Yakshagana at Honnavar

Tuesday, 31 October 2006

This dasara, I spent a very relaxed 4 days at my in-laws’ place at Honnavar

Honnavar is a quiet coastal town with kannada, konkani speaking people. One of the main attraction of coastal districts is Yakshagana , an art form unique to karnataka. Though it is very easy for the untrained eye to confuse it with KathakaLi , they are quite unique, with KathakaLi being predominantly Kerala art form while Yakshagana is tuLu and kannada.

The ‘aaTa’ (play) we saw was – “meenakshi kalyaNa” (wedding of meenakshi), a mythological play.

Yakshaganas typically deal with mythological topics, but more often than not, the actors inject political satire to the amusement of the audience.

There are two actors on the stage.

The woman is a princess who has come to attack another king, but meets him before mounting an attack.
The character in red is the king who is teasing the woman about how she is a small babe compared to his age and mocking her inexperience in the matters of war and statecraft.

The clip captures only a small part of that dialogue, but there are interesting things to notice.

Typical of yakshagana plays, the Woman’s role is played by a man!

The man on the extreme left is beating the “maddaLe”, a form of drum. maddaLe is a fascinating instrument and makes me go “wow” everytime I hear it.

The person singing is called “bhagawataru”, and the variation of voice, tone is something to be experienced. Days after I see a yakshagana, I feel like start singing in that style ;)

So, if you are visiting the coastal and malenad districts (Uttara kannada, dakshina kannada, shimoga) of Karnataka, make sure you see at least one yakshagana. Its an experience of a lifetime.

The Wikipedia entry on Yakshagana is a great read.

Some photos on flickr: yakshagana

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