Saang

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A Lady Playing the Tanpura, ca. 1735.jpg
A Lady Playing the Tanpura, ca. 1735 (Rajasthan)
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Saang (Hindi: सांग), also known as Swang or Svang (स्वांग), is a popular folk dancetheatre form in Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Malwa region of Madhya Pradesh. Swang incorporates suitable theatrics and mimicry (or nakal) accompanied by song and dialogue. It is dialogue-oriented rather than movement-oriented. Religious stories and folk tales are enacted by a group of ten or twelve persons in an open area or an open-air theatre surrounded by the audience.Swang ia an art of imitation means Rang-Bharna, Nakal-Karna.

Swang can be considered as the most ancient folk theatre form of India. Nautanki, Saang, Tamasha originated from the Swang traditions.Old Swang traditions are:

    "EK MARDANA EK JANANA MANCH PAR ADE THE RAI"

-means one male and one female performers start the story.

     "EK SAARANGI EK DHOLAKIA SAATH MEIN ADE THE RAI"

- means one saangi player and one dholak player joins the performance. This Swang/Saang performance was active at the time of Sant Kabir and Guru Nanak.

Tradition credits Kishan Lal Bhaat for laying the foundation of the present style of Swang about two hundred years ago. During Mughal period and specifically at the time of Aurangzeb women were strictly banned from public performances. Since women did not participate in the dance-drama form, men have traditionally enacted their roles.Later on different performers changed the style according to the socio-political situations.

Features[edit]

Stage is similar to operatic performance.The stage may consist of a clear circular open area, or at the most, a wooden platform about three and a half metre in length. There are no elaborate stage arrangements similar to modern dramatic performances. There are no backdrops, curtains or green-rooms. Typically, there are no microphones or loudspeakers either. An hour or so before the show, the musicians of the orchestra begin to sing religious or other songs connected with the play in order to create the proper atmosphere for the play. The 'Guru' then appears and the artistes touch his feet to evoke his blessings. The play opens with a song ('bhait' or offering) in praise of Bhawani, the Goddess of Knowledge:

Aa re bhawani baas kar mere ghat ke parde khol Rasna par basa karo maai shudh shabd mukh bol

(Oh Goddess Bhawani, open the doors of knowledge to me. Bless my tongue so that all I sing consists of pure surs.)

After Bhawani there are Chamolas, Kafias, Savias the main ingredients of performance. Googa Dhamoda a dance form starts at the beginning. With a brief introduction about the play, the performance starts. It consists mainly of mimicry, from which the name of the theater form derives (swaang means disguise or impersonation). Also featured prominently are long question and answer sessions between the actors. Much of the dialogue is improvised and the actors must be able to trade quotations, puns, proverbs and songs at the drop of a hat. There is much singing and dancing and there is always a clown character called the makhaulia (jester). Swang theatre is traditionally restricted to men, who also play the female roles, the latter often involving elaborate make-up and costumes. But female troupes are not altogether unknown.

A single presentation of swaang may continue for up to five or six hours. There is much song and music, especially the famous Haryanvi style of singing known as Raagani.

Themes[edit]

Swang themes draw variously from themes of morality, folk tales, lives of inspiring personalities, stories from Indian mythology and in recent times, more current themes like health and hygiene, literacy, AIDS awareness and women's empowerment. In temple based religious theatre, Indian epics and Puranas are the major source material for characters, while the community-based secular theatre is of lighter variety. Several themes may be mixed together - mythological love, popular history, and religious themes, all with overtones of secular values. All dramas typically end with the victory of good over evil.

Popular mythological themes include Raja Vikramaditya, Ranveer- Padmavat, Jaani Chor, Prahlad Bhagat, Gopi Chand, Bharthari, Harishchander, Raja Bhoj, Kichak Badh, Draupadi Chir Haran, Jaani Chor, Pingla Bharthri and other tales from old literature. Also popular are Punjabi romances like Pooran Bhagat, Heer Ranjha, etc. Historical and semi-historical themes include Raja Rissalu, Amar Singh Rathor, Sarwar Neer, Jaswant Singh, Ramdevji, etc. Other popular tales include romances like Sorath, Nihalde, Padmavat, etc.

History[edit]

Swang Duet GOPI_UDDHAV by Dr. Sandhya Sharma and Dr. Satish Kashyap

The origin of swang is traced to Kishan Lal Bhaat, who some two hundred years ago is said to have laid the foundation of the present style of folk theatre. Another view gives credit for this to Kavi Shankar Dass, a poet artiste, who belonged to Meerut. Another notable early pioneer was Ali Bux of Rewari, who successfully staged plays titled Fasanai, Azad and Padmawat. For music and song, these early Swaang drew on khayals and chambolas. The stage was most elementary, the actors performed from a central place among the audience. The light was provided by mashals (Roman torches).

