Difference Between Bharatanatyam and Kathak

Bharatanatyam vs Kathak

Bharatanatyam and Kathak are classical dance forms of India. Though there are many similarities between the two, there exist many differences also.

Bharatanatyam is a south Indian dance form, more specifically speaking, it originated in the state Tamil Nadu. And so the dance is often accompanied by classical Tamil songs and music. Kathak is a north Indian dance form and it was developed by the nomads who were known as the Kathaks.

Bharatanatyam was an art performed by the temple dancers and was always accompanied by the Carnatic music. Later these dances were performed in the courts of the South Indian kings. Kathak was mostly performed in the courts of the Muslim Rajas. It used to depict the Raasalila between Krishna and Radha.

In Bharatanatyam, the dancer uses many mudras and hip movements. For these movements most of the stage space is used. The movements of Bharatanatyam dancers resemble the movements of the dancing fire or flame. In Bharatanatyam, the dancer has to do more of the sitting postures or the bent knees postures. But in Kathak, the dancer dances throughout in a standing posture. There are limited or no hip movements.

Bharatanatyam is a dance form which is based or evolved from the stories of Shiva and Kathak focuses more on the tales of Radha and Krishna. In Kathak dance form, when performing the part of Krishna, the dancer closes the eyes slightly and appears dreamy. The gaze of the dancer does not meet anyone’s eyes in the audience.

In Bharatanatyam dance form, the dancer wears unique jewelry sets and the costumes are in different varieties depending on the performance. These dresses do not restrict the movements during the dance and are usually freely worn. The costumes will be mostly very grand and elegant. The heavy face and hair makeup give a special and heavenly appearance to the dancer. For Kathak performances the costume is usually a sari for women and dhoti for men. Nowadays long skirts and tops, known as lehenga cholis are being worn by the female Kathak dancers. The Mughal period costume of the male Kathak dancers were the kurta churidars with caps.

The tunes and lyrics of the dance forms vary to a large extent. So the feel of the dance forms when you hear it with your eyes closed is very different. For Bharatanatyam, the South Indian musical instruments like the mridangam, veena, violin, and nagaswaram are used. The music of Kathak performances are arranged with the instruments like Ghungaru, harmonium, bansuri, sitar, sarangi, and sarod.


1.Kathak is a dance form of northern India while Bharatanatyam originated in South India.
2.The musical instruments used in Kathak are mainly the bansuri, tabla, sarangi, and sarod. In Bharatanatyam, the instruments used mostly are the mridangam, nagaswaram, and veena.
3.The costumes of Bharatanatyam are very grand while that of Kathak are very simple ones usually.