Kathaka (The Tradition): Fusion and Diffusion

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Item Code: IDK820
Publisher: D. K. Printworld Pvt. Ltd.
Author: Ranjana Srivastava
Language: English
Edition: 2008
ISBN: 8124604738
Pages: 288 (33 Colour Illustrations and 43 B/W Illustrations)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 10.0" X 7.2"
Weight 820 gm
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Book Description
From The Jacket

The book traces the history of Kathaka from ancient to the medieval period: its origin and continuous evolution in a struggle for existence through a process involving fusion, diffusion and adaptation. It studies its etymological meaning in a painstaking effort which involves a discussion on the influence of Kathaka Acarya, Sage Katha and the generic similarities between Rasalila, Hallisaka, Carcari, Rasa, and present-day Kathaka. It shows that kathaka has an ancient origin and is an indigenous Indian dance. It deals with the three district sections that from the present-day Kathaka. Surveying a host of religious and secular literature including the Natyasastea, the Abhinaya Darpana and the Sangita Ratnakara and referring to sculptural reliefs from temples and illustrations from manuscripts including the Akbar-Nama, it undertakes a detailed and illuminating study of gestures, postures movements and stances of Kathaka.

An attempt to help readers gain a better insight into the Kathaka dance, the volume will interest practitioners and lovers of classical dance forms of India.

Prof. Ranjana Srivastava, Head of Deptt. Of Dance; Dean, Faculty of Performer, Arts, B.H.U., 2005-08, is an artist, a performer, a researcher and a choreographer of international repute. She is credited with starting Kathaka Diploma Classes from the scratch in the Faculty of Performing Arts, B.H.U., which has now grown into a Deptt. of Dance enrolling student from abroad. A disciple of stalwarts like Guru Vikram Singhe, Pandit shambhu Maharaj, Pandit Birju Maharaj, Pandit Sunder Prasad and Guru M.R. Kalyanpurkar she is a recepient of the U.P. Sangeet Natak Akademi Award. She has published many research papers, a book, Tantra-Mantra-Yantra in Dance, and has completed a UGC sponsored major project: "Dhrupada Natya: A Reconstruction". She has also directed many performances, group dances and ballets in Kathaka.



This is the story of a form of art. Rooted in a remote and perhaps inaccessible past, continuously developing and evolving in a permanent struggle for existence. It is also a story of relationships in a process of change and continuity: a series of encounters, experience, embraces, disillusionments, compulsions and dialogues. It is the story of love and tolerance, of people (sangitajnas) and a nation (Bharata), which battled hard to carry forward a legacy amidst political, social and cultural upheavals. This the story of Katha, one of the greatest art styles of Indian classical dance and also, perhaps, its greatest enigma, since both the tradition and its evolution lie within the realm of speculation. What is the truth of kathaka? The Indian subcontinent being enviably rich, both in terms of natural heritage (flora and fauna) as well as in the ecological variations, thus became exceptionally rich in terms of the performing arts. The wide rainbow-coloured spectrum in dance, folk or classical forms, is easily the envy of any nation. Beside , in terms of tradition all Indian art is essentially spiritual and as an expression of a form of Indian art Kathaka becomes the custodian of the unlimited. The compassionate nature of the arts has however been challenged time and again with the parallel growth of a secular culture. The simple customs and traditions of the ordinary folks, loaded with the wisdom of the unlimited or limitless have always had to contend with the wisdom of the privileged, the over-educated or the well connected. The natural question, which then comes to the fore, is: Can the limited share the wisdom of the unlimited/limitless? Perhaps, faced with some such similar questions, our ancients tackled the situation with a thrust towards a savouring of the arts, for art in India has been a way of life; in fact it is a whole philosophy of life. Indian art imitates life, and as such it participates in the various process of life: creation, dissemination and annihilation. The extensive use of symbolism in the arts is in fact a reinforcement of the process of giving and receiving. Symbolism in fact is a device through which the artist formulates and communicates his ideas/concepts of the various shades and meanings of life in perceptual terms, his effects manifesting in visual, tonal or verbal imagery.

