Folk Theatre of India


  • 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.


  • f2Mainly 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.


  • Most popular centers – 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.



  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • f13 ‘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.


  • f14Based 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.


  • 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.


  • f16Literally 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.


  • f17Deals 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..
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