Kathak is one of the leading forms of Indian classical dance. This ancient art of India derived it's name "Kathak" from "Katha", the art of storytelling. The Kathak dancers were excellent narrators and storytellers, and they interpreted incidences from the great epics with gestures and music. Through an aesthetically exquisite and continuously evolving style, these storytellers of the past combined dance and music and became the protagonists of the modern Kathak dance.
Like many aspects of the cultural life of northern India, Kathak evolved through various phases of Indian social, religious and political history, thus reflecting their diverse impact. During the Hindu period, this performing art of north India was nurtured in temples for the glory of God. The dancers were mainly Brahmins and were held in high esteem. Kathak dance suffused mainly with Vaishnava philosophy and the Radha-Krishna theme, passed through a period of renaissance and for some time became a powerful vehicle of entertainment for the Mogul courts. As a result of fusion of Indo Mogul culture, Kathak emerged into a new form of dance. Though the basic graces of the old form were retained, a new format and a new idiom inevitably came to be added. The Persian art of the Moguls introduced geometrical patterns and designs, Persian music and the emphasis on footwork and intricate rhythmic patterns into Kathak. During this period, however, Kathak became a favorite royal past time, and a source of entertainment for rich and aristocrats, thus falling into disrepute, particularly for women.
The British showed little interest in Indian dance and music. Kathak was no exception. Maharaj Bindadin the greatest of Kathak gurus, provided the much-needed integration of Hindu and Mogul influences in this dance form, and Kathak became a truly representative classical dance form. The post-independence or modern Kathak is a mixture of both the temple dance and the court dance. Kathak has north Indian classical music as its cultural counterpart. The rhythmic patterns and several other common areas for these two art forms have reinforced each other.
There are three main traditionally called "Gharanas" in Kathak - Jaipur Gharana, Lucknow Gharana, and Banaras Gharana, each having its own characteristics and peculiarities. Kathak today has regained its old glory, its rightful place amongst the classical arts of India and has inspired a number of artists. Kathak has contributed to the modern cultural renaissance in India, and deservingly is one of the most popular classical performing art forms in India.