Kathak Costumes: History and Design

Kathak, a classical Indian dance form that originated in the northern regions of India, is not only known for its intricate footwork, graceful movements, and expressive storytelling but also for its stunning and diverse Kathak costumes that add to the visual appeal of the performance. The Kathak costumes play a vital role in conveying the essence of the dance and reflecting the rich cultural heritage of India.

Significance of Costumes in Kathak

Kathak costumes are more than mere garments; they are reflections of history and culture, These costumes convey the rich heritage of Kathak, and elevate the entire performance.

Kathak costumes contribute significantly to the overall aesthetic appeal of a performance. It enhances the visual charm of the dance. The interplay of colors, the shimmer of embellishments, and the way fabric responds to the dancer’s movements all contribute to the captivating spectacle of Kathak.

Kathak costumes must emphasize facilitating the dancer’s movements. The choice of lightweight and flowy fabrics ensures that the Kathak costumes do not hinder the intricate footwork, spins, and gestures that define Kathak. This element of Kathak costume is crucial for the dance’s fluidity and grace.

Evolution of Kathak Costumes

Over the centuries, Kathak costumes have evolved, influenced by historical, social, and cultural changes. For instance, during the Mughal era, the attire worn by Kathak dancers in the royal courts bore traces of Persian and Central Asian styles, showcasing the fusion of artistic traditions.

Key points in choosing Kathak Costumes

Kathak is a diverse art form that encompasses a wide range of themes, stories, and moods. As a result, the Kathak costumes also vary according to the context of the performance. Let’s look at the key points to be considered while selecting Kathak costume:

  1. Historical Costumes: Kathak often brings historical stories to life, and the costumes reflect the attire of that era. Dancers might wear costumes reminiscent of the Mughal or Rajput eras, showcasing the rich history of India.
  2. Contemporary Adaptations: In modern times, Kathak dancers have experimented with contemporary designs while preserving the traditional essence. These adaptations allow for greater freedom of movement and often incorporate fusion elements.
  3. Color Symbolism: The choice of colors in Kathak costumes is deliberate and holds symbolic meaning. Red represents love and passion, white signifies purity, while green and blue symbolize nature and tranquility.

Varieties of Kathak costumes

Kathak costumes hold the power to convey vital information about the dancer’s gender and role within a performance. Gender-specific Kathak costumes aid in the instant identification of the character being portrayed. This distinction is evident in the contrast between male dancers donning dhotis and kurtas, and their female counterparts adorned in lehengas and cholis.

Let’s take a look at some of the Kathak costumes:

  1. Lehenga-Choli: The traditional Kathak costume for women comprises a flowing skirt (lehenga) paired with a fitted blouse (choli). The lehenga is often plain with richly embellished with a border. The vibrant colors and designs of the lehenga-choli are a significant part of Kathak performances.
  2. Ghagra: Another variation of the skirt is the ghagra, which is a more voluminous version of the lehenga. It adds an extra dimension to the dancer’s spins and twirls, creating a visually captivating effect but keeping the lightness of the dress in mind that must not hinder dance movements.
  3. Anarkali Suit: Kathak costume Anarkali suit derives its name from Anarkali, a legendary dancer in the court of Emperor Akbar during the Mughal era. With its origins rooted in the royal courts, the Anarkali suit beautifully captures the fusion of Indo-Persian styles, making it a perfect fit for Kathak performances set in historical contexts. The churidar, or tightly fitting trousers, creates a visual balance with the voluminous kurta. Its snug fit allows for ease of movement, making it a practical choice for Kathak dancers who require flexibility for intricate footwork.
  4. Angrakha: Kathak costume Angrakha is a traditional style of clothing that originated in India and has been worn for centuries. It features a wrap-style design, where the front panels overlap and tie to the side. The Angrakha was historically worn by both men and women in different styles. The Angrakha worn with Churidar emerges as a garment that adds a regal touch to the Kathak costume.
  5. Dupatta: The ensemble is completed with a flowing scarf-like piece called a dupatta. The dupatta in Kathak costume is draped over the shoulder and adds an element of grace and elegance to the dancer’s movements.
  6. Jewelry: The jewelry worn along with Kathak costumes by dancers is often as intricate as their costumes. Maang tikka (headpiece), earrings, necklaces, bangles, and Ghungroo contribute to the overall aesthetics of the performance. These accessories not only enhance the visual appeal but also create rhythmic sounds that sync with the dancer’s footwork.

Kathak costumes are an integral part of the dance form’s beauty. They not only contribute to the visual spectacle but also help convey emotions, stories, and cultural nuances to the audience. As Kathak continues to evolve and adapt to the changing times, its costumes remain the charm of this classical dance form. Kathak costumes continue to captivate the senses and transport us to a world where movement, music, and culture come together in harmony.

About the Author: – Neha Khunteta

She is one of the best Kathak Trainers in Jaipur and has been associated with it for more than 10 years and the founder of Kathak By Neha the best Kathak dance academy in Jaipur.

Hope this blog helps you in some other way; feel free to contact us on

email: neha@kathakbyneha.in  or contact: +91-8619116616

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