Music In Traditional Indian Theatre

FREE Delivery
Delivery Ships in 1-3 days
Item Code: IHL248
Author: Dr. Rani Balbir Kaur
Publisher: Shubhi Publications
Edition: 2006
ISBN: 8187226994
Pages: 200 (Illustrated Throughout In Full B/W
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.9 Inch X 8.5 Inc
Fully insured
Fully insured
Shipped to 153 countries
Shipped to 153 countries
More than 1M+ customers worldwide
More than 1M+ customers worldwide
100% Made in India
100% Made in India
23 years in business
23 years in business
Book Description
From the Jacket

The book music is the culmination of every art from an integral part of the total Dramatic world of India an essential element of the element of the traditional theatre forms that use music vocal and instrumental chants various percussion rhythms sounds and speech patterns with definite dramatic function. Bharat muni in Natyashastra in his advice to the theatre practitioners says one should first of all bestow care on songs for songs have been called the bed of drama. The song and the playing of musical instruments being well executed the performance of the drama does not encounter any risk. This book is first of its kind a study of the dramatic usage of music folk classical and various modern permutations. It provides vital information about the importance of music and its functions from the ancient stage to the contemporary director’s writers and actors. Music creates vast possibilities in creative delineations play writes like Garcia Lorva and Bertolt Brecht evolved new theatrical forms through the means of music. The modern actor has captured the ineffable emotional nuances in the sounds music of the rain drops of birds and thunder have inspired the actors classical melodies create different moods and atmospheres convey time and season.

About the Author

Rani Balbir Kaur a Versatile persona is a well known theatre director singing actress and teacher. She belonged to the field of classical music before she joined theatre as a profession. Recipient of a master’s degree in vocal Music post Graduate Diploma in Theatre doctor of philosophy in theatre and several awards during her academic career including Mohan Rakesh Gold Medal award for standing first in the University M.A. Music award received form president of India for her contribution to theatre and honored at the world Punjabi Conference U.S.A. Rani Balbir Taught in the department of Indian theatre Punjab University Chandigarh for thirty years. She also served as the Chairperson and retired as a Prof. in Nov. 2004. She has been Chairperson Chandigarh sangeet Natak Akademi executive member national sangeet Natak Akademi member governing body north zone cultural centre and associated with several other prestigious cultural organizations. Recently she has taken over as the chairperson Kaifi Azmi foundation for cultural Globalizations and a mission to uplift and educate the underprivileged. Rani Balbir Kaur is also conversant with the film and television mediums having to her credit a professional course in film making from U.S.A she has written produced and directed several Tele-films and documentary films apart from the many successful theatre productions like Ghasi Ram Kotwal of Vijay Tendulkar, Agni Aur Barkha of Girish Karnad, Shubh Karman Te Kabhoon Na Tarzan Based on Guru Gobind Singh’s dasam granth and Waqt Ne Kiya Kya Hasin Sitam on the life and poetry of Kaifi Azmi to name a few she believes in the gener of total theatre and fluid creative expression that enfolds all art forms classical and folk specially music.


The primary focus and concentration in the traditional theatre forms in India is on the multifarious mode of presentation. They all draw their thematic content from common sources as Mahabharata, Ramayana Gita-Govida, Puranas and folk tales. But each form has its own respective and characteristic nature of performance that to a large extent is determined by the use of music song gesture, mime, musical instruments rhythm and speech patterns. Music being a primary features the coherence if theme through character situation and dialogue is maintained by the means of music. The aesthetics of these time honored representation depends on the dexterity of their musical permutation and configuration.

In my survey of traditional Indian theatre I realized it was impossible to find a living theatre in any region which does not use musicfolk classical or semi classical as part of their performance. The multifarious forms difficult to codify or enumerate differ from region to region and even in the same region they vary in their chorus singing styles compositions and use of stringed and percussion instruments.

Music is an integral part of the total dramatic world of India an essential element of the traditional theatre forms like the Jatra of Bengal Nautanki and swang of North India Bhavai of Gujarat, Tamasha of Maharshtra, Yakshagan of Karnataka, Therukoothu of Tamilnadu, Ramleela and Raasleela the cycle and plays of Rama and Krishna themes of Uttar Pradesh classical dance dramas like Kathakali and the only Sanskrit drama kuddiattam still performed in Kerala in the light of oil Mashals on the mud splattered stage by the ancestral Chakyars. All these forms use music vocal and instrumental, chants, rhythmic groans and stylized speech patterns with a definite dramatic impact.

