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Celebration of the Celestials

Song-Dance-Theater of Yashagana

by K. L. Kamat
First Online: April 24, 2000
Last updated : January 11, 2018

Yakshagana (ya-ksha-gaa-na, roughly translated as Celebration of the Celestials)  is a complete theater which includes song, dance and drama and, is extremely popular in Malenadu, Uttara and Dakshina Kannada districts of the Karnataka State (topics - map - pictures). It is essentially a stage form which entertains and educates the rural folks. A team consists of 15-20 actors who carry their bag and baggage on their heads and walk from one village to another, covering 20-30 kilometers a day. They camp in a temple, and erect an extremely simple stage by using just four poles and many leaves for decoration. People with their families walk or ride their bullock carts to witness a performance. An episode from Ramayana or Mahabharat is elected and accordingly the team do their own make-up and wear very attractive and colorful costumes. There are no women in any team, and hence men wear saris and bras, and thus become women!

A performance is commenced with a puja to Shri Ganesh, followed by buffoonery by "Kodangis." A loud background music is provided by a chande and a maddale (various types of drums), and a tala (cymbals)  handled by a team of  three. Seated among them is Bhagavata who is the  producer, the director and the master of the ceremonies. In short, he is all in one. Every actor must have good physique and excellent stamina, and should sing, dance, act and converse the whole night. He should also have sound knowledge of Hindu scriptures. In every act, there will be gods, goddesses, kiratas (mischief mongers), kimpurushas (mythological figures) and demons. The key characters, known as "Kattu-veshas" appear after the Bhagavata, when the sleeping or drowsing audience sit erect and take keen interest in the proceedings of the stage.

There is no gate collection to any performance, and hence it is completely free from any toll (1985). A temple fund or public contributions financially support a troop. The people in distress also take vow to arrange a performance to please their family deity. There are temples where Yakshagana is performed throughout the year, except in the rainy season at their premises. Such teams are known after the temples' deities.

Portait of a Yakshagana Artist

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Yakshagana Artist

Where is my Mohini ?Portrait of a Yakshagana ArtistA Yakshagana Artist PosesKids Giving a Performance of YakshaganaPortrait of a Yakshagana performer
A woman Yakshagana performerA Yakshagana Performance in ProgressYakshagana is typically performed by men only. <br> Here, a man dressed as seductress MohiniAn Artist puts on Make-up for a Yakshagana PerformanceDance meets Mythology
Depiction of the Gadayudha EpicThe Stage for a performance of String YakshaganaProfile of a Man Dressed as Woman for a Yakshagana PerformanceYakshagana Artist Puts on MakeupPortrait of a Yakshagana Performer
Pictures of Yakshagana Artists

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