Debates that began as metaphysical exchange would often end in verbal abuse and even physical violence. The dialogue form of religious discourse occurred even earlier in a type of Marathi folk poetry known as gondhal. This too is a recitation tradition using two opposing sides, performed originally to propitiate the goddess Amba and to enact Puranic incidents and heroic ballads.
Both the Gondhal and the Turra-Kalagi traditions fed into the Tamasha - folk theatre of Maharashtra, which reached its height in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. In Tamasha performances, a serious philosophical discussion between Lord Shiva and Parvati generally occur using question-answer lavani singing, following the erotic female dance known as gaulan. Performers of Tamasha identify themselves by their allegiance to the Turra or Kalagi parties.
It is assumed that the Turra-Kalagi troupes travelled northward from Maharashtra, possibly when entertainers followed the camps of the Maratha army in the eighteenth century. Turra-Kalagi was taken up in Madhya Pradesh, where it is still practiced as a folk song form. The institution eventually reached northern India. In Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh, Turra-Kalagi troupes and their competitions were described by Chaube in 1910. At some time between 1750 and 1850, Turra-Kalagi further developed its dramatic potential and moved its performances to a raised stage, with costumes, incidental singing and dancing, and new story material. In Madhya Pradesh this folk stage was known as Mach or Manch.
In Rajasthan, Turra-Kalagi became associated with the Khyal folk theatre, where it led to a separate style called Turra-Kalagi Khyal centred in Chitor and Ghosunda. Its performances focused on story material found in the oral traditions of the region, and the organization of performers into rival Akharas under the Turra and Kalagi symbols and the Dangal competition continued. When one group presented its latest play, its opponent attempted to obstruct the performance and then started up its own drama on the same theme as soon as the first group had finished.
Another legacy of the Turra-Kalagi tradition was the mode of dramatic discourse found in all the related forms - Swang, Sang, Bhagat, Khyal and Maach. Typically only two actors appear on the stage at once, and they engage in sung dialogue in question-and-answer form. The influence of Turra-Kalagi is also apparent in the growing popularity of Iavani poetry.
(Last Updated on : 05-09-2012)
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