Indian Theatre: Forms of Indian Theatre and Classical Sanskrit Theatre

Get unlimited access to the best preparation resource for competitive exams : get questions, notes, tests, video lectures and more- for all subjects of your exam.

Indian Theatre – Beginning

  • Kalidas, Ashvaghosa, Bhasa, Shudraka, Harsha, Bhavabhuti, Vishakadatta, Bhatta Narayana, Murari and Rajasekhara
  • Sitabena and Jogi Mara caves represent the world՚s oldest amphitheaters. In Bharat Muni՚s Natya Shastra, Brahma created Natya Veda for pastime of gods, combining elements of the four vedas. In it, types of play described and covered all aspects of classical Sanskrit literature.
  • The vedas and Upanishads have reference of theatre or drama.
  • The most famous and talented dramatists of the ancient era are Kalidas, Ashvaghosa, Bhasa, Shudraka, Harsha, Bhavabhuti, Vishakadatta, Bhatta Narayana, Murari and Rajasekhara.
  • Vijai Tendulkar gave a new dimension to the Indian theatre.
  • Modern Kannada theatre had a beginning in 1918 with the staging of a drama by T. P. Kelaram.
  • Tamil drama has its beginning in the 19th century.
  • In 1852 - 53, the famous ″ Parsi Theatre ′ started in Bombay.
  • After 1947, Bengali Theatre has also seen a change in style and technique.
  • State Academies were also established in most of the states in 1950s.

Forms of Indian Theatre

  • Classical Indian Dance Drama - Kathak, Bharatanatyam, Odissi, Kuchipudi, Mohiniyattam and Yakshagana
  • Traditional Indian theatre – Jatra, Rasleela, Bhavai, They yam
  • Indian Folk Theatre - Veethi Nataka, Burraktha
  • Indian Puppet theatre - String puppets, rod puppets and glove puppets
  • Modern Indian theatre -amateur and experimental
  • Indian Street Theatre - Short, direct, near and effective

1. Classical Indian Dance Drama - Developed in the early 15th century. Became a much cherished art form of the classical Hindu temple culture.

2. Traditional Indian theatre - Performance mainly connected with various Hindu religious trends and religions and was mainly performed by the devotees.

3. Indian Folk Theatre Associated with times of ancient rimes. Indian folk theatre categorized into two distinct categories like the secular and religious.

4. Indian Puppet theatre Indian theatre witnessed a marked change with the introduction of the Indian puppet theatre. Shadow puppetry became popular as one of the classical forms of the Indian theatre.

5. Modern Indian theatre Contemporary Indian theatre can be found back to the British era. Added that contemporary tinge to the age old aspects of Indian drama. Change was marked in the dramatic form. Developed due to the change in the socio political set up in India.

6. Indian Street Theatre: Contemporary forms of Indian theatre. Developed as an art form to illustrate the feelings of common people.

Classical Sanskrit Theatre

  • Theatre in India began as a narrative art form.
  • Encompassed a concoction of music, dance and acting.
  • Recitation, dance and music integral parts of theatre.
  • Rupaka, Drishyakvya and Preksakavya also used to describe drama.

In ancient India, plays were generally two types:

  • Lokadharmi: Realistic depictions of daily life
  • Natyadharmi: Conventional plays with a more stylized narration and overt symbolism.

First example of classical Sanskrit drama

  • Sariputraprakarana by Ashvaghosa
  • 3 works - Malavikagnimitra, Vikramorvashi and Shakuntala
Classical Sanskrit Theatre
  • 9 Act play.
  • Composed 13 plays in the period between 4th – 5th century B. C. Shudraka.

His three works:

Other examples of plays are Uttaramacharitra and Mahaviracharitra by Bhavabhuti, Mudra rakshasa by Vishakadatta and Ratnavali by Harshavardhana.

Reasons for Decline

Reasons for Decline
  • 4 to 7 act plays
  • Always happy ending
  • Protagonist was male
  • Well defined opening, progression, development, pause and conclusion.
  • Started with number of pre-play rituals (Purva-raga) .
  • Most of performed behind curtain.

Sutra Dhar

  • Stage manager and director, entered the stage with his assistance, dressed in white, offer worship to the deity
  • Theatre as per Bharata, accommodate around 400 persons.
  • Two-storied - Curtains were used to intensify the impact of play.
  • Masks were not used.
  • The ‘Natya Shastra’ focuses on only two of these types – the ‘Nataka’ and ‘Prakarna’ . Plays falling into the category of the ‘Nataka’ include ‘SwapnaVasavdattam’ , ‘Uttaramacharitra’ and ‘Shakuntala’ . Love and heroism are the dominant sentiments of these plays, which range between five and seven acts. Plays falling into the category of ‘Prakarna’ narrate stories that were invented by their authors in which the story revolves around a hero and a heroine, with love being the predominant sentiment. ‘Anka’ or Act is made up of a series of incidents that are related to the major character.

Koothiyattam (Kudiyattam)

Koothiyattam (Kudiyattam)
  • India՚s oldest continuing form of theatre.
  • Survived since 10th century A. D. in Kerala.
  • Completely adheres to the rules laid down in Natya Shastra.
  • Performed in Sanskrit, Prakrit and Malayalam with Mizhavu and Edakka providing background music.
  • All the character begins the play with Nirvahana.
  • Margi Madhu Chakyar leading exponent of this art form.
  • In 2001, officially recognized by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

Indian Folk Theatre

Indian Folk Theatres
  • India boasts of a rich tradition of folk theatre in various part of India.
  • Folk theatre had rural roots and rustic flavor was reflected in the dramatic style involved.
  • In Post-independence period it became more popular method of distribution of social wisdom than mere social entertainment.

