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  • Writer's pictureOdisha Crafts Museum

Prahlada Nataka At Kala Bhoomi

Updated: Sep 17, 2018

Of all the folk plays of Odisha , Prahlada Nataka prevalent in the district of Ganjam is perhaps the most elaborate , ornate and colourful dance drama. Raja Ramkrushna Chhotray , an Odia feudatory ruler is credited to have conceived the first performance format of Prahlada Nataka about a hundred years ago . The first text was written by Gaurahari Parichha. He was a poet-dramatist who received generous patronage from the Raja. As a gesture of gratitude he not only dedicated the work to the ruler but also ascribed its authorship to him. Within a few years of its birth, Prahlada Nataka became so popular that it inspired rulers of neighbouring princedoms to prepare other versions. No matter which version, the plot remains the same, based on the myth of Narasimha, Vishnu's man-lion avatar. Thus Prahlada Nataka has only one play in its repertoire.

Prahlada Nataka , like many other forms of traditional theatre in India, is not performed in a hall but in the open air . There is usually a four to five tiered wooden platform on the stage .

The enactment of the Story of Prahlada is divided into three parts. The first is a prelude of instrumental music and devotional songs , appearance and dance of Lord Ganesha (the remover of obstacles), entry of Dwari (gate keeper) who warns the audience of the impending arrival of the Demon King Hiranya, appearance of Hiranyakashipu himself, appearance of his wife, Queen Leelavati, and of their son Prahlada , performed by a pre-adolescent boy who sings the glory of Lord Vishnu or Hari. Hiranya has acquired a boon that he cannot be killed by either man or animal.

In the second part, Hiranyakashipu demands Prahlada to stop praising Vishnu. He deploys gurus to teach him about the worship of Lord Siva. Prahlada's unflinching faith in Vishnu and his will-power frustrate the King psychologically. He decides to punish his son.

The action-packed third part features the Demon King's designs to punish, and finally, kill his son through thirteen varieties of danda (physical punishments). In the condensed performance only few varieties are acted out nowadays. Leelavati tries in futile to intervene on behalf of her son, requesting her husband through songs and lamentations not to be so stern and wicked. Prahlada remains protected by his faith and survives all punishments. Finally, the masked figure of Vishnu in the form of a half-man, half-lion (neither man nor animal) bursts out of a pillar, drags Hiranyakashipu, lays him on his thigh and tears his chest.

The characters are so much involved in this drama that they also feel themselves as Gods, goddesses and demons. The supporting staff including the musicians, singers and other staff feel themselves proud to be a part of such a nice religious fervour.

Kala Bhoomi hosted the Prahlada Nataka Performance for its Museum Walkers and visitors on 17th June 2018 . This cultural initiative is supported by Odisha Tourism and Detour Odisha .

Cultural Troupe :

Sri Sri Laxmi Nrusingha Natya Kala Sangha , Ganjam

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