Kathaka as a traditional Indian art is definitely a legacy of the Indian cultural heritage. Perhaps, it was an effort to relive/ redefine bhrupada nrtya with a new confidence; or use art as a foil to craftily preserve the legacy of the ancestors or even perhaps use art to cater to a cross-section of a changing society or even perhaps use to escape a destiny of obscurity. They story of the evolution of Kathaka unfolds many layers/levels of fusion and diffusion. The reason in simple; fusion as an artistic device reveals great possibilities: In the hands of those devoted/committed to the cause of communicating the meaning of life, the device expresses a synthesis of the growth of man's changing ideas in a changing environment, in which case the fundamentals are shared by all. The device thus acts like a vein supplying fresh blood transfusion in the cold-blooded reality of a business world and a competitive market! Also, on the one hand while it consoles the traditionalists, on the other it bestows a new energy into the younger, more energetic modernist; somewhat impatient with the wisdom and the maturity of age: More importantly, all tradition inn order to grow and to survive needs to be re-structured and burnished with the gloss of the contemporary, in order to survive, the economic and emotional pressures of a changing society. By and large, tradition and branded as stereotyped and a gradual breakthrough from this bracket can only be achieved with the device of fusion. In this case fusion takes into cognizance a more collaborative approach, and while it gives due reverence and importance to tradition, it also add a dash of brilliance to the creative and aesthetic faculties of a new generation of artists with a new one force. Of course, there are a few hiccups and hitches: While it is convincing and appreciated by a lager section of the audience/spectators, it raises eyebrows and question marks by another section, may we call them the staunch heretics, the heritage heretics section, may we call them the staunch heretics, the heretics or simply the custodians. Also in the hands of a few individual "famous" artists with powerful links, actively involved in the "show-business" and using art as a label to get noticed, fusion is reduced to being a mere tool, charting out the course for a naïve audience. The responsibilities in charting out futuristic trends in the evolution of traditional arts become far greater when dealing with the performing arts as repositories of an ancient culture: from solo, duets to ballets the answer is self-revealing , the gap between perception and reality, acceptance and exemption, expression and show-business being only hair-breadth. Through exponentially such works may be very successful in the constantly growing commercially rich global market, it is still perhaps a little too early to comment on their sustenance capacity. It remains to be seen that, the new wave, engulfing a whole gamut of creativity, does not turn into a tsunami wiping out a glorious and venerable tradition by its sheer awesome force – a tradition which came to be identified as Kathaka – or, whether the inbuilt system of resilience within, our traditional arts helps them to leap back and survive just as Kathaka rose from the of ashes of bhrupada nrtya.

Perhaps, it is a time when history is repeating itself. The effects may be dramatic, yet with still a large section of the Indian audience with a strong penchant, reverence and romance for the unfolded mysteries and delights, of a distant past, a strong faith in the legacy of an inherited tradition, the screen may not project a good emotional balance. Today, in spite of the extraordinary levels of fusion, diffusion and experimentation, Kathaka is successfully forging ahead in terms of choreographic works and ballets. What turn the art takes is speculative. It is difficult to penetrate the womb of the future. The next fifty years or so shall be very crucial in this story of the history and evolution of Kathaka. With the growing demands of a growing cultural scenario, the boom in the number of dancers (with a boom in population), with a cut-throat competition, exploiting (many a time) unethical ways and means to reach to the top (the dark side of fame), an occupational hazard, it is only the very lucky who survive and make it in terms of money, name and fame; and them they perhaps create history. It is perhaps a time of caution for the centres of power and the patrons of art. Wrong, biased or hasty decision can ring the death-knell for many arts and artistes who will finally languish for want of money and recognition and finally disappear into the dust of oblivion. Real talent must be identified amongst the more celebrated ones. The famous are not necessarily great. Before wearing the mantle of godfathers and godmothers the patrons should be connoisseurs of art and only then the new contract of creating a new vocabulary will stand validated. The impropriety of using names as labels is unhealthy. The naivety of the audience/spectator should not be taken for granted or cheated. As protagonists of an inherited heritage the artistes, connoisseurs, officials should serve selflessly the cause of our traditional arts with a tilt more towards sadhana, rather than with an eye more towards sadhana (consumerism).

Thus, the process of growth, through the method of fusion, diffusion and adaptation goes on in the field of the performing arts. The emergence of new genres becomes an essential part of this process of evolution and growth. Indian is rich because of its diversity and with an inherent mechanism for tolerance and adaptation, integral to the fusion process; the compromise becomes a mere device for sustenance. The subcontinent of India harbouring, nurturing and nourishing a rich heritage of the aspirations of its ancient seers, is uniquely gifted as a custodian of an ancient civilization. With time there is a natural need to reinterpret and redefine our ancient values which appear like shackles, in the changing social and culture scenario/environment, or do me make an effort to reclaim, once again a glorious heritage through a re-commitment to those values, bequeathed as part of a glorious legacy and still deeply embedded in our socio-cultural fabric? Between the two fulcrums it is we who have to decide our point of honesty and loyalty. Personally, however, I still feel that the path paved by our seers has endured the test of centuries and if we somehow manage to keep on the path even precariously, the Indian magic will work; for, it is definitely time-tested. As students, teachers, researchers, performers, artistes, choreographers, critics, organizers, promoters and spectators – the custodians – we share a common onus. We have to be cautious to see that the opportunities envisaged to not become a threat to the ancient values of the dynamics of art. The process of re-invention, re-interpretation and renewal should not overlook the charm of the Indian mystical traditions where reality co-existed with romance. After all, Indian art is more than the sum total of any perception of Indian.




