Indian Theaters

Indian theater. The multicultural theater culture of India is one of the oldest and most diverse on earth; Even in the earliest form of Indian theater, poetry, music and singing as well as elements of art dance, shadow play (from which the name of the theater director as »sutradhara«, which means thread holder, may have been taken) and pantomime have combined to form a total work of art. This classical Indian theater, which makes use of various Prakrit dialects in addition to Sanskrit, has also remained lively in the present through the performance of classical pieces.


According to thesciencetutor, the earliest source on Indian theater is the Natyashastra Handbook of Drama, attributed to the Bharata, which covers all aspects of theater. The classical theater edited v. a. Substances from the Indian epic, which have been expanded to include popular material cycles through the influences of mimus. More realistic representation techniques and the dialect mixture characteristic of Sanskrit drama can also be traced back to him. The courtly nataka (dance game) prefers epic subjects, while the prakarana deals with invented subjects from the milieu of the urban upper class, such as: B. the love of a merchant for a hetaera. In addition to these two main types, the posse (prahasana) and the comical monologue (bhana) are also common and typical. – The beginning of the surviving Sanskrit theatrical poetry are the fragments of three plays by the Buddhist poet Ashvaghosha (around 100 AD). Kalidasa is the highlight of Indian theater(5th century), whose »Abhijanashakuntala« deals with the love of a king and a nymph as well as their separation and subsequent reunification caused by a curse. It became known as the first Indian drama in Europe. From a large number of important drama writers, v. a. still to be mentioned Bhavabhuti, with which the high classical epoch came to an end.

The Indian folk theater has developed regional language variants over the centuries, which are still very popular in the respective region despite film and television (e.g. Yakshagana in Karnataka, Tamasha in Maharashtra, Bhavai in Gujarat, Nautanki in Uttar Pradesh, Yatra in Bengal), as well as, in the field of religious folk theater, the annual performance of the Ramlila, the life and deeds of the Vishnu incarnation Rama, throughout northern India.

Developments from the 19th century

Modern drama and theater first developed in the 19th century through the reception of European, especially English, literature in the context of colonialism. At the same time as the enthusiastic reception of Shakespeare’s dramas, there was a return to his own classics such as Kalidasa instead of. Under European influence, mixed theatrical forms emerged from the middle of the 19th century, which represented the beginning of a commercial theater. These include the so-called Parsee Theater and the Nataka troops, whose style, however, has nothing in common with the classic Nataka. From the criticism of the triviality of these professionally operated theaters, an amateur theater emerged in the 1920s that wanted to educate and denounce political and social grievances. After India’s independence in 1947, the tendency in drama and theater continued – albeit under new circumstances – to combine contemporary statements and European-oriented forms with ancient Indian material. 1955 was published by Dharmvir Bharati (* 1926, † 1997) The Hindi piece “The Blind Age” (“Andha Yug”), which darkly and hauntedly depicts the horrors of the division of India and its consequences based on the epic material of the Mahabharata. In 1959 the National School of Drama (now the National School of Drama and Asian Theater Institute) was founded in New Delhi, and has since enriched Indian theater with important impulses. Under the direction of its director from 1962-77, Ebrahim Alkazi (* 1925), was among others. the tragedy »Tughlak«, originally written in Kannada, premiered in Hindi against the backdrop of the Old Fort (Purana Qila). Your author Girish Karnad (* 1938) shows in this historical drama the failure of an idealistic ruler, the sultan Muhammed Tuqhluq (* 1324, † 1351). Up until the 1960s, people orientated themselves strongly towards Western models such as A. Chekhov, H. Ibsen and A. Strindberg. The 1970s, on the other hand, were on the one hand the decade of Brecht’s reception in all important theater regions and regional languages ​​of India such as Bengal, Maharashtra, Karnataka and the Hindi-speaking north with the capital New Delhi, on the other hand they were shaped by the return to the theatricality of theater, d. H. on modes of representation that are less based on text templates and are more geared towards physical and improvisational aspects of theater work. Young directors like Ratan Tiyan from Manipur, Kavalam Narayana Panikar from Kerala and the theater collective »Ninasam« (short for »Nilakantha Natya Sangham« [Nilakantha Drama Association]; term in reference to the goddess Nilakantha) from Karnataka) developed important productions. The reception of Brecht’s epic theater was an important experience, especially for urban, intellectual playwrights, which dispelled reservations about approaching the folk theater of their regions with its combination of drama, music and dance. Important dramas that emerged during this period include: in Kannada »Hayavadana« (first published in print 1970) by Karnad, in Marathi »Ghashiram Kotval« (first published in print 1973) by Vijay D. Tendulkar (* 1928, † 2008), in Hindi »Bakri« by Sarveshwar Dayal Saksena (* 1927, † 1983), in Bengali »Indrajit« by Badal Sarkar (* 1925, † 2011). Karnad wrote “Nagamandala” (“snake diagram”), a postmodern drama that premiered in Chicago in 1988.

In addition to the post-modern developments mentioned, traditional forms of theater have received increased attention in recent decades. Especially the regional Sanskrit theater tradition in Kerala has been led to ever greater artistry since the 1980s. Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2001, its acting techniques make it an attraction for theater people from all over the world. The state academies Kalakuetra in Chennai and Kalamanoalam in Kerala are important sites for maintaining traditional theater and dance traditions (Indian dance) in South India. In addition, the traditional folk theater forms of the regions, ritualistic forms of theater as well as urban street and experimental theater continue to flourish.

Indian Theaters