Montek Singh Ahluwalia rules out approaching IMF over economic woes

Hit by a currency crisis and poor growth, India on Saturday ruled out approaching the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for assistance, saying the economic situation has not reached a point where outside help is warranted.
Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia said
the RBI’s forex reserves are adequate to manage the difficult
situation. India’s foreign exchange reserves were up at 278.602 billion
USD as of August 9. “Our current economic situation does not warrant it.
I do not anticipate it in the near future,” Ahluwalia said, adding
“India’s reserves are comfortable.”
Ahluwalia was asked to comment
at a news conference whether India would seek outside help like
approaching the IMF for assistance against the backdrop of a wave of
poor economic news for the country. He was briefing newsmen about the
upcoming summit of G20 economies that included India.

The two-day summit which will be
attended by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is to be held in St Petersburg
in Russia from September 5. The Prime Minister is leaving for the
eighth summit of the G20 on September 4. India last approached the IMF
for funds in 1991 during a balance of payments crisis that was
considered a national embarrassment.
The rupee collapsed to a
lifetime low of 68.85 against the dollar on August 28 before staging a
recovery while economic growth in the April-June quarter slid to 4.4 per
cent. The rupee closed at 65.70 against the dollar on Friday.
Replying
to questions, Ahluwalia said there will be no “real improvement” in the
Current Account Deficit(CAD) till the end of the second
quarter(July-September) this year. Government is aiming to bring down
the CAD, which touched a record high of USD 88 billion or  4.8 per cent
of GDP in 2012-13, to USD 70 billion or 3.7 per cent of GDP this fiscal.




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TRADITIONAL THEATRE FORMS OF INDIA

Living traditions occupy a prominent place in the Indian social system. Any living tradition has a natural flow. There can be no doubt about the fact that traditional art forms reflect the ideals of the society, its determination to survive, its ethos, emotions, fellow-feelings, and so on. Drama in itself is a complete form of arts. It includes in its framework acting, dialogue, poetry, music, etc. 

In community living, the art of singing has its own importance. In all the traditional theatre-forms, songs and the art of singing have an important role to play. Traditional music of the theatre is an expression of the feelings of the community.

Traditionally the language of ordinary people has an element of creativity, though not based on classical or grammatical roots. This kind of creativity is spontaneous, emerging from the circumstances. When there is intensity of emotions, there is a natural kind of rhythm in the expressions. It is this natural rhythm from which emerges the traditional theatre-form. In this art form, sorrow, joy, frustration, hatred and love have their role and place.

In different regions of India, there are religious festivals, fairs, gatherings, ritual offerings, prayers, almost throughout the year. During these occasions, traditional theatre forms are presented. They reflect the common man’s social attitudes and perceptions. In this social portrayal, there is also the individual’s role which is given due importance.

Traditional theatre forms incorporate not only the common man’s interests but there is also a classical element in them. This classical facet, however, takes on regional, local and folk coloring. It is possible, that those associated with the classical world of Sanskrit drama, went to the neighbouring regions after its decline and intermingled with the local theatre forms. This kind of synthesis, give-and-take must have taken place on various levels such as written, verbal, classical, contemporary, national and local.

In traditional theatre forms there are special styles of dance portraying the entry on to the stage or platform, narrative and descriptive roles. The best example of descriptive acting is the Bidapat naach. In this traditional theatre form, emphasis is not on beauty but on acting itself and narrative and descriptive skills. Dance as a narrative art is the base of theatre form which can be seen in the traditional theatre form of Bhavai of Gujarat. In this form, quick or slow foot movement is a means of narration. The art of making the entry by dancing has been perfected in the traditional Kashmiri theatre form, Bhand Jashn. The way each character walks and enters the platform, identifies him. In Koodiyaattam and Ankia Naat, the entry by dancing itself is complicated and artistic. In the forms, the tempo and basic posture and gesture identifies the role of the character.

In traditional theatre, age-old forms, customs and the desire to improvise are intermingled. It is usually when the significant themes are enacted, that the acting restricts itself to traditional norms, not deviating from it. But, every time the theme inches towards the contemporary, the actors improvise as far as dialogue delivery is concerned.

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In traditional theatre forms there are certain conventions of presentations depending upon and changing according to the form and size of the stage or the platform and other available situations. There is no formal setup governing the entry or exit of the actors. Depending on the situation or context, the actors enter into the stage and enact their role without being formally introduced. After a particular event or incident is over, all the artists make an exit, or all of them sit down on the sides of the stage or near the backdrop, conveying the change of a scene
In traditional theatre forms, there is no such thing as episodes. There is always continuity in its theme, structure and presentation. There is also a scope for improvisation and incorporation of new references leading to subtle extension in the story-line. There is direct and intimate communication between the actors and the audience.

Traditional theatre forms have definitely been influenced by industrial civilization, industrialization, and urbanization. The socio-cultural aspects of these influences should be carefully studied. There was a time when Kanpur became the centre of the traditional theatre Nautanki. Artists, dancers and singers produced plays based on local heroes, their popularity and traditional love stories. Thus, a local theatre form acquired significance in the field of entertainment.

Traditional theatre forms have a common distinguishing feature that is the element of simplicity. What is the underlying force of traditional theatre forms that has enabled it to survive and maintain its simplicity? The fact remains, that it is the immediate, direct, realistic and rhythmic relationship that the spectators are able to develop with the artists of traditional theatre forms which is generally not experienced in other art forms. It is reflected in the applaud by the spectators by means of clapping their hands.

Secondly the development of traditional theatre forms is based on such local and regional peculiarities which are not bound and restricted by social and economic divisions, limitations, etc. Tradional art forms have influenced classical art forms and vice-versa. It is an eternal journey in the sphere of ‘culture’.

In traditional theatre forms, characters keep changing their place on the stage to be more impressive and to give the situation a greater significance. This technique also reduces the chance of boredom through repetition and stillness. Dialogues delivery is usually carried out in a high pitch. This helps the actors in reaching out to a larger audience. The artists always add something or the other to the original dialogue on their own. The changes brought through improvisations, make the spectators ecstatic. Also, it establishes a direct relationship between the artists and the spectators. The clown also plays a similar role. While being humorous, he also touches upon the socio-economic, political issues and situations with lot of satire. There are different methods too, in the way the clown makes his appearance. If the king, in traditional theatre forms, decides on a step not beneficial for the people at large, the clown appears and takes the side of the common man. He makes the audience laugh and at the same time discloses the anti-people attitude of the king.

DIFFERENT FORMS OF TRADITIONAL THEATRE

Bhand Pather, the traditional theatre form of Kashmir, is a unique combination of dance, music and acting. Satire, wit and parody are preferred for inducing laughter. In this theatre form, music is provided with surnai, nagaara and dhol. Since the actors of Bhand Pather are mainly from the farming community, the impact of their way of living, ideals and sensitivity is discernible.

Originally the theatre form Swang, was mainly music-based. Gradually, prose too, played its role in the dialogues. The softness of emotions, accomplishment of rasa alongwith the development of character can be seen in this theatre form. The two important styles of Swang are from Rohtak and Haathras. In the style belonging to Rohtak, the language used is Haryanvi (Bangru) and in Haathras, it is Brajbhasha.
Nautanki is usually associated with Uttar Pradesh. The most popular centres of this traditional theatre form are Kanpur, Lucknow and Haathras. The meters used in the verses are: Doha, Chaubola, Chhappai, Behar-e-tabeel. There was a time when only men acted in Nautanki but nowadays, women have also started taking part in the performances. Among those remembered with reverence is Gulab Bai of Kanpur. She gave a new dimension to this old theatre form.

