Yapping about….Kathak…

A few days back I decided I wasn’t getting enough exercise. I mean you know it’s high time when you cannot climb 4 floors without panting.

It makes you worry about your future. Here you are in your prime youth and you cannot even manage a measly 100 steps.

So I thought of joining Yoga classes. But know what? Most of the classes here start early in the morning, around 6, that means I have to get up at 5. And moreover I don’t like Yoga. I know it is very beneficial and all, but it is just so slow and boring. I might fall asleep doing it.

So I focused on something energetic and fun. That made me think of Aerobics. But once you leave Aerobics you tend to put on weight. And knowing my ability to stick to anything I didn’t want to take any risk.

So my focus shifted to dancing. As some of you here know that I absolutely love it.

So I joined Kathak. Kathak is one of the major classical dancing forms in India. And it’s beautiful.

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So I and a friend of mine googled this particular class. Our first day there and we were amazed to see girls as young as 7-8 dancing so well. I guess we would take at least 2 years to get to their level. But that’s the thing about classical dances. You have to start early. The younger the better. You can continue learning for years.

The teacher showed us some basic, starter’s moves. And I couldn’t do it. I mean in normal Indian dances, you move a lot. But Kathak is not like that. She said to me,’ don’t move anything except you hands and your feet. Tone it down a bit’. How can you move you hands and feet and not move you hips or say your neck even a little. But it’s amazing how graceful the dance looks even with minimal movements.

“Kathak is about elegant swirling movements, lightning quick pirouettes, the sudden poses, the rapid stamping of feet, and the subtle gestures capable of expressing the fullest possible range of emotions.”

The teacher, we call her tai, asked us to bow down in front of the portrait of Bindadin Maharaj everyday. He invented the dance form. But of course this much information is not enough. If you have to give your respects to anybody you need to know the exact reason. So I googled him and of course got loads of information.

I won’t share all of it but yes this is very interesting.

Durga Prasadji was in the service of the King, from whom he received a pension to help with the upbringing of his children. Also in the King’s service was a great pakhawaj drummer, Kodau Singh, who was jealous since his family did not share this privilege. When Kodau Singh made his complaint known to Wajid Ali Shah, it was decided that the matter should be settled by a contest between the dancer and the pakhawaji. If the latter were to win he would, as requested, receive the dancer’s pension; if not he would forfeit his hands! Durga Prasadji became worried since he was getting old, and he feared that his failure to win the contest would ultimately bring about the end of his family tradition. At this point Durga Prasadji’s gifted seven-year-old son Bindadin Maharaj stepped in to beg his father to allow him to compete instead, saying “Since all this is happening because of me, it should therefore be me who dances in the contest”. Durga Prasadji finally agreed, and in preparation for the contest Bindadin immediately embarked on the rigorous practice of rhythmic footwork to the exclusion of all else.

A month later everyone gathered in the court in an atmosphere of tremendous excitement. The young Bindadin began dancing in quick tempo, and Kodau Singh accompanied him accordingly. Neck and neck they danced and played for twelve hours. Neither had gained the upper hand. The King had become restless and hungry but the court insisted that he not leave his throne even for a second. Bindadin suddenly doubled his tempo and continued relentlessly for a further four hours. He ultimately danced so quickly that his feet became a blur to the eye. Exhausted and confused, the pakhawaji lost track of the rhythm for a split second and committed an error. Bindadin had won. The line of Durga Prasadji had been saved!

The King summoned Durga Prasadji and asked him to name his reward. Durga Prasadji merely said “I want nothing but that you spare the hands of the Kodau Singh”. His wish was granted, but the embarrassed pakhawaji disappeared from public view for quite some time thereafter, remaining in isolation and refusing all food until he nearly starved. Such was the fierce pride of a musician in those times!

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Well, there is a lot of other interesting things too, but I’ll spare you the details.

I’m looking forward to the weekly classes and I really hope I continue with them as long as I can.

Here, have a look at this video I found on youtube.

This is advanced Kathak but it gives you an idea anyway.

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8 thoughts on “Yapping about….Kathak…

  1. Lovely post!
    I think dance is a great form of exercise. Much more natural then aerobics, gym, etc. I wish you well with it!

    It sounds fascinating… I love that old story! “Such was the fierce pride of a musician in those times!” – I don’t think musicians have changed much since then!

  2. True. I’m lucky enough to know a lot but none of them are in the public eye really. The ‘famous’ people have very few genuine musicians among them…

  3. That looks like such a beautiful dance, and really tough to do well.

    Doing something you enjoy as a form of exercise, means you will probably stick at it. And not get to bored. 🙂

    Good luck with it.

  4. CM: I’ll leave that to the expert.
    I don’t know any musicians personally. The one i do are the colony ones, local, and they are always trying to outshine each other even in Society functions 🙂

    Rebecca: Yes, you are probably right, I just might stick to this one.

  5. hey nice post i donno how old this one is bt im a die hard fan of this dance and was doing a project on it for my college when i came across this post truly kathak is one of the most beautiful graceful and energrtic dances of india….i must admit i ws nt aware of this story though…bt nice…

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