Kathak: Postures, Costumes and Mudras

in Image Gallery
Published on: 22 November 2018

Siddhi Goel

Siddhi Goel is a Kathak dancer based in Delhi. She holds an M.A. Arts and Aesthetics, from School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, where she focussed on Dance History and Performance Studies. She has also completed her Diploma (Hons) in Kathak from Kathak Kendra. A disciple of Pandit Jai Kishan Maharaj, she has been learning Kathak for over 15 years and performing actively since the past 5 years. Apart from dancing, her work interest lies in arts management and curation.


Kathak is a North Indian dance form, with Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan as its prominent centres. It is known for its complex footwork, sharp spins, abhinaya, and technical virtuosity. The following photos provide a vibrant glimpse of the dance by bringing to light its different postures, stances, mudras, costumes, etc. While Kathak does not have a structured set of mudras, over the past few decades it has gradually acquired the usage of some. Mudras are basically a codified set of hand gestures used in dance to express something. Mudras find their maximum elaboration in the ‘abhinaya’ or expressional aspect of dance.


The unique aspect of abhinaya (expression) in Kathak is that the hand gestures and facial expressions resemble our normal, everyday life expressions and are not strictly codified and prescribed like in other classical dance forms. This could probably be owing to its desi connections, and also the emphasis placed on improvisation and personal interpretation, which allows the scope for subjectivity in every performance. It is with the gradual institutionalisation of the dance form in the post-Independence (1947) era that the mudras and textual codification found their way in Kathak teachings. Texts and rules that applied to other classical dance forms were also applied to Kathak, ignoring its unique subjectivity in abhinaya exploration. However, there are certain mudras and foot movements that are used in Kathak and enhance its gestural significance.


Dancer- Siddhi Goel

Photography and Editing- Shifani Reffai