In the ancient hymn chartings and the ballad tradition the protagonist was a singer performer Daskathias of Orissa, Burrakatha performers of Andhra, Ahla-Udhal singers of Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh Dhadis of Punjab are age old performers who preceded drama and paved a way for theatre. Simple songs of narration invocation and descriptive passages in the epics and charting of religious mantras are made vivid and dramatically intense by the singer performer. The art of the actor is hidden in these minstrels who emotionalize and charge the listeners with a graphic portrayal of the characters and events etching out the scenes with gestures and facial expressions ranging from subtle and subdued to the heightened loud and terrifying. The Kathakar in a village square is in fact an actor singer combining in him the most ancient art of story telling and impersonation by pure Abhinaya according to Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan most of the traditional theaters belong to the group of singer performers close to the village community but a class apart is a group of professional singers dancers musicians and actors who are differently classified all over India as Bhandas, Nats Gandharvas, Vairagis, Binkaras etc. This is a group for whom this performance is wholly a vocation and not a mere social tribal or a post harvest celebration. They are in and yet out of society a community or group recognized since the days of Panini. They move from place to place. It is this group of people which has been responsible for the mobility of ideas, forms and styles between the villages and urban centers. They have also been the vehicles of expression of protest dissent and reform the carriers of reform movements and the articulators of satire and social comment and thus the instruments of socio cultural change. The contemporary forms such as Bhavaim Nautanki Terukoothu, Veethinatakam, and Ottanthullal etc. The word gesture relationship is however minima. Of late these forms have been termed as folk drama traditional theatre even street theatre and folk dance. The essence of these forms ranging from ballad recitation and melodic singing for puppetry acrobatic dance and theatre derives from the social sanction and liberty given to make social comment. It is this which links them together.

The tradition of Indian theatre spurts from a common impulse various theatre forms characterized by different styles techniques and genres are the branches of a tree having the same roots and the source. What makes out theatre tradition most remarkable and fascinating is it’s aesthetic integrity and unity the beautiful blend of form and content rhythms of action and movement unique body language poetic symbolism stylized mode of acting song and music.

The language of theatre is not only in the text but in the movement timing, sound, color, line effect and most of all in the complete integration of these elements. According to Artaud the theatre which is in no thing but makes use of everything – gestures, sounds, words, screams, light, darkness reinvents itself at precisely the point where the mind runs out of words to express its manifestations.

The present study deals with the raison d’etre of dramatic music an elemental part of our theatre tradition it’s vital attributes enlarge the dramatic scope and create myriad forms of expression.

Music in fact is the culmination of every art. It is the means and the end of art. It depends on sounds for its symbols which are related to natural sounds as such it embodies more of abstract and aesthetic values than any other art form. In Vishnu Dharmottra Purana we find a discourse that unfolds the basic principles laid down for art initiation – without the knowledge of the art of dancing the rules of Chitra are difficult to be understood. Without music dancing cannot exist nor music without singing. He who knows the rules of singing knows everything properly.

The present study does not rest only on the lyrical effusion of spiritual and abstract values of music but also takes a dispassionate and pradtioner’s view of the musical usage and functions in drama. What is dramatic music? Is it the singing of a dialogue in verse having an emotional design a metrical pattern and nuances with appropriate notes, pitches, stresses, pauses and punctuation to extract the meaning of the speech to the full? Or is it the use of different tones tunes songs orchestral compositions and percussion rhythms at particular moments in a play to embellish and heighten the dramatic effects? I would consider the term applicable to both.

In the classical music or non-dramatic singing the singer leaves behind the words and the notes and alankaras (musical configurations) take over, like tana, Murki, Khatka, Gamak, Zamzama, meendh etc and the audience marvels at the singer’s masterly strokes intonations, permutations. In dramatic singing the words have to be clear and important and the music is almost the speech. In a drama the singing Chorus or the Sutradhar accentuates elaborates the poetic images simulates references and also puts in perspective the incidents relating to the past and the future.

Throughout the ages, sages philosophers, poets and dramatists have dwelled on the pre-eminence of music. Bharata Muni in his advice to the practitioners of theatre says one should first of all bestow care on songs. For songs have been called the bed of the drama. The song and the playing of musical instruments being well executed the performance of the drama does not encounter any risk.

The ancient philosopher s and drama theorists in the west have also given equal importance to the primary function of music in our lives and in the dramatic arts. Plato banished poets and artists from his ideal republic but allowed musicians to stay because they create harmony.

The great guru of realistic and psychological acting of this century constant in Stanislavski says dialogue is supposed to be sung. He saw endless possibilities of conveying the inner life and our experience on the stage through cultivating a range of speech connotations. He writes what can we express with out ordinary registers of five six notes…? We realize how ridiculous we are… (When) we have to convey complicated emotions it is like playing Beethoven on a Balalaika… speech is music.

Bharata Muni in Natyashastra observes one should recite a dramatic composition which is free from literary possesses best characteristic and has qualities and in such a recitation one should observe proper rules relating to the utterance of the notes and their Alankaras.