Raasleela is based exclusively on Lord Krishna legends; it is believed that Nand Das wrote the initial plays based on the life of Krishna. In this theatre form the dialogues in prose combined beautifully with songs and scenes from Krishna’s pranks.

Bhavai is the traditional theatre form of Gujarat. The centers of this form are Kutch and Kathiawar. The instruments used in Bhavai are: bhungal, tabla, flute, pakhaawaj, rabaab, sarangi, manjeera, etc. In Bhavai, there is a rare synthesis of devotional and romantic sentiments.

Fairs in honour of gods, or religious rituals and ceremonies have within their framework musical plays are known as Jatra. This form was born and nurtured in Bengal. Krishna Jatra became popular due to Chaitanya’s influence. Later, however, worldly love stories too, found a place in Jatra. The earlier form of Jatra has been musical. Dialogues were added at later stage. The actors themselves describe the change of scene, the place of action, etc.

Maach is the traditional theatre form of Madhya Pradesh. The term Maach is used for the stage itself as also for the play. In this theatre form songs are given prominence in between the dialogues. The term for dialogue in this form is bol and rhyme in narration is termed vanag. The tunes of this theatre form are known as rangat.

Bhaona is a presentation of the Ankia Naat of Assam. In Bhaona cultural glimpses of Assam, Bengal Orissa, Mathura and Brindavan can be seen. The Sutradhaar, or narrator begins the story, first in Sanskrit and then in either Brajboli or Assamese.

Tamaasha is a traditional folk theatre form of Maharashtra. It has evolved from the folk forms such as Gondhal, Jagran and Kirtan. Unlike other theatre forms, in Tamaasha the female actress is the chief exponent of dance movements in the play. She is known as Murki. Classical music, footwork at lightning-speed, and vivid gestures make it possible to portray all the emotions through dance.

Dashavatar is the most developed theatre form of the Konkan and Goa regions. The performers personify the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu-the god of preservation and creativity. The ten incarnations are Matsya (fish), Kurma (tortoise), Varaha (boar), Narsimha (lion-man), Vaman (dwarf), Parashuram, Rama, Krishna (or Balram), Buddha and Kalki. Apart from stylized make-up, the Dashavatar performers wear masks of wood and papier mache.

Krishnattam, folk theatre of Kerala, came into existence in the middle of 17th century A.D. under the patronage of King Manavada of Calicut. Krishnattam is a cycle of eight plays performed for eight consecutive days. The plays are Avataram, Kaliamandana, Rasa krida, kamasavadha, Swayamvaram, Bana Yudham, Vivida Vadham, and Swargarohana. The episodes are based on the theme of Lord Krishna – his birth, childhood pranks and various deeds depicting victory of good over evil.

Mudiyettu, traditional folk theatre form of Kerala is celebrated in the month of Vrischikam (November-December). It is usually performed only in the Kali temples of Kerala, as an oblation to the Goddess. It depicts the triumph of goddess Bhadrakali over the asura Darika. The seven characters in Mudiyettu-Shiva, Narada, Darika, Danavendra, Bhadrakali, Kooli and Koimbidar (Nandikeshvara) are all heavily made-up.

Theyyam is a traditional and extremely popular folk theatre form of Kerala. The word ‘Theyyam’ is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Daivam’ meaning God. Hence it is called God’s dance. The tradition of worshipping of spirits of ancestors, folk heroes, and deities of various diseases and ailments can be traced back to ancient times in South India. Theyyam is performed by various castes to appease and worship these spirits. One of the distinguishing features of Theyyam is the colourful costume and awe-inspiring headgears (mudi) nearly 5 to 6 feet high made of arecanut splices, bamboos, leaf sheaths of arecanut and wooden planks and dyed into different strong colours using turmeric, wax and arac.

Koodiyaattam, one of the oldest traditional theatre forms of Kerala, is based on Sanskrit theatre traditions. The characters of this theatre form are: Chakyaar or actor, Naambiyaar, the instrumentalists and Naangyaar, those taking on women’s roles. The Sutradhar or narrator and the Vidushak or jesters are the protagonists. It is the Vidushak alone who delivers the dialogues. Emphasis on hand gestures and eye movements makes this dance and theatre form unique.

Yakshagaana, traditional theatre form of Karnataka, is based on mythological stories and Puranas. The most popular episodes are from the Mahabharata i.e. Draupadi swayamvar, Subhadra vivah, Abhimanyu vadh, Karna-Arjun yuddh and from Ramayana i.e. Raajyaabhishek, Lav-kush Yuddh, Baali-Sugreeva yuddha and Panchavati.

Therukoothu, the most popular form of folk drama of Tamil Nadu, literally means “street play”. It is mostly performed at the time of annual temple festivals of Mariamman (Rain goddess) to achieve rich harvest. At the core of the extensive repertoire of Therukoothu there is a cycle of eight plays based on the life of Draupadi. Kattiakaran, the Sutradhara of the Therukoothu performance, gives the gist of the play to the audience and Komali entertains the audience with his buffoonery.

The traditional theatre forms of Swang, Nautanki, Bhagat, etc. are usually similar. There is often stylistic diversity, which strengthens their identity.




Musical Instruments of India

India is the inheritor of one of the most ancient and evolved music systems in the world. The continuity of the musical traditions of India is established through a study of musical texts and numerous visual references one finds of musical instruments in painting and sculpture from prehistoric times to the present day.

The earliest evidence of music activity is found on the walls of cave paintings at Bhimbetka and in several parts of Madhya Pradesh, which were occupied by man approximately 10,000 years ago. Much later, in the excavations of the Harappan Civilization also, evidence is available of dance and music activity.

Musical instruments are the tangible and material representation of music which is an auditory art. A study of these helps in tracing the evolution of music and also explains many aspects of the material culture of the group of people to which these instruments belong. For instance, the hair used for making the bow, the wood or clay used for making the drum, or the hide of animals used in the instruments, all these tell us about the flora and fauna of a particular region.

The Tamil word for instrument-Karuvi is found in Sangam literature of the 2nd to 6th century A.D., the literal meaning of which is �tool�. This is extended to mean instrument in the context of music.

Very ancient instruments may be seen as an extension of the human body and we find even today, sticks and clappers. Dried fruit rattles, the Kaniyani Danda of Oraons or the dried berries or shells tied to the waist are used for producing rhythm, even today.

The hand was referred to as the Hasta Veena, where the hands and fingers are used to show the notation system of vedic chanting, coordinating sound with mudra-hand gesture.

In the Natya Shastra, compiled by Bharat Muni dated 200 B.C.-200 A.D., musical instruments have been divided into four main categories on the basis of how sound is produced.

(i) The Tata Vadya or Chordophones- Stringed instruments

(ii) The Sushira Vadya or Aerophones- Wind instruments

(iii) The Avanaddha Vadya or Membranophones- Percussion instruments

(iv) The Ghana Vadya or Idiophones- Solid instruments which do not require tuning.

(iv) The Ghana Vadya or Idiophones- Solid instruments which do not require tuning.

� Tata Vadya – Stringed Instruments

The tata vadya is a category of instruments in which sound is produced by the vibration of a string or chord. These vibrations are caused by plucking or by bowing on the string which has been pulled taut. The length of the vibrating string or wire, the degree to which it has been tightened, determines the pitch of the note and also to some extent the duration of the sound.

