancer of her time. In addition to being an expert dancer, Jailal ji was also skilled in playing the tabla and pakhawaj.  He stayed in Bombay for 12 years and then another 6-7 years in Calcutta, where he stayed until his death.


Sundar Prasad Ji:

Sundar Prasad Ji was born in Jaipur in the year 1893. He received his dance training under his father and Bindadeen Maharaj. He was training in both the Jaipur and Lucknow Gharanas, and furthermore also created a new dance style. He was an expert dancer by the age of 22, and travelled across India. He stayed in Bombay for 30 years, and moved to Madras after that. He moved to Delhi in 1958, and was recognized by the Sangeet Natak Academy in 1959. He specialized in demonstrating the divisions of tathkars. He was a committed disciple and had an unwavering faith in his guru. 


Benares Gharana

Shri Janki Prasad ji is commonly believed to be the foundational pillar of the Benares Gharana. He wasn’t personally gifted in the dance form, but was a famous scholar of Sanskrit. Concerned that the Kathak dance was degenerating towards oblivion, he took it upon himself to compile a number of ancient texts. He studied the texts and extracted the dance passages and bols from them. He believed that dance should only have the sounds and songs of dance for accompaniment, and not the sounds of musical instruments like tabla and pakhawaj. Hence, dances of the Benares Gharana are only performed to dance songs and poetry.  

Janki Prasad ji completely trained a disciple named Chunni lal, who became an expert dancer at a young age of 15. Chunni lal ji was appointed as the royal dancer of the Bikaner royal court. He also gave good dance training to his younger brother, Dulharam ji, who also turned out to be proficient in dance. In turn, Dulharam ji passed on his knowledge of dance to Ganesh Prasad ji. 

Shri Biharilal ji was the first dancer of his Gharana to visit Bombay and settle down to earn a lot of acclaim for his skill. The famous danseuse Menaka was his disciple. The famous dancers of the Benares Gharana include Hiralal ji, Puranlal ji, Hanuman Prasad i, Pandit Gopal and Shri Krishnakumar ji. 


Speciality of Benares Gharana

The primary specialization of the Benares Gharana is that the dance is only performed to pure musical notes, in contrast to other Gharanas where dance is performed to the notes of tabla and pakhawaj. This Gharana has a demanding training process. Heels are extensively used in this Gharana, while gath nikaas is only sparingly used. There is also limited use of todas and tukdas, but the ones that do exist are hard to weave into the dance. Chakradhar gath is routinely used in this dance. This Gharana emphasizes the purity of expressions in the dance. The Benares Gharana was also largely sponsored by Hindu rulers, which isolated the dancers from Muslim influences. 

Lasya, Tandav and Their Types:

Lasya is the dance style that focuses on enchantment and seduction. It is only performed by ladies. The lasya dance was first learned by Parvatiji from Lord Shiva. This dance involves delicate organ movements. Arms are typically moved across the body from left to right or right to left. Head and eye movements have their own unique importance. Both these movements are utilized in the dane to depict feelings of love. In addition, this dance also depicts other emotions like sweetness, delicateness, worry, anxiety etc. Parvatiji learnt this dance herself, and in turn taught the dance to Bagasur’s daughter, Usha. Usha taught this dance to the ladies of Saurashtra, from where is spread across all of Hindustan. Lord Krishna created the Raas Mandal to lend a complete form to lasya style of dance. 


There are three forms of lasya:

  1. Vishabh Lasya: Vishabh lasya is the form of lasya that is performed by walking around in circular or twisted patterns or bending. This dance requires an understanding of geometric patterns. The dance performed with spears and sticks on ropes is also a form of Vishabh Lasya. This types of dance is usually seen among nomads.
  2. Vikat Lasya: Vikat lasya is the form of lasya in which emotions are displayed in synchrony with the taals and the footwork. 
  3. Laghu Lasya: Laghu Lasya is the form of lasya where the footwork is performed with raised heels to synchronize the sounds of the ghunghroo with the taal and laya of the song.  


