The term “classical” was introduced by Sangeet Natak Akademi to denote the Natya Shastra-based performing art styles. These are described as below:
FOLK DANCES OF INDIA
Bharata’s Natya Shastra was the earliest and most elaborate treatise on drama written anywhere in the world. India has a longest and richest tradition in theatre going back to at least 5000 years. The origin of Indian theatre is closely related to ancient rituals and seasonal festivities of the country. The growth in drama took place with the introduction of “curtain” in the kushanas era.
The first millennium was also characterized by the great harvest of Sanskrit drama by pre-eminent play-wrights like Bhasa, Kalidasa, Shudraka, Vishakadatta, Bhavabhuti and Harsha. This body of works compares in its range and power with the dramatic output of other rich theatre traditions of the world ancient Greek theatre and Elizabethan theatre. The glory of ancient Sanskrit drama ended with the first millennium.
Traditionally the theatre consisted of the auditorium, stage and the backstage which is behind the stage. Curtain separates the stage and backstage. The drama was performed without scenery and decorations. It was more of acting and gestures by the actors. Costume and make-up was regulated by convention so that roles were immediately recognizable. Most type of drama had a hero , a heroine, a villain and a “vidushaka” as a comedian. Themes were mainly based on love.
The drama generally opened with a benediction song followed by a prologue in the form of a dialogue/ discussion between the chief actor and his actress giving the title , nature and occasion of the play. Violence and death were forbidden to be performed in the stage. At the end of the play came a concluding verse- a virtual vote of thanks.
1. BHAND PATHER(JASHIN) – KASHMIR
• unique combination of dance, music and acting.
• Satire, wit and parody are preferred for inducing laughter.
• music is provided with surnai, nagaara and dhol.
• Since the actors are mainly from the farming community, the impact of their way of living, ideals and sensitivity is noticable.
2. SWANG – HARYANA
• mainly music-based.
• Gradually, prose too, played its role in the dialogues.
• softness of emotions, accomplishment of rasa along with the development of character can be seen
• two important styles are from Rohtak and Haathras.
• In the style belonging to Rohtak, the language used is Haryanvi (Bangru) and in Haathras, it is Brajbhasha.
3. NAUTANKI – UTTAR PRADESH
• most popular centres – Kanpur, Lucknow and Haathras.
• The meters used in the verses are: Doha, Chaubola, Chhappai, Behar-e-tabeel.
• nowadays, women have also started taking part
• based exclusively on Lord Krishna legends
• believed that Nand Das wrote the initial plays based on the life of Krishna.
• dialogues in prose combined beautifully with songs and scenes from Krishna’s pranks.
5. BHAVAI – GUJARAT
• Main centers of – Kutch and Kathiawar.
• instruments used are: bhungal, tabla, flute, pakhaawaj, rabaab, sarangi, manjeera, etc.
• there is a rare synthesis of devotional and romantic sentiments.
6. JATRA – BENGAL
• Fairs in honour of gods, or religious rituals and ceremonies have within their framework musical plays are known as Jatra.
• Krishna Jatra became popular due to Chaitanya prabhu’s influence.
• earlier form of Jatra has been musical & dialogues were added at later stage.
• The actors themselves describe the change of scene, the place of action, etc.
7. BHAONA(ANKIA NAAT) – ASSAM
• cultural glimpses of Assam, Bengal Orissa, Mathura and Brindavan can be seen.
• The Sutradhaar, or narrator begins the story, first in Sanskrit and then in either Brajboli or Assamese.
8. MAACH – MADHYA PRADESH
• Maach is used for the stage itself as also for the play.
• songs are given prominence in between the dialogues.
• The term for dialogue in this form is bol and rhyme in narration is termed vanag.
• The tunes of this theatre form are known as rangat.
9. TAMAASHA – MAHARASHTRA
• evolved from the folk forms such as Gondhal, Jagran and Kirtan.
• female actress is the chief exponent of dance movements in the play. She is known as Murki.
• Classical music, footwork at lightning-speed, and vivid gestures make it possible to portray all the emotions through dance.
10. DASHAVATAR – KONKAN AND GOA
• personify the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu-the god of preservation and creativity. The ten incarnations are Matsya (fish), Kurma (tortoise), Varaha (boar), Narsimha (lion-man), Vaman (dwarf), Parashuram, Rama, Krishna (or Balram), Buddha and Kalki.
• Apart from stylized make-up, the Dashavatar performers wear masks of wood and papier mache.
11. KRISHNATTAM – KERALA
• came into existence in the middle of 17th century A.D. under the patronage of King Manavada of Calicut.
• Krishnattam is a cycle of eight plays performed for eight consecutive days.
• The plays are Avataram, Kaliamandana, Rasa krida, kamasavadha, Swayamvaram, Bana Yudham, Vivida Vadham, and Swargarohana.
• episodes are based on the theme of Lord Krishna – his birth, childhood pranks and various deeds depicting victory of good over evil.
12. MUDIYETTU – KERALA
• celebrated in the month of Vrischikam (November-December). performed only in the Kali temples of Kerala, as an oblation to the Goddess.
• depicts the triumph of goddess Bhadrakali over the asura Darika.
• seven characters in Mudiyettu-Shiva, Narada, Darika, Danavendra, Bhadrakali, Kooli and Koimbidar (Nandikeshvara) are all heavily made-up.
13. THEYYAM – KERALA
• ‘Theyyam’ derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Daivam’ meaning God.
• Hence it is called God’s dance.
• performed by various castes to appease and worship spirits.
• distinguishing features – colourful costume and awe-inspiring headgears (mudi) nearly 5 to 6 feet high made of arecanut splices, bamboos, leaf sheaths of arecanut and wooden planks and dyed into different strong colours using turmeric, wax and arac.
14. KOODIYAATTAM – KERALA
• based on Sanskrit theatre traditions.
• characters of this theatre form are:
• Chakyaar or actor,
• Naambiyaar, the instrumentalists and
• Naangyaar, those taking on women’s roles.
• The Sutradhar or narrator and the Vidushak or jesters are the protagonists.
• Vidushak alone delivers the dialogues.
• Emphasis on hand gestures and eye movements makes this dance and theatre form unique.
15. YAKSHAGAANA – KARNATAKA
• based on mythological stories and Puranas.
• most popular episodes are from the Mahabharata i.e. Draupadi swayamvar, Subhadra vivah, Abhimanyu vadh, Karna-Arjun yuddh and from Ramayana i.e. Raajyaabhishek, Lav-kush Yuddh, Baali-Sugreeva yuddha and Panchavati.
16. THERUKOOTHU – TAMIL NADU
• literally means “street play”.
• mostly performed at the time of annual temple festivals of Mariamman (Rain goddess) to achieve rich harvest.
• there is a cycle of eight plays based on the life of Draupadi.
• Kattiakaran, the Sutradhara gives the gist of the play to the audience
• Komali entertains the audience with his buffoonery.
17. KARYALA- HIMACHAL PRADESH
• Deals with serious question of life & death briefly and with simplicity of expression & diction, all enveloped in humour.
• Indeed, audience is given essence of our cultural heritage of viewing the world as a stage and as an unsubstantial pageant which is to be negotiated and lived by rising above it.
• There is often stylistic diversity, which strengthens their identity from Swang, Nautanki, Bhagat, etc.