State PCS

Edit Template
Edit Template

Folk Theatre in India

Folk Theatre

In India, folk theatre is like a lively blend of different arts – from mime and dance to storytelling, music, and visual arts. It’s deeply rooted in local identity and the way communities come together. Beyond just entertainment, folk theatre has been a way for people to connect on a personal, group, and even village level. It’s not just a show; it’s a form of communication that’s been woven into the fabric of Indian society for a long time.

About Folk Theatre in India

In India, folk theatre has played a crucial role in conveying important messages about society, politics, and culture. This indigenous art form goes beyond formalities and directly connects with people, serving as a powerful tool for raising awareness. During the First Five Year Plan, there was a suggestion to not only rely on electronic media but also harness traditional folk communication methods to reach rural areas.

This was emphasized due to the effectiveness and significance of these traditional mediums. The various forms of folk theatre in India have a rich history of communication and can be a dynamic platform for spreading messages about social, economic, and cultural development, contributing to the overall progress of the country.

History Of Folk Theatre

  • India has a fascinating theatrical history that spans more than 5000 years, thriving in its rich cultural tapestry.
  • Imagine, one of the earliest forms of Indian theatre, called Sanskrit theatre, came about after Greek and Roman theatre, deeply rooted in ancient rituals.
  • There’s this incredible book called “Natya Sastra,” written by Bharat Muni, which is like the world’s first guide to drama. It’s cool because it not only talks about theatre but also delves into its divine origins.
  • In the beginning, Indian theatre was all about storytelling, blending recitation, singing, and dance. So, from the get-go, it was inherently theatrical.
  • And get this – Indian theatre is this amazing mix of different things like text, mime, music, dance, painting, sculpture, and architecture. It’s like a big creative blend called “Natya” or simply “Theatre.”
  • As time rolled on, folk theatre joined the scene in the 15th and 16th centuries. It started with religious themes but then switched things up to include everyday stories about local heroes, love tales, and acts of bravery. It’s like theatre evolved right alongside the culture it came from.

    Features Of Folk Theatre In India

    • Indian folk theatre can be broadly classified into two main categories – Ritual Theatre and Theatre of Entertainment. Interestingly, these two categories often influence each other.
    • Despite being labeled as folk theatre, some traditions exhibit classical theatre characteristics, blurring the lines between the two.
    • Many folk and traditional forms, such as Ramlila, Rasleela, Nautanki, and Swang, rely heavily on oral and narrative traditions. Singing and recitation take precedence over complex gestures or dance.
    • India boasts diverse forms of folk theatre, each with its own unique execution, staging, attire, makeup, and acting style. Local customs strongly influence these aspects.
    • Ballad-singing customs like Pabuji-ki-phar, particularly in Rajasthan and Manipur, add another layer to India’s rich folk traditions.
    • Forms like Khyal, Maach, Nautanki, and Swang in North India emphasize the importance of songs in their performances.
    • On the other hand, South Indian forms like Kathakali and Krishnattam focus more on dance, resembling elaborate dance dramas.
    • Bengali Jaatra, Maharashtrian Tamasha, and Gujarati Bhavai prioritize dialogue execution, often infusing strong comedic and satirical elements.
    • India has a flourishing puppetry tradition with various forms such as shadow puppetry (Gombeyatta of Karnataka, Ravana Chhaya of Orissa), glove puppetry (Gopalila of Orissa, Pavai Koothu of Tamil Nadu), doll puppetry (Bommalattam of Tamil Nadu and the Mysore State, Putul Naach of Bengal), and string puppetry (Kathputli of Rajasthan).
    • Indian classical dance forms like Bharat Natyam, Kathak, Odissi, and Mohiniattam showcase solo performances with distinct styles.
    • Folk dances like Gambhira and Purulia Chhau of Bengal, Seraikella Chhau of Bihar, and Mayurbhanj Chhau of Orissa incorporate dramatic elements, making them vibrant expressions of culture.
    • Even ritualistic ceremonies, as seen in places like Kerala with Mudiyettu and Teyyam, incorporate dramatic content, adding a theatrical dimension to religious practices.

    Major Theatre Forms

    Theatre FormsStateTheme
    NautankiUttar PradeshOften draws   on romantic Persian literature for   its themes.
    TamashaMaharashtraEvolved from the   folk forms such as gondhal, jagran and kirtan.
    BhavaiGujaratSubtle social criticism laced with humour.
    JatraWest Bengal/Orissa and eastern BiharOriginated in   Bengal as a result of the Bhakti   movement. Initially known as Krishna jatra due to Chaitanya’s (spiritual founder of Gaudiya Vaishnavism) influence.
    KoodiyattamKeralaOldest traditional theatre forms of  India, it follows the performative principles of the ancient tradition of  Sanskrit theatre. In 2001, Koodiyattam was officially recognized by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible   Heritage of Humanity.
    MudiyettuKeralaTraditional ritual   theatre and folk dance drama from Kerala that enacts the mythological tale of   a battle between the goddess Kali and the   demon Darika. The ritual is a part of the bhagavathi or bhadrakali cult.
    BhaonaAssamA creation of   Srimanta Sankardeva (an Assamese saint-scholar), these plays were written in Brajavali, a unique Assamese-Maithili   mixed language, and are primarily centered on Hindu deity, Krishna.
    MaachMadhya PradeshIt is a sung folk   theatre that has a semi sacred character, blending religious and secular themes.
    Bhand PatherKashmirSatire, wit and parody are commonly used   in this folk drama that incorporates local mythological legends and   contemporary social commentary.


    Indian folk theatre is a vibrant part of our cultural heritage, serving as a unique way to convey information about our society, economy, and culture. It plays a crucial role in contributing to the overall development of the nation. Going forward, it’s up to communication researchers, policymakers, the government, and the people involved to preserve and promote the rich traditions of folk theatre.

    Read Also: Abanindranath Tagore

      Demo Class/Enquiries

      blog form

      More Links
      What's New
      IAS NEXT is a topmost Coaching Institute offering guidance for Civil & Judicial services like UPSC, State PCS, PCS-J exams since more than 10 years.
      Contact Us
      Social Icon

      Copyright ©  C S NEXT EDUCATION. All Rights Reserved