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Music in Bengali theatre[edit source | editbeta] The late 19th- and early 20th-century theatres had their own

Bengali music.[1] This form was pioneered by Girish Chandra Ghosh; the era of Bengali theatre before him laid the groundwork, and after his death Bengali theatre music became more experimental.[1] During the era of Girish Chandra, all stage-plays included some form of traditional Bengali music, and dancer-singers who performed before and between the acts. Mythological plays would have Kirtan-anga songs, epics would include indigenous styles such as khymt, and comedies and farcical plays often included tapp songs by Nidhu Babu.[1] Sanskrit theatre and derivatives[edit source | editbeta] By the 4th century, when the Gupta had annexed the greater portion of Bengal, the Aryan culture of the upper Gangetic plain penetrated into the region. The flourishing trade led to the rise of urban centres patronising art and culture. In these urban centres, performances of classical Sanskrit theatre were part of cultural life, at least among the urban classes of the society. A few literary evidences strongly support this assumption. The most important of these is a Sanskrit play titled Lokananda by Chandragomi (6th century AD) who was a reputed Buddhist grammarian from Bengal. Lokananda is structured in four acts with a prologue. The play must have been popular, for I-Tsing states, 'people all sing and dance to it throughout the five countries of India.' Bengal was connected with the Aryan culture until the mid-8th century. During this period Harsavardhan of Northern India, Bhaskaravarman of Kamarupa, Yashovarman of Kanyakubja and Lalitaditya of Kashmir exerted influence. Harsavardhan, a renowned Sanskrit playwright, was a patron of Bengali theatre. Bhavabhuti, the author of Malatimadhava, was the court poet of Yasovarman. However, the most interesting account of a performance is recorded by the Kashmiri poet Kalhan in his Rajatarangini. According to him, Jayapida, the grandson of Lalitaditya, witnessed a performance given by a highly skilled dancer named Kamala in the temple of Kartikeya in the city of Pundravardhana. The performance was given in accordance with Bharat's Natyashastra (a Sanskrit treatise on theatre ascribed to Bharat). The Senas, with their strong Brahmanical and south Indian background, were patrons of performances derived from Sanskrit tradition. King Vijayasena (c 1096-1159) and Bhavadev Bhatta (minister of King Hari Varman and a noted scholar) sponsored devadasis in the temples they established. Highly skilled in song, dance and music in the classical tradition as formulated in the Natyashastra, deva-dasis performed publicly in the temples and privately at royal courts. There are references in religious tracts of the period to nata (actor) as a separate class. Halayudh Mishra's sekhshubhodaya, a historical kavya or poem written in Sanskrit, also mentions nata (actors) and nartaki (danseuse) in the Sena court. Vidyapati's Purus Pariksa refers to a performance by an actor, Gandharva, in the court of King Laksmanasena. Prevalence of classical Sanskrit theatre in the Sena court can also be inferred from Govardhan Acharya's work, Aryasaptashati. Shlokas 174 and 538 of Aryasaptashati clearly refer to acting, curtain, and actress, which obviously imply the existence of Sanskrit theatre in the court of the Sena rulers.

Ragatarangini, a critical work on music composed in 1160 by Lochan Pandit, refers to an earlier text, Tambaru-nataka, a critical work on dramaturgy. A significant play written in this period is a Sanskrit performance-text, Gitagovindam (c 1200 AD) by Jaydev, the court-poet of Laksmanasena. In the Gitagovindam, Jaydev blended the existing popular tale of radha and krishna with one of the uparupakas of the classical Sanskrit tradition and set a new trend, which was to be echoed in the centuries. Jaydev performed the Gitagovindam as a singer with his wife Padmavati as a dancer. The Gitagovindam has twelve parts and features three characters: Krishna, Radha, and Sakhi. The characters may be performed by three dancers or by a single dancer. The dancers sing their lines simultaneously as they dance with mimetic gestures (angika abhinaya). Between songs, the sutradhar (narrator) speaks verse narration, describing and commenting on the action, and introduces the characters and describes their mental states. The structure follows the pattern of Sanskrit theatre. The text resembles sangit-natakas (verse-plays) of the Nepalese court. The Gitagovindam and the Aryasaptashati bear evidence that in Laksmanasena's court, the love theme of Radha and Krishna, performed by courtesans, was a regular feature. Jaydev's text stood out as the model, to be emulated by the later poets in vernacular during the course of the following centuries. From the 16th century onwards, literary evidence appears in greater number. Towards the end of the same century, King Laksmana Manikya of Bhulua composed two plays, Vikhyata-vijaya and Kuvalayashva-charita, his son, Amara Manikya composed Vaikuntha-vijaya and a court poet, Kavitarkik, composed Kautuka-ratnakara. Krishnachandra Roy, tributary king of Nabadwip, continued the tradition in the 18th century. Chandi, unfinished play of court poet Bharatachandra, based on the mythological tale of Mahisasura Vadha (the slaying of the buffalo shaped asura), was influenced by Sanskrit dramaturgy, although the play is not entirely in Sanskrit. Although the play was never performed, the court of Krishnanagara is known to have produced a similar play, Chitra-yajna by Vidyanath Vachaspati, in 1777/78. Rupa Goswami, one of Chaitanya's close associates based at Vrindavan, composed three Sanskrit plays, Bidagdha Madhava (1524), Lalita Madhava (1529), Dankeli-kaumudi (1549), as well as a critical work on Sanskrit dramaturgy, Nataka Chandrika. Jagannathavallabha by Ramananda Ray, Chaitanyachandrodaya by Kavikarnapur and Sangit Madhava by Govinda Das, were written outside Vrindavan. The plays by Rupa Goswami and Ramananda Ray are based on mythological tales of Krishna. Kavi Karnapur's play is based on the life of Chaitanya. Only Jagannathavallabha is known to have been performed. All save Govinda Das's play were translated into Bengali in the 17th century. Modern translations of Sanskrit play-texts continued in the 19th century. A few of these are Krishna Mishra's Prabodhachandrodaya, kalidasa's Abhijnana-shakuntala (1848) and Ratnavali (1849). Scholars in Bengal composed Sanskrit texts in the modern period. Amara-mangala by Panchanan Tarkaratna (published c 1913), Nala-damayantiya and Syamantakoddhar by Kalipada Tarkacharyam are examples. Sanskrit theatre influenced

Bengali plays initially. Jogendranath Gupta's Kirtibilas, credited as the first original Bengali play and the first tragedy, uses Nandi, the Sutradhara and Nati. The first Bengali play to be performed on stage, Ramnarayan Tarkaratna's Kulinkulasarvasva (composed in 1854, performed in 1857), uses the Nandi, the Sutradhara and the Nati. With rising social consciousness and effects of western education, the conventions of Sanskrit theatre were seen to be ineffective in portraying the social ethos of the period. Michael Madhusudan Dutt (18241873), the literary giant of this period, bridged the transition to an urban theatre independent of Sanskrit influence by introducing techniques of European dramaturgy. From the mid-19th century onwards, Sanskrit theatre and its derivatives ceased to be an effective force in the theatre of Bengal.