Nautanki Dance – A Vibrant Theatrical Tradition

Nautanki Dance of Uttarpradesh

Nautanki dance is a form of group dance in South Asia, especially in North India. Before the birth of Bollywood, the main form of entertainment in the towns and villages of North India was Nautanki. The shows feature-rich music and entertaining and interesting stories that have the potential to influence the north of India. It becomes an important mass communication tool by shaping the feelings and thoughts of people living in rural areas.

The content of this mainly consists of three parts: romantic stories, funny stories, and the history of local heroes. The music is accompanied by songs and dances of different genres similar to Band. The meaning of dance is sometimes derived from the struggle between the forces of good and evil in nature. They also evolved from religious epics or heroic acts of historical tradition such as Allah and Udal. “Nautanki” actors often deal with the daily problems of social life or deal with romantic themes such as the murder of Bhagat Singh.

History of Nautanki Dance

The old performance of Nautanki dates back a century. Nautanki originated from Rasleela’s folk dance in Vrindavan and Mathura, Uttar Pradesh. The original painting is in Abul Fazl’s book “Ain-e-Akbari”, written in the palace of Emperor Akbar in the 16th century. More importantly, there is a clear history of print and Nautanki operas published in chapter books in 19th-century India. Nautanki reached the zenith of splendor in the early 20th century. Many performance groups began to appear, called “charas” and “mandalas”. Mandalas are called “akhara” because a form of dhikr requires a lot of energy. Performing arts in akharas or mandalas became a major pastime in the small villages and towns of northern India.

Concept of Nautanki dance

Nautanki dance usually starts at midnight and continues until morning the next day. Nautanki was the only form of entertainment in India before the advent of television and Indian films. A feature of nautanki is that it is always an open and earthly form of drama. All elements of the nautanki dance, the music, are ultimately used for improvisation, and their relevance to today’s context is explored. Nautanki was created in response to the changing needs of the growing population in Indian villages.

The Theme of Nautanki Dance

The presentation of stories and events is done with well-informed instructions to connect with the audience. Music plays an important role in every process of discovering and revealing meanings and values ​​that add a new dimension to reality. The main instrument used is the nagada, which is played after each section.

Nagada is a side timpani that announces Nautanki performances in villages. Sometimes sarangi and other instruments are also used to create the music, while the dholak also provides additional music. An important part of the nautanki is the needling, which is used for the same purpose. Oftentimes, Nautanki artists come from families that have been involved for generations. Although some professional singers also belong to the Nautanki mandala, most of them are illiterate.

Music instruments used in Nautanki Dance

Nautanki, which could be a courtyard or a virgin, was played on the stage. The music used in this performance includes both classical and folk elements. He actually has his own routine, which is the same for the theatre. The poem is written in various forms of rhyme and is now sung according to conventions and rules of execution. The expression is simple and clear and appeals to people’s emotions. Many innovations are also used to avoid the uniform processing of passages; It’s like describing a short poem called a three-stanza kada.

The simple lines used can be divided into three parts, for example: 1. Doha sings freely without rhythm or music. 2. Choubola forms the main division.3. Daur or Chalti or Udhan, sing very fast and then slow down. The fame of the nautanki artist is determined by the power of his voice, the meaning he can extract from the written verse, and the sentences he can express when appropriate.

The written language of Nautanki is Hindustani. While Braj Nautankis are mostly in poetic form, Kanpur’s Nautanki has Urdu poetry and many simple sayings. Nautanki also has some elements of Sanskrit drama, both in the selection of the stories and the presentation of the story sequence. The influence of the Parsi Theater was also evident in the theatre, particularly in the Kanpur school in Nautanki.

Costumes of Nautanki dance

The costumes of Nautanki dance are a feast for the eyes, captivating the audience with their vibrant colors, intricate designs, and cultural symbolism. From the majestic angarkha to the resplendent lehenga-choli, each costume piece reflects the artistic finesse and cultural heritage of Uttar Pradesh. The costumes, combined with the performers’ skillful expressions and movements, transport the audience into a world of storytelling and enchantment.

Contemporary Scenario of Nautanki Dance

It is now experiencing a dialectical tension. While still gaining a place in people’s hearts on the one hand, on the other hand, it is faced with the struggle of satisfying the wishes of its audience in the television and cinema environment. The show failed to try to keep the text and its content up to date. Times are changing and after digitization, people generally spend less time on arts and crafts. Many say that Nautanki may lose its appeal due to the lack of recognition in India’s theatrical genre. However, some artists are still trying to keep Nautanki alive as it is one of the biggest media shows in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.


The Nautanki dance of Uttar Pradesh is an enchanting art form that has mesmerized audiences for centuries. With its amalgamation of dance, music, and storytelling, Nautanki embodies the essence of the region’s rich cultural heritage. Through its expressive movements, captivating narratives, and vibrant performances, Nautanki dance continues to be a cherished and celebrated tradition in Uttar Pradesh.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1: What is Nautanki Dance ?

Nautanki is a traditional folk dance and musical theater form that originated in the northern regions of India, particularly in Uttar Pradesh. It combines elements of dance, music, drama, and storytelling to entertain audiences.

Q2: How is Nautanki different from other dance forms?

A2: Nautanki is unique in its blend of dance, music, and theater. It incorporates lively dance movements, expressive facial expressions, melodious singing, and dramatic storytelling to engage and captivate the audience.

Q3: What are the key features of Nautanki?

A3: Nautanki is characterized by vibrant dance sequences, elaborate costumes, engaging narratives, and lively music. It often combines folk tales, historical events, and social themes to create entertaining and thought-provoking performances.

Q4: How is Nautanki performed?

Nautanki is typically performed on an elevated stage with musicians and singers accompanying the actors/dancers. Nautanki performers display energetic dance movements, enact various characters, and sing songs to tell a story. The dance movements are often expressive and synchronized with the music.

Q5: What is the historical significance of Nautanki?

Nautanki has a rich cultural history and has been a popular form of entertainment in rural communities for centuries. It served as a medium of social commentary, storytelling, and cultural preservation, while also providing entertainment to the masses.

Q6: Where can one witness Nautanki’s performances?

These performances are traditionally held in rural areas of Uttar Pradesh and other northern regions of India. However, in recent times, efforts have been made to promote and showcase Nautanki on larger platforms, including cultural festivals, theater productions, and television shows.

Q7: Is Nautanki still relevant in modern times?

Although Nautanki has faced challenges due to the rise of other entertainment forms, it continues to have significant cultural and artistic value. Efforts are being made to revive and promote Nautanki as a cherished art form, showcasing its unique storytelling and entertainment elements.

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