(Last Updated on : 19/06/2012)
Folk theatre in Himachal Pradesh
has been playing significant social role. Theatrical performances in Himachal Pradesh are known by different names in different parts of the state. Theatre is known as Kryala in Mahasu and Sirmour, Harn in Kullu, Banthra in Mandi, Bhagat in Kangra, Harnatra in Chamba, Baura in Una, Dhaja in Bilaspur and Haringapho in Kinnaur. With the passing decades, theatre in Himachal Pradesh has become popular entertainment form and an inevitable part of community life. Moreover, it reflects the tastes and traditions of the people and their social historical scientific attitudes and creative qualities. Theatre in Himachal Pradesh is best in forms like Swang, Jagra, Jagrata, Ainchali singing, the ballads and songs of the tribes of wandering minstrels. Other than the mentioned ones, Bhagat, Banthada, Kariyada and Haranyattar are also the popular folk theatre forms of Himachal Pradesh. These dramas are particularly designed around certain character-types. Any open space in the middle of a field distinct by two or three feet high poles with cords tied round them, provides the decorative stage for the folk-drama and the anxious audience sits around such a stage.
Kariyada and Banthada is the folk art form of Himachal Pradesh that offers a colored glimpse into the heart of the region. This art form reflects the loves, joys, sorrows and hopes of the people through traditional symbolic patterns. The performance usually starts with the custom of Mangalacharan that means the invoking the three gods - Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh, the forest gods and goddesses and Saraswati the goddess of learning. After this the Manasukha or Dandoo stands up on the stage, introduces the theme of the play to the people, and set it going. The themes of the play vary from historical to mythological and are mixed together with up to date references.
Ramleela, Ras-leela, Krishnaleela are the most popular mythological tales from Puranas and history that are presented the most. The comic interludes in the theatre of Himachal Pradesh forms a necessary part of the show and thus depicts stock characters like the moneylender and his servant, the run-away girl, the guard, the she-snake and Pilpili Sahib (a spoof on the white sahibs). This unrehearsed theatre shows therefore present sharp and overpowering satires about the administration, the social negligence like racial discrimination and miser attitude. Sly and sharp social commentary is widely used in Himachal Pradesh theatre. The dialogues of the plays come in form of jokes and puns packed with wit and humor. The role of the female dancer is very important in the folk theatre; she not only dances but also sings songs and is unanimously offered gifts of money by the audiences.
The frolics of Manasukha are the life and soul of each play and these are staged between Diwali to Baisakhi, when the extreme climax moments arrive and people crave for some form of entertainment. The audience of Himachal Pradesh treats their theatres as a part of religious ritual. People take spiritual vows to have these religious plays staged if their earnest wishes come true. The common people invite the traveling troupes to come and perform in their adjoined open spaces with an advance payment of money known as Peshagi or Sai. Other family members are also invited to view the theatrical performance in Himachal Pradesh. When the Bhagat or the performers reach the house of the hosts, they are given a warm welcome and on the day of their arrival a feast is offered to the entire village.
For the stage theatre in Himachal Pradesh, a bonfire is lit in the middle of the courtyard of the host's house, around which the audience enjoys the show. A few inter tied cords form the wings of the stage. Mats or Dhurries are spread extensively on the floor. A large oil lamp, which can hold about two liters of oil, is lit upon a pillar and torches are made of resinous pine branches. However, in recent days people also use kerosene oil lanterns and petromax lamps. The folk theatre artists in Himachal Pradesh usually belong to the lower middle classes and castes like the Sanhai, Sehsi, Cobblers, Weavers and Jheers; however this fact do not bring any racial discrimination among the audience. The artists are given the due adoration and love.
Alike most of the traditional and regional theatre forms; men enact the female roles and chief actor is Manasukha or Rauloo. The rauloo act as the clown and his jokes are flirtatious encounters with the Gopis (maidens). These frivolous acts are some of the liveliest bits in the play. The artists use wigs, kohl powder and costume jwellery for their make-up. The face powder is used extensively to make prominent facila expressions and is made of fine lime or common flour and kohl is prepared out of carbonated lamp soot. For wigs, barks of trees were used. Himachal Pradesh theatre has been one of the most cost effective forms of entertainment and art.
The dialogues of Himachal Pradesh plays are short and sedate according to the occasion; the language is simple, elastic and contains no ornamentation. Basically all these folk art forms reveal the simple thought patterns of the rural folk. The plays in Himachal Pradesh are full of dances and traditional songs. Some of the folk dance forms presented in these plays are Nati, Luddi, Gidda, Dangi and Dandaras and the musical forms are Jhanjhoti, Mohana, Gangi, Jhooriyan and Laman.
In the tribal areas, dancing is prevalent in the custom of regional community. During the dance sequence, all the men and women stand in lines or in a semi circle, sing, and dance through the night. This form resembles the theatre forms in Jammu and Kashmir
. The entire valley of Himachal Pradesh reverberates with the sound of music at such celebrating occasions. In the Sirmaur and Mahasu areas of Himachal Pradesh, the Kariyada folk theatre is popular. Banthada is popular in the Mandi region and Haranyattar form in the Banthada, Kangra and Chamba areas. The Bhagat comprises of a performance of incidents from the life of Krishna. Comic skits or Swang follows this. In between the plays, the players move around with a platter in which the spectators put money. Thus, theatre in Himachal Pradesh still retains its traditional essence and is loved by the regional folk for its deep-rooted cultural flavor.