Traditional Peoples Theatre of Odisha.

What About Theatres Of The People For The People ?


A nation is known from its show-houses. There are still people around us who believe that is the out ward show of the building which is meant by this saying.

Theatre is the place where the culture of the people is displayed, be it dance, drama or music. It is the type of the programmes which goes inside the building that reflects one's culture.

A national theatre should, therefore in the fitness of things, emit the fragrance of the cultural heritage of a nation and should, apart from its exterior loveliness, be in harmony with the atmosphere of the country and the traditions of its people.

Let us, in this context, try to examine the theatres we already have here, there and everywhere in our country. Do they really cater to the needs of the demands of our traditional culture ?

We have then to understand our traditional culture as regards dance, drama and music are concerned.

Let us take the case of our own state, Orissa. We have a very big list of histrionic art forms and to name a few, we have the Jatra walas who specialise in one form or the other, in the following items.


Sabda Swaranata,




Prahlad Natak,

Radhaprema lila,


Rama Natak,

Bharata lila,





Chaiti Ghoda,



Baunsa Rani,



Bhanumati khela




Odissi nata (not the present form)

Moghul Tamasa

Dist Wise List

and many other Natas, Nachas, Khelas, Lilas etc. etc. How many of these forms can be presented in their true orginal styles in our so-called availabale theatres ? The answer will be a big "NONE". More than ninetynine percent of Orissa's traditional histrionic arts CANNOT be performed in their true, orginal styles in any of our existing theatres, because the demands of the production styles associated with these performing arts can not be met by these structures. Attempts have been made either deliberately or unconsciously, on several occasions to squeeze these forms to fit into the pattern of the so-called theatres, but the result has always been crude, borning and discouraging.

Let me try to explain.

Take the case of any item from the list, Dandanata or Bharata-lila or any one. The demand of the production of these items is the absolute need of an ACTING AREA IN THE MIDST OF SPECTATORS. The artists are by tradition so well-habituated to a style of movement on the stage that the spectators on each of the four sides feel as if it is meant for them or in other words no side is ignored or neglected and the whole thing is enjoyed equally by the entire mass around.

Can it be done on the so-called theatres with wings, proscenium and spectators on one side ? The exquisite beauty of performance of facing alternate sides by a natural artistic stylised gait, turns, twists and whirls are all lost. The artists feel cramped.

Just imagine the distinct green room (Vesha Ghara) with the narrow Pushpapatha (the flowery passage) wending its way amongst the spectators upto the central acting area. Though this is just a passage, it is in fact, also an important acting area. And to compare its potentialities with those of the present-day theatre, there is none, where just atepping-out a few feet from behind the wings is considered a big thing. You can always get-away with the patch in your pant.

Just visualise our traditional Prahalada Nataka with groups of musicians in attendance. While one group standing or sitting near the acting area provides musical accompaniment and chorus for the play, the other group waiting near the green room provides the band music while leading the entry of important characters up to the acting area like a ceremonial procession complete with fire-works.

I think this stylisation has no parallel anywhere in the histrionic world. This sheer thing of beauty can never be possible if this form is forced to be squeezed into a so-called theatre with wings, proscenium and screen.

To cap it all, we have styles like Daskathia, Pala and Ghuduki-Nata etc, where although the green room is not required during the time of the performance, the centreal acting area with spectators sitting all-around is most essential. Once the artists appear on the acting area, they remain there till the whole show is over.

And so, what is the good of having theatre-halls which do not hold good for our own performing arts ? Whom are we looking up to give us the necessary courage to boldly say that these axisting theate are USELESS FOR OUR CULTURE ?

I recall a saying of my Guru Mr. Charles Elson, who after having stayed for months in India to study Indian theatre, told me, "I have seen many plays performed at many theatres, throughout the country but I have yet to make up my mind as to which was the true Indian play presented in an Indian manner" I think this statement of Mr. Elson is self-explanatory and does net need elaboration. With bagful of imitations, plenty of borrowings, we only display our bankruptcy of ideas, devoid of any orginality.

Can we not produce an Indian Play in the Indian Manner ? We must also know, what makes an Indian play identified. If it is the character of a Deity which identifies it as an Indian play, let me quote Maries Seton-"Deities do not really fit within picture-frame theatre, they belongs to the amphi-theatre." If it is the prescribed style of writing, let us search for one ?

All plays are not Natakas. And Natak happens to be just one kind of play, out of the twenty-eight varieties known to Indian dramaturgy. And about the Indian manner of presentation, let us also search for a theatre built according to the prescribed rules of Natya Shastra, the Vikrasta, the Caturasra and the Tryasra of the Jyestha, Madhyama and the Avara sizes.

All civilised countries in the world, be it Russia, China, England, Japan, France, Germany or America have their own National Theatres based upon the traditional styles of presentation of their performing arts.

