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Kathak is a classical dance form that originated in northern India. It is believed to have been developed in the courts of the Mughal emperors, and it combines elements of Indian classical music, poetry, and storytelling. The word “Kathak” comes from the Sanskrit word “katha,” which means story, and “kathaka,” which means storyteller.

History and Origin:

Kathak has a long and rich history that dates back several centuries. It is believed that the dance form was originally performed by wandering bards and storytellers who would travel from village to village, entertaining people with their tales. Over time, the dance form evolved and became more formalized, and it eventually found its way into the courts of the Mughal emperors.

During the Mughal era, Kathak was performed by both men and women, and it was often used to tell stories of love and devotion. The dance form was also influenced by Persian and Central Asian dance styles, and it began to incorporate more complex footwork, spins, and jumps.


Kathak is known for its intricate footwork, rapid spins, and graceful movements. The dance form is often performed to classical Indian music, and the dancer uses a variety of hand gestures and facial expressions to convey emotion and tell a story.

One of the most distinctive features of Kathak is the use of “bols,” which are rhythmic syllables that correspond to specific foot movements. The dancer uses these bols to create complex rhythms and patterns, and they often accompany the music.

Kathak dancers also wear a specific type of footwear called “ghungroos,” which are small bells that are tied around the ankles. The sound of the bells adds to the overall rhythm of the performance, and the dancer uses the movement of their feet to create different patterns and rhythms with the bells.


There are three main styles of Kathak: the Lucknow style, the Jaipur style, and the Benares style. Each style has its own unique characteristics and techniques, but they all share the same basic principles of footwork, rhythm, and storytelling.

The Lucknow style is known for its graceful movements and emphasis on facial expressions. The Jaipur style is more dynamic and energetic, and it often incorporates acrobatic movements such as jumps and spins. The Benares style is characterized by its intricate footwork and the use of complex rhythms and patterns.


Kathak is a beautiful and complex dance form that has a rich history and cultural significance in India. It is still widely performed today, both in India and around the world, and it continues to evolve and adapt to new styles and influences. Whether you are a dancer or simply a fan of the arts, Kathak is a fascinating and captivating art form that is well worth exploring.

about me

A graduate from the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, Aruna Bharti Swamy has devoted over 20 years of her life towards the preservation and promotion of Banaras Gharana in Kathak, which is considered the most original form of Kathak in India. Aruna Swamy is one of most prominent students of the Janakiprasad style of Banaras Gharana in Kathak. She has received an extensive training in Kathak under Neesha Jhaveriji and Padmashri Sunayana Hazarilal ji, the doyen of the Banaras Gharana in Kathak.

During her journey as a kathak performer, Aruna has created a niche for herself with her ability to connect with audiences, her beautiful abhinaya and her technical virtuosity. She has given numerous performances at various cultural festivals, nationally and internationally including Sangeet Natak Academi events, National Dance Festivals, SPIC MACAY events, International University performances across Asia and International Cultural Festivals in Hong Kong and Taiwan

Aruna Swamy is the Executive Director of Natwari Gurugram, which along with Natwari Mumbai is the primary academy of the Janakiprasaad style of Kathak for the Banaras Gharana in India. 

Her select performances include:

  • Tribute to Great Guru Pt. Hazarilalji on his 30th Death Anniversary by Natawari, 
  • Rabindra Natya Mandir, Mumbai (2023) 
  • Sangeet Natak Academi’s event at Kathak Kendra, Azaadi ka Amrit Mahotsava-75th Independence Day celebrations, New Delhi (2021) 
  • 71st Republic Day Celebrations, Consulate General of India, Hong Kong (2020) 
  • Solo Kathak Recital, Sheung Wan Civic Center Theatre, Hong Kong (2019)
  • Dance Exchange Program, Dream Community New Taipei City, Taiwan (2018)
  • Arts festival, Baptist University, Hong Kong (2018)
  • Dance without Frontiers, Hong Kong Polytechnic University (2018) 
  • Asian Ethnic Cultural Performances, HK Cultural Center Piazza, Hong Kong (2017)
  • Ethnic Cultural Day, RTHK-eTV, Hong Kong (2016)

Janakiprasad Style in Banaras Gharana of Kathak

Pt Janakiprasad ji was a direct descendant of Pt Shyamaldas ji who served in the court of Maharaja Anoop Singh ji of Bikaner kingdom in the 17th century. In 18th ad 19th century, Bikaner had become a great centre for arts and Pt Janakiprasadji benefitted immensely from the influences around him. Later, Pt. Janakiprasadji left Bikaner to settle in Banaras with a vision of taking Kathak closer to its devotional roots. He studied the the Vedas and added new syllables to the dance vocabulary. These Natawari syllables are lyrical and smooth-flowing, qualities seen in the dancer’s ang chalan. He also created Barakhadi, a series of twelve compositions that can give rise to innumerable new ones in the hands of a gifted dancer. With these radical innovations Jankiprasadji laid the foundation of a distinct Kathak style that came to be known as Banaras Gharana. Three Gurus were instrumental in making this Gharana popular across India: Pt. Hanumanprasadji, Pt. Gopalji and Pt. Biharilalji. One of the prominent students of Pt. Gopalji, Ashiq Hussain became the most well-known dancer of this Gharana in the pre-Independence era. He was awarded the title Nritya Samrat by Ustad Alladiya Khansaheb for his excellent command over layakari and abhinaya. He was also a popular film star of the 1930s and 40s. Ashiq Hussain had many disciples – his brother Master Siddiq, son Akbar, Pt. Krishna Kumarji, Pt. Hazarilalji, Tara Chaudhari, Kumudini Lakhia, Noor Jehan, actresses Shahzadi and Hazoori, and Ratikant Arya. Before migrating to Pakistan at the time of independence, Guru Ashiq Hussain handed the torch of the Gharana to his star pupil Pt. Hazarilal. Unfortunately, Guru Hazarilalji died in 1992 due to cancer. A few months later Krishna Kumar ji also passed away and Janakiprasad gharana was in danger.

After the passing of both Pt. Hazarilalji and Pt. Krishna Kumarji in 1992, Sunayana Hazarilalji became the pillar of the Jankiprasad Gharana. She performs to this day, and has been on stage for more than sixty years. Sunayanaji is the Honorary Director of Natawari and heads the Kathak Section of Sangeet and Nartan Shiksha Peeth, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai. Sunayanaji is a recipient of numerous awards and honors including the prestigeous PadmaShri and Sangeet Natak Academi Award. She teaches worldwide through workshops and tutoring at Natawari affiliated academies. She has held workshops in the USA, UK and Europe. She was also a visiting faculty at UCLA. Her students carry on the work of performing and propagating this style in India, Hong Kong, USA, Europe and beyond.

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