Tamasha is the principal form of folk theatre of Maharashtra. The word Tamasha is Persian and means fun or entertainment. This form is probably an amalgam of several different influences, some traceable through the centuries. Some scholars offer that this bawdy theatre has developed out of the debris of two forms of Sanskrit drama - the "Prahsana" and the "Bhana".
Modern Tamasha troupes are of two varieties: song-dance troupe and folk- drama troupe. The philosophical and aesthetic scheme of Tamasha incorporates three basic elements: the entertainment tradition, the more serious propagandist tradition and the devotional tradition.
There is evidence to believe that Tamasha developed in the 16th century and served as "Bawdy Lascivious Diversion" for both Mughal and the Maratha troops. The bawdy strain still remains today but has modified to suit the wholesome family tastes of the middle and upper middle class.
A Tamasha performance has reflections of Kathak, Kavali and
Ghazal songs, "Dashavatara" musical dramas, the dramatic poetry
of Bhand, religious songs and religious plays. Every performance commences
with a devotional song and is followed by the dramatic sequence known as "Gaulan".
The 'Vag', a short dialogue play, succeeds the Gaulan, and has risen in
importance despite its late introduction in the 19th century. Songs and
dances do not intrude upon the Vag.
The love songs ('Lavanis') are the heart of Tamasha and are exceedingly popular. Musicians employ the Dholki drum, 'Tuntuni' (a single string instrument), 'Manjeera' cymbals, 'Daf' (a tambourine-like instrument with a single leather surface), 'Halgi' (smaller Daf), the metal triangle called 'Kade', the 'Lejim' (an instrument with a jangling sound), the Harmonium and 'Ghunghroos' (ankle bells).
Two communities - Kolhati and Mahar - have been associated with Tamasha. The poet singers known as "Shahirs" composed many narrative and love songs that touched artistic heights unthinkable for Tamasha. More recently, a new, obscenity-free version of Tamasha has evolved. This is the Loknatya theatre.