01 April, 2007

A vibrant dance drama form of coastal Karnataka - Yakshagana

I'm ashamed to admit that though I hail from coastal Karnataka (Village - Karki, Taluk - Honnavar), I've never ever watched a live performance of a Yakshagana! This, after coming to know years back that our surname BHAGWATH is derived from our forefathers who were singers (called a Bhagwatha) in Yakshaganas! Therefore, when I came to know that Keremane Shambhu Hegdeis going to perform a Yakshagana during the "Anushruti"series of functions in Ravindra Bhavan at Bhopal on 26th March, I decided that the time has finally arrived when I MUST watch a Yakshagana. For the uninitiated, Yakshagana or the song by Yakshas, is a vibrant, vivacious dance - drama form native to coastal Karnataka. Its a centuries old style of narrating mythological stories mainly from the Ramayana, Mahabharata, Puranas etc. On this day, it was to "Duryodhana Vadha", recounting the Pandava's search for Duryodhana and his subsequent killing. The performance began with the "Ranga Pooje" or worshipping of the stage by a lady (actually a male dressed in feminine attire). But I couldn't get the point about worshipping a draped deity, as is evident in the picture below. Any answers anyone ?

Next, came the Pandavas, also draped and revealed their identity later while dancing (pic below).
Pandavas search for the elusive Duryodhana and confer amongst themselves as to his whereabouts (pic below).
Duryodhana in the meanwhile is desparate to hide himself. Sanjaya (old man), who's blessed with divine vision comes to kow of duryodhana's fate and comes to meet him in the forest (pic below). Duryodhana confides to him that he's about to hide himself in a nearby lake.
A Gowda (farmer / woodcutter) eavesdrops on them and rushes to inform the Pandavas about Duryodhana's whereabouts (pic below).
Pandavas reach the lake and try to challenge duryodhana to urge him to come out of his hiding (pic below).
Even Lord Krishna tries his hand at it (pic below), but he comes out only after hearing the challenge of his sworn enemy Bhima.
Duryodhana is given a choice to fight with any one of the Pandavas of his choice. As expected, he chooses Bhima! (pic below)
In the initial encouinter, Duryodhana seriously hurts Bhima who is now fallen down in a swoon. Pandavas are shocked and crestfallen at this turn of events (pic below)
After the divine intervention from Lord Krishna, Bhima is resurrected as it were and after a most controversial prompt from Krishna, strikes Duryodhana on his thigh (pic below)
Duryodhana bites the dust and thus Pandavas avenge themselves (Pic below).
At the end of the super performance when I went backstage to meet the performers I found that all were gathered and were praying to Lord Shiva before removing their attire. It was rather unfortunate that Keremane Shambhu Hegde himself couldn't make the trip and instaed, his son Shivram Hegde performed the lead role of Duryodhana (pic below)
Let me tell the uninformed that Keremane Shambhu Hegde is probably the greatest ever Yakshagana performer. In conclusion I must add that I'm now addicted to this uniquee dance drama form. Actually I never was much interested in ANY form of dance, born as it is I am with two left feet and have absolutely no understanding of rhythm! However, ever since I started accompanying my daughter to her Bharatnatyam classes I have begun to appreciate the dance forms. Thus I wanted to take my daughter & wife to the Yakshagana so that they could enjoy it. However, once the show began, I was rooted to the seat !

No comments: