Asian Music and Dance

Pt. Tirth  Ram Azad

Bhavo Ki Alag Hi Bhasha Hoti Hai
Expression has its own language

The late kathak dancer, teacher and scholar Pandit Tirth Ram Azad was associated with some of India’s best-known dance institutions and contributed three seminal texts on kathak. Here he talks to Abhay Shankar Mishra and throws light on the concept of the badakhadi that defines the gharana.

Why did you feel inspired to start learning kathak dance?

You may be surprised to know that twelve years before I started kathak, I worked in the theatre in which I was commended for my dance. During the time I was working in the theatre, I went to see Param Narayan Prasad’s Kathak Karyakram in Delhi, after which I took the decision that I too wanted to learn kathak. 

Of the many different gharanas, which would you say is better known for the particular qualities which have sustained its presence till today?

Each gharana has its own palette of qualities, some emphasise more expression where others may emphasise more speed; however, no gharana is any less than another as it is all these qualities from all these gharanas that make kathak well-known and enable the dance to expand and develop further.

However, these could be present-day qualities, whereas some qualities are traditionally passed down in the gharanas. What is required to differentiate a particular gharana from the rest?

In this day and age this seems quite difficult, because in the process of everyone accepting and appreciating each other’s qualities, they’ve ended up mixing them!  Still there are certain things, which in the bigger picture, portray and highlight the differences of a gharana; for example the use of the limbs, of the particular bols of the gharanas, things like that still define each gharana today.

But the bols depend on the pakhawaj or an expressional song, which may be commonly used by many people.

Yes. This is correct and keeping this in sight, many different gharanas’ famous dancers have made their own different badakhadi for their own gharanas.

What is a badakhadi? 

A definite or fixed order of compositions presented in the performance is what we call badakhadi, comprising 12 or 14 bols.  The demonstration of the bols clearly depicts the gharana’s form.  Recently, this topic was brought up by the well-known dancer and Guru Rohini Bhate in a seminar. Luckily I had a paper on me in which the badakhadi for many different gharanas was written on it. On request I responded by reading it out to the audience, who received it well.

Can you shed light on any one gharana’s badakhadi?

For example take Lucknow gharana, in which you start your kathak programme with vandana and that in which you use the bol ‘thei ta thei tat ta’ on khaali (matra 9) or matra 13 and according to requirement, you can increase the matra.  The second item in the repertoire is amad, which has bols ‘ta thei tat, aa thei tat, aa thei tat’.  After this kramash, salaami, natwari, paran, amad, tej, amad, tihai, gat bhav or some bhajan or thumri.  Following that in drut laya: paran, chakardar paran, parmelu, ladi towards the end of the performance. This way the type of sequenced bols comes inside this badakhadi.  Similarly every gharana has its own type of badakhadi, which according to the type of programme can be adjusted slightly; however, not to a greater extent, as it has to follow the kram (sequence).  If it is done in a sequence completely outside its kram then the dance is not really referred to as pure original dance, hence why some qualities still define each gharana and yet cannot be mixed.

Abhay Shankar Mishra belongs to an established family of Benaras tabla gharana. He trained under great Gurus like Pandit Birju Maharaj, Smt Urmilla Nagar and Pandey Maharaj. Abhayji has been the resident kathak teacher at the Bhavan, London for the last ten years. www.abhayshankar.com



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