was the second phase of the evolution of theatre in India, which
was based on oral traditions. This form of theatre was being
performed from about 1000 AD onwards up to 1700 AD and continued
further until today in almost every part of India. Emergence of
this kind of theatre is linked with the change of political set up
in India as well as the coming into existence of different
regional languages in all parts of the country. The classical
theatre was based on Natya Shastra was much more
sophisticated in its form and nature and totally urban-oriented.
On the contrary, the traditional theatre evolved out of rural
roots and was more simple, immediate and closer to the rural
speaking, it was during the 15-16 century that the folk theatre
emerged forcefully in different regions. It used different
languages, the languages of the regions in which it emerged.
Initially these were purely devotional in tenor and typically
revolved around religion, local legends and mythology. Later, with
changing times it became more secular in content and began to
focus on folk stories of romance and valour and biographical
accounts of local heroes.
folk theatre can be broadly divided into two broad categories --
religious and secular -- giving rise to the Ritual Theatre and Theatre
of Entertainment respectively. The two forms thrived
together, mutually influencing each other. Although they are
considered as Folk theatre traditions, some of them have all the
attributes of a classical theatre.
Most often the folk and traditional forms are mainly
narrative or vocal, i.e. singing and recitation-based like Ramlila,
Rasleela, Bhand Nautanki and Wang, without any
complicated gestures or movements and elements of dance. India is
also rich in ballad-singing traditions such as Pabuji-ki-phar of
Rajastan and Nupipaalaa of Manipur.
While most of these
theatrical styles have their own unique form dependent on their
local customs, they differ from one another in execution, staging,
costume, make-up and acting style, although there are some broad
similarities. The south Indian forms emphasise on dance forms like
Kathakali and Krishnattam of Kerala and actually
qualify as dance dramas, while the north Indian forms emphasise on
songs, like the Khyal of Rajasthan, the Maach of
Madhya Pradesh, the Nautanki of Uttar Pradesh and the Swang
of Punjab. The Jatra of Bengal, Tamasha of
Maharashtra and the Bhavai of Gujarat stress on dialogues
in their execution, the latter two emphasise on comedy and satire.
Puppet theatre also flourished at many places in India. Shadow (Gombeyatta
of Karnataka, Ravana Chhaya of Orissa), Glove (Gopalila
of Orissa, Pavai Koothu of Tamil Nadu), Doll (Bommalattam
of Tamil Nadu and the Mysore State and Putul Nautch of
Bengal) and string puppets (Kathputli of Rajasthan and Sakhi
Kundhei of Orissa) are some of the popular forms in vogue.
art can also be found in some of the solo forms of Indian
classical dance, like Bharat Natyam, Kathak, Odissi and
Mohiniattam, and folk dances like the Gambhira and Purulia
Chhau of Bengal, Seraikella Chhau of Bihar and Mayurbhanj
Chhau of Orissa. Dramatic content is even woven into the
ritual ceremonies in some areas, particularly those of Kerala,
with its Mudiyettu and Teyyam.