Theatre and Education:

Appropriation and Marginalization of Custodians of Cultural Heritage of the Nation

Dr. Lata Singh

(Centre for Women’s Studies, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University)


NCERT in its Position Paper of National Focus Group on Arts, Music, Dance & Theatre in 2006 recommended that art education be made an integral and compulsory component of the school curriculum at par with any other subject. The CBSE introduced theatre studies as an elective subject with any combination of three other electives and a language to its affiliated schools in class XI from academic session 2013-2014. Theatre studies is now treated at par with any other subject and does not merely remain ‘useful hobbies’ and ‘leisure activities’/ ‘extra curricular’ activities.

CBSE describes theatre as an extremely wondrous art and its aim would be to create students who would be self-reliant, independent and creative thinkers with a positive attitude. NCERT states there is no greater educative medium than making, with efficiency and integrity, things of utility and beauty. It develops practical aptitudes, facilitates clarity of thinking, provides an opportunity for cooperative work, thus enriching the personality of the student. One of the most important aspects that NCERT underscores in art education is that it would make students conscious of the rich cultural heritage of the nation, which are living examples of its secular fabric and cultural diversity. It emphasizes that special attention should be given to Indian traditional arts, which currently face the threat of being drowned out by so called mainstream and popular arts. This would ensure that India would be a country that respect, protects and propagates its artistic traditions. This would make the students liberal, creative thinkers and good citizens of the nation. In this presentation an attempt is made to unsettle the narrative of rich cultural heritage of the nation. Quoting Natyashastra CBSE says, ‘theatre is a gift from the gods for mankind’s education and entertainment’. In fact, cultural scripting of the nation has invisibilized and silenced the narratives of appropriation, marginalization, stigmatization and displacement of the subaltern performing community, the custodians of the cultural heritage, and their arts.