A Brief Overview of 10 Different Traditional Theatre Forms of India

traditional theatre
traditional theatre forms of India

A traditional theatre is a collaborative form of fine arts that makes use of live performers generally actors and actresses. These artists present the experience of an imagined or real event in front of a live audience in a particular place which is generally a stage.

Theatre is truly the greatest art form because it is the immediate way in which a person can share with other the sense of what it is to be a human being. Folk theatre is a fusion of dance, music, drama, stylized speech and spectacle.

In fact, it is composite art form that has its deep roots in native culture and local identity. The traditional theatre serves as an important tool for interpersonal communication and truly reflects social-political realities of its time.

At the moment, traditional theatre is considered as an important form of art that uses basic elements of drama and uses stories and flavors of its own region. It is this very reason that makes traditional theatre very vibrant and important aspect of intangible cultural heritage of India.

Some forms of traditional theatres like for instance Ramlila, Nautanki and Raslila are known to people all over the country. But, there are many traditional theatre forms in India that are equally amazing but not known to a large number of people.

In this post, we are sharing a list of 10 different traditional theatre forms of India that you should definitely know. It will certainly help you appreciate more about the culture and religious diversities of the nation.

Koodiyattam

It is considered as the oldest traditional theatre form in India and it follows the performative principles of the ancient Sanskrit theatre. It has its roots in Kerala and is known for its own distinctive features.

Koodiyattam
Koodiyattam

This theatre form was earlier practiced in the rituals of temple. In the year 2001, it was included in the intangible cultural heritage list which is recognized by UNESCO.

Yakshagana

It is another very popular traditional theatre that makes use of dance, music, costume, dialogue, makeup and stage techniques in an altogether unique style and form.

Yakshagana
Yakshagana

This theatre style is prevalent in Kerala as well as Karnataka and it is generally performed from dusk to dawn. It has a very rich history and it spans more than 400 years in the past.

Swang

It is a traditional folk theatre form that has its roots in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Haryana. The entire performance is centered around music.

Swang
Swang

A group of artists sing songs about folk takes and religious stories. There is a loud rendering of songs and dialogues by the artists.

Bhand Paather

It is an extremely old theatre form of Kashmir that makes a unique combination of acting, music and dance. In this folk drama, one can see parody, wit and humor performed by the artists.

Bhand Paather
Bhand Paather

The performers incorporate contemporary social commentary and local mythological legends. The artists dance to the tune of certain musical instruments like nagara, dhol etc.

Ankiya Naat Bhaona

It is a one act play that is typically performed by artists in Assam. The invention of this traditional theatre form goes to the medieval saint and social reformer named Srimata Sankaradeva.

Ankiya Naat Bhaona
Ankiya Naat Bhaona

The plays are written in a mixed language of Asamese-Maithali and centers around Lord Krishna. The entire play make use of singers, live instruments and elaborate costumes in production.

Tamasha

It is a traditional folk theatre form in Maharashtra and it flourished during the reign of Maratha rulers in 18th and 19th century. It was at its peak during the reign of ruler Baji Rao II.

Tamasha
Tamasha

A number of different folk forms are used in it like kirtan, jagran and gondhal. Female actress is the lead performer and the performance gets its vivid structure from classical music and lightning fast footwork.

Therukoothu

Also known as Koothu, this folk dance originated from the early Tamil country. It is an informal dance structure where the artists depict scenes from ancient epics like Mahabharata, Ramayana and other classical Tamil literature.

Therukoothu
Therukoothu

No dialogues are used and only songs are sung in high pitched voice. The performers are dressed in a heavy complex costume with elaborate makeup.

Jatra

It is a popular traditional theatre form which has its roots in Bengal, Bihar and entire of Bangladesh. Jatra means journey and its origin trace back to the rise of Chaitanya’s Bhakti Movement in India during the 15th century.

Jatra
Jatra

Initially, this theatre form was primarily music but the most recent ones make use of dialogues and few songs.

Bhavai

Also known as Vesha, it is a very popular traditional theatre form in the western India preferably Gujrat. It is a Sanskrit word that means expression and the dance form is associated with Goddess Amba.

Bhavai
Bhavai

It originated in the 14th century and Asaita Thakur is credited for the origin of this dance form.

Dashavtaar

It is another very popular traditional theatre form that is practiced by the peasants on Konkan coast of Maharashtra.

Dashavtaar
Dashavtaar

The artists present the 10 incarnations of Lord Vishnu and it is traditionally performed after midnight during the annual festival of village deity.

Also Read – Different Types of Folk Dance Forms of India

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