Chapter-1Vedic Rituals and Dramatic Singing20
The Tradition of Indian Drama; Vedas the fountain head of the performing arts Germs of Drama in sacrificial hymns musical dialogue of Yama and Yami; Ritualistic enactments; Action dialogues of Gods and Human Characters in Vedic Literature
Chapter-2Musical Practices in Sanskrit Drama 28
Bharata Muni’s codes and codification of musical applications in drama; emphasis on the use of song drums and instrumental music; musical preliminaries; seating arrangements of musicians on the stage; the Gandharva music; importance of Talas and Layas; Dramatic Speech and music; Notes in actors speech and three registers of the human body; use of six Alankaras; Five Occasions of Dhruva singing; compositing of the Dhruvas; language of Dhruvas; time of Dhruvas; Application of Dhruvas; charachari (a kind of dance music) purpose of music in Sanskrit dramas.
Chapter-3Functions of classical Ragas In drama 57
Temperaments of Ragas; Nayak Nayikas classification as applied to Ragas and Raginis; Ragas evoke season, time, mood, different atmospheres emotions and reverse emotion relationship of swaras and sentiments. Styles of singing used in dramatic compositions talas and layas for dramatic effects; use of praveshiki Dhruva as entry song in Kuddiyattam and theerukoothu
Chapter-4Music in Traditional Indian theatres 68
a. Gita Govinda and its great influence on the dramatic structure and enactment of traditional dramas; Bhagavad Mahapurana theme of Krishna, Vaishnavism and their impact on the performing arts; the tradition of singer actor Krishna iconography.
b. Ankia nats : Dhruva padam; Domination of music in Shankaradeva’s dramas the saint poets and playwrights.
c. Jatra of Begal : its musical structure; Juri and Dohar singers; the Vivek –a one-man singing chorus
d. Bhavai of Gujarat : use of rhythm syllables, songs and dances; dramatic use of the Bhungal its beats and notes classical ragas in Bhavai
e. Nautanki : Development and musical fibre; popular melodies of Behar-e-tweel Chaubola and their function effective use of the Nagara
f. Tamasha of Maharshtra: The Dance actress singer called the Tamashwali: the Lavani singing as an integral part of the drama; the Tuntunawala and halgiwala instrumentalists and their dialogue
g. Yakshagan of Karnataka: Bhagavatha as the narrator singer. The relationship of song and improvised prose dialogue
h. Theerukoothi of tamilnadu; the character singing in their person; function of song to objectify the character; the Pallavi anupallavi and Charanam; the virutham chanting and its dramatic meaning importance of the chorus and orchestra
i. The Bhagavad Mela and the musical composition Daru as the introductory song
j. Ramleela: Function of the Chaupai singers
Chapter-5The Raasleela of Braj 57
Historical background of Mathura; the vashnavites; main Sampradayas of Vashnavism philosophy of Valebhacharya and pushti marg; the two elements comprising the Raasleelas Raas and Leela origin the Raas, the Maharas in Bhagavata Mahapuran Krishna’s Leels the Gopis Descriptions of Performances of Raas Leelas during the eighteenth and the nineteenth century
a. The Raas and its principal elements – Mangalacharan, Aarati, Gopi-Prarthana inviting Radha to enter the Raas arena the Raas Dance concluding hymn or hymns and Pravachan
b. the Leelas their various categories
c. Uddhav Leela and its importance text of the padas and prose dialogue and their dramatic relationship
d. Leelas and ragas the families of Rasdharis the child actor singer
e. Instruments music in Raas Leela; Difference in kathak and the Raas music in the Raas arenas costumes and music Raas Leela of Manipur
Chapter-6Use of Music by Western Dramatists & Directors 155
Garcia Lorca, Bertolt Brecht, Peter Brook and other contemporary actors and directors; inter dependence of music song and word
Chapter-7Music in Asian Theatre 160
Kolam Khon dance drama peking opera Kabuki and other traditional theatres fusion of the art forms of music, dance, acting, literature as well as graphic and plastic arts chorus singers and their functions
Chapter-8Use of Music by Indian directors & Playwrights 166
Musical composition used by Amanat in Indra Sabha; Parsi theatrical companies and use of dance and music in their productions; Rabindranath Tagor’s perception of musical dramas and dance operas role of music in his productions; contemporary Hindi, Punjabi Marathi, Bengali, Gujarati, and Kannad directors and creative use of folk theatrical conventions and musical forms, rituals, chants, songs and drums in contemporary themes
Chapter-9The Summing up 178
Frequently Asked Questions
  • Q. What locations do you deliver to ?
    A. Exotic India delivers orders to all countries having diplomatic relations with India.
  • Q. Do you offer free shipping ?
    A. Exotic India offers free shipping on all orders of value of $30 USD or more.
  • Q. Can I return the book?
    A. All returns must be postmarked within seven (7) days of the delivery date. All returned items must be in new and unused condition, with all original tags and labels attached. To know more please view our return policy
  • Q. Do you offer express shipping ?
    A. Yes, we do have a chargeable express shipping facility available. You can select express shipping while checking out on the website.
  • Q. I accidentally entered wrong delivery address, can I change the address ?
    A. Delivery addresses can only be changed only incase the order has not been shipped yet. Incase of an address change, you can reach us at [email protected]
  • Q. How do I track my order ?
    A. You can track your orders simply entering your order number through here or through your past orders if you are signed in on the website.
  • Q. How can I cancel an order ?
    A. An order can only be cancelled if it has not been shipped. To cancel an order, kindly reach out to us through [email protected].
Add a review
Have A Question

For privacy concerns, please view our Privacy Policy