The classical dance form kathak originated in northern India. Kathak comes from the Sanskrit word for “story”. In this dance approximately one hundred ghunghru, or small bells, are worn around each ankle. Young dancers begin with a smaller number of bells and gradually add more as they progress in their training. Kathak dancers use many different parts of their feet as percussive instruments – drumming, striking and occasionally sliding along the floor.
Similarly – and as shown in this photo of Lucy Rupert in Half-Life by Nova Bhattacharya – the classical form bharatanatyam also uses ankle bells. Where Kathak bells are a long, strung set of bells that must be carefully wound around the ankles, bharatanatyam bells are usually sewn onto a wide strap with a buckle.
View a demonstration of kathak bells in action here.