The tata vadya are divided into two broad categories-the plucked and the bowed, and further subdivided into the fretted and non-fretted variety.
The oldest evidence of stringed instruments in our land, however, are harps in the shape of the hunter�s bow. They had a varying number of parallel strings made of fibre or gut. There used to be one string for each note, plucked either with the fingers or with the plectrum called the kona. Veena was the generic term for stringed instruments� referred to in texts: and we have the ekatantri, the sata-tantri veena, etc. The Chitra had seven strings and the Vipanchi nine; the first was played with the fingers and the second with a plectrum.

Representation of these can be found in many sculptures and murals of olden days, as for example, in the Bharhut and Sanchi Stupa, the reliefs of Amaravati and so on. Mention of. Yazh are found in old Tamil texts from the 2nd century A.D. The playing of such instruments was an important part of ritual and ceremonies. As the priests and performers sang, their wives played on instruments.

Another class is of the dulcimer type, where a number of strings are stretched on a box of wood. The best known of these was the sata-tantri veena-the hundred stringed veena. A close relative of this is the Santoor, a very popular instrument still played in Kashmir and other parts of India.
A later development of stringed instruments are the fingerboard variety, which were most suited to Raga Sangeet and many of the prevalent instruments of the concert platform, whether fretted or non-fretted, bowed or plucked fall into this category. The great advantage of these instruments is the richness of tone production and continuity of sound. In the finger-board instruments all the required notes are produced on one chord (string or wire) by altering the length of the wire either by pressing it with a finger or a piece of metal or wood. This increase or decrease in the length of the vibrator wire is responsible for the changes in pitches of notes-swaras.

Bowed instruments are usually used as an accompaniment to vocal music and are referred to as Geetanuga. They are divided into two broad categories-the upright and the inverted. In the first category the fingerboard is held straight up as in the case of Sarangi and in the second category, that is, in the inverted variety, the board or resonator is held towards the shoulder and the fingerboard dandi is held across the arm of the player as in the case of the Ravanhastaveena, the Banam, the Violin.

� Kamaicha

The Kamaicha is a bowed lute played by the manganiars of west Rajasthan. The whole instrument is one piece of wood, the spherical bowl extending into a neck and fingerboard; the resonator is covered with leather and the upper portion with wood. There are four main strings and a number of subsidiary ones passing over a thin bridge.

The kamaicha links the sub-continent to Western Asia and Africa and is considered by some scholars to be the oldest instrument, with the exception of the Ravana Hatta or Ravana Hasta Veena.
The variety of upright bowed instruments are generally seen in the northern areas of ttie country. In these there are again two varieties, the fretted and the non-fretted.

(a) Different parts of a stringed instrument
The resonator- Toomba of most stringed instruments is either made of wood or from a specially grown gourd.

Over this Toomba there is a plate of wood known as the Tabli. The resonator is attached to the fingerboard-the Danda at the top end of which are inserted the pegs-the Khoontis, for tuning the instrument.

On the Tabli there is a bridge made of ivory or bone. The main strings pass over the bridge, some instruments also have a number of sympathetic strings below the main strings. They are called the Tarab. When these strings vibrate, they add resonance to the sound.

On the fingerboard of danda, in some instruments, metal frets are attached which are either permanently fixed or are movable. Some stringed instruments are plucked with the fingers or by using a small plectrum called the Kona, while in others, sound is produced by bowing, (See diagram �A�)

(b) Placement of Swaras
The line drawing shows placement of notes-the swaras-Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni Sa on a 36″ length of wire, the frequency of vibration of each note is also shown in the picture. (See diagram �B�).

� Sushira Vadya

In the Sushira Vadya group, sound is produced by blowing air into an hollow column. The pitch of the note is determined by controlling the air passage and the melody is played by using the fingers to open and close the in the instrument. The simplest of these instruments is the flute. Generally flutes are made of bamboo or wood and the Indian musician prefers these due to the tonal and musical attributes of these materials. However, there are references of flutes made of red sandalwood, black wood, cane, ivory, bronze, silver and gold also.

The diameter of the bamboo flutes is usually – about 1.9 cms; though, flutes with wider diameters. are also commonly, used. The musical text Sangeet Ratnakar written in the 13th. century by Sharangdev refers to 18 kinds of flutes. These categories are based on the distance between the blow hole and the first finger hole (see diagram).

Excavations of the Indus civilizations have shown bird whistles of clay, and seals which show wind and percussion instruments. Actual musical instruments are made of bamboo, wood, animal hide, etc. which perish when buried for any length of time, hence, flutes made of wood or bamboo have not survived the ravages of time and are not found in excavations of past civilizations.

There is reference in the Vedas to an instrument-the Venu which was used as an accompaniment to chanting and recitation. There is also mention of a kind of a flute called the Nadi. The flute has a variety of names like Venu, Vamsi, Bansuri, Murali and so on in the north, and Pullankuzhal, Pillankarovi and Kolalu in the south. The wind instruments are roughly divided into two categories on the basis of how sound is produced. They are:
– the flutes, and
– the reed instruments

� Flutes

Single or double flutes with only one hollow tube with finger holes for controlling the pitch of the note are very common in many parts of the country. Long horizontal flutes with a larger diameter are used to play slow passages such as Alap of the lower registers. Smaller and shorter flutes, sometimes held vertically, are used for Taans, the faster passages, and also for producing higher pitches of sound. The double flutes are mostly played by musicians of the tribal and rural areas and are rarely found on the concert platform. They resemble beak flutes which have a narrow aperture at one end. One finds references to these types of instruments in the sculptures of the first century in the Sanchi Stupa which shows a musician playing on a double flute.

� Reed instruments

Reed instruments like the Shehnai, Nadaswaram, etc., have one or two reeds inserted in the hollow beak or tube of the instrument, these vibrate when air is blown into them. In this type of instrument the reeds are bound together with a gap between them before inserting into the body of the instrument. The body of the tube is conical in shape narrow at the blowing end and opening out gradually with a metallic bell at the farther end to enhance the volume of the sound. A set of spare reeds, an ivory or silver needle for adjusting and cleaning the reeds are also hung from the mouth piece of the instrument.

The Shehnai is a reed instrument in which there are seven holes along the tube which are used for playing the melody by opening and closing them with the fingers. It is known as a Mangal vadya and is usually played on all auspicious occasions in north India such as marriages, temple festivals, etc. The Shehnai is considered to have come to India from West Asia, there are other scholars who believe that this instrument travelled to China from India. It is now a popular instrument in concerts, the sound is very sweet and suited for playing Raga Sangeet. In the early fifties of this century, Ustad Bismillah Khan is credited for popularising this instrument. Today, Pt. Anant Lal, Pt. Daya Shankar are also noted Shehnai players.

� Avanaddha Vadya

In the Avanaddha Vadya category of instruments, sound is produced by striking the animal skin which has been stretched across an earthern or metal pot or a wooden barrel or frame. The earliest references to such instruments have been found in the Vedas where there is mention of Bhumi Dundhubhi; this was a hollow pit dug in the ground and covered with the hide of a buffalo or ox which was stretched across the pit. The tail of the animal was used for striking the animal hide and thus sound was produced.

Drums have been divided into different categories on the basis of their shapes and structure as also the position and placement for playing. The main categories are-Oordhwaka, Ankya, Alingya and the waisted or the Damaru family of drums. (see diagrams).