While England has its Elizabethan Theatre, Japan has its Kabuki and the Noh Theatres, India, with its oldest civilisation on earth, and its documentary and hoary evidences of existing theatre designed in the past, still looks west ward for getting an inspiration to build its own national theatre in India.

All our present day theatres have a borrowed pattern of design. According to Marie Seton, "The theatre with the stage framed by the proscenium arch was introduced into Indian because of the presentation of European plays, presumably intended for the entertainment of the British in Indian".

Well, we had entertained them enough. Since 1947 they have already returned to their home land. They do not need this entertainment from us. Let us now help ourselves in attempting at least to entertain curves in our own manner.

The prevailing system as is being followed util until now, must be made to vanish forthwith. Let me quote JP's words from his 'Prison Diary" of 25th Sept. While explaining Fritz's article, JP writes-

"Now what would be the prevailing system in Indian and its philosophy ? That is a very interesting question. Is there a system first of all ? While 80 percent of the population lives in the villages, 20 percent of it is urban. Some of it is made up of industrial labour. Some of the class IV employees and yet some more of the class III employees............Leaving out industrial labour and class III and class IV employees there are economically better-off people, a tiny part of them quite affluent in the western style of living sense. Then there are students, school and university. There are officers of Government and Ministers (in the capital cities). If there is a system it is made up of these elements and the system's philosophy is that of the educated and economic elite. The elite from the rural areas are being sucked into urban areas.........All politics, all education, all privileges are confined to this tiny layer of society at the top........In India, this tiny layer of the elite, barring rare individuals, wants more modern technology, more industrialisation, more mechanisation and chemicalisation of agriculture. That is the ethos of modernism in India........." etc.

This "modernism" has brought us all the confusion even in the sphere of dramatics.

In India, the music schools teach music both classical & folk i.e, Hindusthani, Odissi, Karnataki & so on. None teach modern music.

Similarly the Dance Schools teach both classical & folk dances i.e, Bharat Natyam, Kathakali, Odissi, Chhau, Kathak, Manipuri etc. and so on. None teach Modern Dances.

But in the sphere of dramatics we see a different state of affairs. Our drama schools rarely teach classical or folk Indian dramas or the classical or folk styles of presentation. The stress is on the so-called modern or foreign. Why ? What for is this attitude ? Do we teach for the "tiny layers of the elite" ?

Even the question of how far 'national' is our National School of Drama had been a subject for discussion for sometime past. As Kavita Nagpal wrote in Hindustan Times while commenting on a 'Noh' play of the NSD, " would perhaps have been more profitable to expend the same time and energy in training the students to tackle the traditional forms of the regions from which they come and to which they finally return to practise the art of the theatre."

Few years back, a very famous Director of India had taken his very famous group to represent India in an International Theatre Convention held in a foreign country. His statement after return was sufficient to warrent alarm, as he had said "I wish my group had not been deputed to represent India."

When we say 'Indian' we do emphasise on an unique pattern which is orginal and perfected by tradition of thousands of years and that represents our culture. In building theatre, our responsibility is more because what we construct with cement and mortar physically lasts more than half a century at least. We do not spend a lot of money and name it a theatre which in fact turns into a godown or something other than the purpose for which it was intended. A lot of theatres built throughout the country have proved 'No Good' Here I quote from the editorial of theatre arts journal 'Natya' of winter issue 1959-60.

"The story of architectural efforts in post-independent India has, on the whole, been depressing. This is chiefly because of what appears to be a confusion of approach towards style-whether to be 'traditional', blatantly imitative of the West, or to combine, howsover monstrously, the two. Then there is also confusion about the relationship between form and function. And so we have some buildings which are pleasing in form but totally inadequate for the function they were intended for, while there are others which are extremes in functional values without any grace or forms, yet others without form or function. But in being inept in all categories Government architects have been prone to show particular genius. Perhaps there is something in the bureaucratic mould all over the world which tends to induce passive mediocrity."

"A few theatres already built by them are sufficient to warrant alarm. For reasons which are not immediately obvious most of these theatres are built against almost every basic principle of theatre planning. Beyond the fact that a theatre has place for seats and a place to act upon, few other considerations seem to have been borne in mind or even suspected of existence."

"Theatre construction requires not just the ability to rig up anarchitectural assemblage but a clear conception of what use the building is put to. Even with the assistance of specialists, the architect will need some awareness of the development of drama and some clairvoyance, as it were, of its future trends. His building will have to be flexible enough to accommodate not only for plays but for other forms of theatre arts. And for plays he may have to choose between the rigid picture-frame and the free-arena stage. Where do we stand ? The future course of dramatic development in India may well depend upon the very physical form of our theatre building."

I think, enough had been very clearly said, and we still suffer from an inferiority complex. Until we gather suficient courage and boldness not to be imitative of the West, we will be continuing to waste a lot on something we cannot claim to be our own. Let us search our heart. It is high time to do so.

