Kathak is the major classical dance form from the northern part of India. The word Kathak stems from the Sanskrit word meaning to tell a story. This dance form traces its origins to the the nomadic bards of ancient northern India, known as Kathakars, or story tellers. These bards, performing in village squares and temple courtyards, mostly specialized in recounting mythological and moral tales from the scriptures, and embellished their recitals with hand gestures and facial expressions. It was quintessential theatre, using instrumental and vocal music along with stylized gestures, to enliven the stories. With the advent of Mughal culture, Kathak became a sophisticated chamber art. Patronized by art loving rulers, the practitioners of Kathak worked at refining its dramatic and rhythmic aspects, delighting elite audiences with their mastery over rhythm and the stylized mime.
When the patronage shifted from the temples to the royal court, there was a change in the overall emphasis. The emphasis shifted from the telling of religious stories to one of entertainment. It was a profession which demanded the highest standards of training, intelligence, and most important, civility.