(Last Updated on : 07/12/2011)
Kirtaniya was a form of Maithili Theatre
that existed in Mithila
, North Bihar
. This form of theatre prevailed during the fourteenth to the early twentieth century. Kirtaniya evolved when Jyotiriswara in his writing 'Dhurtasamagam' employed Maithili music into classical Sanskrit theatre. He did this by introducing Maithili opening songs, conversational songs and narrative songs. This trend was further used by the great poet Vidyapati in his play Gorakshavijay. Kirtaniya was referred to as 'a dramatic performance of the acts of Lord Krishna, a devotional drama organized on auspicious occasions' by Abul Fazl in Ain-i-Akbari.
The Troupes who enacted the Kirtaniya were known as jamati. They ranged between three and eleven members and consisted of a nayak (hero), nayika (heroine), sakhis (female friends), vipta (clown), and an orchestra. Actors were required to possess the talent of singing traditional folk songs like Maheshvani, Nachari, Tirhuti, Mana Sohar, and Samdauni.
Kirtaniya began with the nandi-git which was a form of benedictory song. He continued singing until the sutradhara
or director entered and asked to stop. He next invited the nati or dancer on to the stage and both of them read out the information about the occasion, patron of the performance, and the names of the performers like the dramatist, and other characters. Next the nati is asked to perform a sangitak i.e. song with dance. With the end of the performance the main drama commenced. While all the characters entered the stage all the names were introduced to the audience. These were of three kinds, one sung from the background, another delivered by the character himself, and a third in which one character introduced another. With the bharatvakya i.e. concluding speech the drama ended. This concluding speech was either sung in Sanskrit language
or in Maithili.
Kirtaniya was preformed on a stage during the day and at night on a simple platform. Before the scene started the performers hold a pati or jamanika (curtain) in their hands. Wooden structures of the mythological Garuda, Mayura, and Airavat were used as properties. The performers delivered their dialogue in Sanskrit, Prakrit
, and Maithili. In Kirtaniya, the male characters usually spoke in Sanskrit while female and lower characters spoke in Prakrit. Songs were sung in Maithili. Kirtaniya was based on themes or legends of Lord Krishna
, Lord Shiva
. Important plays of Kirtaniya were Ramdas's Anand-vijay, Ramapati's Rukmini-parinay Nandipati's Srikrishna-kelimala, Lalakavi's Gauri-swayambar, and Ratnapani's Usha-haran. Gradually with the emergence of Parsi Theatre