We think of rural development by way of electricity, roads, culverts, fertilisers, pumps and what-nots. What about theaters for the rural people ? Why should more than 98% of the people of the country wait until fair weather to witness a play or some theatrical presentation in the open-air in an improvised auditorium on the village cross road or in an urban area wait until midnight till the traffic of the 'elite' withdraw from the roads to avail a suitable open space while the city folks just walk into air-conditioned, push-back cushioned seats whenever they desire ?

And when shall our own folks have their own indigenous Jatra auditoriums both top-less and top-covered ?

We waste a lot of money on the so-called modern drama festivals which have absolutely no impact on the people. We also waste a lot of money to build theatres and to train people to entertain that "tiny layer of the society", without even caring to know that either the forms or the funcitons, do not really cater to the demands of more than 98% of the people of this vast country. In other words, where is the THEATRE FOR THE JANATA- the people's theatre ?

Now let me quote Marie Seton again who stated, "since there appears to be an ingrained tendency in India towards. Theatres in the Round, I wonder whether it is not unsuitable for India to continue to develop theatres with stages based upon a strictly Western Model".

Think, my dear countrymen, think..................and act now, otherwise it will be too late to recover from the shock.

* This article has been reproduced in many journals.


Bandi Nata :-

Bandi Nata is mainly found in centra and western parts of Orissa. It has less ritualistic formalities than that of the Danda Nata and is performed by the scheduled caste people mainly.

Bandi happens to be the nickname of the sister of Chandrasena, the husband of Radha. This Bandinata idealises the character of Bandi as against Radha in the game of love towards Krishna, because it depicts the selfless sacrifices of her own utmost love towards Krishna in favour of Radha and her help which brought the pair Radha and Krishna together.

Bandinata is an out-come of the so called hatred of the cast Hindu Vaishnavites, who did not favour the low castes to join them in their Radha cult.

In Bandinata the artists in make-up and costumes along with their stage properties in hand, walk into the auditorium and sit down with the spectators mixing and mingling with the crowd and come out to the central acting area only when their roles come complete with self-introductions in songs.

The only musical instrument played with the Bandinata is the Dhol and it is really inspiring to watch this sole accompanist for the entire duration of the play which lasts for more than 3 hours packed with lots of dances, songs, actions and humour.



Chaiti Ghoda Nata :

Chaiti Ghoda is a colourful item of performing art of Orissa specially done by the fisherman community during the full-moon day of Chaitra month. It is said that Lord Rama had presented a horse to the boatman who had helped Him to cross the river Saraju during the period of his Vanavas. Hence they worship horse.

Each group has atleast three characters beside the musical accompanists of Dhol and Mahuri. These three characters are the Rauta the Rautani and the horse dancer.

An image of horse is improvised out of bamboo and cloth, complete with a head, body and tail but without legs. The dancer enters into the cockpit of the hollow body and hangs it at his waistline to give the illusion of a rider on the horse, complete with straps, Performance are done in an arena without a green room.

Rauta, who is the main singer commentator, delivers discourses mainly from mythology. The Routani, in the role of his wife is the chorus and co-singer and dancer. During the performance, dramatic sequence are highlighted with regular improvised dialogues and humorous episodes. During the discourses, the singer also explains the text in simple language with similiesand quatation. A lot of vigorous dances are done by the Rautani and the horse dancer.sometimes a pair or more horse dancers join in,which turns the performance into a sheer thing of beauty,with varied compositions.



Chau Nata :

Chhaunata, although not a drama in its fuller interpretation, it is a specialised dance drama. It is famous for its most colourful virile dance, theChhau Nrutya, which is highly stylised and set to choreographic frame work. WhileChhau of seraikela uses masks for all its characters, Chhau of Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar, Balasore and Dhenkanala do not use them, thereby adding facial expression with body movement and gesture. While the princes and the Royal famililies are the participants in the Seraikela Chhau, and the commoners in the Mayurbhanja Chhau teams it has remained with the traditional Paikas of Dhenkanal, whose ancestors themselves formed the infanty men of the Dhenkanal Kings, before merger of states. Themes of the dance dramas are taken from mythology to folk tales. Chhau is usually performed during the Chaitra festival and except the sophisticated groups, all others use an arena for performance with spectators around.

The origin of the word Chhau is traced by some, to Chhauni, the military camps of ancient kings. While other maintain that the word is a derivative of Chhaya (shadow) etc. According to the experts of Dhenkanal, this word Chhau is a derivative term of the word Chhai meaning body gesture seems to be more appropriate.

The vigorous war dances with swords and shields, the colourful, dignified yet intricate rythmic pattern of other dances, the loud yet melodious sound of battle-drums such as Dhumsa, Nagra, Dhol and Chadchadi with Mohuri, actually brings thunderous effect to make the audience spell-bound.




Daskathia Pala :

A beautiful form has developed in the recent times by the combination of both forms, the Pala and the Daskathia.

The highlights of both the forms have been so well blended making it appear as a distinct style of its own.




