Theater forms India – Traditional Theater

Theatre forms India – Traditional Theater – There are many festivals celebrated in different regions of India. During these occasions, various kind of traditional theatres, prayers, rituals offerings, gatherings is presented almost throughout the year.

Koodiyattam (Kuttiyattam) is the only serving art form of the ancient Sanskrit Theater.  About 5000 years ago, Bharat Muni wrote “Natya Shastra” and described drama, dance, music etc. Natya Shastra is also known as the root of the fine arts in India.

1. Ankiya – Assam

Ankiya is a traditional theatre from Assam. Shankardev and his student Mahadev started it in the 16th century. It is performed on the tales of Lord Krishna. Ankiya has a special feature which is uses of the mask for the expression of feelings.

2. Kala

It is the ancient traditional theatre form of Vaishnava.  It is based on the tales of Lord Vishnu.

3. Ramlila – Uttar Pradesh

A dramatic folk based on the life of Rama according to the ancient Hindu epic Ramayana and Ramcharitmanasa mainly belongs to Uttar Pradesh. It is performed during the festival of Navaratri in India. Ramlila is performed on music, dance, dialogues etc.

4. Raslila – Gujarat

Raslila belongs to Gujarat, performed on the love stories of Radha Krishna.

5. Bhuta – Karnataka

Bhuta mainly found in Karnataka. Worshipping of ancestors is the main part of it.

6. Bhavai – Gujarat

Bhavai is a traditional folk theatre famous in Gujarat and Rajasthan. It is a series of small drama stories. The main actor of Bhavai theatre is known as “Nayaka”.

See Also: UNESCO List of  Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, India 

7. Jatra – East India

Jatra belongs to East India mainly. Vaishnava Saint Chaitanya started this folk theatre. Hu used Jatra to expand the moral of Krishna in Bengal. Further, it is divided into many parts like Rama Jatra, Shiva Jatra etc. It is Performed on Hindu mythological tales.

8. Macha – Madhya Pradesh

Macha is a folk theatre belongs to Malwa region of Madhya Pradesh, performed on mythological tales. It has a special feature which is “Sanvad”, also known as “Rangat Doha”.

9. Nautanki – North India

Nautanki is the famous theatre form of North India. Nautanki is based on historical and contemporary social issues, performed with music and dance. Evidence of Nautanki also found in Abul Fazal’s Ain-I-Akbari.

10. Ojhapali – Assam

Ojhapali is Celebrated in Assam, mainly belongs to the festival of Goddess Mansa and Goddess Naga.

It has three main parts,

(a) Baniya Khand

(b) Bhatiyali Khand

(c) Dav Khand

11. Powada – Maharashtra

Powada is performed in Maharashtra region, based on the stories of Chhatrapati Shivaji.

12. Swang – Punjab & Haryana

Swant belongs to Punjab and Haryana. It is a musical theatre performed with the help of musical instruments like Dholak, Harmonium, Ektara etc.

13. Tamasha – Maharashtra

Tamasha is a traditional theatre form of Maharashtra, performed with singing and dancing by local or travelling theatre groups.

There are two types of Tamasha

(a) Dholki Bhaari

(b) Sangeet Bhaari

14. Yakshagana – Karnataka

Yakshagana is mainly found in Karnataka and Kerala. Yakshagana combines dance, music, dialogues, costume, makeup, etc that make its style unique. It is traditionally presented from dusk to down.

15. Burra Katha – Andhra Pradesh & Telangana

Burra means Tambura (a musical instrument) and Katha means Story. Burra Katha is an oral storytelling technique famous in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. The group has one main performer and two co-performers. It consists of prayers, solo drama, dance, songs etc. The topic will be either Hindu mythological story or a contemporary social issue.

16. Theyyam – Kerala

Theyyam is performed in the houses as ancestors worship with elaborate rites and rituals. Generally it is performed in front of the village shrine. Theyyam is a popular ritual from Kerala. Evidence of Theyyam also found in Sangam Sahitya (500 BC).

See Also: Indian Classical Dance – Performing Art Notes

17. Krishnattam – Kerala

Krishnattam is a dance drama and temple art belongs to Kerala. It presents the story of Krishna in a series of eight plays and was created by Manaveda (1585 – 1658AD).

The eight plays are

  1. Avataram
  2. Kaliyamardanam
  3. Rasakrida
  4. Kamsavadham
  5. Swayamvaram
  6. Banayuddham
  7. Vividavadham
  8. Swargarohanam


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