These photos give us a glimpse of one of the first generations of Kathak dancers and gurus from the post-Independence era. This is the time when Kathak is slowly gaining prominence in the mainstream society as a ‘respectable’ dance form. The dance, which was strongly associated with the courtesan salon and hereditary women communities, had to shed this ‘embarrassing’ historical reference, at the great cost of eliminating the courtesans who were esteemed artists themselves. Post Independence, the dance slowly opened up to women coming from non-dancing families, who embraced the form and also greatly enriched it. Some of the future pioneers of Kathak like Kumudini Lakhia, Maya Rao, etc., were students during this time, learning from male hereditary gurus of Jaipur, Lucknow and Benaras Gharana. This process was greatly facilitated by coming up of institutions as teaching centres, where students from all walks of life could seek admission in a relatively egalitarian way.
I would like to thank Mr. Pritpal Singh, Library and Information Assistant at Sangeet Natak Akademi, New Delhi for his support. All photos are courtesy Sangeet Natak Akademi, Delhi Office Archives