Role of traditional media in rural development
Authors: Palve Gajanand1, Ashokkumar2 and D.Karthik3
1,2, Ph.D. Scholars Division of Agricultural extension, National Dairy Research Institute (N.D.R.I), Karnal, Haryana,
3, Ph.D. Scholar Division of Agricultural extension,SRS, National Dairy Research Institute, (N.D.R.I) Adugodi, Bengaluru.
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Traditional media means the mediums through which the cultural traits passed from generation to generation. Keeping in view their intimacy, as they are very close to the heart of the people, folk media prove to be powerful tools of communication in the rural society. Furthermore, the traditional media is available to all and enjoyed by persons of different age groups generally at very low cost. The most important advantage of folk media is its flexibility in day to day life and it can be introduced into traditional folk from art such as wall paintings, puppet show, folk songs, dances, dramas, melas and festivals, munadi, bioscope, proverbs, riddles, story telling, tamasha, nautanki etc.

The role of traditional media has been very significant in rural development since the turn of this century, and with the advent of new media, the forms and ways of communication have become more specialized. Every human society has developed its traditional modes and channels of communication which characterize its existence, organization and development. These communication modes and channels form the basis upon which the communities, especially the rural community, policy makers, planners and administrators, desirous to effect functional economic and social changes, must first identify such community communication modes and channels and utilize them to provide the people with maximum information about such changes.

Folk media are the vehicles the common people or rural farmers employ for the delivery of their messages such as folk scripture, folk music, folk dance or folk painting. Generally folk media represents those arts which are inherited by a homogenous segment of the society through oral transmission. Wang and Dissanayke define folk media as „a communication system embedded in the culture which existed before the arrival of mass media, and still exists as a vital mode of communication in many parts of the world, presenting, a certain degree of continuity, despite changes. Folk media are cultural institutions transmitting values, thoughts, norms, beliefs and experiences in the society and it has been carrying on this function of transmission for ages with impeccable effect. Further, being a veritable storehouse of human experiences, folk media portray a realistic depiction of mass culture, therefore forming an integral part of the development process.

Thus, the folk art forms play a prominent role in rural development. Traditional forms of entertainment have been used to further programmes of development since 1954 after it was discovered that they could be used to present developmental message as well. The song and Drama Division was set up as an arm of the Minister of Information and Broadcasting with the responsibility of harmonizing the country’s performing arts for the development of communication and it works in close cooperation with the field publicity offices which arrange various programmes.

The traditional media plays an important role in extension education. The great task of extension education is to impart a desirable controlling influence on others through the use of effective extension teaching methods. It is better to have an inventory of the locally available and familiar traditional media for possible utilization in the field of agricultural communication. A proper blending of the traditional media with the electronic media is a welcome step in this direction. Besides, occasions such as agricultural fairs, farmers’ days, exhibitions, fertilizer campaigns etc. can be used by the development agencies as forum do disseminate agricultural innovations through traditional media to the farming community. The folk art forms satisfy the innate desire for self expression and also satisfy mans need for moral instruction combined with entertainment. In contrast with the electronic media, it preserves and disseminates in a lively manner the traditions and culture of our forefathers. Indian folk forms have a generous mix of dialogue, dance, songs, clowning etc. So it is a very important method of communicating agricultural technology to the farmers and for the benefit of rural development programmes.

The important characteristics of the traditional media are

(1) The accessibility of traditional media is very wide;

(2) it involves more than one sense;

(3) The potential for cognitive gain retention is possible but restricted;

(4) Potential for effective change in the attitude of the people is high;

(5) There is no change in the skill of the people;

(6) The maintenance of particular message is not possible;

(7) Interest arousal capacity is very high;

(8) Range of mode choice is narrow;

(9) Less operational abilities and skill and

(10) Personal cost is not relevant.

Traditional media has greatest appeal to the masses and have qualities of touching the deepest emotions of the illiterate millions. Among these puppetry is believed to be the oldest form of popular theatre in India. It is important for communicating technology to the farmers in the village life, its problems and solutions. Folk theatre form like Tamasha, Nautani, Keertana or Hirakatha attract the rural audiences most, so people can be educated through the mediums to bring about desirable changes in their behaviour. Street play is not like theatre but it attracts a large number of people. The villagers have a great fascination for their folk dances and folk songs. Melas or country fairs are synonymous with joy and gaiety and in the rural areas where life follows a hard routine, nothing is more welcome to the people than the prospect of a festival and mela.