Mainly performed with two artists on a central stage, Dasakathia is evolved and nourished along with the growth of Rama's cult in Orissa. Gayaka is the main singer and his partner is known as Palia, who intermittently gives a rhythmic refrain of the words Rama je Jaya Rama je, Nabina Sundar Rama je, Jaya Ramaje. As the main story goes in rhythmic commentary, special sequences are dramatised in dialogue form, each of the two artists changing into different roles. Plenty of wit, humour, songs fill the sequences and the average show takes about 3 hours. Both the artists dress themselves in royal attire and beside the tinklers tied to their ankles the Gayaka plays on a pair of Ekaphalior Rama Tali and the Palia on the pair of Ramakathi or Daskathi. The Ramatalis are wooden clappers fitted with tinklers and held by clasping a pair in both hands and the Dasakathias are a pair of staight 'castanets' made of hard wood held in left hand and ticked together with fingers of the right hand to beat time to the rhythm. The usual themes are taken from mythology. Love, romance, deceit, elopement, marriages are the interesting features. The whole performance is punched with many social skits, humourous anecdots and adages in a pattern which distinguishes itself from other histrionic arts. In Orissa, more than 150 groups of Dasakathia exist today, out of which more than 100 are in Ganjam district alone. Dasakathia needs a small central acting area and no green room during the performance.



Desia Nata :-

Desianata is an unique and ancient form of play presentation located in the Koraput district of Orissa.

Desia means local, hence completely indigenous & it's participants belong to the local people irrespective of caste, creed or even tribe.

This traditional mulitcoloured masked spectacle of Desia Nata, brings in it's fold every conceivable character i.e, Gods, Goddesses, Animals, Birds and the human species, all under masks, never so widely exploited by any traditional dance or drama form in India. There are also characters who appear without the masks, if it is the role of a common human being. The unique distinction of the Desia Mask is that it is worn helmet like wherein the entire head is thrusted in. Though now-a-days masks are being made out of papier mache it used to be made out of leaves in the olden times.

The theme is always from the mythology and Ramayana, punched with social skits and humour. The music and the dances are unsophisticated and blended with touches of tribal patterns. The dances some times include such intricate pattern of foot works, gestures and postures, that they can well be compared at par excellence with some of the already famous forms of India. Another form of Desia Nata is Subhadra Harana.

Desia Nata, though slowly becoming rare is still popular amongst the local inhabitants. The performance usually takes place during festivals like Chaitra Parva. Desianata needs a centra arena for performance.



Dhanu Jatra :-

While massive spectacular theatrical presentations are a speciality of Jatra Of Orissa, the Dhanu Jatra of Baragarh, Sambalpur tops them all, in the imaginative grandeur.

While else where in Orissa, a pond, a huge tree and it's sorrounding, a vast field, a village or a mile long street, have been improvised to be the acting areas, here in Dhanu Jatra, several villages, a town including a river turn into the acting areas of the play.

While the village Amapali turns to be the 'Gopapura' and the town of Bargarh as 'Mathura', river Jatra becomes the sacred river of Jamuna.

The Dhanu Jatra, which is a part of the celebration of Krishnalila and continues for a week during the month of Pousha, reminds one of the description of Indra's banner festival mentioned in the first chapter of Natyasastra.

Beside other highlights, Kansa's elephant ride in the streets of his kingdom, his high Mancha from where he falls and dies, and his Durbar, everything is so well planned and improvised that perhaps no where in the world, a play has been made to achieve such a vast magnitude bringing that central goal in dramatics, the unity, the team spirit and the universal brotherhood.

And about the so called modern technique of spectator's participation in Dhanu Jatra, nothing said is better because when all the villages, town and the river turn to be the acting areas, naturally all the inhabitants and visitors also turn to be characters in the play including you if you happen to be there during the Jatra period.

And, during his ride in the streets or at his Durbar if the actor King Kansa finds you guilty (Whoever you are, including top government official and whether you did commit a wrong or not) you have got to pay a fine (according to your sweet will, all in sportive fun.

The very idea of this Dhanu Jatra of Orissa is not only awe-inspiring and fantastic but also very entertaining and educative.



Bharata Lila or (Dwari Nata) :-

The main theme of the play is from the epic Mahabharatand depicts the circumstances under which Arjunais put to accept Subhadraas his wife.

Bharatalilais otherwise known as Dwarinatabecause of the main character Dwari,who not acts as an ineterpreter of the play for the audience but also acts as the middle man in the exchange of affairs and wordy duel that takes place between Arjuna and Subhadra.

These three are the main characters in the play beside the Sakhis who fill in the sequences of relief with their dance numbers as well as to appear in very minor roles if needed during the play.

A lot of question answer sequences mark the test of the merit and calibre of the artists because beside the main theme, plenty of similies and extracts from Shastras and works of other authorities are quoted or recited, punched with dances, songs and witty humour.

