Lakshman K P: Challenging Caste Oppression through Theatre

A Dalit artist uses the power of theatre to bring caste questions to the stage and shed light on the experiences of marginalized communities.

Lakshman K P, a talented artist and activist, has dedicated his career to using theatre as a medium to address caste-based oppression and highlight the experiences of marginalized communities in India. Inspired by his own encounters with discrimination and influenced by the works of prominent Dalit thinkers, Lakshman has directed and acted in numerous plays that tackle caste-related issues. His recent production, ‘Daklakatha Devikavya,’ based on the epic poem by K B Siddaiah, showcases the culture and struggles of the Dakla community, considered the most oppressed among scheduled caste communities. Through his work, Lakshman aims to reclaim marginalized cultures and bring caste questions to the forefront of public consciousness.

From Personal Experiences to Powerful Performances

Lakshman’s journey into theatre began after he witnessed the Dalit Sangharsh Samiti’s visit to his village, where he experienced firsthand the injustices faced by his community. His passion for theatre was ignited during a workshop organized by Ninasam, which opened his eyes to the transformative power of the art form. Since then, Lakshman has honed his skills as an actor and director, drawing inspiration from Japanese traditional theatre and incorporating minimalist aesthetics into his productions.

Reclaiming Marginalized Cultures

In his production of ‘Daklakatha Devikavya,’ Lakshman uses traditional musical instruments associated with marginalized communities, such as the Arai and Tamate, to give voice to their stories. By bringing these instruments to the stage, Lakshman challenges the prevailing notion that they are merely symbols of caste-based roles. This act of reclaiming marginalized cultures not only empowers those who play the instruments but also serves as a powerful statement against caste discrimination.

Ambedkar’s Influence and Political Identity

Lakshman credits Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, the architect of India’s constitution, as his cultural pedagogue. Ambedkar’s writings, particularly ‘Annihilation of Caste,’ have provided Lakshman with clarity in understanding the role of culture in perpetuating social inequality. The Dalit Sangharsh Samiti, a prominent Dalit organization, has also played a significant role in shaping Lakshman’s political identity and artistic vision.

Life Lessons from Rural Roots

Lakshman’s upbringing in a small village has deeply influenced his storytelling abilities. He attributes his ability to tell stories to his mother and the people of his village, who have imparted valuable lessons and perspectives. Watching drama companies perform mythological plays in his village sparked his interest in theatre from a young age, and he even participated in a play at the age of 11.

Theatre as a Platform for Activism

Lakshman’s involvement with Aadima, a platform that emerged from the Dalit movement, further solidified his commitment to using theatre as a means of activism. In performances like ‘Let Polly Thrive’ and ‘Matte Ekalavya,’ Lakshman and his troupe engaged with rural communities, spreading messages of social and caste equality. Through collaborative efforts and community involvement, they created sets and collected resources directly from the villages they visited, making theatre an inclusive and empowering experience.

Exploring Intersectionality and Feminism

Lakshman’s productions, such as ‘Daklakatha Devikavya,’ delve into the intersectionality of caste and gender oppression. Through a feminist lens, Lakshman highlights the unique challenges faced by Dalit women, shedding light on the multiple layers of discrimination they endure. By addressing these issues on stage, Lakshman prompts audiences to question the instinct to oppress others and fosters a deeper understanding of the complexities of caste-based discrimination.


Lakshman K P’s artistic journey is a testament to the power of theatre as a tool for social change. Through his productions, he challenges caste-based oppression, reclaims marginalized cultures, and brings life questions to the stage. Lakshman’s work serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of representation and the need to amplify the voices of marginalized communities. By using theatre as a platform for activism, Lakshman inspires dialogue, empathy, and understanding, ultimately contributing to a more inclusive and equitable society.

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