Variegated colors of Kathak

via Padma Jayaraj published on November 8, 2006


Padma Jayaraj

Navaratri is a national festival in India. Although Durga puja is the cultural legacy of Bengal, people all over the subcontinent and the Diasporas are keen on celebrating Navaratri.  Music and dance stamp the Puja fest. Cultural traditions are revived and synchronized with the modern performing art forms today. Since our strong roots lie in sastras, we look forward to an evolving future in art forms.  “Dance evolves. We cannot put dance into watertight compartments, as modern or traditional,” says Ashimbandhu Bhattacharjee, a well-known kathak exponent from Calcutta.




     The maestro was in Kerala for another Navaratri festival from the land Durga.He came with three compositions onto different stages in Kerala. Catering to the mood of Navaratri was the group item, Sakyistuti


SAKTI STUTI highlights the power of Durga in three aspects– Shakti ( the power of spiritual strength) ,  Matri ( Universal Mother) and  Shanti,( Peace beyond understanding.) The item, in a scintillating performance, pays tribute to Bengal and its religious heritage. By harnessing modern technology of lighting and sound, the choreography acquires an ethereal dimension. The people of India, has only worshiped such strength, power and beauty.

NABACHANDA, New Rhythm, is a composition of nine beats. The dancers weave various geometric patterns like, the square, oval, triangle, parallels, and the likes. The patterns remind you of  thantric symbols. Some recall designs of Rangoli  that decorate our door-steps. Powerful, haunting music sets the tempo for the magic of sparkling movements. Somewhere from the depth of consciousness the Srichakra rises. The Indian mind of ancient times created the Srichakra, the base of different charkas in Indian spiritual and cultural lore, which is still a mathematical challenge. As the dancers interlace celestial-designs, your spirit floats in the star-spangled sky where constellations revealed astronomy and astrology in ancient India. Here, the modern mind is connected to India’s heritage by means of costume that suits to the modern tastes and times. Different vocabularies of kathak beautifully merge and mingle to form an explorative composition.

VIRAHA MILAN, Separation & Reunion, is a highly sensuous piece. It portrays the pangs of lovelorn Radha. The oft-repeated theme focuses on a different dimension. Human to the core, it shows love is eternal ecstasy; separation its aching partner. Here, Radha is a symbol of human being in love. She realizes love through her memories: time spent together, joys shared together, and promises made…. not to be fulfilled!! She realizes her love in fantasies: his touch, his music, his closeness. It is psychological realism that is portrayed in such anguish. Every human being capable of love goes through its endless pangs. The Soul-mate always lives in deep isolation.  The timeless Radha-theme, by Ashimbandhu and his senior artist Luna Pan, is a lyrical rendering of an enduring romance from India’s cultural memories.



  GHUNGROO, (Ankle-bells) the main piece showcases the story of ankle-bells in an autobiographical vein. An innovative piece, the group item traces the story of ankle-bells from its birth shrouded in mystery to its role in dance performance today.


At another level, it symbolizes the classical dancer: her past, present, and future. At a deeper level, the composition traces the evolution of the aesthetic perception of humanity. History comes alive in different layers: as deep as poetry, accompanied by a joy that only dance can evoke .As the performance ends, you hear the jingling all around, deep within, and it courses through your blood stream like the rivers of India.


Nataraja, is Nature personified. The dancing Siva is nature in its innate rhythm, vigor, harmony, and poise. The immanent music and rhythm is created by its sounds and silences; by the stillness between sounds, between movements. In immemorial times, during the thandava of Nataraja, the ankle bells were born; made its first jingling sounds…; went to sleep…




Eons later, came the artist; heard its jingle in the murmur of the leaves on wind-driven slopes, in rushing streams, in wafting waves, in gushing fountains, in the pitter-patter of the rains. He heard its jingle in the cooing of the bird and in the dance of the peacock. Invoked by art, sounds rushed toward him jingling and formed itself into a chain. 

And when dancing girls wore the golden bells around their feat, the Ghungroo found its joy; felt ecstatic when the temple dancers danced before its Creator.


Years rolled on, the dancers became celebrated guests at the king’s court. The Gghngroo was proud to share the honor…


Then came Change, history moving ahead. The Islamic era saw a change in theme, costume, and sophistication in style. Yet, the Ghungroo remained the signature of dancers, heard in their alluring rhythmic steps.


The dark days, was a period of tragedy when dancers were exploited by male clutches.  Devadasies fell from their glory. During their days of ill repute, the Ghunhroo moved stealthily when dusk deepened, or when lovers met in lonely places….


As the eternal search for identity continues the Ghungroot has remained a witness to Creation, Sustenance and Destruction.


Now, Gunghroo has reached the proscenium theatre. What next? What is the future of classical dance in India as artists struggle against onslaughts amid changing tastes? Neither man nor woman, but a divine spirit, the Ghungroo rises with hopes and aspirations, and dreams of its lasting legacy… As long as human hearts could be charmed by sound and stillness that create the jingling note, Ghungroo will live, is the message of the ballet. Indeed Ghunghroo is the signature of Indian classical dance throughout the subcontinent.


Fast pace, dramatic moments, different styles of presentation, changes in costume and music, give the touches of a period-piece to this beautiful visual orchestration.


UNIQUENESS   Originality marks the theme, presentation of visual scenes, costume, lighting and music. The story telling essence of kathak tradition is modern in perception to cater to our times. The dance composition incorporates movements from Kathakali and kalari payattu to enhance nuances of kathak style. Costume is inspired by the simplicity of western ballet. Shorn of heavy ornamentation, the dancing bodies merge with the colors and forms they represent. Lighting is used to give broad brush strokes to cast ultra dimensions. Different types of symphony, with group violin, piano beside other instruments, orchestrate special sound effects. Recorded in the studio, the booming quality of music with the jingling of ankle-bells dominating makes the Ghungroo piece an experience. ”kathak is one of the most contemporary classical dance forms that lends itself to experimentation and innovations,” said Ashimbandhu Bhattacharjee.


From time immemorial artists roamed through settlements. These pilgrims from Bengal brought a rare visual treat for Navaratri  Puja to Kerala. 


Welcome to Haindava Keralam! Register for Free or Login as a privileged HK member to enjoy auto-approval of your comments and to receive periodic updates.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 characters available

12 − 3 =


Latest Articles from Uncategorized

Did You Know?