Ankiya Nat



  • (Hindi: act drama) A form of religious theater found in theIndian state of Assam that honours Vishnu's manifestation as Krishna.The genre was created by Sankaradeva (c. 1449 - 1568),who wrote many such plays and urged all religious leaders to writeat least one drama. Performances occur at religious festivals. Theamateur companies have about 15 actors, who are often monks. Men playall the roles in monastery performances, while women may participatein community productions. The roles of Krishna and his brother Balaramaare played by boys, who are said to be possessed by the gods duringtheir performances.

    An Ankiya Nat drama lasts from about 9 p.m. until sunrisethe next day. It is traditionally held in the nam-ghar, orprayer hall, of a monastery. The acting and dancing occurs withina narrow corridor marked off by ropes with the audience on both sides.At one end is the shrine containing the sacred text Bhagavata Puranaand opposite is the agni-gad, or archway of lights, throughwhich the actors enter. Characters wear colourful costumes and crownsto show their station in life. Demons and animals are representedby effigies of bamboo and papier-mâché up to 15 feettall and manipulated by several actors.

    Preliminaries include drumming, dances, and songs praisingKrishna. When these are completed, the sutradhara, or stagemanager, enters to the accompaniment of fireworks and dancing. Hesings, dances, and recites from the play. Krishna then makes his entranceand dances towards the shrine. Next comes the play itself, which dramatizesthe conflict between good and evil. The stage manager remains to givedirections to both the actors and musicians and to interpret the actionfor the audience. The entertainment is concluded with more songs anddances.