Kathak: Indo-Pak’s cultural bonhomie


By Radhikka Vashisht

Founder of culture anthropology E.B. Tylor defined culture as “that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, laws, custom and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society”. Dancers hold India and Pakistan national flags before the start of play in the ICC World Twenty20 cricket final match in Johannesburg

…and not just that. Culture bridges boundaries, ends silences and attempts socio-political rapport. So does Kathak really play peacemaker?

India and Pakistan parted in 1947. The partition led to fractures like separate homes, states, educational institutions, and all other sorts of civil amenities such as hospitals, courts, and law enforcement agency.

However, culture is the only thing which survived as the common strain between the twain. It still brings the people of two countries together, ethically and emotionally. The language, art and culture, which we inherited from our ancestors, have a renewed spark between both the countries.

Despite the social taboo by the Pakistani religious and political fundamentalist on dance performances, the Kathak dance form is still revered by Pakistani people deeply.

Kathak’, the word is derived from Katha, which means a story. It is a dance form which revolves around a theme where the person uses mime and gestures to narrate a tale. The core characteristic of this dance form is that the performing artist role plays and imitates the story with the help of dance movements, expression and gestures.

Throughout the year, Pakistani classical dancers have been contributing to keep this vibrant dance form alive in Pakistan’s society. Despite unfavourable conditions that have emerged due to foreign and political policies of past rulers in Pakistan, dedicated dancers like Maharaj Ghulam Hussain Kathak, Nahid Siddiqui, Sadia Khan and Sheema Kirmani have kept this traditional dance form in Pakistan’s culture alive.

In Pakistan, Kathak dance is based on stories and folklores excavated from Urdu literature; whereas in India, this form of dance is based on mythological stories of India. Kathak dance form is the binding thread among the civilians of Pakistan and India.

Though political differences tend to disparage the bonhomie borne by both the nations, individuals belonging to each of these countries still share a common chord; a chord that brings together their penchant for Kathak.