Story telling has been one of the best and most commonly used method of instruction in informal education, religious propagation, rural development etc. Riddle is also and educational device through which elders sued to communicate knowledge. Proverbs which predominate in oral civilization represent the essence of rural wisdom and knowledge. Bioscope is also a popular folk medium sued for entertainment and for propagation of information on education, agriculture etc. The traditional media should be an integral part of nay rural development programme, wherever possible, it should be integrated with the modern mass media, but in all cases integration with the ongoing extension work is vital. There is big gap between the modern scientific knowledge and the knowledge possessed by the common masses. This gap is to be bridged by communicating effectively the developmental information to the rural masses. The messages communicated through the traditional media gain access to the mind through audio and video effects. The use of the eyes and the mind produces a sense of richness in meaning on the individuals. This mental reaction is both intellectual and emotional. They create a high degree of interest and make learning more permanent. The poorest man had access to his culture, expressed either in story, poem, play, song, custom, rituals or a variety of other forms of characteristics of folk culture. As these are face to face interaction between the conveyor and the recipient, there is scope for clarification of doubts and acquisition of full information. The influence on the recipient is lasting.

The first significant international recognition of role of traditional media in the development in the developing countries came in 1972 when the International Planned Parenthood Federation and UNESCO organized a series of meetings on the integrated use of the folk and the mass media in family planning communication programmers in London. Instances of use of Traditional folk media for development communication in our country have been numerous though not consistent and regularly used phenomena like the other conventional media like newspaper, radio or TV. Traditional media has been used in our country ever since the time of the Independence Movement. “AHLA”, the popular ballad of Uttar Pradesh and its counter parts like “LAAVANI” of Maharashtra, “GEEGEE” of Karnataka, “VILLUPAATTU” of Tamil Nadu and “KAVIGAN” of Bengal were effective in arousing the conscience of the people against the colonial rule of the British. Many of the social and political campaigns launched by Mahatma Gandhi used traditional folk media. Similarly eminent Tamil poet Subramanya Bharti used folk music to invoke patriotism in the people. Folk tunes succeeded in popularizing songs glorifying the charkha or spinning wheel and boycott British made goods.

Even after Independence there have been many instances of the Government using traditional performances for development in rural areas. In the 1940’s, Indian People Theatre Association (IPTA), used some of the popular regional theatre forms like “Jaatra” of Bengal, “Bhavai” of Gujrat, “Tamasha” of Maharashtra and “Burkatha” of Andhra Pradesh to increase social awareness and political education.

In 1977, a voluntary non-governmental organization in Kerala called Kerala Sastra Sahithya Parishad (KSSP) organized Science Jatha, a Science Procession in to spread the message of people’s involvement in the development process. From 1980, the Jathas began to use different folk art forms for conveying the themes which were mainly on education, health, environment and social inequality. The repertoire consisted of songs, street dramas and other several forms of folk arts. Soon the Jathas began to be known as Kala Jathas and they became so popular that they began to be used extensively not only in Kerala but in some other parts of India also where the local organizations and people have received inspiration from KSSP and have started delivering messages through folk arts.

Well-known Theatre personality Ravi Varma of Vikas Lok Manch has been creatively interpreting social realities by interweaving them into the fabric of folk dances, choral singing etc. with the help of slum children. He deals with issues like alcoholism, pollution, religion, inequalities of caste and class, communalism and so forth. One of the group’s most famous street plays is Hame Jawab Chahiya (1985) on the Bhopal gas tragedy. The play reminds the audience who are mostly children that the Bhopal incident is not a dead issue and that its aftermath still haunts the lives of many.

The traditional media, however, are close to the hearts and minds of the people. They are more personal and intimate. Different folk media can be used to cater to different regions. Every village has its relevant music, dance or theatre. These traditional media can be used to reach these people in the process of change and development of the country. Traditional media uses a subtle form of persuasion by presenting the required message in locally popular artistic forms. This cannot be equalled by any other means of communication. So, if we want to inject the message of development among the rural masses we have to use the folk forms of this country in a more planned manner.