Ritual Theatre

Ritual Theatres
Ritual Theatres
  • Ankia Nat: Traditional one-act play of Assam. Started by famous Vaishnava Saint Shankardeva. Performed in the style of opera. Use of masks to depict special expressions.
  • Kala: Ancient folk theatre of the Vaishnavite tradition. Popular branches of Kala: Dash avatar Kala, Gopal Kala and Gaulan Kala
  • Ramlila: Popular folk theater in the region of Uttar Pradesh. Generally performed by male actors, who don the role of Sita
  • Raslila: Dance drama enactment of adolescent love stories of/Krishna and/Radha, popular in region of Gujarat.
  • Bhuta (Spirit) : Traditional practice of worshipping dead ancestors, prevalent in the Kannara district of Karnataka.
  • Raman: Part of a religious festival in the Garhwal region of Uttarakhand. Accompanied by the performance of local songs and masked dances.

Entertainment Theatre

Entertainment Theatres
Entertainment Theatres
Entertainment Theatres
  • Bhavai: Popular folk theatre form of Gujarat and Rajasthan, mainly in the region of Kutchh and Kathiwar. Theme of play: Generally Romantic Sutradhra is known as Nayaka in Bhavai Theatre.
  • Daskathia: Folk theater popular in the region of Odisha. There are two narrators.
  • Garodas: Popular form of ′ Garoda Community of Gujarat. Uses painted pictures to narrate stories of romance and valour.
  • Jatra: Popular folk theatre of Eastern India. Initiated by Vaishnava saint Sri Chaitanya. In Odisha, popular form of street theatre known as Sahi Jatra is prevalent.
  • Kariyila: Open air theatre. Popular in the foothills of Himachal Pradesh. Normally performed around the Dussehra festival.
  • Maanch: Folk theatre of the region of Malwa in Madhya Pradesh. Based on mythological themes. Delivered in the form of couplets known as Rangat Dohas.
  • Nautanki: Popular theatre form of theatre in North India. Accompanied by beats of a drum called Nagara.
  • Oja-Pali: Unique narrative theatre form of Assam. Primarily associated with the festival of Manasa or serpent goddess. Oja is the main character.
  • Powada: A play was written lauding the heroics of Shivaji, later known as Powada. Popular mainly in the region of Maharashtra.
  • Swang: Another popular source of entertainment in the region of Punjab and Haryana. Mainly musical dramas sung through verses.
  • Tamasha: Form of folk theatre in the region of Maharashtra. Known for its humor and erotic content. Accompanied by Lavani songs
  • Villu Pattu: Villu Pattu means bow-song. Form of musical theatre popular in Deccan, stories of Ramayana.

South Indian Theatres

South Indian Theatres
South Indian Theatres
  • Yakshagana: Oldest theatre in the region of Andhra Pradesh. Popular play: Garudachalam by Obayya Mantri, Krishna-Hiramani by Srinddha and Sugriva Vijayam by Rudra Kavi
  • Burra Katha: Popular dance-drama tradition of Andhra Pradesh. Derives its name from Burra. The percussion instrument used during performance.
  • Pagati Veshaalu: Folk tradition popular in Telangana region and Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh. Primarily a role-playing act.
  • Bayalata: Open air theatre tradition of Karnataka. Generally, five types of Bayalatas: Dasarat, Sannata, Doddata, Parijata and Yakshagana. Stories based on love of Radha Krishna.
  • Tal-Maddale: Tal is kind of cymbal and Maddale is kind of drum. Generally considered as the predecessor of Yakshagana.
  • They yam: Ritualistic Bhuta theatre of Karnataka. Known as Otta Kolam. Performed in the local temples to honor the spirit of deceased ancestors.
  • Krishna Attam: Colorful dance drama tradition of Karnataka. Based on the works of Krishna Geethi.
  • Kuruvanji: Characterized by classical Tamil poetry and songs. First Kuruvanji composed by Thirukutarajappa Kaviyar. Kuruvanji performed in a dance ballet form with Bharatanatyam being the principle dance form.
  • Koodiyattam or kutiyattam, is a traditional performing art form in the state of Kerala, India. It is a combination of ancient Sanskrit theatre with elements of koothu, an ancient performing art from the Sangam era.

Modern Indian Theatres

  • After 1857 revolt - 2nd revival of modern theatre
  • 1942 IPTA (Indian People՚s theatre Association) : Cultural/theatre wing of communist party
  • 1944: Prithvi theatre
  • 1953: ‘Sangeet Natak Akademi’ was set up
  • After 1970 - 80 New trend: Nukkad Natak Street drama
  • 1972: The Vernacular theatre of contemporary India got a new rise
  • 1975: Nature academy become autonomous
  • ‘Anamika’ in Calcutta (1955)
  • ‘Theatre Unit’ in Bombay (1954)
  • ‘Three Arts Club’ (1948)
  • ‘Little Theatre Group’ (1948)
  • ‘Delhi Arts Theatre’ (1951)
  • ‘Indraprastha Theatre’ (1959)
  • Vijay Tendulkar՚s Marathi՚s play ‘Ghashiram Kotwal’ used traditional folk forms in modern theatre.
  • First Indian to earn International recognition in the theatre was Manjula Padmanabhan.
  • In the late 20th century Gujrati, Kannada, Hindi, Oriya, Urdu and English drama added another wing to the recent scenario of Indian drama.
  • Gujarati theatre has been dominated by translated or transcribed commercial plays.
  • Indian theatre and drama got a new footing when Kendriya Sangeet Natak Academy was started in January 1953. Some institutions also played a great role in
Modern Indian Theatres
Modern Indian Theatres
Modern Indian Theatres

Developed by: