Etymology of Kariyala
The word Kariyala is derived from the word "karal" which means ferocious. Since the usage of masks brings an element of ferocity in the play, it might have been named so. However, some scholars believe that the word is used to show its relation with the term "karal" that also means an offering, made by the devotee to his respected deity for having his wish or desire fulfilled. As a token of gratitude, the devotee makes the offering promised by him for the wish, if it is fulfilled.
Performers of Kariyala
The Kariyala folk artists usually belong to the lower middle classes and castes like the Sanhais, Sehsis, cobblers, weavers and Jheers.
Stage of Kariyala
The stage of Kariyala is very simple. It is performed on a square-shaped arena called ‘Khada’, with four poles raised at each of the four corners. To make clear demarcation in the performing arena, a rope is tied to the poles. In the centre of the Khada, a bonfire is lit that acts as the source of light and heat. The bonfire is considered sacred and all performances are held around it, in all seasons.
Performance of Kariyala
The performance of Kariyala starts in the evening and continues throughout the night, staging various popular items one after the other. Its enactment usually starts with Mangalacharan, a musical ensemble invoking the blessings of three Gods - Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh, the forest gods and goddesses and Saraswati, the goddess of learning. After this, the Manasukha or Dandoo comes on the stage and makes the announcement of the theme of the play before the people. The themes of Kariyala range from historical to mythological and are portrayed with contemporary references. The tales of Ramleela, Raasleela, Krishnaleela, mythological tales from the Puranas are displayed in contemporary satirical fashion. Some time after the announcement, a male actor in the guise of Chandravali enters the arena with a plate or ‘thali’ containing a well-lit lamp, holding it in his hand and performs a dance around the bonfire. This is the auspicious start of the performance. Chandravali represents Goddess Lakshmi, the deity of wealth and prosperity.
After Chandravali’s dance, the stage is taken over for ‘Sadhu Ka Swang’, wherein several actors in the guise of Sadhus emerge in the scene by passing through the audience and reaching the performing arena. They engage in a conversation with each other or with the ones present in the arena. The Sadhus discuss many serious spiritual and metaphysical issues as per their respective sects and traditions. The dialogues are mostly short and sarcastic depending upon the occasion and what is being discussed.
After the Sadhu Ka Swang is over, the other Swangs are presented in succession. In between these Swangs, different folk dances and songs are presented to entertain the audience. In some of the tribal areas, the custom of community dancing is prevalent, when all the men and women stand in straight rows or in a semi circle, singing and dancing throughout the night. The entire valley reverberates with the sound of music on such an occasion. Thus, Kariyala like all the folk art forms reflects the simple thought patterns of the rural folk. The plays are full of dances that are set with songs. Some of the folk dance forms that are presented in this theatre form comprise Nati, Giddha, Luddi, Dangi and Dandaras and the musical types incorporated are Jhanjhoti, Mohana, Gangi, Jhooriyan and Laman.
Musical Instruments used in Kariyala
A number of musical instruments such as Chimta, Nagara, Karnal, Ranasingha, Shahanai, Basuri, Dholak and Khanjiri are played in Kariyala enactments, providing background music to the ongoing drama and dance.
Make-up of Kariyala
For the purpose of make-up, the Kariyala artists use wigs, Kohl powder and costume jewellery. A face powder is made of fine lime or common flour and Kohl is prepared out of carbonated lamp soot. For the wigs, barks of trees are used.
Folk Theatre in India
Regional Theatre in India
Theatre in Himachal Pradesh
Indian Folk Dances
Indian Folk Music