Title of Project: Bengali Jatra: Mapping a Popular Folk Theater from the 16th to the early 21st Century in West Bengal
Title of Presentation: Jatra Performance Tradition: Origin and Evolution in Precolonial and Colonial Bengal
The overarching concern of the current project is to contextualise Bengali Jatra, a popular folk theater genre, which is also prevalent in Odisha, Tripura, Assam and Bangladesh. While mapping its evolution and revival from the 16th century till the 21st century in West Bengal, this research is focused on the surviving folk performing art tradition within the paradigm of continuity and change/rupture. Thereby, an understanding of the processes—Bhakti, colonial/Indian modernity, hybridity, nationalism and capitalist spirit—from its origin is important.With these propositions as starting point, my work is based upon a mixed method using data from archival resources, secondary literature and ethnography. The study is structured into five chapters including an introduction followed by the second chapter titled: Jatra Performance Tradition: Origin and Evolution in Precolonial and Colonial Bengal, the third chapter is Continuity and Change: Commercial and Political Jatra in Post-Independent Bengal, the fourth chapter looks into the Contemporary Jatra: Changing Forms and Challenges followed by an epilogue.The focus of the presentation is to examine the evolution of Jatra through a history of origin, decline and revival from precolonial to colonial Bengal. The first section is concerned with a survey spans from an oriental approaches to the origin of Jatra vis-a-vis Sanskrit drama, to Krishna Jatra evolved during Sri Chaitanya’s Bhakti movement in 16th century. The second section would contextualize Vidyasundar Jatra of early 19th Century as a response to medieval modernity. As a consequence of colonial modernity a cultural distinction-high/elite drama and low Jatra- was created and marginalised culture was despised by the Bhadralok of 19th century Calcutta. Eventually Jatra continued to be popular in rural Bengal as well as hybridised from its incorporation in modern Bengali public theater. Evolved through multiple modernities, Jatra in the early 20th century was reinterpreted its texts and thereby Swadeshi Jatra was emerged as a tool for anti-partition agitation, boycott movement and national consciousness. The presentation will be supported by few visuals of Bengali Jatra.
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