YAKSHAGANA

Yakshagana is one of the most important folk theatres of Karnataka and Kasargod which has brought fame to this region. Every village in Kasargod Taluk is familiar with this art and there are a good number of artistes. The Terukkuthu of Tamilnadu, Koodiyatam and chakyarkuttu of Kerala, Veedhinataka of Andhra Pradesh can be considered as sister art forms.  Yakshagana was originally known by different names like-Bayalata (in Kannada Bayalata means play played in open air).  The stories of Yakshagana were drawn from the Ramayana , Mahabharatha , Bhagavatha and from other mythological episodes.

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The struggle between the good and the evil and the ultimate triumph of the Good.  Almost all ancient arts are having a common world, in one way other related to God-worship. Ethical Values are better inculcated in the minds of people through  entertainment.  Yakshagana no doubt is an ancient performing art.  Some are of the opinion that Yakshagana evolved from the ancient form of Bhutha-Worship(Theyyam).  Bhutha-Worship is very popular in South Canara of Karnataka and Kasaragod Dist. of Kerala. In the process of evolution Yakshagana was also influenced by the Folk Dance, Song, Sanskrit Drama and also from Bharata's Natyashasthra.  South Canara Dist. and Kasaragod District of Kerala (erstwhile South Canara  Dist prior to State Re-organisation) is the motherland Yakshagana.  Parthisubba one of the Pioneer of  Yakshagana is the gift of this District.

The dance drama Yakshagana is broadly divided into two  1. Moodalapaya 2 Paduvalapaya.  The Moodalapaya is divided into Doddata and Sannata which are crude forms of Yakshagana  i.e., purely folkform   The  Paduvalapaya  is again divided into Thenkuthittu and Badaguthittu.   The Badaguthittu is very popular in North Canara Dist. of Karnataka and Thenkuthittu is in the erstwhile South Canara Dist.(including Kasargod Dist). These two groups are distinguished by their costumes used by the troupes and the dance style (Angika).  Thenkuthittu costumes resembles with the Kathakali  to a certain extent.  The term Yakshagana would mean a style of music and it is a musical dance drama played in the open air and called as Bayalata (Open air drama).  In Yakshagana music and speech go hand in hand and it could reach a good distance without our modern sound system.

The main attraction of yakshagana is stage craft where characters like Gods, Demons and Sanyasis are presented in a supernatural atmosphere and the audience are carried to a world of fantasy. In olden days it is performed usually at night lasting from 9.00PM to 6.00AM  in the open-air. The stage of Yakshagana is rectangular in shape measuring  about15'x 30'   prescribing the rule in the given sanskrit sloka.

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Panchahasthena visthirnam dasahasthena unnatham
Ardhachandrapramanena thistathe rangamantapam

Another sanskirt sloka also lays down the rules for the seating of Himmela(Background music)

Vamabhage mrindagecha dakshine thaladharika
Thanmadhyae geethaprasnajah thatvaswe shruthipalakah
Sammukhe narthaki chaiva thadvame hasyakarakah
Natyadhipo poorvamukhe  shobhitham rangamantapam.

One side of the stage floor Bhagavatha sits with his accompaniment.  Bhagavatha is the Narrator, Director or can be called as Suthradhara.  He also sings with the accompaniment of Tala(Jagate) Mridanga(Maddale), Harmonium(Shruthi) and Chakrathala.  Besides high pictched 'Chende' is used in special occasions.  In olden days oil lamps were used to light the stage.  The text of the yakshagana is called "Yakshagana Prasanga" which is narrated in sets of songs. These songs are set of different Ragas and Talas presented according to the "Kalas" ( Periods of night). There are about 100 ragas in yakshagana  Some of the Ragas of yakshagana are not heard of in Karnataka Music viz., Panchagandhi, Gopanitem Kore,Koravy etc, The  characters will dance to the tune of the  songs followed by the dialogue in kannada. The dialogue is presented extempore the framework of the text of songs.  The yakshagana is a total theatre because it has everything of a performing art. It entertains and enlighten both the learned and the illiterate.The yakshagana performances starts and ends with the prayer to Lord Ganesha.

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Systematic training in dance, music, dialogue and makeup(Dressing)  is necessary for an artist.  Dialogue and makeup  can be learnt only by practice. Navaras (Veera, Sringara, Karuana etc) are expressed by these artists All forms of Abhinaya viz., Angika, Vachika, Aaharya and Bhava follow a fixed development over the centuries.   The  only art to which the yakshagana of coastal Karnataka can be compared is Kathakali in Malayalam.  But the highly stylised expression of motions through the various Mudras peculiar to Kathakali is not observed here.  The Characters of this art can be distinguished as Romantic and Demonical.   The Role of Karna, Arjuna etc are treated as romantic role,    using colourful and pleasing costumes   whereas Ravana,  Mahishasur, Duryodhana etc are treated as demonical role  and their facial makeup is very intricate resembling Kathakali techniques painted by the artists himself.   The artists playing Satvika and Sringara roles use green shirts named Dagale.  Rajasa use Red shirt and Tamasa black shirt.  The dress of a character depicts is habit and behaviour.  The main alankara of the head is called  Kedge-Mundale, Mundas(Pagadi)Kirita Kesarithattu and Mudi. The  main colour for the face decoration is called Aradala (Chayam), Ingalika (red), Green, Kadige, Calcium (SUNNA), rice powder and Kumkuma.and the colour of the face is changed according to the nature of the character.

There is another type of Yakshagana called "Yakshagana Koota" or "Talamaddale" It is performed by the artists without makeup and costumes.  Musical accompaniment are the same as Yakshagana Bayalata with 'Vachikabhinaya' and the artists create a fascinating dialogue between themselves according to the text of the play.

There are about 10 troupes of Yakshagaga Bayalata   in this Dist,.Some troupes have the heritage of 100 to 150 years.