Art & culture

UPSC – Art & culture Important topics 2019

Theater forms In India is very crucial and less discussed topic in art and culture. we have compiled here as art & culture important topics focusing on Theater forms in India. We have included most important forms of theater only.

Origin of Theater forms in India

  • Origins of Indian theatre cannot be traced exactly
  • Drawings in caves gives some insight that dance, music, and drama was an internal part of the life of the people
  • Sitabengona and Jogimara (Ramgarh, MP) have structures that are possibly the oldest theatres in the world
  • IVC: a seal shows a person beating drum while other disguised as a tiger
  • A few hymns of the Rig Veda are in the monologue and dialogue form
  • Natyashastra evolved some guidelines for drama

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Folk Theater vs Classical Sanskrit Theater

  Classical Sanskrit Folk Modern
Place of performance Normally performed privately or semi-privately – in palaces or rich homes, or in temple courts Performed in open grounds or in pandals Auditoriums
Auditorium Design of auditorium described in Natyashastra.
Stage Use features like back-stage, front-stage, wings and curtains
Themes Plays written by dramatists – well structured. Themes of love, grief, myths etc Folk legends and myths. Later themes focusing on social conditions became important Dramas began to take up social themes, voice political unrest, express resentment against alien rule
Acting Actors use rich gesture language and facial expressions to communicate effectively atmosphere and situation Spontaneous, simple and sometimes crude. Combines music, dance and  acting
Other characteristics Standard form More regional in form

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Prominent folk theater forms

Kerala – Mudiyettu

  • Ritualistic dance drama
  • Performed annually in Kali temples
  • Signifies triumph of good over evil as Kali vanquishes the demon Darika
  • Included in UNESCO list of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity (2010)


  • Story of Krishna
  • Series of eight plays
  • Firstly created by Manveda
  • Player wears peacock feather

Kudiyattam (Sanskrit theatre)

  • UNESCO’s recognized as “Masterpiece of oral and intangible Heritage of humanity”
  • Dance worship
  • Mani Madhav chakyar is main proponent



  • Anika Nat (one act play)


  • Bhavai
  • Khyal (dance drama)


  • Saang


  • Jashin

Himachal Pradesh

  • Karyala


  • Tamasha

TN: Therukkothu

Bengal, Orissa: Yatra

Goa: Zatra

UP: Nautanki

MP: Macha

North India in general

  • Rasleela
  • Ramleela

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Important Dramatists of Theater Forms in India


  • Asvaghosa – Buddhacharita
  • Kalidasa – Abhijnanasakuntalam, Meghduta, Kumarsambhava
  • Bhasa – Madhyamavyayoga
  • Shudrak – Mricchkatika
  • Vishakahdatta – Madrarakshasa
  • Bhavabhuti – Mahaveercharita


  • Dinbandhu Mitra – Neeldarpan
  • Aga Hashra Kashmiri (aka Indian Shakespeare?)
  • Bhartendu Harishchandra
  • Jaishankar Prasad
  • Habeeb Tanvir – Mitti ki Gadi and Charandas Chor
  • Mohan Rakesh – Ashadha ka ek din
  • Dharamveer Bharti – Andha Yug
  • Vijay Tendulkar – Shantata Court Chalu Ahe, Ghasiram Kotwal
  • Girish Karnad – Tughlaq, Yayati

See Delhi Sultanate here 


Puppet Theatre

  • Rajasthani Kathakali
    • Legend of Amarsingh Rathore is very popular
  • Orissa: Sakhi Kundhei
  • Assam: Putla Nach
  • Maharashtra: Malasutri Bahuly
  • Karnataka: Gombeyatta
  • TN: Bommalattam
  • Kerala: Tolpavakoothy
  • AP: Tholu Bomalata

Modern Drama

  • New theatre movement was initiated in Bengal and Maharashtra
  • Influence of Europeans
  • European plays translated and staged
  • Themes: Dramas began to take up social themes, voice political unrest, express resentment against alien rule
    • Deenbandhu Mitra’s Neeldarpan took the theme of the plight of the indigo plantation workers
    • Krishnaji Prabhakar Khadilkar’s Kichaka Vadha relected nationalist sentiments
  • Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA) became a part of the mass struggle of peasants, youth and workers
    • It was the cultural wing of the CPI
  • Parsi theatre aimed at entertainment
  • Maharashtra
    • Indian National Theatre
    • Prithvi Theatre

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