Tandav Lasya:

Tandav lasya is the dance of men. In this dance, male dancers control their organ movements to express emotions like bravado, anger, aggression etc. Lord Shankar performed this dance to an assembly of gods for the very first time. It is also believed that he performed this dance for the first time in satisfaction after slaughtering the demonic Tripur Rakshas. 

This dance has been named after Lord Shiva’s favorite disciple, Tandu.  Just as dances emphasize emotions and gestures, the Tandav dance focuses on the body postures. In this dance, the hand movements are primarily oriented from top to bottom or bottom to top. The body movements reflect rigidity and aggression. Anger is the primary emotion of this dance. It appears as the entire world is about to be destroyed. Loud instruments, such as damru, mrudang, nagada, shankh (conch), etc. accompany this dance. Tandav dance is presented in four types: 1. Abhang, 2. Samabhang, 3. Tribhang, and 4. Atibhang.

Tandav dance presents various representations of grand power. Passion is seen in the abhinaya (acting) of the dance performance. There are seven styles of Tandav:

  1. Samhar Tandav: Lord Shiva was enraged upon witnessing a rise in immoral and sinful behavior in the universe, and he started dancing in his rage. He raised his Trishul (Trident) and performed the dance with the intention of bringing about a cataclysm on the earth. This dance is referred to as Samhar Tandav. This dance brought about chaos and mass slaughter on the earth. All the devas were terrified at this spectacle. They approached Parvatiji and requested her to mollify Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva ended his destructive Tandav Dance upon Parvatiji’s intervention.
  2. Tripur Tandav: The Tandav dance performed by Lord Shiva while vanquishing Tripur Rakshas is referred to as the Tripur Tandav. Adilaya (??) is utilized in this dance.
  3. Kalika Tandav: Kalika Tandav shows how initially the human soul entangles itself in ignorance and suffers because of that. It takes 14 lakh (1.4 million) reincarnations for the soul to achieve salvation. Lord Shiva had performed this dance with Mahakali.
  4. Sandhya Tandav: Sandhya Tandav depicts ominous signs such as the setting sun and the arrival of a dark night of destruction. This Tandav shows anger (raudra ras) turning to a darker ghastly emotion (vibhats ras).
  5. Gauri Tandav: Gauri Tandav presents pure and positive feelings towards Gauri.
  6. Uma Tandav: When Uma performed the Sati rite by offering herself to fire, Lord Shiva lifted her corpse and performed the Uma Tandav in the grief of her loss. 
  7. Anand Tandav: Anand Tandav shows the relief experienced by the soul upon ridding itself of all pains and sorrows.


Clear Definition of Acting (Abhinaya)

The genesis of the word Abhinaya (Acting) is based on two roots: ‘Abhi’ and ‘Ni’. It purports to the expression of various emotions such as anger, love, etc, and pursuing those emotions through body movements and songs or words. Another definition of Abhinaya is to generate various emotions in the hearts of audiences through beautiful and graceful expressions. There are four types of Abhinaya:

  1. Angik Abhinaya: Angik Abhinaya gives prominence to gestures (mudra) and body movements (ang sanchalan). Co-ordinated movement of all parts of the body, such as the neck, eyes, hands, lefts etc. is the key theme.
  2. Vachak Abhinaya: Vachak Abhinaya is primarily expressed through words and voice. This abhinaya style employs artistic modulations of the voice to express emotions. The significance of Vachak Abhinaya is enhanced when the performer presents bhajan, thumri etc as part of the dance itself.
  3. Aharya Abhinaya: Aharya Abhinaya lays emphasis on the attire and the presentation of the dancer. It is very important during a dance performance to present a decor that is in harmony with the context of the dance. For instance, when the dance appears on the stage, the audience should easily be able to identify whether the dance is representing Krishna or Kansa.
  4. Satvik Abhinaya: Satvik Abhinaya is most concerned with the emotion of the dance, and hence has greater importance than the preceding three abhinaya forms. Satvik Abhinaya is the art of expressing the mood and inner feelings to the audience without uttering a single word. Examples include being stupefied, perspiring, chance in tone etc.