Bharatalila is very popular for the element of humour which brings roars of laughter from the audience time to time. A single performance lasts about 3 to 4 hours but in case of a competition between two or more parties, the show continues for several nights Bharatilila needs a central stage with spectators all sound.



Ghudiki (or Dhuduki) Nabaranga Nata :-

While Ghudiki happens to be the name of a local musical instrument made of a round hollow wooden cylinder with piece of hide covering one mouth and played by twangs on the string running from the centre of the hide and held by the other hand, the Ghuduki Nabaranga Nata bears it's name, because the master of ceremony of this form plays on it through out.

This Ghuduki Nata is a highly st,lised form of a total theatre. The group consist of 8 to 10 artists who are all, all rounders. They do not need a green room and dress up or improvise everything in the midst of the spectators. The Ghuduki player is the director, commentator, jester, dancer and also suddenly turns into a character of the play if needed. The play starts with singing and dancing by two bous dressed in female attire and as the commentary goes, the same boys change into different roles assisted by the chorus and the musicians who stand up and fit into the plays according to the demands of the situation. A lot of singing dancing and humorous skits fill in the production which lasts up to 3 or 4 hours.



Galpasagara ( Ocean of stories ), Kath ka ( Storyteller ) and Harikatha ( Stories of God ) :

These are all one-man shows, supposed to be the most ancient form of dramatics, each a bit reformed than the other. The stories are dramatically told with lots of voice modulations, songs, humour, actions, dialogues and occasional dances also. Simple costume is improvised during performance to suit the sequence. Self played musical instruments like Manjira, Ektara, Ramatali, Daskathi, etc., are also played by the artists.



Kaliya Dalana :-

The subject matter although forms a part of the theme from Krishna-lila, there are groups who's ecialise in this portion to such fantastic proportions that they have established a distinct style of their own.

While an open area is improvised to be a pond, this pond with lots of artificial lotus flowers and leaves turns to the acting area. A lot of mechanical devices go into the making for a number of artificial snakes to appear in the pond to attack Krishna while plucking the flowers, finally bringing the huge serpent Krishna to be crushed by him.




Kandhei Nata :-

The puppet theatre of Orissa is known as 'Kandhei Nata'. Kandhei means Doll or Marionett. Other terms which are used for puppetry in Orissa are Sakhinacha, Gopalila, etc., Orissa's puppetry is classified into four categories such as Hand or Glove puppets (Ravana chhaya or shadow of Ravana). Usual Jatra plays are adapted for Kandhei Nata. While only the "Daki Dambaru" or "Dholki" or the "Khanjani" used to be the accompanying musical instrument in olden days now they have a full group of orchestra to go with a puppet play. The most interesting character is the jester 'Andiripua Udhaba' in the popular string puppetry. In the advent of cinema, the crude and unsophisticated oil lamp projection in the sphere of shadow puppetry seems to be loosing it's significance.

The Kathi Kundhei Rod Puppet of Keonjhar is an unique 'one man show' because beside the music party, the entire manipulations of all puppets and the various dialogues, songs and other voice productions are done by a single artist.


Krishna Lila :-

Another form of presentation of a devotional play relating to the various deeds of Krishna. Once the artists in make-up appear on the central acting area in a ceremonial procession with the retinue of musicians and chorus, they stay on there and do not need a green room. There is a Sutradhara who recites Sanskrit text throughout and also explains it . The main character is Krishna and few Sakhas. A lot of singing, acting and dancing is involved in the play which is done in parts each night and the entire series covers 7 to 8 nights to complete. Properties are used to highlight certain sequences. Such as huge artificial serpent which peeps out and slowly rises high from a wooden box kept in the arena.



Lankapodi :-

Lankapodi festival of Daspalla needs aspecial mention of the spectacular grandeur employed in the presentation of Ramalilain Orissa

A mile long street turns into acting area from the temple to the improvised city of Lanka of Ravana. While the performance is done in phases the acting area expands from place to place in the street where platforms are made for the speaking characters, who reach from the temple in a procession each night.

The many wheeled high wooden crane with a swinging and revolving boom, hanging the Pushpaka Bimana of Ravana complete with a rope ladder and whisking away of Sita on to it in the air, while the crane is dragged by the spectators like a chariot brings a real illusion of the theme in a novel manner.

There are many more interesting features of this production, which are not only orginal but also very spectacular and grand.



Pala :

There are two distinct types of Pala in Orissa, the Baithaki (sitting) and the Thhia (standing). It is associated with the worship of Satyapir, a God both for Hindus and tje Muslims and hence it's origin is traced from the Moghul period, when all attempts had been made for the unification in faith between both the religions. But the form of the Thhia Pala which seems to be a developed outcome of Binakara portion of the age old Dandanata of Orissa has a deeper origin.

The word 'Pala' has been derived from the word 'Pali'. 'Pali' was a highly developed language used for the propagation of Buddhism after Lord Buddha. This language was mainly used in ancient Kalinga and said to be more universal in understanding.

