SANNATA (Dappinata)

Sannata (saNNATa) (ಸಣ್ಣಾಟ) or Dappinata (DappinATa) (ಡಪ್ಪಿನಾಟ) is a well known variety of folk theatre, practiced mainly in North Karnataka and the neighboring districts of MalenADu. This has to be studied in comparison with ‘doDDATa’ or ‘mUDlapAya’ which is showier with elaborate stage settings and costumes. ‘SaNNATa’ literally means a small play. It is also known as “DappinATa’ because Dappu is the main accompanying instrument in these performances.

Sannata is supposed to have originated in the beginning of nineteenth century and ‘sangyA bALyA’ based on an incident that took place in Bailahongala in Belaguam district is deemed to be the first Sannata. There are two stages in the evolution of sannata. To begin with it was more of an opera than a play. Songs presented in folk style constituted the heart and soul of this performance. Dialogues if any occupied a secondary role and they were impromptu in nature. ‘SangyA bALya’, rAdhAnATa’, (very traditional) ‘kaDlimaTTi station master’ and ‘basavanta-balavanta’ were the major plays during this period. By the third decade of the twentieth century sannata was deeply influenced by the professional theatre and elaborate, pre-determined dialogues came in to vogue, Songs were composed to match dancing tunes. Dappu was replaced by tablaa and harmonium. ‘Tiru nIlakanTa’, ‘nijaguNa shivayOgi’ and ‘allamapraBu’ are some important plays during this period. Usually four categories of sannata ie shaiva, vaishnava, social and imaginary are recognized.

            Actually, the stories based on mythology shed their original form and assume different overtones. Even the outlines of the story are changed, For instance in ‘rAdhAnATa’ the story line goes like this: “Radha appears on stage behind a curtain – music evocative of her personality is played. The chorus welcomes her, describing her dress, beauty and gait vividly. Then the curtain is removed and the story begins. Radha informs Krishna that she is a milk maid; her husband’s village is Gokula and asks him where she can sell her milk. As in the Dasarata performance, Radha and Krishna quarrel and woo each other. But in Sannata she does not accept his invitation. She asks him to try his luck again in their next life. They are both reborn in the village where the performance is taking place – she as Cimnabai and he as Galpoji. When she hears of this (from the chorus) Cimnabai goes in search of him. She begs him to return. Thereafter there are two versions of the play performed in different regions – in one he returns to family life and in the other they debate on the superiority; of Shiva or Shakti”.


            The stage settings and costumes for a sannata performance are very simple. Even the main actors are dressed in simple dhotis and shirts. A colourful headgear is perhaps the only concession. Even the female roles are usually performed by men. However there are women professionals who have played these roles for decades. They are called ‘cimaNA’s. Sannatas are performed by amateur artists from villages. Occasionally, professionals are imported from out sides for certain sophisticated roles.   

            Thus sannata is folk form which is in a state of flux and has undergone many changes over a period of time.


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