The Phenomenology of Audience in Vrindavan’s Rās Līlā Theatre

How to Cite

David Mason. (2022). The Phenomenology of Audience in Vrindavan’s Rās Līlā Theatre: Journal of Vaishnava Studies. Journal of Vaishnava Studies, 21(2), 135–146. Retrieved from


The theatre tradition that informs the religious activity of Vrindavan begins and ends rather explicitly with its devotee audience. Performances begin in the morning, in the evening, late at night, even at 3am, and audiences gather remarkably early, nevertheless—even accounting for the obligatory failure of performances to begin at scheduled times. Audience members customarily crash the playing space, in the end, claiming the culmination of the event for themselves. In between, audience members come and go at their pleasure, in ignorance of the theatrical propriety of far away places that demands the audience sit still and quietly until the actors have finished, and, thus, screams that the audience exists for the sake of the play, rather than the other way around. Vrindavan audiences cheer their heroes and boo their enemies as they appear on rās līlā stages, yell and sing and gesticulate with gusto, and performances ride along on these outbursts—are carried by these outbursts.

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