The "initials" or the Purba Ranga of a Pala play has a lot of similarity with that of the Purba Ranga mentioned in Natya Sastra. No other form of play production exists today which adheres so much to the formalities as per the Natya Sastra as that of a Pala play of Orissa. This justifiably signifies the classical origin of this beautiful form of mass communication media of Orissa.

As it is, the Thhia Pala is an unique form of play presentation with a high degree of literary excellence. This is enacted by six persons who dress themselves in the ancient royal attires. The chief actor known as the Gayaka holds a Chamara and plays on a small pair of Manjiras and the rest, form the Palias or the chorus. Among these there is one percussionist who plays on the Khol and the rest on Karatalas. One of these chorous boys, there happens to be jester or Vidushaka who cracks a joke for everything. The main theme runs in a commentary form, highlighting important portions in the real enactment of drama, each player turning into a charactter with dialogues. The Gayaka during his singing, explains passages which are difficult to understand to the common mass with lots of simlies from other writers, therby turning the perrformance into a literary discourse. Intermittent humorous skits, occasional dancing with small foot works, turns up to three or four hours. Pala needs a central acting area and no green-room during performance.

Sometimes Badipala is arranged where two or more Pala groups participate one after the other. These turn into competitions of showmanship and literary duels and it is left to the people to give the verdict as to which group is the best to get the prize.

Pala happens to be a very popular Jatra of Orissa, there are Pala groups now consisting entirely of female artists. There exist Pala groups who perform it in Sanskrit language also.



Patua Jatra :-

Patua Jatra happens to be a ritualistic performing art like Danda Nata, followed by the low caste of labour class people. There are many types of patua such as Ghata Patua (who dances on stilts keeping a pitcher on his head), Udapatua (who is made to hang on a revolving pala), Nian Patua (who walks on fire), Kanta Patua (who walks on nails and thorne), Khandapatua (who stands on sword's edge), Phoda Patua (who gets pricked all over his body), Jhula Patua (who hangs with head downwords over a burning flame and the common Patua who sings and dances).

While all the former Patuas are nothing but self inflicted penance, the last variety contains song, dance and acting. This Patua Jatra follows a pattern like that of pala in its costumes as well as in the deliberations with a variation and is of lesser standard. There are characters known as Rauta as the main singer & Rautani as the main dancer as in Chaiti Ghoda. Besides these, there are the chorus boys. With Routa's singing, Ramatali is played & than dancing starts with the accompaniment of Dhol and Mohuri. Although this Patua Jatra is not in a drama form and consists mainly singing and dancing, intermittent improvistation of dialogues, comical skits makes it quite interesting. A show which usually takes a whole night duration needs an arena for performance and no green room.

Sometimes Badi Patua Jatra or competition between two or three groups also takes place.


Prahlada Nataka :-

While Nataka denotes a play in its fullness, the presentation of this play is so much stylised that it has come to stay as a distinct form of theatre in Orissa.

Based on the most popular mythological theme of the boy Prahlada and how all attempts of his father to kill him failed because of his faith in God, upto the appearance of Nrusingha Avatara from a pillar who kills his father, Hiranya Kasipu.

A centra acting arena with a pillar on one side and a high wooden throne on the other side is essential. Two batches of musicians remain in attendance. While the chorus boys and the main musicians take their place nearer the throne, another batch wait near the green room to lead the entry of each character in a manner of a ceremonial procession complete with fireworks and crackers, amongst the spectators up to the acting area. I think this stylisation has no parallel any where in the drama world, except partly adopted in Moghul Tamsha.

The costume are extremely ornamental and colourful. The music is entirely based on classical Ragas. Each character sings and knows the art of dancing very well.

While life size dummy elephant is used to bring the king, live cobras are used around Prahlada's neck in the snake sequence.

Evidently Prahlada Nataka of Orissa is a regular classical Indian play with a distinct and highly stylised traditional presentation form.

In Orissa, there are only very few groups in Ganjam district now, who have remained to be the torch bearers of this great traditional culture.



Radhapremalila :-

Following the foot steps of the Sanskrit text of Gitagovindam of Jayadeva with few variations and usually found in south Orissa. Radhapremalila has remained to be a distinct form for its style, charm and uniqueness and local flavour. With full of music and lots of dances, this form is enacted by small boys and girls of less than 10 years of age. A flowery bower is a must by the side of the central acting area. The child artists are helped by a chorus group who sit next to the acting area. The complete form takes a week, for full presentation in phases.



Rama Lila :-

Thoughout India Ramalila has remained a popular form of theatre because of its devotional theme from Ramayana and so also in Orissa. There have been so many kinds of improvisations on the presentation of Ramalila of Orissa that they can be put into the following categories.

There are Ramalilas where characters appear with masks. There are others who do not use masks. There are yet others who bring in characters of mixed pattern.

There are Ramalilas where all characters speak or sing for themselves. There are Ramalilas where characters act and do only mime, while the Gayaka and the chorus do the singings.

