Thursday, August 11, 2022
Himachal Pradesh



Kariyada and Banthada

The Kariyada folk art form projects many coloured glimpse into the heart of the region. The loves, joys, sorrows and hopes of the people are reflected in this art form through traditional symbolic patterns.

The performance usually starts with Mangalacharan invoking the three gods - Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh, the forest gods and goddesses and Saraswati the goddess of learning. After this Manasukha or Dandoo comes on the stage and introduces the theme of the play to the people and set it going. The themes of the play ranges from historical to mythological and are interspersed with contemporary references. Ramleela, Ras-leela, Krishnaleela, mythological tales from Puranas and history are all similarly presented. The comic interludes form a necessary part of the show and depict stock characters like the run-away girl, the moneylender and his servant, the guard, the she-snake and Pilpili Sahib (a spoof on the white sahibs). These impromptu shows present sharp and pungent satires about the bureaucracy, the social malpractices like racial discrimination and miserliness. Sly and sharp social commentary comes in form of jokes and puns packed with wit and humour. The role of the female dancer is very important in folk theatre. She not only dances but sings songs and is presented with gifts of money.

The antics of Manasukha are the life and soul of each play. These are staged between Diwali to Baisakhi, when the excessive cold puts a stop to forming activities and people crave for some form of entertainment. To the common folk watching plays is a part of religious ritual. People take religious vows to have these religious plays staged if their wishes come true. They invite the traveling troupes to come and perform in their houses with an advance of money known as Peshagi or Sai. Other family members are also invited to the performance. When the Bhagat (players) reach the house of the hosts, they are given a warm welcome and on this day a feast is offered to the entire village.

For the stage, a bonfire is lit in the middle of the courtyard around which the audience squats. In a corner a few string cots form the wings. Mats or Dhurries are spread on the floor. A large oil lamp which can hold about two liters of oil is lit upon a pillar and torches made of resinous Pine branches are used. Nowadays people also use kerosene oil lanterns and petromax lamps.

The folk artists usually belong to the lower middle classes and castes like Sanhai, Sehsi, Cobblers, Weavers and Jheers. Female roles are enacted by men and chief actor is Manasukha or Rauloo. He acts as the clown and his jokes and flirtatious encounters with the Gopis (maidens) are some of the liveliest bits in the play. For make-up the artists use wigs, Kohl powder and costume jewellery. A face powder is made of fine lime or common flour and kohl is prepared out of carbonated lamp soot. For wigs, barks of trees are used.

The dialogues of these plays are short and sarcastic or sedate according to the occasion. The language is simple, elastic and bereft of ornamentation. Basically all these folk art forms reflect the simple thought patterns of the rural folk. The plays are full of dances set to songs. Some of the folk dance forms presented in these plays are Nati, Gidda, Luddi, Dangi and Dandaras and the musical types are Jhanjhoti, Mohana, Gangi, Jhooriyan and Laman.

In the tribal areas the custom of community dancing is prevalent. In this all the men and women stand in lines or in a semi circle and sing and dance through the night. The entire valley reverberates with the sound of music at such occasions.

In the Sirmaur and Mahasu areas the Kariyada folk theatre is popular. Banthada is popular in the Mandi area and Haranyattar form in the Banthada, Kangra and Chamba areas. The Bhagat comprises of an enactment of incidents from the life of Krishna. This is followed by comic skits or Swang. In between the plays, the players go around with a platter in which the spectators put money.