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Legend of Kathak- Lachhu Maharaj

Today many earned their name and existence in the world of dance, but there are many legends who made selfless contribution towards this art, with no name fame and publicity, they lived with it till their death spreading the good work to students, and here continues the legacy.

Lachhu Maharaj, Indian Kathak Dancer was born in the year 1901, in the city of Lucknow. He hailed from a family of Kathak dancers. He belonged to the Lucknow Gharana of classical Indian dance. Lachhu Maharaj received his training of Indian classical dance, Kathak, for almost ten years, from Pandit Bindadin Maharaj, his uncle and the court dancer of the Nawabs of Awadh, for nearly ten years. He also trained himself with tabla, pakhawaj and Hindustani classical vocal music.

Kathak is one of the eight forms of Indian classical dance. This dance form traces its origins to the nomadic bards of ancient northern India, known as Kathakars or storytellers. Its form today contains traces of temple and ritual dances, and the influence of the bhakti movement. From the 16th century onwards it absorbed certain features of Persian dance and Central Asian dance which were imported by the royal courts of the Mughal era.

The name kathak is derived from the Sanskrit word katha meaning “story”, and katthaka in Sanskrit means “he who tells a story”, or “to do with stories”. The name of the form is properly katthak, with the geminated dental to show a derived form, but this has since simplified to modern-day kathak. kathaa kahe so kathak is a saying many teachers pass on to their pupils, which is generally translated as “she/he who tells a story, is a kathak”, but which can also be translated as “that which tells a story, that is ‘Kathak'”.

There are three major schools or gharana of Kathak from which performers today generally draw their lineage: the gharanas of Jaipur, Lucknow and Varanasi (born in the courts of the Kachwaha Rajput kings, the Nawab of Oudh, and Varanasi respectively); there is also a less prominent (and later) Raigarh gharana which amalgamated technique from all three preceding gharanas but became famous for its own distinctive compositions.

During the latter part of Lachhu Maharaj’s life, he moved the city Mumbai and tried to reach to a wider range of audience through Bollywood. He was highly acclaimed for his form of Kathak and choreography of dance sequence in Hindi movies like Mahal, Mughal-e-Azam and Pakeezah as well as his ballets like Gautam Buddha, Chandravali and Bharatiya Kissan.

Lachhu Maharaj was also the founder Director of the Kathak Kendra founded by Government of Uttar Pradesh in Lucknow. Among many prestigious awards he won were the Presidents’ Award and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award.

In September, 2007, a two-day festival was organized in Lucknow to celebrate his birth centenary, in presence of his wife Rama Devi, his disciples like Nalini and Kamalini, a book on him was also released and students of the dance institution he founded, Kathak Kendra staged a ballet, Megh Malhar. The legend then passed away keeping the extensive creation to follow and enlarge its legacy. In Art scape we will discuss many such legends who contributed to different form of dance on every Saturday.

Aditi Taman
Art Scape

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