There are Ramalilas where an acting area in the centre is needed. There are others who need a whole vast field for the operation. There are Ramalilas which need different locations for different actions and they carry the entire retinue of spectators from place to place with them.

Ramalilas by tradition, are enacted for several nights in phases. There are groups who perform it for 10 nights and specialise on the spectacular grandeur of their productions.



Rasa Lila :-

Associated with the Krishna cuit, Rasa Lila happens to be of very ancient origin in Orissa. The great sage poet Achyutananda wrote Rasa in Oriya in the last part of 15th century which was performed throughout the country by a band of touring artists whom he taught. Rasa had been made into outstanding spectacles at certain places of Orissa where a full height Kadamba tree is improvised from a huge log with artificial leaves and flowers, with sliding Gopis in the air on ropes.

Laudinata is the enactment of certain phases from Krishna's life done by the Gopala (cowherd community).

Rahasakirtana is done by the followers of Krishna cult irrespective of caste or creed.



Sabda Swara Nata :-

In Sabda Swara Nata, the presentation of plays are in regular common Jatra style with central stage and spectators around. The themes are drawn from mythology, mainly from Krishna's life. The plays are highlighted by interludes of special dance numbers which are absolute classical dances of the Tandava variety, known as Sabda Nrutya.

Sabda Nrutya claims 8 distinct Tandava dances such as Siva, Durga, Kali, Ganesh, Ananda Bhairaba Vinayaka, Rudra andNarada. Each Tandavahas two 'Swaras' which in turn have four Pallavi dances each.

This form is located at Kumbhari village, off Barapali, Sambalpur and the institution which keeps it living was established in 1850 by one Bhajamana Das who hailed from Sidhamunda, Kantilo of Puri.


This in short, is an account of the Theatre of the Peoples of Orissa. Creative artists as they are the people of the ancient land of great arts, Utkala, they have even gone to the extent of attaching ornate costumes, tuneful music stylised gaits and even dialogues in their God Jagannath to create such fantastic Jatras like the great Ratha Jatra of Orissa.

Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti

Dhiren Dash.




District wise List of Art Forms of Odisha

Districts Wise.

Folk Art Forms  ( Performing & Visual )        




1. Rabana Chhaya
2. Changu
( Pauti Bhuyan- Palahada )
3. Singha Badya
4. Dhol Nishan Dance
5. Danda Venakar Nacha
6. Kharia Dance
7. Animal Pallet 1)              



1. Dalkhai
2. Ghoomra
3. Parbha
4. Dhaap
5. Chhilolai
6. Humo
7. Bangrori
8. Karma
9. Bajasal
10. Nachnia
11. Jaiphula
,12. Rasarkeli
13. Sanchar
14.Danda Nacha
15. Keisabadi
16. Kalanga Danda
17. Samprada
18. Dulduli
19. Sankirtan
20 Jamera Ghoda Nacha
21 Laxmi Puran
22.Paguna Nacha                                                     




1. Dalkhai
2. Rasarkeli
3. Mawla Jhula
4. Jai Phula
5. Janhi Phula
6. Nachnia
7. Bajnia
8. Dhap
9. Parva
10. Karma
11. Sanchar
12. Sabda Nrutya
13. Nuni Bhuasen
14. Laxmi Pura
15.Kaisa Badi




1. Chhow Dance
2. Jhumar Dance
3. Kathi Dance
4. Chadheiya-Chadheiyani Dance
5. Women Pala
6. Laudi Dance




1. Mugal Tamasa
2. Baunsa Rani
3. Chadheiya Dance
4. Kathi Pala
5. Sakhi Pala
6. Daskathia
7. Women pala




1. Karma Dance
2. Danda Nacha
3. Dalkhai and sub varients
4. Ramaleela                                      




1.Chaiti Ghoda
2. Ghanta Patua
3. Medha Nacha
4. Jodi Nagara
5. Women Pala
6. Dhana Koila
( Kalatirtha, Badamba)
7. Ram Leela
8. Krushna leela
9. Bamboo Dance
10. Kandhei Dance
11. Kela Keluni dance
12. Laudi Dance
13. Paika dance
14. Pala
15. dasa kathia
16. Kendara geeta
17. Halia Geeta
18. Maipi kandana Geeta
19. Dhuduki Geeta
20. Jhamu nacha
21. Jatra
22. Raja Doli Geet                          




1. Laudi & Ogal Dance
2. Gopal Laudi
3. Danda Nacha
4. Paika Akhada
5. Changu Dance
6. Gumura
7.Bandi Nacha
8. Odissi Kirtan
9. Dhuduki Nacha
10. Kendera Song
11. Kandhei Dance
(Puppet Dance)
12. Mahila ( women) Pala
13. Baunsa Nacha
14. Chhou Dance                       



