Chhattisgarh is a tribal state and has many tribal dance forms of its own. It is part of the rich tribal culture. In a way, the folk dance of Chhattisgarh has an influence over Raigad Kathak, says Kathak exponent and a symbol of women power Yasmin Singh, in an interview with Susmriti Sahu of Elets News Network (ENN).
Tell us about your journey as a Kathak ensemble. What motivated you to carry on?
Kathak is an Indian classical dance form and I started training in it at the age of 10 when I was in Indore during my father’s posting there. I was studying in a convent school and my Kathak Guru used to come visit our school to impart training to us.
That was when I started learning performing art as a hobby. It went on for few years and my hobby took a backseat when I started pursuing higher education. I was focusing more on my career. I did my post graduation in history followed by M Phil and B.Ed.
When I started working as a lecturer in college, I continued practicing Kathak because it was my passion. Although I was practicing the art form regularly at home as a hobby, the formal education was missing.
After working for few years as a lecturer in college, I got incline towards social work and therefore decided to do my Masters in Social Work from Mysore University. Following this, I started working in the developmental sector from 2004 onwards. Presently I am working in ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan.’
In 2004, I came to Chhattisgarh and got an opportunity to start my formal education in Kathak from Indira Kala Sangeet Vishwavidyalaya in Khairagarh, which is close to State capital Raipur and has affiliated college there.
took admission in first year and started formal education in Kathak. It took me eight long years to complete my formal education in the classical performing art.
At the same time, I started inviting and visiting certain Gurus of Lucknow Gharana and Raigarh Gharana to start learning Kathak under the ‘Guru Shishya Parampara.’ So, the institutional learning along with traditional learning went on hand in hand.
I believe that learning is a never ending process and it continues till date.
So, after training hard till 2009 my Guru thought that I was ready for a stage performance and that’s how my journey as a performing artist began in May 2009.
I used to read a lot of books when I was pursuing institutional learning. Reading more and more about Raigad Kathak helped me turn my hobby into passion. I realised that Raigad Gharana was unique when I learnt about its finer nuances.
The school introduced a lot of innovations in Kathak from 1925-30 under the patronage of local king Chakradhar Singh, who passed away when he was only 40 years old. His creations, contributions and the volumes of books he wrote did not survive for long. I am still trying to understand his contributions through research. All this is adding to my passion for Kathak. So this has been my journey so far.
What do you think needs to be done in Chhattisgarh for the growth of this traditional art forms?
Chhattisgarh is a tribal state and has many tribal dance forms of its own. It is part of the rich tribal culture. In fact, Maharaja Chakradhar Singh learnt Kathak from Gurus of Lucknow Gharana and Banaras Gharana.
Achchan Maharaj ji, father of Birju Maharaj ji, who is the leading exponent of the Lucknow Gharana of Kathak dance, lived in Chhattisgarh for 10 years. So, the king not only learnt the art form himself but also encouraged the local tribal dancers to learn the art from the masters. In a way, the folk dance of Chhattisgarh has an influence over Raigad Kathak.
Art and culture needs to be patrnonised for their promotion. In olden days it was kings and influential people of the society who used to play this role and now t is the Government which does that. We need a robust environment in which the support of government should go hand in hand with social appreciation.
My message would be that women were created by the nature to bestow a balance. If this evil practice of female foeticide is not stopped immediately, it will create imbalance in our society.
What do you think is your major achievement as a Kartik artiste?
I think my major achievement as an artiste is that I am still able to practice this art form. I feel that practice is the most satisfying thing for an artiste and performing on stage or getting fame is an entirely different aspect. I am fortunate to have received right training, which for me is a major achievement.
What is your message for a State like Rajasthan, which is struggling to contain a high rate of female foeticide?
My message would be that women were created by the nature to bestow a balance. If this evil practice of female foeticide is not stopped immediately, it will create imbalance in our society. If you play with nature, it will never forgive you. So it should be stopped immediately.
What is your message for the Government of Rajasthan who have taken an initiative to celebrate girl child?
My good wishes are with the Rajasthan Government for taking up this initiative. I am very happy to learn that the Government is organising such events. I wish that this initiative involves the general public to make it a grand success.