Top 15 Theatre Cultures In India

A theatre is a form of art that includes, dancing, singing and acting. It is a performing art, so it helps to connect with the people. India has a rich tradition of theatre. Bharatmuni’s Natyashastra is a book that talks about performing art. Here is a list of 15 different theatre cultures from different parts of India.

Top 15 Theatre Cultures In India


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This is a famous folk theater in Gujarat and Rajasthan. This theatre is mainly based on romance accompanied by folk music and dance. Folk music and dance of that region are also included in this form of theater. The colorful attire of the performers makes it eye-catching and beautiful. It is also a religious offering to goddess Amba. Bhavai is performed during Navaratri.


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This theater is from Odissa. There are two narrators Gayaka and Paliya in this form of theatre. Use of vernacular language makes this kind of theater, under stable for common mass.The gayakas usually sing the whole drama and paliyas accompany him and help him to explain the plot.


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Painted pictures are used ,to show the story in this form of theater. This theater belongs to Gujarat. The garodas theater is done by the garoda community . The pictures are painted with different water colour colours and divided by black bold lines to make it more vivid.


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Shri Chaitanya, initiated the Jatra in Bengal. He mainly used it as a medium to spread the teachings of Krishna with the common people. This is usually performed in an open air. In modern times the subject matters are secular. This is a form of dance drama. Later, in Jatra love stories also got place. At first it is only musical, at later times dialogues were added.


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It is an open-air theatre, mainly from Himachal Pradesh. This consists of small skits and plays.    


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In this form the dialogues are delivered in couplets known as raangat dohas, This form is basically from Madhya Pradesh At first it was done only on mythological themes, but later the themes became romantic .The dialogues used in this theater form are known as bol and the rhyming is known as vanag.


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In North India, Nautanki is a very famous form of theatre. Abul Fazl mentioned about it in Ain-i-Akbari. It is also said to be the most popular art in India, before cinema came into existence. Nautanki is a musical dialogue sharing among characters , however chorus is also used sometimes. The subject matter is either mythical or folk in Nautanki.

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In Oja Pali, Oja is the main narrator and Palis sing the chorus part. This form of theater is prevalent in Assam. It is totally a musical in nature. Even the performers sing the dialogues.


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From the  land of Maharashtra , it is a poetic ballad, depicting the heroic deeds of Shivaji. During the Peshwa rule, it was patronized by the rulers.


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This is a musical drama of Haryana and Punjab. This is a dialogue oriented theater. Use of movement is very rare in this form of drama. The themes of this theater is morality and good deeds. Ten to twelve people perform this drama.Two main divisions of swaang are Rohtak, where the language is Hariyanvi and Haathraas , where the Brajabhasha is used.


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The main feature of this kind of theater is that, the female actors play the male roles too. This is also from Maharashtra. Tamasha is evolved from the folk forms like jaagran, kirtan etc. The chief female actor in the drama is known as murki. It is also a very famous form of performing art in the rest of the country.


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Traditionally villu pattu refers to bow song. This is famous in the Deccan region. It’s original name is villadichamppatu.


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Though it has a secular outlook but, this drama is performed by the Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir. This form of theater reflects the living of the farming community of the region.


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This was an outcome of social reform , during the vaishnavite movement in Assam. Bhaona narrates the stories of Ankiya Naat. It is narrated by Sutradhar. He speaks sanskrit first and then explains it in vernacular language. The actors are known as Bhaoriya.


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Dashavatar is to honour the 10 incarnations of Lord Vishnu. It is famous in the Konkan region of Punjab. The dashavatar actors use masks to give more edge to the look and make it realistic. The stories behind the incarnations and their deeds are the main theme of the theater.

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Harshita Madhav
Harshita Madhav
HARSHITA MADHAV Is graduated from Delhi University in History. She loves to time travel with books and writes her heart out. She is curious about new cultures and their historical monuments.

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