The present Jatra in its opera form came to Orissa from Bengal in the last quarter of the 19th century. The pioneers in the field of Jatra in Orissa were Baishnab Pani, Gopal Das, Jagannath Pani and Balakrishna Mohanty.
Suanga started as independent play but afterwards it turned out to be light-hearted interludes between two scenes in a Jatra. Now it stands for farcical acting. It is a form of Geetabhinaya in which all the characters sing the dialogue. There are two types of Suangas found in ancient Oriya literature. The 'Deulatola Suanga' by Bipra Nilambar is about the construction of the famous Jagannath temple. Another Suanga, 'Laxmipurna Suanga' by Balaram Das narrates the quarrel between Goddess Laxmi on one hand and Lord Jagannath and his elder brother Balabhadra on the other. In the beginning of a Suanga, Nata and Nati appear to introduce the play.
The Tamasha mainly intends to entertain audiences. Late Bansiballav Goswami had written the Mughal Tamasha in 1728 A.D. The Mughal Tamasha is divided into two parts, i.e., 'Badasahi' and 'Soudagari' Tamasha. Nowadays only the Badasahi Mughal Tamasha script is available and being staged. It is a folk play. The dialogue is in a hybrid language of Oriya mixed with Urdu language and Persian. Violin, Pakhavaj, Jodinagara and Kubji were the main instruments used in the Tamasha. The Tamasha begins with a prayer to God or Goddess and is followed by group dance. There is innocent parody of Muslim rulers in these plays. These plays went a long way to establish communal harmony.
In Pusha Purnima, Dhanu Yatra is observed in Bargarh near Sambalpur district for eleven days. Dhanu Yatra is the theatrical presentation of Krishna Leela. It is a moving or mobile theatre. It starts from Ambapali and slowly moves towards Bargarh town while enacting appropriate scenes on the way. One who plays the role of Kansa is treated as a real ruler of Bargarh city for those eleven days.
Chadheya Nata is a folk play prevalent in districts of Mayurbhanj and Balasore. In this play, there are mainly three characters, namely, the Chadheya, the Chadheyani (wife of Chadheya) and Banku Bhai, the joker. It is a musical form, the songs of the characters being repeated by a choral group with musical instruments. The chief of the play is called Mausa who controls the performance and interprets the whole play.
In this form of opera a chorus group narrates the everyday acts of God in his incarnation as Lord Krishna or Lord Rama. Various episodes from Lord's life especially Rama's heroic acts and Krishna's frolicking with the Gopis and Radha are played in Ramlila and Raslila respectively. Jagannath Das was the first pioneer of the Leela tradition.
Sahi Jatra is special form of folk theatre of Orissa. This Jatra is mainly performed in Puri district. The word 'Sahi' means 'alley' or street. Sahi Jatra refers to a street procession. During the first month of spring Sahi Jatra is performed continuously for three days. The characters like Kela-Keluni, Shabara-Shaburuni, etc. play their role behind huge unusual, hollow human figures. The figures are mobile and unusual with big head, long nose, huge tummy and long legs. In the front row of this procession, the musicians, drummers and singers march. The main character is the Naga. He represents a manifestation of Lord Jagannath.
Prahalad Natak, literally meaning a play about Prahlad, belongs to Ganjam district in south Orissa. It is more or less in the form of Suanga. The play has twenty male characters and five female characters except the Gahaka - the main singer leader and Sutradhara of the play. There are a hundred and twenty songs in the play. Each is composed in a particular Raaga and Tala.
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