Indian Theatre- Traditions of Performance

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Indian Theatre- Traditions of Performance
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India is one of the great repositories of performing arts, particularly those of the classical, folk/popular, devotional and modern traditions. The sheer enormity and diversity of its cultural expressions in music, dance, dance/ drama and theatre are the envy of many nations around the world. This series intends to assemble some of the best books now available on these subjects. Without exaggeration, a series such as this would not have been possible twenty years ago when ! first began writing about Indian theatre. At that time little more than a few dozen books comprised the entire field of scholarship in the English language, not to mention the paucity of materials in regional Indian languages. Today that picture has radically changed. Numerous publishers have devoted precious press time to volumes of well-illustrated, detailed and, yes, sometimes even esoteric works on the multiple aspects of this fascinating subject. Comb any bookshop in Delhi or Madras, Bombay or Calcutta and you will regularly find new works appearing on the shelves. This represents a real area of growth! It is to the credit of Motilal Banarsidass that there is now the potential of assembling numerous volumes together under one umbrella and that a Performing Arts Series is hereby inaugurated. On behalf of myself and the other editors and authors of Indian Theatre: Traditions of Performance, the first volume in this series, I am proud to be a part of this worthy endeavour and salute our Indian and Western publishers for taking a risk on this inaugural work and all the other works in this series. As the collection grows and changes over the years, may Ganesh be our guide and mentor!



As ITS TITLE SUGGESTS, the purpose of this book is to introduce the reader to the multiple dimensions of Indian theatre by presenting a representative sample of the major traditions and genres of performance. Unlike other books of its kind published in recent years, this is a joint effort and, as such, bears the stamp of many hands. It is also the first time that an introduction to Indian theatre has been written by Western scholars from their own per-spective. Our primary aim has been to reach students of theatre and all those other readers who may have little or no knowledge of Indian theatre in its manifest variety.


Like the culture from which it springs, Indian theatre holds many intriguing mysteries for foreign writers, prompting them to dig for treasures that are seemingly endless. Initially we set out to write a comprehensive study of Indian theatre. Reason prevailed when we contemplated the sheer enormity of the subject. The vast number and complexity of rural theatre forms alone convinced us to limit the scope of our study.


Our approach to the subject of Indian theatre, while necessarily selective, is not meant to be reductive. We hope that our choice and treatment of topics give some sense of the complexities of the performative field that constitutes the panorama of Indian theatre. The reader will also note that we have pointedly expanded the boundaries of what is usually called "theater" in the West, since those boundaries (when we literally cross our own in travel-ing to the third world) can blind us to the possibility of finding something other than our own reflections when we explore that other world.


Each of the contributors to this volume has spent considerable time in India—in villages or cities, in training (and even occasionally, in performance), with neophytes and with masters, with the masses or with connoisseurs or patrons. Field research has hopefully rendered each of us, if nothing else, humbler in the face of mastery, or in the face of the inexhaustible supply of vitality that lingers joyously among performers who crisscross the vast subcontinent doing what they love. And while our point of view is decidedly Western, we hope that it is sympathetic; while descriptive, we trust that it keeps an ear and eye open to what India itself values and how it appreciates its own performance traditions.

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