Prahlada nataka is a century old traditional theatre play popular in the Ganjam district of Orissa. The play is written in Sanskrit and colloquial Oriya. It was first performed during the reign of Raja Ramakrishna Chhotaraya, an Oriya ruler. The play is written by Gopinath Parichha, a poet-dramatist, patronized by the ruler.
The play is performed in an open arena amongst the crowd. There is usually a four to five tiered wooden platform on the stage .The top of the platform has the throne of Hiranyakasipu. Hiranyakasipu is the villain of the play and is killed by Narasimha at the end of the play. The role of Hiranyakasipu is quite demanding in terms of the acting and is thoroughly enjoyed by the audience. Narasimha is the protagonist and appears at the end of the play wearing a lion mask. There is usually a band of Musicians who accompany the acting troupe. The instruments used by the musicians include the Harmonium and the Mardal. Now days even Violin and trumpet is used. The music is used to add dramatic touch to the play and set the mood of the audience. Traditional Odissi music influences the music of the play to a great extent. The lead vocalist of the music band balances between the role of the singer and a commentator / interpreter for the people.
Prahlada nataka is now an endangered art form. During its glorious days there were about 172 troupes performing this folk art but now it is reduced to around 100 troupes. Even though there is a dip in popularity of the play, a evening watching the Prahalada nataka with a power packed performance by the actors is surely a enthralling experience. Such is the impact of the performances of the actors that crowds can be seen cheering at the top of their voices during the climax scene.