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Hindu Cultural Theater

Mahabharata is one longest Hindu theater epics(about 3.5 thousand years old). It is a poem that contains more than one hundred thousand lines. The story is about a battle that started between the many kingdoms in Northern India. The story starts with one of the five Pandava brothers (Yudhisthira ), who was challenged his throne to the kingdom in a dice game . Yudhisthira lost the game and the throne for thirteen years to his brother Duryodhana. After the time passed, Yudhisthira returned to claim his throne back, but Duryodhana refused to cede the kingdom back to his brother. The story continues with wars for many years. The main idea of the story was,”the decline of cosmic law and order (dharma), which was to be restored”(Van der Geer, Dermitzakis, de Vos, 2008). In addition, the long epic of Mahabharata was projected as a motion picture by Peter Brook (1990), and the duration of the movie was approximately six hours.

According to The Economist Ltd. (1998), Hinduism started as “the faith of the Aryan tribes” that moved to India. The Aryans had four holly books, the named Vedas. Although Hindu do not have to read them,but few Hindus read them. Aryans copied “the local gods and costumes” as the went along. The Hindu monks (guru) can be different from one another. Any Hindu can put a monk's robe, preach most likely whatever he wants, and have the respect of a “holy man”(Economist 1998).

Sanskrit drama is one of the earliest Hindu theatrical performances. This type of drama was performed in places such courts, temples or palaces. The plays are based on myths, putting together the natural and the supernatural. One of the most famous Sanskrit dramas, and also the first drama play, in Hindu history was Natyassastra, written by Bharata around 200 BCE is also a Sanskrit dramaturgy. “The story of the play deals more with evolution, the past, the present, the future and the nature of Hindu theater.” (Kasturi and Sons LTD, 2004). Sanskrit's plays will always have happy endings, with no death or violence. It is a play that involves poetry, music, singing, dancing, and painting. The actors learn how to represent emotions. A Sanskrit actor has to master twenty four head gestures, six movements or the brow, four movements of the neck , five leaps and ten gaits.

After all, the Hindu theater might have some similarities with other cultural theaters. Mahabharata which is an epic poem, seems to interrelate with another, a Greek epic poem. Homer's Iliad and Odyssey are also long epic poems, although it would be agree that the Mahabharata is more than the Iliad and Odyssey together. Although, looking closer we may find relations between the three epics. One is that all of them were passed through oral tradition, from generations. Another relation is that ancient gods were involved in the story, for example; Shiva, Rama, or Krishna for the Mahabharata, and Zeus, Athena, Poseidon, and more were for the Odyssey. Like in the Sanskrit drama, the art of designing costumes and masks is a part of another culture. Bonraku, which is another type of theater, from another culture (Japan), are also using masks and interesting designed costumes.


Van Der Geer, Dermitzakis, De Vos. Fossil Folklore from India: The Siwalik Hills and the Mahabharata. Folklore 119 (April 2008): 71–92
Lee Fox. Video Reviews
“The diversity of Hinduism” The Economist Newspaper Ltd. April 4, 1998, U.S. Edition (Page 47)

“OVERVIEW OF INDIAN THEATRE” Financial Times Information, Global News Wire - Asia Africa Intelligence Wire. May 4, 2004
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