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Shumang Leela, the traditional form of theatre

  • Category
    Art and culture
  • Published
    2nd Sep, 2022


The 50th All Manipur Shumang Leela Festival 2021-2022 kicked off at Iboyaima Shumang Leela Shanglen at Palace Compound in Imphal.


Shumang Leela:

Shumang' means 'open courtyard' and 'Leela' means to play. The literal meaning of Shumang Leela is "play of the open courtyard".

  • Shumang Leela is a traditional form of theatrein Manipur.
  • The roles of female artists are all played by male actors and male characters are played by female artists in the case of female theatre groups.
  • Shumang Leela started as a comic genrepresented before the kings and noblemen, which ultimately developed into the present form of courtyard-enacted play.

  • Shumang Leela groups of those days attempted to preserve and promote humanism, tolerance, confidence, devotion, truth, and justice through their performances.
  • Shumang Leela has, today, developed both theatrically and artistically.
  • Shumang Leela has become a powerful medium for mass educationbesides giving entertainment and relaxation.
  • It has also been trying to strengthen the bond of brotherhoodand friendship among various communities in the State.
  • It has been trying to focus on the issues of moral values, unity, and integrity

Some other traditional Theatre (Drama) in India

Bhand Pather (Kashmir)

  • The unique combination of dance, music, and acting.
  • Satire, wit, and parody are preferred for inducing laughter.
  • Music is provided with surnai, nagaara, and dhol.

Swang (Haryana)

  • Mainly music-based – Gradually, prose too, played its role in the dialogues.
  • Two important styles are from Rohtak (Haryanvi language) and Haathras (Brajbhasha language)

Nautanki (Uttar Pradesh)

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  • Most popular centers – Kanpur, Lucknow, and Haathras
  • Verses form: Doha, Chaubola, Chhappai, Behar-e-tabeel


  • Based exclusively on the pranks of Lord Krishna
  • It is believed that Nand Das wrote the initial plays based on the life of Krishna.
  • Dialogues in prose combined beautifully with songs and scenes from Krishna’s pranks

Bhavai (Gujrat)

  • Rare synthesis of devotional and romantic sentiments
  • Instruments: Bhungal, tabla, flute, pakhaawaj, rabaab, sarangi, manjeera, etc.
  • Main centers:  Kutch and Kathiawar

Jatra (West Bengal)

  • Fairs & ceremonies in honour of gods, or religion along with musical plays


Maach (Madhya Pradesh)

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  • Songs are given prominence in between the dialogues.
  • The term for dialogue in this form is bol and rhyme in narration is termed vanag
  • The tunes of this theatre form are known as rangat

Tamasha (Maharashtra)

  • Evolved from the folk forms such as Gondhal, Jagran, and Kirtan
  • Female actress (known as Murki): Chief exponent of dance movements in the play.
  • Prominent Features: Classical music, footwork at lightning speed, and vivid gestures

Dashavatar (Konkan-Goa)

  • Personifies the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu – the god of preservation and creativity.
  • Ten incarnations: Matsya (fish), Kurma (tortoise), Varaha (boar), Narasimha (lion-man), Vaman (dwarf), Parashuram, Rama, Krishna (or Balram), Buddha and Kalki.
  • Apart from stylized make-up, the Dashavatar performers wear masks of wood and papier mache


Krishanattam (Kerala)

  • Came into existence in the mid-17th century under the patronage of King Manavada of Calicut.
  • Krishnattam is a cycle of eight plays performed for eight consecutive days
  • Eight plays: Avataram, Kaliamandana, Rasa krida, kamasavadha, Swayamvaram, Bana Yudham, Vivida Vadham, and Swargarohana.

Yakshagana (Karnataka) 

  • Based on mythological stories and Puranas – performed at twilight hours
  • Most episodes are taken from Mahabharata and Ramayana

Therukoottu (Tamil Nadu) 

  • Literally means “street play”- mostly performed by males dancers
  • Mostly performed at the time of annual temple festivals of Mariamman (Rain goddess) to achieve a rich harvest.
  • The theme is a cycle of eight plays based on the life of Draupadi.

Karyala (Himachal Pradesh)

  • Deals with serious questions of life & death with simplistic expression; enveloped in humour.
  • The audience is given the essence of our cultural heritage of viewing the world as a stage and as an unsubstantial pageant that is to be negotiated and lived by rising above it.
  • There is often stylistic diversity, which strengthens their identity from Swang, Nautanki, Bhagat, etc.

Bhaona (Ankia Naat) – Assam

  • Creation of Great Assamese saint and social reformer Srimanta Sankardeva
  • Written in a language called Brajavali (a mixture of Assamese-Maithili)
  • Primarily centered on the acts of Lord Krishna.

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