� Oordhwaka

The Oordhwaka drums are placed vertically before the musician and sound is produced by striking them with sticks or the fingers. Prominent among these are the Tabla pair and Chenda.

� Tabla

The Tabla pair is a set of two vertical Oordhwaka drums. The right side is called the Tabla and the left, the Bayan or Dagga. The Tabla has a wooden body with a covering of animal skin, this is held together with leather straps. Between the straps and the wooden body, oblong wooden blocks are placed. These are used for tuning the drums. There is a syahi paste applied in the centre of the animal skin, the tabla can be tuned accurately by striking the rims with a hammer. The body of the bayan is made of clay or metal and is covered with anil’J1al skin which also has syahi paste applied on it. Some musicians do not tune this drum to an accurate pitch.

The tabla pair is used as accompaniment to vocal and instrumental Hindustani music and with many dance forms of northern India. The complicated talas of the Hindustani music are played with great virtuosity on the tabla. Prominent musicians playing the tabla today are-Ustad Alia Rakha Khan and his son Zakir Hussain, Shafat Ahmed and Samata Prasad to name a few.

� Ankya

The Ankya drums are held horizontally before the musician and usually both sides are covered with animal hide. Sound is produced by striking both sides with sticks or fingers. Today, in this variety, the Mridangam, Pakhawaj, Khol, etc. are prominent. The musician may sit on the floor and play the instrument or hang it from the neck while dancing or standing. Seals which have been excavated of the Indus Civilization show figures of men playing the horizontal drums hung from the neck.


� Alingya

The third variety are the Alingya drums. These drums have the animal hide fixed to a wooden round frame and are embraced or held close to the body with one hand while the other hand is used for playing on the instrument. Under this category, the Duff, Dufflies, etc. are very popular.

� Damaru types
Another prominent group of drums are the waisted or Damaru variety. The instruments in this category range from, the small Huddaka of Himachal Pradesh to the larger instrument known as Timila of the southern region. The former is struck with the hands while the latter is hung from the shoulders and played with sticks and fingers. These are also known as the hourglass variety of drums as their shape resembles an hourglass.

� Ghana Vadya

The earliest instruments invented by man are said to be the Ghana Vadya. Once constructed, this variety of instrument do not need special tuning prior to playing. In early times these instruments were the extension of the human body such as sticks, clappers, rods, etc. and were also closely related to objects of utility in daily life such as pots and pans, jhanj, falams, etc. They are principally rhythmic in function and are best suited as accompaniment to folk and tribal music and dance.

� Jhanj Player, Konarak, Orissa

In the Sun temple of Konarak, Orissa, we see this large sculpture nearly 8 f1. high of a lady playing the Jhanj.




Hindustani Classical Music

Throughout the ages, man has sought to express the stirrings of his soul, the search for something beyond the mundane through the medium of the arts.

The evolution of poetry, painting and other visual arts has been preserved on stone, leaves and paper but music being auditory, no such evidence exists. As such it is not possible to listen today to the music of the ancient times.

Inspite of such a variety of cultural interactions, our music has remained essentially melodic. In melody, one note follows the other, making for a continued unity of effect, whereas in harmony musical sounds are superimposed on one another. Our classical music has retained its melodic quality.

Today we recognise two systems of classical music: the Hindustani and the Carnatic. Carnatic music is confined to Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The classical music of the rest of the country goes under the name, Hindustani Classical Music. Of course. there are some areas in Karnataka and Andhra where the Hindustani Classical system is also practiced. Karnataka has given us in the recent past some very distinguished musicians of the Hindustani style.

It is generally believed that the music of India was more or less uniform before the 13th century. Later it bifurcated into the two musical systems.

The present Indian music has grown from ancient times. Almost every tribe or people have lent their own share in this growth. What therefore, we now call a raga might have started as a tribal or folk tune.

It is usual to begin the history of Indian music with the melodic patterns of vedic chanting. The oldest music, which possessed a grammar was the vedic. Of course, the Rig-Veda is said to be the oldest: nearly 5000 years old. The psalms of the Rig-Veda were called the richas. TheYajur Veda was also a religious chant. But actual music in Northern or Southern India, of those bygone days could not have only been of this kind. There were non-Aryan people with their own art. For instance, Santhal music from the Eastern region of India may have been passed down from them. While the differences are obvious, there is no doubt that such music of the people contributed to the formation of what we now call Hindustani Classical Music.

Natya Shastra of Bharata is another important landmark in the history of Indian music. It is supposed to have been written sometime between the 2nd century B.C. and the 2nd century A.D. Some scholars are even doubtful whether it is the work of one author and the work might well have been a compendium – at least, the version which is available to us. The Natya Shastra is a comprehensive work mainly dealing with dramaturgy. But a few chapters of this deal with music. Therein we get information on scales, melodic forms, tala and musical instruments. The then contemporary music recognized two standard scales. These were called gramas. The word grama is itself perhaps derivable from the idea of group or sect: a village, for instance. This probably lead to a set of svaras or notes being calledgrama. This could roughly be translated as scales. There were then two gramas prevalent. One was called the Shadja grama, the other one was the Madhyama grama. The difference between the two was only in one note, the panchama. To speak more accurately. we say that the panchama in madhyama grama was one sruti lower than the panchama in shadja grama.

The sruti thus is the unit of measure or small difference between the various consecutive pitches within a grama or a scale. For all practical purposes they are said to be twenty two. This is only as far as practical enumeration is concerned. just as we would say that there are seven notes in an octave or saptak – from Sa to upper Sa. But in reality the number of srutis employed in Indian music is infinite.

Getting back to gramas in Bharata’s time, there were two, with seven notes each. Bharata also mentions two other note: these were the antara gandhara and kakali nishada.

Now, from each grama subsidiary scales are derived. These are called moorcchanas. The notes are played or sung in a descending manner. There are seven basic notes in a scale, hence there can be seven moorcchanas. There were two gramas and each had seven standard notes and two auxiliary ones, as was mentioned. Since each note could give a moorcchana, numerous such subsidiary scales could be obtained. It is possible to show that there could be sixty-four moorcchanas derivable from two gramas. The process gave different tonal orders within which could be grouped or from which could be evolved, all known classical melodies of those days. This condition remained for many centuries. In approximately the 13th century A.D. Sarangadeva – whose forefathers hailed from Kashmir – settled in South India and wrote his monumental Sangeeta Ratankara. He also described technical terms such as gramas and moorcchanas. The standard scales were still the same. But whereas Bharata mentions two auxiliary svaras, the number and definition of these were very different in medieval times.

The whole scheme, what is often called the modal music, seems so strange to us now. But there is no doubting the fact that it was a very highly advanced and a scientific one.

From about the 11th century, music from Central and West Asia began to influence our music tradition. Gradually this influence took a deeper root and many changes took place. Of these, an important one is the disappearance of gramas and moorcchanas.

Sometime around about the 15th century, this process of change became manifest, the grama system became obsolete. The concept of mela or thata takes its place. In this there is only one standard scale. All known notes are referred to a common note Sa.

By about the 18th century even the standard or shuddha svara in Hindustani music becomes different. The following is the current one, accepted from the 18th century.

Sa re ga ma pa dha ni

This is the mela aaroh of the modern raga Bilaval. Besides these seven shuddha notes or svaras there are five variants, making in all twelve notes to a saptak.