different societies, ages and cultures depending on several factors: type of state and religious authority, metaphysical world-views, economic arrangements, etc. with which he happens to be associated as a member f society. Thus, while republican and democratic forms of Government have, in general, been Favourable to the growth of individualism and individualistic thought as in ancient Greece and modern Western Europe, monarchic and absolutistic regimes have tended to suppress individual liberty and to encourage collectivistic approach to the individual's relation to society. A similar approach to the individual's relation to society. A similar approach is countenanced by religions claiming to have infalliable revealed scriptures. Thus Christianity, particularly in its Catholic form, put obnoxious curbs on the individual's freedom to thought and speech and hampered the progress of scientific investigations. On the other hand Protestant Christianity came to attach greater importance to the individual and his conscience. In ancient India while social relations were largely controlled by the ruling princes who enforced the codes of conduct laid down by the Dharmasastras, metaphysicians and thinker propounding philosophies of liberation felt free to propogate even materialistic and atheistic worldviews. The growth of individualism in modern thought was directly correlated with the rise of science and industrialism on the one hand and democratic institutions and laissez-faire economy on the other. These developments had far-reaching repercussions on Indian socio-political thinkers and religious teachers and reformers. In modern shable until the advent of independence. The founding fathers of the Indian Republic nevertheless succeeded in giving to the country a most modern and progressive secular-to all citizens.

However, while our constitution derives largely from British and American models of Government, our leaders have also been responsive to Socialist-Marxist ideologies stressing the need of economic justice for the poorer sections of society. This ideal of a Welfare State has led to widespread planning in different spheres of the people's life, which amounts in practice to putting restraints on the individual's propensity to self-aggran disement.

As a first venture in authorship the present work has some obvious limitations. But it is rich in content and will be found useful by students and by researchers in the field of modern thought both religion-philosophic and socio-political. The work also offers a comparative review of modern European and Indian developments in the philosophy of the individual. In this connection the reader may ponder over the dilemma of all welfare states posed by the more or less irreconcilable claims of the democratic ideal of liberty of the one side and the socialistic ideal of equality on the other side. The two ideals have been declared to be antithetical by such important writers as lord Action and Will Durant.


  Preface v
  Acknowledgement xi
  List of Illustrations xv
  Introduction 1
1. Kathaka Etymological Meaning, Origin and Development of the World 17
  Does the Word Convey the Same Meaning in the Present State of Affairs? 17
2. katha (Narrative) and its Tradition: A Comprehensive Survey of Religious and Secular Literature 67
3. Indian Narrative Art from the second Century BCE to Mediaeval Period 107
  Black & White Plates 133
  Coloured Plates 157
4. Kathaka – A Classical Dance: Its Gestures, Postures, Movements and Stances 189
  Samabhanga, Samapada and Samadamsa/Hamsasya Arala 197
  Samapada 197
  Samabhanga 198
  Samadamsa 199
  Taj, Thei, Tata 230
  The Varada Hasta 206
  Svastika 207
  Cakkara and Mandala 210
  Tram 214
  Ghata (Pitcher) 215
  Puspaputa hasta 216
  Padhanta 217
  Katyavalambita or Katisamsthita hasta 218
  Dandahasta 219
  Grace and Ada of the Kathaka dancers 220
  Tritala 225
5. Kathaka – An Indigenous Indian Dance: A Recontruction of the History Through the Ages 227
  Bibliography 251
  Index 259
  Foreword V-VI
  Preface VII-IX
  Contents XI-XII
  Introduction 1-6
  Chapter One-The Conceptual Prelude 7-27
1 Understanding the Individual  
2 The Individualistic Attitudes  
3 Philosophical Foundations  
4 Epistemological Implications  
5 Enlightened Self-interest  
6 Utilitarian Ethical approach  
7 Individual Freedom and dignity as Key-concepts of Socio-political Organisation  
8 Laissez-faire: The Economic Individualism  
  Chapter Two-The Indian Scene
The Traditional Setting
1 A Life of Commitment  
2 Liberation from the limited and ephemeral  
3 The Regeneration of the Human Individual:  
  (a) Sadharana dharmas (b) Varnasramadharma  
4 A Shift in the Emphasis : religious theism  
  Chapter Three-The Interactions 45-72
1 The Dawn of Modern Consciousness  
2 Raja Ram Mohan Roy: The morning star of the Renaissance  
3 Swami Dayananda: the apostle of Revivalism  
4 Swami Vivekananda : The New Vedantic Gospel of Freedom and Dignity  
5 Tilak: Freedom through Detached Karma  
  Chapter Four: The Social Individual 73-116
  Section-A 78-100
  Tagore : The Aesthetic Integration of Man  
  Iqbal : The Romantic Cult of Ego  
  Gandhi : Human Individual As a Free Moral Agent  
  Section-B: Secularization of the  
  Social Individual 100-116
1 M. N. Roy  
2 J. L. Nehru  
3 Vinoba Bhave  
  The Summing Up 117-160
1 Recapitulations  
2 The Search for the Authentic Individual  
  I. Sri Aurobindo  
  II. S. Radhakrishnan  
  III. J. Krishnamurty  
3 Observations  
  References 161-176
  Bibliography 177-182
  Name Index 183
  Errata 184

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