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Shumang Leela, the traditional form of theatre of Manipur

  • Published
    30th Aug, 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 Leela is a traditional form of theatre in Manipur.
  • 'Shumang' means 'open courtyard' and 'leela' means play and literal meaning of Shumang leela is "play of the open courtyard".
  • The roles of female artists are all played by male actors and male characters are played by female artists in case of female theatre groups.
  • Shumang Leela started as a comic genre presented 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 education besides giving entertainment and relaxation.
  • It has also been trying to strengthen the bond of brotherhood and 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)

  • 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.
  • Softness of emotions, accomplishment of rasa along with the development of character can be seen
  • Two important styles are from Rohtak (Haryanvi language) and Haathras (Brajbhasha language)

Nautanki (Uttar Pradesh)

  • Most popular centres – 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 religious along with musical plays
  • Earlier form of Jatra has been musical; dialogues were added at later stage.
  • The actors themselves describe the change of scene, the place of action, etc.
  • Krishna Jatra became popular due to Chaitanya prabhu’s influence

Maach (Madhya Pradesh)

  • 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 theater 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), Narsimha (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.
  • Episodes are based on the theme of Lord Krishna – his birth, childhood pranks and various deeds depicting victory of good over evil

Mudiyettu (Kerala)

  • Celebrated in the month of Vrischikam (November-December).
  • Performed only in the Kali temples of Kerala, as an oblation to the Goddess.
  • Depicts the triumph of goddess Bhadrakali over the asura Darika.
  • Seven characters in Mudiyettu: Shiva, Narada, Darika, Danavendra, Bhadrakali, Kooli and Koimbidar (Nandikeshvara)

Theyyam (Kerala)

  • ‘Theyyam’ is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Daivam’ meaning God – Hence called God’s dance.
  • Performed by various castes to appease and worship spirits.
  • Distinguishing features – Colourful costume and awe-inspiring headgears (mudi) nearly 5 to 6 feet high; dyed into different strong colours

Koodiyettam (Kerala)

  • Based on Sanskrit theater traditions
  • Characters: Chakyaar or actor, Naambiyaar, the instrumentalists and Naangyaar, those taking on women’s roles.
  • The Sutradhar or narrator and the Vidushak or jesters are the protagonists
  • Vidushak alone delivers the dialogues.
  • Emphasis on hand gestures and eye movements makes this dance and theater form unique.

Yakshagana (Karnataka) 

  • Based on mythological stories and Puranas – performed at twilight hours
  • Mostly 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 rich harvest.
  • Theme being a cycle of eight plays based on the life of Draupadi.

Karyala (Himachal Pradesh)

  • Deals with serious question of life & death with simplistic expression; enveloped in humour.
  • Audience is given essence of our cultural heritage of viewing the world as a stage and as an unsubstantial pageant which 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 an language called Brajavali (mixture of Assamese-Maithili)
  • Primarily centered on the acts of Lord Krishna
  • Shows cultural glimpses of Assam, Bengal Orissa, Mathura and Brindavan.
  • The Sutradhaar, or narrator begins the story, first in Sanskrit and then in either Brajboli or Assamese
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