Sa re re ga ga ma ma pa dha dha ni ni

There are, of course, finer variations: these are the shrutis, It is better, therefore, to call these 12 tonal regions rather than notes.

All known ragas are grouped within this twelve tone scale. Indeed. it was a Carnatic musicologist – Venkatmukhi of the 17th century, who gave a system of 72 melas formed out of these twelve tones. Later on, in the 20th century, Pt. Bhatkhande, chose 10 out of the 72 to classify Hindustani ragas.

So far we have been speaking of scales: the grama, moorcchana and mela. These are obviously concepts developed after melodies were born. No folk singer thinks of a grama or a mela. The tribal and folk songs existed and still exist without a conscious grammar. It is the musicologist who later classifies melodies or ragas into scales.

We shall now turn our attention to the melodic structures. Again it is to the Vedas that we must turn for the first codified melody. In theNatya Shastra of Bharata are found descriptions of melodic forms called jati. How they were sung or played, we have no idea; but some salient points can be called from Natya Shastra and later commentaries. Every one of these jatis could be put in some moorcchana or the other. They were distinguished by characteristics like the graha (starting note) nyasa (note on which a phrase stops). the range of notes – from low pitch to high – and so on. Many scholars are of the opinion that the concept of raga which is so basic to our music, was born and developed out of jati. The major work dealing with the raga is the Brihaddesi of Matanga. The work is dated around the 6th century, A.D. By this time, the idea of the raga as a melodic scheme had become clear and well defined. Matanga was from the southern areas of India, to be specific he was from Carnatic. This shows that up to this era, at least, the grammar of Indian music was more or less one throughout the country. Secondly, what he deals with is desi music. That is why he had titled the work Brihaddesi.

A characteristic contribution of India to musical rhythm is the tala. Tala is a cyclic arrangement of time units. The basic units of time division are laghu, guru, and pluta. These are actually derived from poetic prosody. Laghu comprises one syllable,guru two, and plutathree. There are also larger units. Bharata’s Natya Shastra gives details of construction of tala out of various time units, how they should be played and so on. Later authors developed a scheme of 108 talas. Besides some ancient talas new ones, as for example, Firdost, seem to have entered Hindustani music. The most important aspect of playing the tala in the Hindustani system has been the development of the ideas of theka. This technique is characteristic of Hindustani music. A theka is the definition of a tala by the stroke of a tabla. Each stroke on the drum has a name called a bol or syllable. For instance, dha, ta, ghe. etc.

In any language one can have an epic, a sonnet, a lyric, a short story and so on. Similarly, given a raga and a tala, various musical forms have been created. Right from ancient times, musical forms can be divided into two broad categories. These were the anibaddhaand the nibaddha sangeeta. The first may be called the open or free form and the second as the closed or bound form.

Anibaddha sangeeta is one which is not restricted by meaningful words and tala. It is a free improvisation. The finest form is the alap.

Of the nibaddha variety, there are many. The earliest about which some knowledge is available is the prabandha giti. Indeed,prabandha is often used as a generic term to indicate any nibaddha song or musical composition. We have little evidence of these closed forms, except that they were set to definite ragas and talas. Of all known prabandhas those of Jayadeva are the best known. This poet lived in Bengal in the 12th century and composed his Gita Govinda, a Sanskrit work with songs and verses. The songs are ashtapadis: that is, each song has eight couplets. Today, the songs have spread throughout the country and each region has its own style. As a matter of fact, singers have taken the liberty of giving the prabandhas their own tunes. In the face of this, it is impossible to determine the original tunes of the ashtapadis.

The popularity of Jayadeva’s Gita Govinda is due to many reasons. The first, naturally is the intrinsic poetic beauty of the work almost unequalled. It also lent itself to dance and any conceivable style of music. Again, it was in Sanskrit, thus transcending many linguistic barriers. Besides all this, the greatest significant force sustaining it is bhakti. Bhakti or adoration is as old as man. It really is a state of mind beseeching the Lord.

While the Godhead takes on many forms to the bhakta, as Shiva or as Parabrahma – the Bhagavata, as the story of the ten avatarasof Sri Vishnu, has captured the Indian mind. Round this were woven songs and hymns, preachings and psalms of these two travelled in waves to North India to give us singer saints like Jayadeva ,Chaitanya, Sankardeva, Kabir, Tulsi, Meera, Tukaram, Eknath, Narsi and Nanak. This bhakti movement engulfed all religions and classes including the sufis. It has given us numerous devotional forms such asabhangas, kirtans, bhajans, baul songs.

The next great formal aspect in Nibaddha Sangeet is met within the Dhrupad. It is believed to have been a further elaboration of theprabandha structure. While it might have had an impetus for popularity even by the 14th century, it finds a blossoming period from 15th century onwards to about the 18th century. During these centuries we meet the most respected and renowned singers and patrons of this form. There was Man Singh Tomar, the Maharaja of Gwalior. It was he who was mainly responsible for the enormous vogue of dhrupad. There were Baiju, Bakshu and others. Swami Haridasa a hermit of Brindavan was not only a dhrupadiya, but one of the most central figures in the Bhakti cult in the Northern areas of India. By tradition he was the guru of Tansen, one of the best known dhrupad singers and one of the nine jewels of Emperor Akbar’s court.

In structure dhrupad has two parts, the anibaddha section and the sanchari dhrupad proper. The first is free alap. The dhrupad proper is a song in four parts: the asthayee, the antara, the Sanchari and the abhoga.

The essential quality of the dhrupadic approach is its sombre atmosphere and emphasis on rhythm.

There were four schools or vanis of singing the dhrupad. The Gauhar vani developed the raga or unadorned melodic figures. The Dagarvani emphasized melodic curves and graces. The Khandar vani specialised in quick ornamentation of the notes. Nauhar vani was known for its broad musical leaps and jumps. These vanis ‘are now indistinguishable.

The dhrupad is even now highly respected and can be heard on the concert platform but more often in temples of North India. Thedhrupad has somewhat receded to the background and is not so popular with the masses. The Been and Pakhawaj which were closely associated with the dhrupad also do not find much patronage these days.

Today the pride of place in classical Hindustani Music is occupied by the Khyal. We are really not sure about the beginning of the Khyal. The word is alien and means ‘imagination’. And as you will find when you hear it is more lyrical than the dhrupad. But whether the musical form itself is foreign. is a matter of doubt. Some scholars are of the opinion that in fact, it has its roots in the ancient Indian roopaka alaps. It is also said that Amir Khusrou of the 13th century gave it an impetus. Sultan Mohammed Sharkhi of the 15th century is credited with encouraging this form. However, it attained its maturity at the hands of Niyamat Khan Sadarang and Adarang of the 18th century.

As sung today, the khyal has two varieties: the slow or vilambit khyal and the fast or drut khyal. In form both are similar, they have two sections – the asthayee and the antara. The vilambit is sung in slow tempo and the drut at a faster speed. In technique. the exposition is less grave than the dhrupad. There are more delicate gamkas and ornamentations.

Both types of khyals have two sections. The asthayee and the antara. The asthayee mostly confines itself to the low and middle octaves. The antara generally moves in the middle and upper octaves. Together asthayee and antara make one song, a composition, or bandish, ‘cheez’ as it is called. As a total work it reveals the essence of the raga in which it is set.

Comparable to the vanis of the dhrupads, we have gharanas, in the khyal. These are schools of singing founded or developed by various individuals or patrons such as kings or noblemen.