Various areas for intervention through traditional folk media:

Disaster Risk Reduction:

Disasters and natural calamities, which is a reality in our country, that takes place every now and then, building resilience and safety project can be done with focus on children by empowering them as decision makers under child centric Community based disaster risk reduction response programme and making it a local reality.

  • Monthly and regular meetings of children groups and child protection committees can work for child right, child protection, quality education, prevention of child labour, strengthening of health and hygiene practices and problems of dropout students etc. Can be discussed. Group communication on village level is very effective tool to motivate everyone for the participation.
  • With the help of street play people can be motivated to form SHGs to earn a livelihood in a significant way. Grain banks can be established with an objective of helping vulnerable families during disaster at the community level that can be exclusively managed by women, women SHGs and community.
  • Mock drill on first-aid in local language can be organized. Strong sense of responsibility among the community members can be developed about their roles as a member of the task forces and how to respond during search and rescue, first-aid and relief operations.
  • Wall writing on WASH issues like safe drinking water, purification of water, various concerns during the disaster can be depicted in villages.
  • Awareness through various campaigns like puppet show, street play, celebration of Global Hand Washing Day, Prabhat Pheri, etc.can be done with school children and communities.
Health, Nutrition, Water Hygiene and Sanitation:

Community Health Services awareness campaign can be organised through traditional media. It can improve the utilization of primary health care services among communities. The interventions can result in substantial improvement of child health after training Village Women activists as well as conducting community awareness programmes through drama, street play and camps. The women can be made empowered around their health needs.

Puppet shows and street plays can be organized to make the community aware of Tuberculosis and HIV. With the help of traditional folk media (nukkad natak, puppet shows) efforts can be taken to create awareness among mothers for safe delivery, pregnancy care and infant feeding practices and treatment of diarrhoea. After motivating the community through various traditional media training, they can also be imparted knowledge on different components of maternal and child health. Community can receive valuable information about institutional delivery, importance of breast feeding, immunisation, nutrition, child’s mental and physical health, breastfeeding, sanitation and hygiene etc. They can also become aware about the different government schemes for the pregnant woman and the new born child and immunisation etc.

Not only women and girls but male community can also discuss the following issues broadly with the help of various traditional media:

  • Why are girls discriminated against?
  • Why are women subordinated to men in the house/society?
  • What are the reasons for discrimination against women?
  • How to reduce the vulnerability of gender discrimination in the society?
  • What is HIV? And what is the mode of their transmission and what are the preventive measures for such diseases?
Child Protection:

Awareness among communities about child protection issues like child right, child abuse, girl child abortion, child marriage, child labour and child trafficking issues can be done easily through various traditional media. Not only community people but Panchayat representatives can also be made aware about the chid rights.


The government has implemented different schemes for the rural people but they are unable to access the benefits of government schemes because of lack of information. With the purpose of providing qualitative education among children, children siksha jankari mela can be conducted to sensitize community members on various government schemes in which the information related to educational schemes can be given to the community members. Nukkad nataks can be played in villages with the objective of generating awareness on Right to Education and learning without fear in community. This also included girl education in the community. Through the street plays, different government schemes for girl education can be demonstrated. This effort can touch the community and result will be very positive.

Women Empowerment:

Efforts through traditional media can be made at community levels to provide women awareness about debit and credit facilities for them through various banks and free them from any exploitation by the local money lender. On the other hand women can also become empowered in decision making process at family level. It can also enhanced the leadership skills among women.

Traditional media, like street play can aware women community about violence against women. Protection of women from Domestic Violence Act 2005 and its provisions can be highlighted through this the folk media. The objective of the communication can create and raise awareness among key persons within the society as well as community on violence against women. This effort will make women vocal—they will be able to put their voices before panchayats representatives, government officials and social leaders for accessing the benefits of government schemes.

It’s a fight to change the attitude and bring community people on a platform where their involvement can be encouraged for the development. Here, traditional media can work miracle for them. Many works have been done by NGOs, governmental organisations and through various international organisations and positive results are sufficient to motivate to work more through this old media. It can make considerable difference in lives of rural people. And if it is used sensibly with other mediums, it is going to bring much change in the lives of the people who are residing in the rural areas of developing country like India.

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