Bharatanatyam vs. Kuchipudi vs. Kathak

  • By reComparison Contributor
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Difference between Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi and Kathak

Kathak, Kuchipudi and Bharatanatyam are three integral parts of Indian classical dance and culture. All of them originated and flourished in southern India and gave Indian art and culture a new dimension. These ancient dance forms played a crucial role in the Indian cultural renaissance. Bharatanatyam is the oldest Indian classical dance form. Though Kathak originated in northern India, its appeal caught the imagination of people and artists beyond the region of origin and India. Kuchipudi originated in Kuchipudi village on Andhra Pradesh, India. All of these dance forms are popular for their exclusive Mudras, exponents of caliber and world wide appeal.



All these three kinds of dance are contemporary in their origin; however, you can find significant differences in their styles. Kuchipudi and Bharatanatyam have many mudras in common. Apart from the similarity, there are three unique steps of Kuchipudi. In Tarangam step, the dancer has to wash his/her hand in the vessel placed on head and extinguish the candle. 20th Karana is also popularly associated with this traditional dance. Mudras related to Kathak depend upon the Gharana of Dance. Popular gharanas in Kathak dance are Jaipur, Lucknow, Raigarh and Banaras gharanas. Natya, Nritta and Nritya and three famous mudras related to Bharatanatyam.


All the above dance forms belong to 8 classical dances on India. Famous Kuchipudi dancers are Guru Smt.Vijaya Prasad, Dr. Vempati Chinna Satyam, Divya Yeluri, Lakshmi Babu, Swathi Gundapuneedi, and Anuradha Nehru. Dr. Vempati Chinna Satyam has established a famous school for the learning of Kuchipudi dance form. Famous dancers of Kathak are Maharaja Chakradhar Singh, Kalka Prasad and his sons, Ioanna Srinivasan, Najma Ayashah, Manisha Gulyani, Lakshmi VN and Priya Pawar. In the field of Bharatanatyam, popular names are E.Krishna Iyer, Rukmini Devi Arundale and Ashish Khokar


Cross pleat costume is associated with Kuchipudi dance. In this the male artists plays the role of either Muruga or Krishna. Cross pleat costume is also used in Bharatanatyam. However, the difference in costumes is the presence of katcham at the back of the artist. During ancient time, Bharatanatyam dancers were averse to too much costume on their body. For female dancers depicting the role of Devdasi, heavy sari of dazzling color was a must. However, the costume of modern Bharatanatyam dancers is deeply symbolic. An artist of Kuchipudi wears only one fan while performing. But, his/her counterpart in Bharatanatyam can wear up to three fans.


All of these dance forms have gone through radical transformations. A lot of information related to these three dance forms is available online. With little online search, you can have a fair idea about them.

  • Now you can find professional chorographers and dance institutes teaching these three traditional dance forms. These dances are now being used in Bollywood and Hollywood movies.
  • Traditional Bharatanatyam, Kathak and Kuchipudi are often used in fusion dance forms. You must have seen King of Pop Michael Jackson using Bharatanatyam in one of his videos. These dance forms may have originated long ago, but still their moves and mudras excite the knowledgeable audience.
Which dance style are you most familiar with?
  • Bharatanatyam
  • Kuchipudi
  • Kathak

Discuss It: comments 12

  • Guest
  • Ankit Verma wrote on April 2010

The difference between these three forms is because of the difference in the place of there origin. Bharatnatyam is a distinctive traditional form of Indian classical dance originating from the culturally rich state of Tamil Nadu. On the other hand Kuchipudi is a traditional Indian classical dance form originating in the South Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.

  • Guest
  • Sireesha wrote on September 2010

Origin surely distinguishes the dance forms. Bharatnatyam has its roots in the state of Tamil Nadu and was originally performed by devadasis. It has always been a female based solo dance. Kuchipudi has originated in the state of Andhra Pradesh and was originally performed by some men. It started with depicting various characters and stories from the bhagavata puranas. The main purpose was to take the religion to the masses. The dance dramas : a dance composition depicting stories like Bhakta Prahlada, Rukmini Kalyanam and Krishna Parijatha involving various characters; in kuchipudi set it apart from other classicla dances.

Excellent Sireesha, very good explanation.

Michael Jackson used a Odissi dancer in his music video, not a Bharatanatyam dancer, but that is not important as he just used it because he thought it looked exotic and different for his video. Also Odissi is the oldest classical dance form in India which is mentioned in Natya Sastra only after which comes Bharatanatyam. I am Tamil btw.

  • Guest
  • swatantra bharathi ramesh wrote on April 2011

kuchipudi known for its abhinaya

it really did help me in my assignment...Thanx!!

  • Guest
  • ankita wrote on September 2011

hey guys..i have a query regarding bharatnatyam..i have heard that while dancing ...dancers tend to increase the waist that true...i mean my baby is 5 and is this the right age to get her in....i hope her height and waist does not get affected.....plz i will b thankful if any concerned person suggests me wid the best advise.....thanks !!!!!

  • Guest
  • archita wrote on November 2011

hey guys..i have a query regarding bharatnatyam..i have heard that while dancing ...dancers tend to increase the waist that true...i mean my baby is 6 and is this the right age to get her in....i hope she wont remain short and waist does not get affected.....plz i will b thankful if any concerned person suggests me with the best advise.....thanks !!!!!

Can somebody plz confirm on the query regarding waist & height

  • Guest
  • Mythili wrote on February 2012

There are several misconceptions that Classical Dance will lead to reduced height (due to sitting position), arthritis, knee pain, back pain and whatever! But we see that art is flourishing. We see that these ills are purely about life style. You can get them even if you do not do anything! Modern Science has not proved either way. If you are in doubt, better not to get into. If you are passionate about art, you can seek medical advice!

I am a dancer learning since age of 3. I am healthy at 36. My daughter & son aged 8 & 7 are learning.

I am also a teacher. Whenever people ask me such questions, I ask them to consult Doctor and let me know what the doctor said. I am yet to hear from anyone! Either people run away (don't know whether that's after consulting) or they just join without going to doctor.

Will be glad if you can consult and post back here

They are important mistakes in your article. Kathak dance did not originated in southern india. Classical dances of india originated in the north of india (indu valley). baratanatyam is not the oldest classical dance of india.

These are a lot of misconceptions!

it in necessary to learn raag, taal etc for learning bharatnatyam and kathak. basically i m a commerece student and not have any idea of classical music. so my question is this can i learn these form of classical dance without learning of classical music?

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