Costume and Makeup Kathak Dress


There is an old saying that a man is first identified only by his costume. Bharatamuni says that theatrics and drama is largely based on Aharya Abhinaya, so they should take care of the backstage, under which the costumes, embellishments, color decorations, etc., everything should be carefully edited.

Today, even if the person's first identity is no longer costumes, the identity of any dance style has become costumes.

Unaware of artistic nuances, the spectator only guesses whether it is a Bharatanatyam performance, or Kathak - just by looking at the costumes. Just as there were many changes in Kathak dance from ancient times to modern times, there were also many changes in its costumes. When there was dance in the temples at the time of worship, then the priests used to dance.

At that time, the costumes were pure - simple robes, garlands of Rudraksh, earrings, etc. were worn. In the Mahabharata period, costumes adopted Radha-Krishna's clothing such as lehenga-choli, dhoti-pitambara, etc. The form of costumes changed in the courts of the Mughal period - churidar pajamas, translucent long tunic, Banarasi dupatta with fine work, etc. were used. 

However, today's dancers are more aware of the costumes and the look. Nowadays they wear many types of costumes. From the lehenga-dupatta dhoti-pitambar of the Mahabharata period, the straight saree of the Hindu period, to the churidar-pyjamas in the tunic of the Mughal period, and also a long frock-like costume till the feet - there is a lot of variety in today’s Kathak costumes. Thus, there is no restriction on costumes of any kind in today's times. Padmabhushan Kumudini Lakhiya also did many experiments in the costumes in Kathak. Keeping in mind the importance of costumes in dance, their selection should be done very thoughtfully. Sometimes, the small details are also important under clothing, and to give a beautiful look to the entire personality, it is important to analyse them deeply.


The words Roop-Sajja, and Mukh-Sajja, etc. have become popular in Hindi as a synonym for the “make-up” in the English language. 

Appearance is a natural instinct of human beings. Is his nature. Man has been trying to decorate himself since the time of the creation of the world. In the 21st chapter of his Natyashastra, Bharatmuni has also considered in detail the bodily movements under “Makeup”. He also says that white, yellow and red colour costumes are used according to different requirements. Here, it would be appropriate to know that the meaning of the word “Vesh” is to make or create an artificial form (of something). This includes actions such as selection and wearing ornaments, grooming hair in many ways, lining the eyes, and applying colour to the body - lip, cheek, forehead, hand toe etc are included.

Now-a-days the usual way of dressing the dancer is that first the face is thoroughly washed and wiped. In order to cleanse before applying makeup, a lotion comes which is applied on the face and then wiped with a towel or cotton. After this, foundation cream is applied. As an alternative for this, makeup is also found in the shape of the base tube and professional makeup artists make the base themselves by dissolving white zinc and colour in the Vaseline. After this, roose, or blush is applied on the cheeks, followed by lipstick. Kajal is applied to the eyes and a bindi is applied on the forehead. Eyebrows are shaped. Mascara is used to define the lashes. Different types of eyeshadows are used and henna is made with red colour in the hands. Then the hair (braided/bun) is decorated with flowers. Jewellery is worn. 

Generally, this method of grooming is in the public eye today. In this too, efficient skills can increase the beauty of the face by hiding many defects. Dark circles or pigmentation can be eliminated by applying concealer, and more bulging areas can be removed from the darker skin colour. Eyes can be enlarged. The balance of colours can be adjusted accordingly keeping in mind the lighting in the design.

Kathak is the most mesmerizing dance form woven around the concept of storytelling. 

Click here to know more about the different concepts related to charming dance mudras, and footwork such as Tandava and Lasya & Abhinaya Ke Prakar.


Q. What kind of jewellery do Kathak dancers wear?
Ans. Kathak jewellery is understated, yet it has the potential to add elegance and charm to the overall get-up of the dancer. Female Kathak dancers wear earrings with kanautis, along with a necklace and maang-tika. Depending on the sleeves of the blouse or angrakha, they may also wear bangles. Male dancers, on the other hand, do not require jewellery. However, they can wear kundal. If they wear Dhoti-Bandi, then they can also wear a ‘baju-bandh’ on their arm.
Q. What kind of costumes do Kathak dancers wear?
Ans. Kathak costumes have evolved tremendously over centuries. They were influenced by the rulers. The traditional Kathak costumes are as follows - Female Kathak dancers wear the following costumes - Lehenga-Blouse-Churidaar, or an Angrakha-Churidaar. In both costumes, wearing a dupatta is necessary. If the Kathak dancer is wearing a Lehenga-Blouse, the length of the Lehenga should be above the ankle so that it doesn’t interfere with the movements and footwork of the dancer. The ideal length of the blouse is slightly below the narrowest part of the waist-line. If the Kathak dancer is wearing an Angrakha, then the Angrakha should be above ankle-length, as well. In both cases, the churidaar should ideally be loose from the thighs and tight around the ankle. Male dancers wear the following costumes - Kurta with Pyjama/Dhoti, or Dhoti-Bandi. If the Kathak dancer is wearing a Kurta, the length should be 4 to 5 inches below the knees. The length of the Bandi should be a few inches above the knees. The length of Pyjama/Dhoti should be an inch below ankle-length.

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