||Yakshagana hails from the coastal strip
of Karnataka. There is evidence in the Bharatatesha
Vaibha (written in 1557) that this form is at least 400
years old. Yakshagana has its base in the ritualistic Nagamandala practices. The
heart of this form is gana or song, arising from a distinct class of Kannada literature.
Particularly every theme carries a moral.
||Yakshagana is actually dance-opera.
A play has 200 to 300 stanzas set to various meters. The bhagvata or the conductor
of the dance-opera first sings a verse and the characters interpret it through
expressional dance. Some 150 ragas are known
to the Yakshagana tradition. The principal manifestations are of Vishnu. The active
performance season is from December to May,
when the crop has been harvested.
||Dancing in Yakshagana is not very intricate which
is why it is sometimes mistaken or relegated to folk theatre. Footwork
is very important, though hasta or hand gestures
are near absent. Aharya or make-up in this
form is distinctive as in Kathakali. The characters are divided into certain principal
types. Noble kings have a large
black moustache and a sacred red mark
on the forehead. A gilded crown adds
appeal to king and heroes.