Yakshagana is believed to have a history of one thousand years. Yakshagana
is believed to have represented a specific type of music of the 'yakhas'.
Yaksha is the name of certain demi-gods attending on 'Kubera'- the god
of wealth in the Hindu
mythology. 'Gaana' means song. By combining the meaning, the term Yakshagana
might mean the 'song of Yakshas'.
Of the 29 districts in Karnataka, Yakshagana has established
its firm roots in the districts of Dakshina Kannada, Uttara Kannada, Dharwad,
Mysore and Hassan. Based on its technique of presentation, Yakshagana
has been broadly classified into 'Mudalapaya' (the custom of the east)
and 'Paduvalapaya' (the custom of the west). Popularly known as 'Bayalata'
or 'Aata', Mudalapaya is widely practiced in places like Tumkur, Bangalore,
Kolar, Mandya, Mysore, Hassan, Chitradurga, Bellary, Dharwad, Bijapur,
Gulbarga, Raichur, Bidar and Belgaum. While Yakshagana of North Karnataka
has assumed varied forms like 'Sannata', 'Doddata', 'Krishna Parijatha'
and 'Dasarata'. The form of Paduvalapaya' popular extensively in Uttara
and Dakshina Kannad districts has been further divided into 'Thenku Tittu'
(south) and 'Badagu Tittu' (north). Paduvalapaya is practiced in places
like Karki, Keladi, Ikkeri, Sagar, Kolluru, Maranakatt, Sankuru, Coondapur,
Kotesvara, Kota, Udupi, Dharmasthala, Mangalore, Brahmavara, Suratkal
The Epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata offer extensive material
for Yakshagana Prasangas (topic). The literature is presented both in
verse and prose and the former is interpreted in simple prose and dialogues.
The show begins with an announcement of Yakshagana by beating the 'Chande',
in important places of the village.
Yakshagana is performed in a rectangular stage built
with four wooden poles installed on four corners and covered by mats of
palm leaves on the top. Away from the backstage is a small place called
'Chowki', the greenroom for the artistes. The audience sits on all the
three sides of the platform and a curtain covers only the back stage.
life force of Yakshagana is the Bhagavata, the chief narrator of
the story, in the verse form. Bhagavata also conducts light hearted conversation
with the 'Vidushaka'- the jester. The dialogues between these two
characters is very amusing and the Bhagavata ably supports the Vidushaka
in carrying out extempore dialogues.
Music is the essence of Yakshagana and the narration
is in verse form. It is the songs and poems which transmit the story and
the songs are invariably sung by the Bhagavata. The music in Yakshagana
is excellent and it seems to have been woven into Yakshagana with commendable
background knowledge of its costuming and make up of the characters. Prose
in Yakshagana is in the form of dialogues. The songs are sung by the Bhagavata
at a very high pith and hence is considered as a distinct style of music.
The rhythm that dictates the body movements, footwork and the performance
actually flows from the musical instruments. In Paduvalapaya, 'Chande'
(a cylindrical percussion drum beaten with two thin sticks) is the vigorous
instruments and the beats of the Chande are symbolic of valour and prowess.
Regional differences allow the use of other instruments like gong and
cymbals. In Mudalapaya, the chief instrument is Mukhaveena
(flute like wind instrument, a form of Nadaswara, a kind of musical
pipe). Percussion instruments like the 'Maddale' and the 'Mrudanga' lend
musical support. The latest trend is to use harmonium.