Odisha has a rich tradition of folk plays-dance, drama and music in which the spiritual, philosophical and the humane dimensions have merged to reflect a life style.
Leelas: A religious folk play, it is a popular form of devotional entertainment. The Ram Leela portrays the various incidents from the epic Ramayana. The dramatic rendering of dialogues by the performing artistes in dazzling costumes and heavy make--up backed by a group of chorus singers and orchestral music starts from the Ram Navami day and continues for 9 nights. The Ras Leela is a lyrical-musical enactment of the immortal love of Lord Krishna and his consort Radha. It revolves around different moods of love, such as anger, playfulness, expectation etc. between the two.
Other popular form is Bharat Leela or Dwari Leela which draws its plot from the story of love and subsequent marriage of Arjuna- one of the five Pandavas with Subhadra. A typical play of Ganjam district, the Prahlad Natak, a play composed by Gopinath parichha is presented as a compendium of songs in praise of Lord Nrusingha and suppression of pride of demon king Hiranya Kashuap by a young devout Prahlad.
Yatra: It corresponds to folk theatre where mythological, historical and social subjects are enacted. In fact, Jatra blossomed at the end of the 19th century as a development over Suanga. Performed in an open air theatre, Jatra succeeds to enliven the mass with a show of music, dance, acting, singing and the dramatic expression of emotions like love, anxiety, anger, valour and pathos. Recently social themes and popular legends have also been included, with rustic characters in dazzling costumes rendering dialogues in local dialects. The theatrical mannerism and the high sounding dialogues of performers and the accompanying thundering music usually a harmonium, clarinet, cymbals, tabla, dholki, bugle and mrudanga, all liven up the atmospere.
Pala: The Pala is a musical narrative by a gayaka and others called palias, all dressed up in royal attire. The gayaka makes his appearance holding a chamara which he wields with extreme flourish and a pair of cymbals in his right hand. He narrates episodes from puranic texts, punctuated with explanations. The singer is adept at combining drama, song and dance and though not highly educated but through with knowledge of the theme and fluent in elucidation. The tale is occasionally iterspersed with loud sounds of cymbals and vigorous beating of mridanga. The performers dance in very small and simple rhythmic steps dance along with the singer. The performance begins by invoking the blessing of a deity, Satyanarayan in the form of Satyapeer and the whole atmosphere gets filled with an air of sanctity.
Daskathia: A folk art performed by two men, owes its name to the musical instrument by the same name.Daskathia is made of two wooden pieces, which when beaten with hands produce rhythmic sound. The singer like the Pala singer generally uses themes of religious intent from mythology, whereas his partner intermittently gives a rhythmic refrain of the words. The rhythmic narration is of ten interspersed with special sequences dramatized in dialogue form. Wit, humour and songs take the centre stage in this performance of a shorter duration than the Pala.