Soni Khan

Soni Khan

Sunaina khan is graduate in Social Work & Human Psychology. She started her career as kathak dancer & performed in International & National dance festivals & recieved awards. She graduated in Pakistani folk & Classical dances under a project of UNESCO. She is working as trans activist from last 3 years & working for her community as active social worker.
Soni Khan

Kathak derived from sanskrit word kathak which means story & kathak means the art of storytelling. Kathak was used to be performed in temples to explain stories of Hindi Mythology but when it reached in Mughal courts it transformed. Many other performers from Iran, Spain, Turkey used to present their art in Mughal courts so we find high Muslim influence.  This is a graceful dance accompanied by live or recorded music. The interesting part of the dancer is to wear ankle bells in which footwork is an instrument followed by tabla or could be a jugal bandi with sitar, sarod or flute. Here are the reasons why Kathak is getting extinct in Pakistan.

1. Association with Hindu culture: 

There are many interesting myths and legends about the origin of the tabla, which is the soul part of Kathak dance orchestra. Many authors cite the 13th century Sufi poet/musician Amir Khusrau as the inventor of this instrument, but there is no clear evidence. Another person credited with inventing the tabla is Sidar Khan Dhari, in the 18th century. Amir Khusrau composed many raag & raginis too.

Together with music, dance in Lucknow developed strongly and became a pre-eminent art under the patronage of Wajid Ali Shah. The dance started adapting itself to the demands of the court, but it was under the artistic guidance of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, that Kathak achieved greater dimensions. He gave a definite form, made it more artistic, with an aesthetic touch, added literature to it, and made it more presentable, which is its recent state.

So it’s wrong to relate it with Hindu culture only, Muslims had a great impact on it from costume to presentation, musical compositions to dance technique which was impressed by Muslim architecture.


2. The concept of Nautch Girls/ Tawaifs:

Kathak was primarily associated with nautch girls/ tawaif. This is a much-misunderstood concept for female entertainers, very much like the geisha tradition of Japan. It was a profession which demanded the highest standards of training, intelligence, and most important, civility. Unfortunately, when the British consolidated their hold over India during the Victorian era, this great institution was branded as mere prostitution and was outlawed slaughtering its artistic colors. This mindset could never change in Pakistan even after partition.


3. Ban on kathak:

General Zia ul Haq was the 6th President of Pakistan. He banned performing Kathak dance publically and on National tv. He banned artists like Nahid Siddiqui and other programs which were based on music, classical & folk dances of Pakistan. She had to leave Pakistan because of this ban & had to ask for NOC from Govt. of Pakistan if she wanted to perform anywhere.

They closed PIA Dance Academy whose dancers used to perform all over the world and present Pakistan. This was not only a dark period for dance but also other art forms.



4. State of Arts after the ban:

The ban on all Arts effected it’s in Pakistan. Women were not allowed to dance on stage. Literature was changing, music was changing, we were forgetting our culture. Classical music & Dance vanished from the mainstream. People were confusing their own culture with western culture. Action & ‘Gandaasa’ took place of romantic & story based movies. So the atmosphere for arts was suffocated & cheap literature was taking place of intellectualism.


5. Initiative in 90’s but no encouragement:

After 17 years, in 1995, Rafi Peer theater group took initiative & organized a Dance festival in Lahore, in which many classical dancers including Sheema Kirmani, Nighat Chaudhry, Fasih ur Rehman, Indu mitha & Tehreema Mitha performed. Though, response was good but it was still a gap of many years.

In 1996, Nahid Siddiqui performed on a 14 august program with her students on PTV, Lahore Centre. It was still a long way to go. Kathak has lost its popularity.

It was still a new thing for the Generation of 80’s and early 90’s. So it did not get as much encouragement as it should have.


6. Lack of teachers: 

It was also a fact that there were few names who were teaching before the ban. Mr Ghanshyam was teaching classical dance in Karachi, he was a student of Uday Shankar from India who introduced his own style by blending all classical dance forms, so it was not a pure Kathak style. Guru Ghanshyam moved from Pakistan after the ban on dance.

Madem indu mitha was teaching Bharat Natyam in Islamabad & Maharaj Ghulam Hussain was the only kathak teacher who was teaching in Lahore. Unfortunately, they could not produce many dancers but few of their students struggled to get a position in later years

Nahid Siddiqui taught some years in Lahore then she moved back to London. Fasih Ur Rehman also moved to London in 2009. Now some of them are teaching in different places but the ratio of students is a cumin seed in a camel’s mouth.

7. No Government support:

Performing artists always had to struggle on their own. There was no Government support if we check the history of the cultural department. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (1973 to 1977) & General Pervaiz Musharaf (2001-2008) somehow supported arts & artists but all the support programs or performances were stopped whenever the Government changed & their new policies effected on the artists.

PTV is still a big medium for artists even though there are many other Pakistani private channels are trying to promote dance these days. They also produce some programs in which we watch classical dance sometimes.

Present Government just started income support program. “Artists Support System” for the old artists (50 or above). There is also a section for dancers, So let’s see how far it goes & help the artists who dedicated their whole life to art.