1. Karma Dance
2. Danda Nacha
3. Parva Dance
4. Rasarkeli
5. Women Pala
6. Laxmi Puran 1


1.Paika Akhada
( Paralakhemundi mandi)
2. Lanjia Saura Dance
3. Bir Badya
( war time Drumming)
4. Gola Nata
5. Bhoot Keli Dance ( Kasinagar)
6. Muan Dance
( Paralakhemundi)
7. Tribal dance of Tetisingi 1)



1.Mugal Tamasa
2. Kathi Pala
3. Sakhi Pala
4. Daskathia
5. Women Pala
7. Jhipa nacha
8. Folk Opera 1)




1. Chaiti Ghoda
2. Ghanta Patua
3. Medha Nacha
4. Jodi Nagara
5. Women Pala
6. Kumar purnima Gita
7. Rama Lila
8. Kendera Gita




 1. Dalkhai
2. Rasarkeli
3. Mayla Joda
4. Sanchar
5. Samprada
6. Jhumar
7. Dand Dance
8. Women pala
9. Bhar           ni
10. Sulaha Bharni
11. Laxmi Purana





 1. Ghanta patua
2. Chaiti ghoda
3. Women Pala
4. kalika Nacha
5. Laudi Nacha
6. Bull Dance
7. Guduki
8. Giti Natya




1. Singha Badya
2. Danda Nacha
3. Dhangeda- Dhangigedi
4. Krahenda
5. Pitha khia Dance





1. Kandhei
( Puppet) Dance, (Roda Puppet)
2. Changu Dance
3. Chhau Dance
4. Juang Dance
5. Ho-Ho Dance
6. Women Pala
7. Daskathia





1. Ghoomra dance
2. Dalkhai
3. Parva
4. Dhaap
5. Lariha Dance
6. Tukel Ghumra
7. Bajasal,





1. Paika Akhada Dance
2. Gotipua Dance
3. Women Pala
4. Chaiti Ghoda Nacha
5. Danda Nata
7. Gouda Nata
8. Kela Keluni Nata
9. Puppet (Strimg)
10. Guduki
11.Rama Lila




1. Desia nata
2. Kandha Dance
3. Kathi Dance ( Patangi)
4. Dhemsa Dance
5. Durua Dance
6. Changu Dance
7. Salapa Nisan ( Kasipur)
8. Paraja Dance
9. Gadaba




 1. Chhau Dance
2. Jhumar dance
3. Kathi Nacha
4. Santali Dance
5. Women Pala
6. Sakhi Nacha
7. Tuila dance
8. Kharia Dance
9. Karma




 1. Koya Dance
2.Changu Dance
3. Paraja Dance
4. Sakhi dance




1.Kui Dance
2. Dudra dance
3. Kathi nacha
4. Koya Dance
5. Dondahalia dance




 1. Dhumpa Dance
2. kalesi Dance
3. Dinda Dhangedi Dance
4. Matia dance
5. Dubu Duba Dance
6. Dala mankudi Dance
6. Paika Dance
7. Kela Keluni Dance
8. Dhudki Nacha
9. Sankirtana
10. Pala
11. Dasakathia
12. Rasa
13. Rama leela
14. Dauri dance
15. Danda Nacha
16. Bir Badya





Lariha Dance
2. Tukel Ghumra
3. Devi dance
4. Jura Juri Dance
5. Madli dance
6. Laxmi Puran
7. Dhaap
8. Parva
9. Ghoomra


1.Gotipua Dance
2. Mahari Dance
3. Paika Akhada
4. Banati Dance
4. Stick Dance
5. Medha Dance
6. Mask Dance
7. Pattachitra Painting ( visual art)
8. Stone Carving ( sculpture)
9. Applique art
10. Radha Premalila ( Nimapada)
11. Mahari Dance
12. Naga Dance




 1. Lanjia Saura Dance
2. Paraja Saura Dance
3. Salapa Nisan Dance
4. Saura painting




1. Dalkhai
2. Rasarkeli
3. Jaiphula
4. Janhiphula
5. Dulha biha
6. Mayla Joda
8. Ghudka
9. Dhaap
10. Parva
11. Karma
12. Khanjani Dance
13. Sanchar
14. Chutku Chuta
15. Kishan Dance
16. Huma Bouli
17. Women Pala
18. Laxmi Puran
19. Sua Dance




1. Laxmi Puran
2. Rasarkeli
3. Jaiphula
4. Janhiphula
5. Rasarkeli
6. Mayla Joda
7. Bharni
8. Ghudka
9. Dhaap
10. Parva
11. Karma
12. Khanjani Dance
13. Painri Dance




1. Laxmi Puran
2. Rasarkeli
3. Jaiphula
4. Janhiphula
5. Oram Dance
6. Mayla Joda
7. Bharni
8. Ghudka
9. Dhaap
10. Parva
11. Karma
12. Khanjani Dance
13. Women Pala
14. Samprada
15. Kishan Dance
16. Munda Dance
17. Paudi Bhuyan
18. Paiki Dance