Top 7 Kathak Dancers In India In 2023

Top 7 Kathak Dancers In India In 2023

Kathak is one of the 8 major classical dance forms in India with a history stretching back to 885 AD, as evidenced by its depiction in the Khajuraho temples of the Chandela dynasty. The term ‘Kathak’ means ‘story’ and ‘kathakar’ means ‘story teller’ in Vedic Sanskrit. India has some of the most renowned Kathakars, who are known for their legendary contributions to the Kathak dance form in modern history.

1. Pandit Birju Maharaj 

Famously known as 'Pandit Birju Maharaj', Brijmohan Mishra is a well-renowned Indian dancer, musician, composer, and singer who exemplifies the Lucknow 'Kalka Bindadin' Gharana of Kathak dance. Born in 1937, he is part of the Maharaj family of Kathak dancers, and his uncles, his father, and his guru are all credited with teaching him the art form.

At the age of thirteen, Maharaj started his career in dance, and taught at Sangeet Bharti, New Delhi, Bharatiya Kala Kenda, and Kathak Kendra. He later opened his own school, 'Kalashram', upon his retirement. Additionally, he has choreographed for Satyajit Ray's Shatranj Ke Khiladi (1977), Madhuri Dixit for Dil to Pagal Hai (1997), Devdas (2002), Kamal Hassan for Vishwaroopam (2012), Deepika Padukone for Bajirao Mastani (2015), and Alia Bhat for Kalank (2019).

Maharaj was just 28 when he was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akedemi Award and he was also honored with India's second highest civilian award, the Padmabushan, in 1986.

2. Lachu Maharaj 

Pandit Bajinath Prasad, also known as Lachhu Maharaj, was the second son of Kalka Prasad, a celebrated Kathak dancer. He was taught by his uncle Bindadin Maharaj, who used to be the court dancer of the Nawab of Awadh for almost a decade. At the age of 10, Bajinath began to practice Kathak, as well as Pakhawaj, Tabla, and Hindustani Vocal Music. His family, who had been prominent in the Kathak scene since its inception, was known for choreographing films and Indian cinema.

He was especially adept at demonstrating poise, emotion, and sensuality, and exported Kathak all over the world, making him one of the most famous names in the cinema industry. Some of his most renowned choreographies were Mughal-e-nizam(1960) and Pakeezah(1972), for which he was awarded the 1957 Sangeet Natak Akademi Award by the Indian National Academy for Music, Dance and Drama.

3. Shambu Maharaj 

Shambunath Mishra, better known as Pandit Shambu Maharaj, was an expert in the Lucknow Gharana style of Kathak. At the age of eight, he began his training under his uncle Bindadin Maharaj and then his elder brother Acchan Maharaj. He was also taught 'Natwari Nritya' and 'Thumri' by Ustad Rahimuddin Khan from Benaras. He was nicknamed the 'king of emoting' due to his amazing performance and was later awarded the titles of 'Nritya Samrat' and 'Abhinaya Chakravarti'. In 1967, Maharaj was given the Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship and the Padmashri in 1956.

4. Shovna Narayan 

Renowned Indian Kathak dancer, Shovana Narayan, is celebrated for her passion for experimentation and development of the Kathak dance form. She was tutored by the eminent Kathak and classical trainer, Pandit Briju Maharaj, and Kundanlal Gangani. She has worked and performed in many prestigious international stages. 

Shovana was a civil servant in the Indian Audit and Account Service and graduated from Miranda House, Delhi University. Additionally, she achieved her Master of Philosophy in Defense and Strategic Studies from the University of Madras. 

She has committed much of her time to researching into early Kathak forms and released a documentary on eight Kathak villages near Gaya. In addition, she collaborated with epigraphy scholar Dr. KK Mishra, who uncovered inscriptions of Kathak from the fourth century BC.

5. Kumari Kamala 

Kumari Kamala is renowned for her roles as a child dancer in over 100 movies from various languages, including Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malyalam, and Hindi. She was trained by renowned Kathak dancer Lachhu Maharj and further honed her skills by studying Hindustani Music under Shankar Rao Vyas after leaving her hometown of Mayuram. 

In 1953, she was invited to participate in Queen Elizabeth II's coronation festivities and toured China and Japan during the late 1950s. She also held a professorship at the Colgate University in New York and was given the Padmabushan in 1970, followed by the National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2010. After settling in New York, Kumari Kamala opened her own dance school, Shri Bharata Kamalaya, in Long Island.

6. Sunanya Hazarilal Agarwal 

Sunayana Hazarlal Agarwal is an esteemed Kathak dancer, and the last remaining practitioner of the Benaras Gharana (Janakiprasad) of Kathak. She was raised in Mumbai and taught by Guru Hazarilal, a famous expert in the Benaras Jankiprasad Gharana. Hazarilal is currently the director of the Natawari Dance Academy and has held faculty positions at some of the most renowned universities, including the University of California, Los Angeles.

Furthermore, she heads the Kathak division of Sanet and Nartan Shiksha Peeth of Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai, and has led dance workshops in various states and countries such as New York, California, Italy, Belgium, and the US. For her outstanding work in the field of Kathak, she has been honored with Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, Abhinayan Kala Saraswati an Maharashtra Gaurav Award, as well as the Padma Shri, awarded to her by the Government of India in 2011.

7. Pandit Durgalal

Born in 1948 in Mahendargarh of Rajasthan, Pandit Durgalal got his training from his brother Devilal, and is considered to be one of the most distinguished Kathak gurus and is known as the jewel of the Jaipur gharana. He is renowned for his part in the dance drama Ghanashyam in 1989, with the music composed by Pandit Ravi Shankar and was produced by the Birmingham Opera Company.

He was not only a proficient Kathak dancer and a disciple of Sunder Prasadji, but also a vocalist and a Pakhvaj player. He imparted Kathak at Kathak Kendra or the National Institute of Kathak Dance, New Delhi. He was granted with the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1984 and was honored the Padmashri by the government in 1990. After his demise in 1990, Durgalal’s fellowship organized the annual Pandit Durgalal Memorial Festival which in 2021 took its 31st season.




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