The oldest of these is the Gwalior gharana. The father of this school was one Nathan Peerbaksh, who settled down in Gwalior, and hence the name. He had two grandsons Haddu Khan and Hassu Khan who lived in the 19th century and were regarded as great masters of this style. The qualities of this gharana are an open voice clear enunciation of words, a comprehensive attention to raga. svara andtala. Some of the prominent musicians of this gharana are Krishna Rao Shankar Pandit, Raja Bhaiya Poonchwale etc.

The Agra Gharana is said to have been founded by one Khuda Baksh of Agra. He had studied with Nathan Peerbaksh of Gwalior, but developed his own style. Here again the voice is open and clear, a speciality of this gharana is its bol taan: that is, a fast or mediumlayakari passage using the bols or words of the song. The song itself is rendered in medium tempo. Of the most well known musicians of this gharana in recent times are Vilayat Hussain Khan and Fayyaz Khan.

The Jaipur Atroli gharana is said to take off directly from dhrupad. It is associated with Alladiya Khan of the 19th-20th century. The khyal is always in medium speed. The words are pronounced clearly and in an open and clear voice. The distinguishing characters are the passages which are primarily based on alankars – that is. repetitive melodic motifs – and an almost metronomic insistence of tala division. Some of the prominent musicians of recent times are Mallikarjun Mansur, Kishori Amonkar etc.

Finally we come to the Rampur Saheswan gharana. Since the earlier singers came from Rampur in Uttar Pradesh, this school has come to be called so. The slow and fast Khayals usually are followed by a Tarana. The style is very lyrical and full of finer tonal embroidery. Nisar Hussain Khan, Rashid Khan are the two prominent musicians of recent times belonging to this gharana.

Thumri and Tappa are popular types heard in concerts. The thumri is very lyrical in its structure and presentation. These forms are termed as ‘semi’ or ‘light’ classical. Thumri is a love song and hence the textual beauty is very important. This is closely coordinated with the musical rendition. And keeping in mind its mood a thumri is usually set to ragas like Khamaj, Kaphi, Bhairavi and so on and the musical grammar is not strictly adered to. There are two styles of thumri singing: the Poorab or Banaras which is fairly slow and staid and the Punjab style which is more mercurial. Rasoolan Devi, Siddheshwari Devi are prominent musicians of this style.

The Tappa consists of the song uttered in fast note patterns. It is a difficult composition and needs much practice. Both the Thumriand Tappa require special training as do the Dhrupad and Khyal forms of singing. Ragas in which Tappa compositions are set remain same as in Thumri style. Pt. L.K. Pandit, Malini Rajurkar are names who specialize this form of singing.




Indian Classical Dances

Indian Classical Dances
Dance in India has a rich and vital tradition dating back to ancient times. Excavations, inscriptions, chronicles, genealogies of kings and artists, literary sources, sculpture and painting of different periods provide extensive evidence on dance. Myths and legends also support the view that dance had a significant place in the religious and social life of the Indian people. However, it is not easy to trace the precise history and evolution of the various dances known as the ‘art’ or ‘classical’ forms popular today.

Palm leaf manuscript, Bihar
In literature, the first references come from the Vedas where dance and music have their roots. A more consistent history of dance can be reconstructed from the epics, the several Puranas and the rich body of dramatic and poetic literature known as the nataka and the kavya in Sanskrit. A related development was the evolution of classical Sanskrit drama which was an amalgam of the spoken word, gestures and mime, choreography, stylised movement and music. From the 12th century to the 19th century there were many regional forms called the musical play or sangeet-nataka. Contemporary classical dance forms are known to have evolved out of these musical plays.

Excavations have brought to light a bronze statuette from Mohenjodaro and a broken torso from Harappa (dating back to 2500-1500 B.C.E.) These are suggestive of dance poses. The latter has been identified as the precursor of the Nataraja pose commonly identified with dancing Siva.

The earliest treatise on dance available to us is Bharat Muni’s Natyashastra, the source book of the art of drama, dance and music. It is generally accepted that the date of the work is between the 2nd century B.C.E- 2nd century C.E.The Natyashastra is also known as the fifth veda. According to the author, he has evolved thisveda by taking words from the Rigveda, music from the Samaveda, gestures from the Yajurveda and emotions from the Atharvaveda. There is also a legend that Brahma himself wrote the Natyaveda, which has over 36,000 verses.

Dancing girl, Bronze, Indus civilization

In terms of the classical tradition formulated in the Natyashastra, dance and music are an inextricable part of drama. The art of natyacarries in it all these constituents and the actor is himself the dancer and the singer, the performer combined all the three functions. With the passage of time the status of an independent and specialised art, marked the beginning of the ‘art’ dance in India.

As per the ancient treatises, dance is considered as having three aspects: natya, nritya and nritta. Natya highlights the dramatic element and most dance forms do not give emphasis to this aspect today with the exception of dance-drama forms like Kathakali. Nrityais essentially expressional, performed specifically to convey the meaning of a theme or idea. Nritta on the other hand, is pure dance where body movements do not express any mood (bhava), nor do they convey any meaning. To present nritya and natya effectively, a dancer should be trained to communicate the navarasas. These are: love (shringaara), mirth (haasya), compassion (karuna), valour(veera), anger (roudra), fear (bhayanak), disgust (bibhatsa), wonder (adbhuta) and peace (shaanta).

An ancient classification followed in all styles is of Tandava and Lasya. Tandava the masculine, is heroic bold and vigorous. Lasya the feminine is soft, lyrical and graceful. Abhinaya, broadly means expression. This is achieved through angika, the body and limbs, vachikasong and speech and aharya, costume and adornment; and satvika, moods and emotions.

Bharata and Nandikesvara, the main authorities conceive of dance as an art which uses the human body as a vehicle of expression. The major human units of the body (anga) are identified as the head, torso, the upper and lower limbs and the minor human parts (upangas), as all parts of the face ranging from the eyebrow to the chin and the minor joints.

Two further aspects of natya are the modes of presentation and the style. There are two modes of presentation, namely the Natyadharmi, which is the formalised presentation of theatre, and theLokadharmi sometimes translated as folk, realistic, naturalistic or regional. The style or vrittis are classified into Kaishiki, the deft lyrical more suited to convey the lasya aspects, the Arbati, the energetic masculine the Satvati often used while depicting the rasas and the Bharati, the literary content.

Nurtured for centuries, dance in India has evolved in different parts of the country its own distinct style taking on the culture of that particular region, each acquiring its own flavour. Consequently a number of major styles of ‘art’ dance are known to us today, like Bharatnatyam, Kathakali, Kuchipudi, Kathak, Manipuri, Odissi and Sattriya. Then, there are regional variations, the dances of rural and tribal areas, which range from simple, joyous celebrations of the seasons, harvest or birth of a child to dances for the propitiation of demons or for invoking spirits. Today there is also a whole new body of modern experimental dance.




Indian Performing Arts

Dancers, Sun Temple, Konarak, Orissa

In India, various facets of performing arts are all pervading bringing colour and joy to numerous
festivals and ceremonies, and reaffirming the faith of the people in their heritage. These facets have been responsible for sustaining the long continuities of ancient traditions. They are the link between the past and the present. It thus exemplifies the complex, organic interaction of all aspects of life implicit in all tribal and folk art forms; art is not seen as something apart from life, a mere ornamentation or entertainment, but as an intrinsic part of it.

