(Last Updated on : 25-08-2014)
The word Karyala is most probably derived from karola or karaula, i.e. 'teasing' or 'having fun'. This is a prominent folk form of Himachal Pradesh. There is no clear research on its origin. Some of the scholars claim for it continuity from classical Sanskrit theatre, while others believe it began in the eighteenth century. It is normally performed around the Dussehra festival, i.e. in October-November. Traditionally it used to play continuously for sixteen nights, but now it can be presented on any number of days and any occasion, like village fairs or on invitation by individuals as part of a promise to the gods for fulfillment of a wish.
The open-air acting space measures about 3 m by 4 m. Lamps are usually fixed on tripods made of forked branches i.e. placed on two sides and aghiyana. These are stack of lighted sticks. These are used to keep people warm and also as an object of worship. Drums announce the start of the performance. Like most rural forms it goes on overnight, and consists of several small plays imitating and ridiculing various characters that villagers come across in everyday life. The first two obligatory acts are those of Chandravali and the Bairagi. The former opens any Karyala event, serving the function of consecrating the arena. The latter contains humorous yet uplifting exchanges between different types of mendicants, some knowledgeable and some fraudulent. The other scenes follow, full of fun, satire, buffoonery, and double entendre dialogue in verse.
They are often unscripted, passed on orally, and kept alive through the performers' improvisatory skill and ready wit. The lines, even if spontaneous, rhyme poetically, though they have very little musical and dance accompaniment. The music is based on familiar regional melodies and rhythms, and dance occurs only in one or two specific episodes like the Chandravali, otherwise only in interludes between sequences. The chief instruments in use comprise the dhol, nagara drums, naphiri, and karnal. Naphiri and karnal, both are wind instruments. Karyala's strength is its close link to the lives of the people. Apart from the original fifteen-odd scenarios, several new ones have been written on contemporary local issues, which remain popular as well.