History of Indian Theatre (Early History)

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Item Code: IDH429
Author: M. L. Varadpande
Edition: 1987
ISBN: 8170172217
Pages: 284 (B & W Illus: 102)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 11" X 8.5
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Book Description

From the Jacket

This is the first volume of the six-volume History Of Indian Theatre.

Written by an eminent scholar M. L. Varadpande this veritable encyclopaedia speaks about an early phase of India's theatre history, which also is the history of Indian's fine arts. For the first time the origin and evolution of theatrical arts in India is traced in an elaborate manner providing an insight into one of the oldest theatrical traditions of the world. The book draws from the sources including Mesolithic cave paintings, ancient archaeological finds and mass of literature belonging to the Vedic and Buddhist era to give you the complete picture of India's theatre history.

In a lucid style it tells about ritualistic dances and hunt dramas of aboriginals; statuettes of dancers, jesters and string-manipulated puppet toys belonging to earliest known urban civilisation of India-the Indus civilisation; dramatic rituals full of dancing, singing and music; the dancing gods and compositions in dialogue form of early Aryans; the troupes of actors moving in the country enacting humorous plays and erotic dances; efforts of the state administration to impose entertainment tax and strict code of censors and the flourishing theatre of the people.

The book also tells about the advent of Greeks in India and their theatrical activities, staging of a play Agen in the military camp of Alexander the Great and the play written in Greek and Indian languages found in Egypt. It discusses the problem of Greek influence on Indian theatre in detail and speaks about Indian view of theatre.

This well-documented and profusely illustrated work presents an enchanting panorama of India's early theatre history in a manner at once scholarly and interesting.

About the Author

Known for his erudition and profound scholarship M. L. Varadpande (b: 1936) is an eminent theatre historian of India.

His major works published by the Abhinav Publications are Traditions of Indian Theatre Ancient Indian and indo-Greek Theatre, Religion and Theatre and Krishna Theatre in India.

His other well-known works on Indian theatre are Invitation to an Indian Theatre and The Critique of Indian Theatre (Ed.).

The Sahitya Akademi, India's National Academy of Letters, has published his book Shripad Krishna Kolhatkar in Marathi (out of print), Hindi (Second Edition) and Punjabi. It is now being translated into English.

His forthcoming works are The Mahabharata in Performance and Ankia Nat: Vaishnava Opera of Assam.

As a Research Fellow of the Indian Council of Historical Research he is working on the research project Temple Theatre In India.

M. L. Varadpande is associated in various capacities with academic and cultural institutions of the country. He is a member of the Board of Studies of Fine Arts and also the Faculty of Arts of the Nagpur University. He was a member of the Govt. Committee constituted to study and recommend the nature and standards of education in the field of fine arts in Rajasthan. He is an executive member of Indian Editorial Board of World Encyclopaedia of Contemporary Theatre.

He has made significant contribution to the study of Indian culture as reflected in her theatrical arts.


This is the first volume of my proposed six-volume History of Indian Theatre.

In this volume I have attempted to trace the early history of Indian theatre. Other volumes on folk theatre, classical theatre, modern theatre, dance theatre and theories of drama will follow soon.

During the course of my pursuit I visited several places in the country, worked in libraries, witnessed numerous performances and met many people. Crossing plains, crossing mountains I drank deep the waters of Ganga, Yamuna, Brahmaputra, Narmada, Satluj, Mahandi and Kaveri and stood on the sea shores watching the vast expanse of oceans. India's theatre is an integral part of her majestic landscape.

Mine is a great pilgrimage through ages in search of cultural roots. Many a time amazed I stood before the many splendoured grandeur of my own heritage reflected in theatrical arts.

Theatre is a life-size art. Its history is virtually of creative endeavours of a nation in practically every field. Keeping this in view the data is collected from various sources-cave paintings, findings of archaeological excavations, inscriptions, religious scriptures, rituals, literature-in an effort to present a comprehensive picture.

I am deeply indebted to the authors of the works enlisted in the bibliography section. Majority of illustrations in the book are obtained through the courtesy of the Oxford University Press, the Archaeological Survey of India and the Sangeet Natak Akademi. My research tours were made possible because of the fellowship I received from the Indian Council of Historical Research. Recently I was invited by the government of Assam to visit the cultural heartland of the state-the island of Majuli. I was blessed by the learned Satradhikars of the monasteries at Auniati, Garmur, Natun Kamalabari, Uttar Kamalabari, Natun Samugudi, Bhogpur and Barpeta. I attended many theatrical performances in the Satras. The pleasure I derived from these performances remains a perennial source of inspiration for me.

Eminent persons from different fields like Shri Shiv S. Sharma, Dr. V. S. Wakankar, Shri Kamaleshvar Bora, Shri Hemen Das, Shri Shrivatsa Goswami, Dr. Mallika Sarabhai and Smt. Sonal Mansingh helped me in various ways. I owe a debt of gratitude to them all.

I am thankful to Shri Shakti Makik and his Abhinav Publication for bringing out this volume in an excellent manner.

This is the work for all those who are interested in Indian culture. I dedicate this book to Khushal and Pooja, the representatives of the new generation on whose shoulders lies the responsibility of preserving the great cultural heritage o this ancient land called Bharat.


  Preface vii
  The Fifth Veda 1
1 Early Phase 3
2 Ritual And Theatre 17
3 As we Move Further 57
4 Theatre Of The People 103
5 Contribution Of Religion 149
6 Entertainers 183
7 Dionysus In India 205
8 Indian Concept Of Drama 269
9 Bibliography 279
10 Index 285
  List of Illustrations  
**Contents and Sample Pages**

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