Friday, September 22, 2023
Odisha (Orissa)



Folk Drama

There is more dance and less acting, more song and less dialogue in folk drama. The following kinds of folk play deserve mention: The 'Jatra', the 'Pala', the 'Patua', the 'Daskathia', the 'Mugal Tamasa', the 'Karma', the 'Dandanata and the 'Chaitighoda Nata'.

Jatra: The 'Jatra' or opera still attracts thousands of people. The Jatra is held in the open field. The rectangular stage is set in the centre of the audience with the orchestra sitting adjacent to the stage. Beginning with items on the 'harmonium', 'clarionet', 'bugle', 'mridanga', 'jhanja', 'dubi tabla', 'dholki' etc. by the experts of the party, the opera starts with a party of dancing and singing boys appearing in female garbs. The King generally appears in a stereotyped dress and the themes are often historical or mythological. The male actors dressed up as females look artificial. The 'Duari' or 'Dagara' ( the messenger of  the King) and the joker are the most interesting characters in the Jatra. In general, the Jatra in the villages has very little reference to real life and its problems. The Jatra parties adjoining the cites are trying to reform the Jatra on the model of the theatre and the cinema. They avoid too many songs in the play and select their characters from the social novels and use simple prose in the dialogue.

Pala: Pala is a popular cultural institution responsible for the popularisation of ancient Oriya literature. It consists of five or six persons. The drummer plays on the 'mridanga'. Others play on the cymbals, dance and help the chief singer - 'Gayaka', - to sing and explain the meaning to the audience. Depth of knowledge, sharpness of intelligence, oratory and keen memory power are put to a severe test when two well-matched groups challenge each other in a 'pala' competition. The drummer displays the skill of his fingers and relates humorous stories to please the audience. The dialogue between the singer and one of the attendants breaks the monotony of long speeches and jugglery of words in the song. Pala owes its origin to attempts at Hindu-Muslim unity.

Patua: Patuas sing songs, composed by the village poets who pick  up the subject matter from the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and the puranas and more recently from novels. Some of the songs are simple in thought and language, while others have a deeper meaning and are shrouded in a jumble of words. 'Patuas' are of four kinds though all of them worship the same deity under different names. The difference lies in religious rituals and not in the aims and objects of worship. The 'Ghata patua' dances, sings and performs physical exercises in different villages. The best of the devotees leads a party of Patuas to walk on a fire of burning charcoal.

Daskathia: 'Daskathia', once a popular performance of Ganjam, has spread to all other districts of Odisha (Orissa). 'Dasa' means a devotee. 'Katha' means two wooden pieces played in tune with the prayer of the devotee. The party consists of two persons. One is the chief singer, the other is the 'Palia' who helps him in all respects in singing and acting. The two persons stage a whole drama, act all the parts, change their tone hour after hour. They introduce humorous stories to break the monotony.

Mughal Tamasha: The 'Tamasa' is a form of opera which reminds us of the 'Mughal' administration prevalent in Odisha (Orissa) and is a symbol of their culture. The songs are composed in both Persian and Oriya. Dialogue is quite amusing. The 'Tamasa' is peculiar to the Bhadrak area in the district of Balasore and is not performed in any other part of Odisha (Orissa).

Karma: The Karma dancers and singers have their professional party. They deal with puranic events or events in folk tales. Love songs are sung in the form of questions and answers between parties of young men and women.