Under the patronage of Kings and rulers, skilled artisans and entertainers were encouraged to specialize and to refine their skills to greater levels of perfection and sophistication. Gradually, the classical forms of Art evolved for the glory of temple and palace, reaching their zenith around India around 2nd C.E. onwards and under the powerful Gupta empire, when canons of perfection were laid down in detailed treatise – theNatyashastra and the Kamasutra – which are still followed to this day. Through the ages, rival kings andnawabs vied with each other to attract the most renowned artists and performers to their courts.

While the classical arts thus became distinct from their folk roots, they were never totally alienated from them, even today there continues a mutually enriching dialogue between tribal and folk forms on the one hand, and classical art on the other; the latter continues to be invigorated by fresh folk forms, while providing them with new thematic content in return. In addition, while links with their folk roots distinguish the regional classical art forms, the myriad folk forms throughout India are bound by common classical religious and mythological themes.

In India, religion, philosophy and myth can not be divorced from their art forms. Dance and music are tied inextricably to ceremony of any kind. Weddings, births, coronations, entering a new house or town, welcoming a guest, religious processions, harvest time � any or all of these are occasions for song and dance.

Music and dance are probably the most elemental art forms, spontaneously expressing the entire garment of human emotions and experiences. There are tribal belts throughout India, and although each tribe has its own distinctive music and dances, they all share a similar form, with men and women forming separate rows with linked arms and executing intricate leg movements in a gradually increasing tempo that builds up to a crescendo of vigour.

Dance of Shiva, Miniature painting, Chamba, Himachal Pradesh


Sculpture, Dancer, Delwara Temple, Rajasthan

The folk music and dances of agricultural communities celebrate the rhythms of daily life, the turn of the seasons, the highlights of the agricultural calendar, religious festivals and important events that punctuate the flow of life, such as births and marriages. While folk music and dance share common themes and concerns, there is a wide variety of forms. Along the entire Himalayan region, from Kashmir to Darjeeling, folk dancers link arms and sway gracefully in undulating movements, celebrate the sowing of the wheat crop; few can resist the infectious beat of the dholak, the two-sided drum, and pairs of dancers take turns to execute complex acrobatic movements in the centre of a circle of abandoned dancers. Women perform the Giddha, also characterised by its spontaneous energy. Rajasthani women, their faces covered with flowing veils, are swirls of colour as they pirouette in theGhoomar dance, while their counterparts in Gujarat perform the famous Garba, dancing in a circle with batons. Their men perform the Dandiya Ras, a more vigorous version of the same dance, leaping and crouching in twirling patterns. In the fishing communities of Maharashtra, men and women link arms and dance together and the women climb on to the mens� shoulders to form pyramids. The women�s Lavani dance from this area is notable for its unabashed sensuality. There are also several forms of dance-drama or folk theatre, such as the Nautanki ofRajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the Bhavai of Gujarat, the irreverent Tamasha of Maharashtra , the BengaliJatra, the spectacular Yakshagana of Karnataka and Theyyam of Kerala, all of which narrate legends of local heroes, kings and deities. Martial art forms throughout the country have been stylized to quasi dance forms, notable among which are the martial dances of the North-eastern hill tribes, the Lazim dances of Maharashtra, theKalaripayattu of Kerala, and the highly stylized masked Chhau dances of Orissa, West Bengal and Bihar.


Together these dances have formed a vast reservoir from which the classical dances have drawn sustenance. There are seven major classical dance styles — Bharatnatyam from Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, Kathakali, a classical dance-drama from Kerala, Manipuri from Manipur, Kathak from Uttar Pradesh, Odissi from Orissa, and Kuchipudi from Andhra Pradesh and Sattriya from Assam which has recently been included in the fold of Classical Dances. In their present format, their history cannot be traced back to over two to three hundred years, but they all have links with the ancient and medieval literary, sculptural and musical traditions of India and of their particular regions. They all adhere to the canons of classical dance laid down in the Natya Shastra, a second century C.E. text ascribed to the sage Bharata, to whom it was supposedly revealed by the Creator, Brahma.
Kathak Dance, Miniature painting, Kishangarh, Rajasthan

Sculptural relief, Dance Class, Lakshmana Temple, Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh

Folk theatre and dance-drama were the common roots of both classical dance and theatre , the traditions of both of which were elaborated upon the Natyashastra. Kalidasa is India�s most famous poet and dramatist, and his plays are still performed today. Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, the last ruler of Awadh, was a noted playwright and staged elaborate dramas at his court.




Puppet Forms of India


A puppet is one of the most remarkable and ingenious inventions of the man. It has been said that a puppet has to be more than his live counterpart for it is definitely the suggestive element that is more captivating and enduring in a puppet.

Ancient Hindu philosophers have paid the greatest tribute to puppeteers. They have likened God Almighty to a puppeteer and the entire universe to a puppet stage. Srimad Bhagavata, the great epic depicting the story of Lord Krishna in his childhood say that with three strings-Satta, Raja and Tama, the God manipulates each object in the universe as a marionette.

In Sanskrit terminology Puttalika and Puttika means ‘little sons’. The root of Puppet is derived from the latin word ‘Pupa’ meaning a doll. India is said to be the home of puppets, but it is yet to awaken to its unlimited possibilities. The earliest reference to the art of puppetry is found in Tamil classic ‘Silappadikaaram’ written around the 1st or 2nd century B.C.

Natyashastra, the masterly treatise on dramaturgy written sometime during 2nd century BC to 2nd century AD., does not refer to the art of puppetry but the producer-cum-director of the human theatre has been termed as ‘Sutradhar’ meaning the holder of strings. The word might have found its place in theatre-terminology long before Natyashastra was written but it must come from marionette theatre. Puppetry, therefore, must have originated in India more than 500 years before Christ.

Almost all types of puppets are found in India. Puppetry throughout the ages has held an important place in traditional entertainment. Like traditional theatre, themes for puppet theatre are mostly based on epics and legends. Puppets from different parts of the country have their own identity. Regional styles of painting and sculpture are reflected in them.

Puppetry has been successfully used to motivate emotionally and physically handicapped students to develop their mental and physical faculties. Awareness programmes about the conservation of the natural and cultural environment have also proved to be useful. These programmes aim at sensitising the students to the beauty in word, sound, form, colour and movement. The aesthetic satisfaction derived from making of puppets and communicating through them helps in the all round development of the personality of the child.

Stories adapted from puranic literature, local myths and legends usually form the content of traditional puppet theatre in India which, in turn, imbibes elements of all creative expressions like painting, sculpture, music, dance, drama, etc. The presentation of puppet programmes involves the creative efforts of many people working together.

• String Puppets

• Shadow Puppets

• Rod Puppets

• Glove Puppets
In modern times, educationists all over the world have realised the potential of puppetry as a medium for communication. Many institutions and individuals in India are involving students and teachers in the use of puppetry for communicating educational concepts.

• String Puppets
India has a rich and ancient tradition of string puppets or marionettes. Marionettes having jointed limbs controlled by strings allow far greater flexibility and are, therefore, the most articulate of the puppets. Rajasthan, Orissa, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu are some of the regions where this form of puppetry has flourished.

• Kathputli, Rajasthan

The traditional marionettes of Rajasthan are known as Kathputli. Carved from a single piece of wood, these puppets are like large dolls that are colourfully dressed. Their costumes and headgears are designed in the medieval Rajasthani style of dress, which is prevalent even today. The Kathputli is accompanied by a highly dramatised version of the regional music. Oval faces, large eyes, arched eyebrows and large lips are some of the distinct facial features of these string puppets. These puppets wear long trailing skirts and do not have legs. Puppeteers manipulate them with two to five strings which are normally tied to their fingers and not to a prop or a support.

