Because of the linear nature of the passing of knowledge from guru to shishya, certain stylistic and technical features began to fossilise and became hallmarks of a particular school, guru or group of teachers. The different styles are known as gharanas, and these are:
Lucknow Kathak Gharana
The Lucknow Gharana developed in the courts of the Nawab of Oudh in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. It particularly emphasises grace, elegance and naturalness in the dance. Abhinaya or expressional acting, especially improvised, plays a very strong role in this style, and Birju Maharaj, Shambhu Maharaj and Lachhu Maharaj are or were all famed for the naturalness of and innovativeness of their abhinaya.
Jaipur Kathak Gharana
The Jaipur Gharana developed in the courts of the Kachchwaha kings of Jaipur in Rajasthan. Importance is placed on the more technical aspects of dance, such as complex and powerful footwork, multiple spins, and complicated compositions in different talas. There is also a greater incorporation of compositions from the pakhawaj, such as parans.
Banaras Kathak Gharana
The Benaras Gharana was developed by Janakiprasad. It is characterized by the exclusive use of the natwari or dance bols, which are different from the tabla and the pakhawaj bols. There are differences in the thaat and tatkaar, and chakkars are kept at a minimum but are often taken from both the right- and the left-hand sides with equal confidence. There is also a greater use of the floor, for example, in the taking of sam. Though the style developed in Benaras, it flourishes today from Bikaner.
Raigarh Kathak Gharana
This was established by the Maharaja Chakradhar Singh in the princely state of Raigarh in Chhatisgarh in the early 20th century. The Maharaja invited many luminaries of Kathak (as well as famous percussionists) to his court, including Kalka Prasad (the father of Acchan, Lacchu and Shambhu Maharaj) and his sons, and Pandit Jailal from Jaipur gharana. The confluence of different styles and artists created a unique environment for the development of new Kathak and tabla compositions drawn from various backgrounds.
This is an attempt to compare various Gharanas of Kathak…