(Last Updated on : 06/06/2016)
Keertana, also known as Harikatha
or Harikeertana or Ramakatha is a religious folk theatre
. It is a kind of concentrated drama
or monodrama in which one gifted actor enters swiftly into a whole series of characters, moods and mannerisms. Divine sage Narada
is believed to have invented and practised the form with great success. It is believed to have spread from Maharashtra to Karnataka
and Tamil Nadu
about 150 years ago. Mainly associated with the Bhakti movements
in religion and literature, it was used by saints like Kabir
, Guru Nanak
, Farid and Tukaram
to preach the faith and also to bring about social reform and political change. A common sight all over the country, the use of Keertana is traditionally associated with the Bhakti
-adoration or devotion that has been the inspiring element behind many of the performing art forms. Its use as an instrument of social and moral change is not new or unfamiliar in the Indian society.
Keertana is a form of monodrama or one-man drama, in which the whole presentation is operated and performed by a single actor. This sole actor enters into the topic, by enacting different characters lying in it. The actor performs various roles while simultaneously telling the stories of all the characters concerned. It evolves an environment which both interests and brings in moods within the audience. The distinct feature of this folk theatre form is that a single person carries the entire programme, by holding its charm as well. Such Harikeertana is widely popular in many states
in India such as Maharashtra, Karnataka and Bengal
Keertana generally covers the stories of the Indian epics, communicated to the people in the dramatic narrative form. It integrates the people because it includes songs in different languages that by and large help them in extending their cultural understanding beyond their own language, area and region. The reciters of Keertana or Harikatha are being used by politicians and development workers as agents of social change. It is such a potent weapon in social education that Lokmanya Tilak
is believed to have said that if he were not a journalist he would have been a Keertankara.
There are 3 types of Harikeertana in vogue - the traditional Harikatha, the Nationalist Harikatha and the Warkari Harikatha. The Nationalist Harikatha was a form of art developed by the Central Government
to educate people. The Warkari Harikatha is a popular form that is still prevalent in Maharashtra. The folk theatre art form is exploited by the Central and State Governments
in educating the masses on family planning, developmental activities, democratic values and national integration, with the help of the Kathakaras or Keertankaras. All India Radio
too are using the Keertana form for broadcasting purpose, beamed at industrial workers and rural audiences.
Religious Folk Theatre of North India
Folk Theatre in India