• (Bengali: procession) A melodramatic hero-villain genre ofIndian theater; it is the most popular form of drama in rural Bengaland amongst Bengali speakers elsewhere. Jatra probably emergedin the 16th century from within the Vaishnava devotional movement;the first scripts still extant date from the late 18th century.

    Calcutta is the centre for about 20 travelling troupes controlledby owner-managers. The season runs from September to June, with companiesperforming for family events and major religious festivals. Jatraconcentrated on religious themes until the early 19th century, buthas since become largely secular. The Communist Party made use ofthe genre to win rural supporters in the 1930s and was later responsiblefor popularizing Jatra in the cities.

    The acting area, which is often outdoors, is made up of matsor carpets spread over the ground or a low wooden platform; the latteris usually connected to the dressing room by a ramp, which providesmore acting space. There is no scenery and the only prop is a chair.The all-night performance opens with music, which can last for upto two hours. The melodrama follows, its scenes divided into acts by songs; the stories consist of battles between heroes and villains, interspersed with comic interludes. An allegorical character known as bibek, or Conscience, roams the stage commenting on the meaning behind the action and predicting its consequences.