Indian Theatre and drama as early as 1500 BC or as late as 1st AD?

Mar 2019

in the article wikipedia doesnt in any way elaborate on the roots of indian theatre and drama, after learning about Sitabengra cave theatre which is easily dated to 3rd BC while the traditional dating of indian theatre is limited to early christian era, i tried to learn more about the indian theatre origins. Surprisingly i have come across some info which reflect on the origins and much more archaic beginnings of the indian theatre.

I am posting some info i have gathered from this wonderful book and author

theories of Bharata muni that the sanskrit play evolved from yajna ceremonies which staged plays based on rituals and there were as complicated as three actors in a play


three person dialogue is also mentioned in rigveda between indra, indrani and Vrishakapi

some secular monologies and dialogues also appear in the rig vedas



panini mentions natasutra and two authors who were regarded as dramatists

The Natyashastra is the oldest surviving ancient Indian work on performance arts.[8] The roots of the text extend at least as far back as the Natasutras, dated to around the mid 1st millennium BCE.[25][26]

The Natasutras are mentioned in the text of Panini, the sage who wrote the classic on Sanskrit grammar, and who is dated to about 500 BCE.[26][27] This performance arts related Sutra text is mentioned in other late Vedic texts, as are two scholars names Shilalin (IAST: Śilālin) and Krishashva (Kṛśaśva), credited to be pioneers in the studies of ancient drama, singing, dance and Sanskrit compositions for these arts.[26][28]
epics of Mahabharata and ramayana indicate that drama and theatre were well established arts during that period.

Some buddhist texts are also cited and the book asserts 600 BC as the origins of indian theatre which i think is following some western trend in dating greek classical theatre. The dialogues from rigveda etc indicate a much more ancient origins of indian drama and theatre as early as 1500 BC.

Nov 2016
The Indian theater is possibly the successor of the puppet theater and the shadow play theater, which probably already existed around 1,500 BCE. But there are people who say that puppet theatre was an imitation of human theatre. Some historians believe that the more sophisticated theater came from Greece to India, so relatively late. Others think that the advanced theatre in India developed from the folk theater that definitely existed in the 6th century BCE or earlier.

However, theater has its beginnings much, much earlier, in the Stone Age, when shamans dressed as animals performed scenes to show the other members of their group what they had experienced in their trances, or to magically anticipate success in animal hunting.
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Mar 2019
Some historians believe that the more sophisticated theater came from Greece to India,
It is also possible that indian theatre was more complicated than greek theatre and more ancient as some evidences indicate such as drama dialogues in the vedic texts, secular dialogues as well. Indians had theatre companies/organisations mntioned in natyashastra, people who acted as directors/producers and were allowed to stage plays for economic income etc. Greek drama dialogues are not attested until in the 5th BC. Greeks drama didn't have more than three actors etc