Kathak has stemmed from both Islam and Hinduism but, it’s widely known to have evolved in the northern parts of India. The word kathak originates from the concept of kathakars or storytellers. Kathakars or storytellers of Northern India wandered around and communicated legends through the medium of music and dance. The way Kathakars communicated their stories through rhythmic foot movements, hand gestures, facial expressions, and eye work, Kathak evolved into a storytelling performing art. This performing art continued to thrive throughout India so much so that it was widely recognized by the courts and nobles of the Mughal era. By the time the colonial European officials arrived in India, Kathak already became famed as a court entertainment and was more of a fusion of ancient Indian classical dance form. And through the centuries, this classical dance form has been upheld by the masses in both India and Pakistan as a tool for storytelling.
Another indigenous dance of the subcontinent is Bharatanatyam. Bharatanatyam is known to be the oldest classical dance in the Indian heritage. It is also labeled as the Mother of Indian Classical Dances. Traditionally, this dance style started being performed by solo women in the Hindu temples of Tamil Nadu, and gradually, it traveled to other parts of South India. Theoretically, his dance style traces back to ‘Natya Shastra’, the ancient Sanskrit Hindu text on the performing arts. The performers of this art include a singer, a dance, and most importantly, a guru who directs the performance. This dance style became so submersed in the Indian temples that most of the sculptures and paintings now found in the temples of the 6th to 9th century are inspired by this dance style. Many ancient Hindu temples are embellished with sculptures of Lord Shiva in Bharatanatyam dance poses. Notable Bharatanatyam dancers like Arundale and Balasaraswati disseminated the dance form out of Hindu temples and established it as a mainstream dance style. Later the Tamil Hindu migrants revived this Hindu temple dancing custom in British Tamil temples during the late 20th century. In current times, this ancient classical dance form also includes technical performances as well as non-religious and fusion-based themes.
Jhumar originates from Balochi roots, performed by the tribals of Balochistan. It was then traveled into India by the traders of Punjab where it became a very popular dance form. It has now become a very eminent part of the Punjab folk heritage. It is performed in Punjab during the harvest season to reflect the happiness and wellbeing of Punjabi farmers. Sometimes, even acrobats are hired to perform this dance style and entertain the locals. Though it started as a dance of the harvest season, it’s no longer limited to just that. It is performed during melas (festivals), weddings, and many other celebrations.