THE TRADITIONAL/FOLK THEATRE
The history of Kashmiri theatre goes back almost thousands of years – since we have the recorded history of
In Kashmir, according to Neelmat Purana, there were four most important occasions in a year when mostly these music, dance and drama activities were taking place i.e. (1) on religious festivals (2) on social occasions, (3) on agricultural festivals and (4) in winter on first snow fall occasion – so have the music, dance and drama of Kashmir taken the shape and form.
The golden era of our music, dance and drama art forms – the richest performing art forms of Kashmir, was the 4rth to 7th century AD, when our music, dance and drama had reached to the zenith of its glory and every village had a stage of its own where music, dance and drama performances were held.
After the advent of Muslim rule (14th Century) in
Traditionally talking of our theatre, the oldest and the richest art form of our folk theatre is popularly known as “Bhand-Pather” which has preserved our theatre art form in all its manifestations. It has survived in all times only for its popular idiom, versatile metaphor and unique style in content, presentation and performance. These folk and wandering performs (popularly known as Bhands) are spread all-over Kashmir and have peculiar dress, improvising wit and humour in their acting, dancing and music – with the result it acquired the popular name of Bhand-Jashan – the performing occasion of Bhand-Pather, which later became the rocognised folk form of our theatre.
The Bhands of Kashmir used to perform from village to village while wandering and collecting food, money and cloths for themselves offered by the people, which was their only source of income and survival. They also happened to be invited on the marriage occasions of royals, rich and landlords to perform for days together – thus enjoyed a popular social recognition.
Almost all the Pathers (the folk plays) were played extempore. And the most popular Pathers happened to be “Grees-Pather” (Pathers about Farmers), Watal-Pathers (Pather about cobblers), Darzi-Pather (Pather – portraying the tyranny of the Dards), Bakerwal-Pather (Pather about Bakerwals – a nomad tribe of Kashmir), Buhri-Pather (Pather about Bohris – the traders), Raze-Pather (Pather about the Rajas), Shikar-Gah (Pather about the animal kingdom and the human behaviour with animals), Gosani-Pather (Pather about Hindu-hermits), Angreez-Pather (Pather about the English), Armeen-Pather (Pather about the vegetable-growers) Hanz-Pather (Pather about Fishermen), Chakwal-Pather (Pather about Chakdars) and many more. To say there was hardly any cult, tribe, trade or community of which these Bhands didn’t make mimicry – thus is the Pather named about.
There happened to be a number of these Bhand families present all-over the Valley – especially in Akingam, Mohripora, Shangus, Gundpora in Anantnag District; Wathora, Ichhgam, Hanjigund, Soibug, Bambrooda-Beerwah in District Badgam; Thokerora, Balapora, Imam-Sahib, Wanpora, Rohmu in District Pulwama; Bomai-Sopore, Bandipora, Rihama, Tilgam, Palhalan, Lolpora in Baramulla District; and Kralpora, Gulgam, Karihama, Hatmulla, Drugmulla and Shumnag in District Kupwara.
There are almost over fifty registered folk theatre groups presently in
The most contemporary legendry folk theatre personality – both as performer-cum-director and playwright was Late Mohammad Subhan Bhagat (1927-93) from Akingam-Anantnag, who not only organised these Bhands in a repertory professionally but consolidated the Bhand-Pathers and gave them a formal script shape in his book Bhand-Jashen, published in 1984. Mr. Bhagat has been the leading light for the new generations of these Bhands who has won many laurels and honours on State and National level.
In all its manifestations and with all short-comings and defaults – Bhand-Pather is the richest traditional theatre-art form of
Bhawani Bashir Yasir