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Day 2 – Q 2.In India’s traditional theatre forms, songs and the art of singing have an important role to play. Comment.

2. In India’s traditional theatre forms, songs and the art of singing have an important role to play. Comment. 

भारत के पारंपरिक रंगमंच रूपों में गीतों और गायन की कला की महत्वपूर्ण भूमिका है। टिप्पणी करें।


Theatre is a great form for story-telling in which one or more actors using the skills of dancing, acting, singing, talking, miming and theatre crafts like masks, make-up and costumes create a story world for us. Every corner of India has its own unique form of folk theatre — the lively Nautanki of Uttar Pradesh which often draws on romantic Persian literature for its themes; raw vigour and bawdy humour characterise the Tamasha of Maharashtra or the Bhavai of Gujarat; the blood and thunder of the Jatra melodramas of Bengal which are in great demand during Puja (Dussehra) festivities: or the dance-drama form of Yakshagana from Karnataka, to name just a few.


Importance of songs and the art of singing In India’s traditional theatre forms can be understood by the following:

  • Koodiyattam: One of the oldest traditional theatre forms of India, Koodiyattam follows the performative principles of the ancient tradition of Sanskrit theatre. However, it has its own distinctive characteristics that are firmly rooted in the culture of Kerala. This theatre was traditionally a part of temple rituals performed in sacred theaters, called Koothambalams. In 2001, Koodiyattam was officially recognized by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
  • Yakshagana: it is a popular folk theatre form of Karnataka with a long history of nearly four hundred years. It is a unique harmony of musical tradition, eye-catching costumes, and authentic styles of dance, improvised gestures and acting, with its extemporaneous dialogue holding a wide appeal. The themes are generally derived from the mythological stories and epics. Traditionally presented from dusk to dawn, this folk theatre is predominantly seen in the coastal districts of Karnataka.
  • Swang: A popular folk theatre form in Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, Swang is centered around music. In this folk theatre, religious stories and folk tales are enacted and sung by a group of a dozen or so artistes. Characterized by loud rendering of dialogues and songs (a legacy of its open air performances in the past), Swang has two important styles – one that belong to Rohtak (performed in the Bangru language)and the other that belongs to Haathras (performed in the Brajbhasha language).
  • Bhand pather: The centuries old traditional theatre form of Kashmir, bhand pather is a unique combination of dance, music and acting. Satire, wit and parody are commonly used in this folk drama that incorporates local mythological legends and contemporary social commentary. Traditionally, the performances begin in the evening with a ritualistic dance called chhok. The play unfolds gradually after this and ends in the early hours of the morning. Interestingly,the performers or bhands dance to the tune of specific instruments like the mukam, swarnai, dhol and nagara.
  • Bhaona: is a presentation of the Ankiya Naat, a one-act play that has its roots in rural Assam. A creation of Srimanta Sankardeva (an Assamese saint-scholar), these plays were written in Brajavali, a unique Assamese-Maithili mixed language, and are primarily centered on Hindu diety, Krishna. The dialogues, costumes, ornaments, entry and foot movements of bhaona are unique and set this theatre form apart from others in India.
  • Tamasha: A traditional folk theatre form of Maharashtra, tamasha flourished in the courts of Maratha rulers of the 18th and 19th centuries and attained its artistic peak during the reign of Baji Rao II . It has evolved from the folk forms such as gondhal, jagran and kirtan. Unlike other theatre forms, in tamasha, the female actress is the lead performer and the chief exponent of dance in the play. Classical music, the lightning fast footwork of the lavani dance, and vivid gestures of the performers gives this folk theatre a distinctive character.
  • Therukoothu: A unique form of rural entertainment in Tamil Nadu, therukoothu literally means street theatre. Some influence of classical Sanskrit drama on it is apparent. Performed in the open, mostly during temple festivals in villages, this theatre primarily draws from mythological stories and epics. The performance includes lively dances and songs sung in a high pitch by the male actors (even the female roles are played by males) who wear wide colorful costumes, sparkling shoulder plates, elaborate head-dresses and thick bright make-up.


India has a long, rich and illustrious history of theatre. In ancient times, Sanskrit dramas were staged at seasonal festivals or to celebrate special events. Between the 15th and the 19th centuries, actors and dancers were given special places of distinction in the courts of several Indian kings.

For instance, in the 18th century, the tamasha folk theatre was patronized by the powerful Peshwas of the Maratha kingdom. The Maharajas of Travancore and Mysore also competed with each other to establish the superior talent of their drama troupes. The maharaja of Banaras was the producer and patron of grand ramlila, a 31-day play based on Ramayan with spectators numbering in thousands.

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