Discuss the development of drama through various phases in India while highlighting the contribution of folk theatre to Indian culture.

Published: November 9, 2017

India is a land of rich culture and heritage. Since the beginning of our civilization, music, dance and drama have been an integral aspect of our culture. Initially, these art forms were used as medium of propagation for religion and social reforms in which music and dance were incorporated to gain popularity.
Drama is a performing art, which has also been practiced since times immemorial. Natyashastra is one of the greatest texts written in the field of drama and other performing arts.
During the age of the Buddha and Mahavira, drama was a means of communicating the principles of their respective religions. Short skits and long plays were enacted to preach and educate the masses. Music and dance also played a vital role in increasing the appeal of drama.
The medieval period was rich in music and dance but theatre did not get much prominence.
The advent of the British in the country changed the character of the society. In the eighteenth century a theatre was established in Calcutta by an Englishman. A Russian named Horasim Lebedev founded a Bengali theatre which marked the beginning of modern Indian theatre in India. English drama, especially by Shakespeare, influenced Indian drama.
Dramas began to depict tragedies, comedies and the complexities of urban life. Dramas were now written in different regional languages. Side by side, folk theatre like jatra, nautanki, khyal (Rajasthani folk), and naach also flourished. Another aspect which influenced performing arts was the adaptation of folk forms to classical forms.
Folk theater:
In the context of drama, two types developed — the classic drama, which had intricacies of theme and subtle nuances of dramatic traits and folk theatre. It was of spontaneous and extempore nature. Local dialect was used in folk theatre and hence in different provinces many types of folk theatre developed.  The Folk theatre having roots in native culture is embedded in local identity and social values.  Besides providing mass entertainment, it helps Indian society as indigenous tools of interpersonal, inter-group and inter-village communication for ages.  Folk theatre has been used extensively in India to propagate critical social, political and cultural issues in the form of theatrical messages to create awareness among the people.  As an indigenous form it breaks all kinds of formal barriers of human communication and appeals directly to the people.

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