The earliest reference to the art of Kathak is found in Mahabharatha, the great epic poem written about five centuries before. At this early phase the art of Kathak was performed by a group of Brahmins in praise of the lord. Around the 16th century AD, when the royal courts of the Hindu maharajas and the Muslim nawabs patronized the art, it acquired secular elements and sophistication especially in the pure dance or Nritta aspect. The dance form was enriched in the Mughal era - the subtlety of movements, intricate rhythm and breathtaking pirouettes increased. Kathak is the only classical dance form in India that has a synthesis of Hindu and Muslim Cultures.
At this phase of its development, Kathak drew inspiration from percussion music. The ankle-bells tied to a dancer's feet became more and more articulate and the pure dance items started being so structured as to recreate the percussion music aurally and visually. This imparted to the dance a sparkling character. While originally from the three North Indian gharanas of Lucknow, Jaipur and Benaras, a uniform vision of Kathak has emerged.