Neesha Jhaveri

Neesha Jhaveri Natawari Dancer of Jankiprasad Kathak Gharana of Banaras
Neesha Jhaveri Natawari Dancer of Jankiprasad Kathak Gharana of Banaras
Neesha Jhaveri Natawari Dancer of Jankiprasad Kathak Gharana of Banaras

Neesha was fortunate to be born into a Gujarati Jain family where music and dance were valued. As a child, her passion for these arts grew as she danced in festival processions and played to her Dad’s memorable singing at home.

When she was seven, Neesha’s mother enrolled her in Kathak classes at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in Mumbai. The late Guru Pt. Hazarilalji’s personality immediately drew her in – his encouraging “Bahuut Acche!” spurred her on.

Until completing her Visharad in 1985, Neesha pursued Kathak as a hobby. By now, Neesha had glimpsed the depth of Jankiprasad Kathak, and felt that she knew so little. At fifteen, she had a realization: “this is what I want to do.” Her passion for this art led her to commit fully to advance her learning.

Neesha completed her Rang Pravesh in 1990. She was awarded a National Dance Scholarship by the Government of India in 1995 which allowed her to pursue rigorous training with Guru Sunayana Hazarilal in the guru-shishya tradition.

In 2001, Neesha moved to Hong Kong where she co-founded Sri Shakti Academy – which promotes Indian classical dance. She conducts regular classes and trains more than fifty students, three of whom have completed their Rang Pravesh. The Academy presents annual shows to provide students a platform to perform. Students can also appear for formal examinations affiliated with Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Sangeet and Nartan Shikshapeeth, Mumbai.

Neesha is an accomplished teacher, graceful performer and creative choreographer. She wishes to preserve and spread this beautiful tradition. She hopes to attract more audiences, while continuing to perform and train future performers. Through Sri Shakti Academy, she plans to continue cultural exchange by performing at Festivals, and collaborating with traditional dancers worldwide.

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Neesha Jhaveri Natawari Dancer of Jankiprasad Kathak Gharana of Banaras
Neesha Jhaveri Natawari Dancer of Jankiprasad Kathak Gharana of Banaras
Neesha Jhaveri Natawari Dancer of Jankiprasad Kathak Gharana of Banaras
Neesha Jhaveri Natawari Dancer of Jankiprasad Kathak Gharana of Banaras
Neesha Jhaveri Natawari Dancer of Jankiprasad Kathak Gharana of Banaras

Select Performances

Pandit Hanuman Prasadji

Pt. Hanumanprasad (1872 - 1952) was a court dancer of Maharaja Pratapsingh of Kashmir. Later he was also employed by Maharaja Bhupendra Singh of Patiala, and Maharaja Ganga Singhji of Bikaner. He was also in the court of the King of Nepal for some time. He was renowned for his abhinaya and the ability to transform himself on stage. Legend has him parting crowds just with his gestures.

Late in life he was based in Delhi - a pioneering Kathak teacher whose students included Nirmala and Uma Joshi, Malashri Sen and Reba Vidyarthi (nee Chatterjee). His grandson Naval Kishore taught for many years in New Delhi.

Pandit Gopalji

Pt. Gopalji (187? - 1932) was a Court dancer in Khairagarh, Kapurthala and Kashmir. For some time he was also in the Court of Raja Bhupendra Singhji of Patiala. Pandit Gopal was famous for his angika abhinaya. In a temple or courtyard the audience would sit all around him and watch him expressively use his entire body.

Pandit Gopal settled in Lahore and immensely popularized his dance style all over Punjab and beyond - at times the Jankiprasad Gharana, was referred to as the Punjab, Lahore or Gopalji ka Gharana. His notable disciples included Ashiq Hussain, Meera Baksh, and the famous Patiala court dancers Nawab Putli and Hirabai. Late in life, Pandit Gopalji was blessed with a son - Krishna Kumarji.

Pandit Biharilalji

Pt. Biharilalji (1864-1938) was a handsome and well-built man who performed in many parts of North India. He was fondly called Babuji by artists of his time. He was a Court dancer of Indore, and also performed in the Court of Patiala. Later, he came to Bombay and joined Bal Gandharva's Natak Company as a dancer. Here Ustad Ahmadjan Thirkava was employed as a tabla player and accompanied him.

Biharilalji composed a number of Natawari syllables and was known for his bhava and layakari. He had three sons Kishanlal, Mohanlal and Sohanlal, all dancers. His students included Keshavrao More, Menkabai Belgaonkar and singer Kesarbai Kerkar.

Kumudini Lakhia

The memory of Ashiq Hussain uncovers some of the most pleasant moments of my childhood. It was he who inculcated a love for the Dance in me.

Ashiq Hussain was better known as a very popular film star of his times, but at heart he was a devoted chela of the Janki Prasad, Benares Gharana of Kathak. I remember making a run of the Bombay Film studios, usually sitting on his shoulders. I was also casted as a child dancing star in two of his films.

This was a long time ago. What is more important now is the memory of the Tukras, Parans and Gats which he taught me.

I have been long associated with Kathak since, but the ‘Bols’ of the Janaki Prasad Gharana stand out distinct to those of the ‘Bols’ of the Jaipur and Lucknow Gharanas of Kathak. I came once again in contact with this, very briefly, when I had the opportunity of being assoicated with Shri Krishna Kumar when the Bharatiya Kala Kendra produced ‘Malati-Madhav’ for the Dance Seminar in 1958.

It is indeed a pleasure now to watch Shri Hazarilal and Smt Sunayana Hazarilal as their ‘Padhant’ reminds me once again of those happy moments of a childhood so rich with Dance & Music.

Kumudini Lahkia
School of Kathak Dance
Lakhia Bros.
Lal Darwaja
Ahmedabad 380 006.

Site Credits

Sunayanaji (orange dress): Avinash Pasricha
Sunayanaji (black-and-white): Sue Jones

Veronica (select portraits): Carolina Echeverría

Neesha (blue dress): Paul Wan
Sri Shakti Academy (Taiwan performance): Danny Chan

Anuradha (select portraits) & Anjali 2021 HK Student Group Portraits: Saurabh Anand – The Artsy Tripod

Maharaja Anup Singh Portrait: Courtesy Anil Relia Collection, Ahmedabad, India

Deepest thanks to our veteran accompanists:

Pandit Kalinath Mishra – Tabla
Somnath Mishra – Vocals
Alka Gujar – Sitar