In Haryana the most celebrated artiste is Dip Chand Bahman of village Sheri Khanda in Sonepat. He is popularly styled as the "Shakespeare' or 'Kalidas of Haryana'. Semi-literate, he had a spark, a touch of genius. He polished the style of Ali Bux and gave a new color to this folk art. Dip Chand's style of performance incorporated elements from music, dance, pantomime, versification, and ballad recitation.During the First World War, when Dip Chand's capacity for improvisation and adaptation was at its peak, the British Government made him a 'Rai Sahib' and granted him other favours.

There are five major Parnalis/traditions/gharanas prevelent during this period.

       1 Pt Lakhmi Chand
       2 Pt Mange Ram
       3 Jaat Mehar Singh
       4 Baje Bhagat
       5 Dhanpat Singh

Pt Surya Bhanu Shastri his disciple Dr Satish Kashyap and Dr Sandhya Sharma though belongs to Pt Lakhmi Chand gharana and staged major Swangs/saangs like Padmavat, Kichak Draupadi, Phool Singh Nautani and famous Jaani Chor but had performed in every major Gharanas breaking the orthodox Parnali/Gharana divided on the base of Brahmin/ Non- Brahmin, Caste and region based.

Swang Performance by Dr. Sandhya Sharma and Dr. Satish Kashyap

Hardeva polished his Chambola style and made some changes to Haryanvi ragni (folk song). Bjae Nai, a disciple of Hardeva, mixed both the styles of folk music. Pt. Nathu Ram, another well known Swaangi coached a number of talented pupils, which included Maan Singh, Bulli, Dina Lohar and Ram Singh. Anoop Lather a well known theatre person introduced Swang in Kurukshetra University and organised Swang Youth festivals and first time produced Swang Jaani Chor in prosenium with Satish Kashyap in 1999. Manish Joshi Bismil who is a noted theatre director of India belongs to Hisar is also known for developing Swang in Haryana. In year 2012 his recent production Lakhmiprem was a milestone work on Pandit Lakhmichand.

Pt. Ramkishan Vyas of Narnaund (Hissar), formerly known as 'Vyas ji', is a celebrity in the field of Haryanvi Saangs and Raagnis. He invented various concepts in presenting the raagnis to the public e.g. Soni and others. In addition, he has been deputed as Counseller and Consultants by Rohtak Aakashvani & Kurukshetra Aakashvani. Haryana Government has also declared that the dominant universities of Haryana (Kurukshetra University, Maharishi Dayanand University, etc.) would include his autobiography and raagnis in their curriculum.

Dr. Satish Kashyap and Dr. Sandhya Sharma in the able guidance of Pandit Suraj Bhan Shastri, a disciple of Pt. Lakhmi Chand had done revolutionary changes in Swang performance. Revival of Swang traditions is utmost need to oxygen to the dying art. Dr Satish Kashyap, an internationally acclaimed Swang artist, is leading the only surviving Mandali of Swang. He performs both in Operatic as well as prosenium stage. They performed at National and International levels viz. National School of Drama (NSD), New Delhi and in SPIC MACAY International Convention at IIT, Mumbai. They were selected in prestigious "BHARANGAM" organised by National School of Drama, New Delhi. CCS Haryana Agricultural University, Hisar in leadership of Dr. Satish Kashyap, also set up a unit for the promotion and preservation of Swang and produced and staged best productions, viz, Jaani Chor, Raja Vikramaditya, Phool Singh- Nautanki etc.

Dr. Sandhya Sharma is the sole female performer of Swang and has written and produced two new Swangs with her stage partner and mentor Dr Satish Kashyap. They are based on Mahabharata. New Swangs are GOPI-UDDAV and VEER- BARBRIK.

Towards the end of the 19th century, all-women Swaang troupes performed in western Uttar Pradesh and the adjoining Khaaddar area of Haryana. All parts in these troupes were played by women. Sardari of Kalayat (Jind), Natni of Gangaru, and Bali of Indri (Karnal) were some of the leaders of such troupes. In 1998, The Government of India has honored this renowned poet by the award from Rohtak Aakashwani for his incredible support to the rise of Haryanvi Lok Sahitya.His younger son, Satyanarayan Shastri is also continuing their task to rise the Haryanvi Lok Sahitya by his writing. Satyanarayan Shastri is a renowned singer of 'Ragnis' at aakashvani since 1983. Pandit Lakhmi Chand of Jatti Kalan (Sonipat) is known as Surya Kavi (Sun Poet) in Haryanvi Raagnis. important Swang staged by him included Nal Damyanti, Meera Bai, Satyavan Savitri, Poorjan, Seth Tara Chand, Puran Bhagat and Shashi Lakarhara. Pt. Tuleram, son of Pt Lakhmi Chand continued the tradition of performance and after him his son Vishnu is still performing in the remote villages of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.

Dr Satish Kashyap as Vikramaditya with Dr Sandhya Sharma

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