• Kundhei, Orissa

The string puppets of Orissa are known as Kundhei. Made of light wood, the Orissa puppets have no legs but wear long flowing skirts. They have more joints and are, therefore, more versatile, articulate and easy to manipulate. The puppeteers often hold a wooden prop, triangular in shape, to which strings are attached for manipulation. The costumes of Kundhei resemble those worn by actors of the Jatra traditional theatre. The music is drawn from the popular tunes of the region and is sometimes influenced by the music of Odissi dance.

• Gombeyatta, Karnataka

The string puppets of Karnataka are called Gombeyatta. They are styled and designed like the characters of Yakshagana, the traditional theatre form of the region. The Gombeyatta puppet figures are highly stylized and have joints at the legs, shoulders, elbows, hips and knees. These puppets are manipulated by five to seven strings tied to a prop. Some of the more complicated movements of the puppet are manipulated by two to three puppeteers at a time. Episodes enacted in Gombeyatta are usually based on Prasangas of the Yakshagana plays. The music that accompanies is dramatic and beautifully blends folk and classical elements.

• Bommalattam, Tamil Nadu

Puppets from Tamil Nadu, known as Bommalattam combine the techniques of both rod and string puppets. They are made of wood and the strings for manipulation are tied to an iron ring which the puppeteer wears like a crown on his head.

A few puppets have jointed arms and hands, which are manipulated by rods. The Bommalattam puppets are the largest, heaviest and the most articulate of all traditional Indian marionettes. A puppet may be as big as 4.5 feet in height weighing about ten kilograms. Bommalattam theatre has elaborate preliminaries which are divided into four parts – Vinayak Puja, Komali, Amanattam and Pusenkanattam
• Shadow Puppets

India has the richest variety of types and styles of shadow puppets. Shadow puppets are flat figures. They are cut out of leather, which has been treated to make it translucent. Shadow puppets are pressed against the screen with a strong source of light behind it. The manipulation between the light and the screen make silhouettes or colourful shadows, as the case may be, for the viewers who sit in front of the screen. This tradition of shadow puppets survives in Orissa. Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.

• Togalu Gombeyatta, Karnataka

The shadow theatre of Karnataka is known as Togalu Gombeyatta. These puppets are mostly small in size. The puppets however differ in size according to their social status, for instance, large size for kings and religious characters and smaller size for common people or servants.

• Tholu Bommalata, Andhra Pradesh

Tholu Bommalata, Andhra Pradesh’s shadow theatre has the richest and strongest tradition. The puppets are large in size and have jointed waist, shoulders, elbows and knees. They are coloured on both sides. Hence, these puppets throw coloured shadows on the screen. The music is dominantly influenced by the classical music of the region and the theme of the puppet plays are drawn from the Ramayana, Mahabharata and Puranas.

• Ravanachhaya, Orissa

The most theatrically exciting is the Ravanachhaya of Orissa. The puppets are in one piece and have no joints. They are not coloured, hence throw opaque shadows on the screen. The manipulation requires great dexterity, since there are no joints. The puppets are made of deer skin and are conceived in bold dramatic poses. Apart from human and animal characters, many props such as trees, mountains, chariots, etc. are also used. Although, Ravanachhaya puppets are smaller in size-the largest not more than two feet have no jointed limbs, they create very sensitive and lyrical shadows.

• Rod Puppets

Rod puppets are an extension of glove-puppets, but often much larger and supported and manipulated by rods from below. This form of puppetry now is found mostly in West Bengal and Orissa.


• Putul Nautch, West Bengal

The traditional rod puppet form of West Bengal is known as Putul Nautch. They are carved from wood and follow the various artistic styles of a particular region. In Nadia district of West Bengal, rod-puppets used to be of human size like the Bunraku puppets of Japan. This form is now almost extinct. The Bengal rod-puppets, which survive are about 3 to 4 feet in height and are costumed like the actors of Jatra, a traditional theatre form prevalent in the State. These puppets have mostly three joints. The heads, supported by the main rod, is joined at the neck and both hands attached to rods are joined at the shoulders.

The technique of manipulation is interesting and highly theatrical. A bamboo-made hub is tied firmly to the waist of the puppeteer on which the rod holding the puppet is placed. The puppeteers each holding one puppet, stand behind a head-high curtain and while manipulating the rods also move and dance imparting corresponding movements to the puppets. While the puppeteers themselves sing and deliver the stylized prose dialogues, a group of musicians, usually three to four in numbers, sitting at the side of the stage provide the accompanying music with a drum, harmonium and cymbals. The music and verbal text have close similarity with the Jatra theatre.

The Orissa Rod puppets are much smaller in size, usually about twelve to eighteen inches. They also have mostly three joints, but the hands are tied to strings instead of rods. Thus elements of rod and string puppets are combined in this form of puppetry. The technique of manipulation is somewhat different. The Orissa rod-puppeteers squat on the ground behind a screen and manipulate. Again it is more operatic in its verbal contents since impromptu prose dialogues are infrequently used. Most of the dialogues are sung. The music blends folk tunes with classical Odissi tunes. The music begins with a short piece of ritual orchestral preliminary called Stuti and is followed by the play.
The puppets of Orissa are smaller than those from Bengal or Andhra Pradesh. Rod puppet shows of Orissa are more operatic and prose dialogues are seldom used.

• Yampuri, Bihar

The traditional Rod puppet of Bihar is known as Yampuri. These puppets are made of wood. Unlike the traditional Rod puppets of West Bengal and Orissa, these puppets are in one piece and have no joints. As these puppets have no joints, the manipulation is different from other Rod puppets and requires greater dexterity.

• Glove Puppets

Glove puppets, are also known as sleeve, hand or palm puppets. The head is made of either papier mache, cloth or wood, with two hands emerging from just below the neck. The rest of the figure consists of a long flowing skirt. These puppets are like limp dolls, but in the hands of an able puppeteer, are capable of producing a wide range of movements. The manipulation technique is simple the movements are controlled by the human hand the first finger inserted in the head and the middle finger and the thumb are the two arms of the puppet. With the help of these three fingers, the glove puppet comes alive.

The tradition of glove puppets in India is popular in Uttar Pradesh, Orissa, West Bengal and Kerala. In Uttar Pradesh, glove puppet plays usually present social themes, whereas in Orissa such plays are based on stories of Radha and Krishna. In Orissa, the puppeteer plays on the dholak with one hand and manipulates the puppet with the other. The delivery of the dialogues, the movement of the puppet and the beat of the dholak are well synchronised and create a dramatic atmosphere.

• Pavakoothu, Kerala

In Kerala, the traditional glove puppet play is called Pavakoothu. It came into existence during the 18th century due to the influence of Kathakali, the famous classical dance-drama of Kerala, on puppet performances. In Pavakoothu, the height of a puppet varies from one foot to two feet. The head and the arms are carved of wood and joined together with thick cloth, cut and stitched into a small bag.

The face of the puppets are decorated with paints, small and thin pieces of gilded tin, the feathers of the peacock, etc. The manipulator puts his hand into the bag and moves the hands and head of the puppet. The musical instruments used during the performance are Chenda, Chengiloa, Ilathalam andShankha the conch. The theme for Glove puppet plays in Kerala is based on the episodes from either the Ramayana or the Mahabharata.




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