It is said that in ancient Rome, actors were banned from mixing with common citizens. Certain restrictions were levied on them and they were viewed as one if the lowest rungs of society. I would like to know what was their status in ancient India.


Since you tagged the question with Dharma Shastras, I'm providing few verses from the Smritis that deal with actors.

For some reasons, actors (and also the singers) are censured in the Smritis. There are plenty of such verses present in the various Smritis. Their food is considered as impure (that is mustn't be accepted), they are considered unfit to be invited in Shraddhas etc..

Manu 4.214. Nor the food (given) by an informer, by one who habitually tells falsehoods, or by one who sells (the rewards for) sacrifices, nor the food (given) by an actor, a tailor, or an ungrateful (man),

A Brahmin who is an actor should be treated as a Shudra. Like these we have many verses that show that the actors did not occupy a honorable position in the society in ancient times.

8.102. Brahmanas who tend cattle, who trade, who are mechanics, actors (or singers), menial servants or usurers, the (judge) shall treat like Sudras.

What is given as a present to a wicked person, to a panegyrist, to an ignorant wight, to a bad physician, to a liar, to a cheat, to a flatterer, to a wandering actor, and to a thief, becomes fruitless. (16).

Daksha Smriti 3.16

A washerman, cobbler, actor, Varuda, Kaivarta, Meda and Bhilla, these seven are described in the Smriti as lowcastes. (3)

Angiras Smriti 1.3

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