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Item Code: IDI102
Author: K. Shivarama Karanth
Publisher: Abhinav Publication
Language: English
Edition: 1997
ISBN: 8170173574
Pages: 252 (41 Color and 3 B/W Illustrations)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details: 10.0 inch X 7.5 inch
weight of the book: 780 gms

About the Book

No country in the world is blessed with a greater variety of forms in music, dance and theatre than ours. One of the theatre forms generally described as folk but possessing a strong classical connection is the Yaksagana. Although the name signifies the music of celestial beings, Yaksagana is an amalgam of the sky with the earth. There is both mystery and robustness about this form in which singing and drumming merge with dancing and words with gestural interpretation, and players clad in costumes of striking colour and contours. It is the cherished cultural possession of the coastal districts of Karnataka.

Dr. K. S. Karanath is the foremost living authority on Yaksagana and has been working on all its aspects, namely- dance, music, and literature, since 1930. He has led the way to a deep and systematic study of this art form. He has spent decades traveling to remote villages within Karnataka to inspect and study every Yaksagana manuscript, the earliest going back to A.D. 1651. With his fine literary judgement and aesthetic sensibility, he has traced the changing trends in the performance of Yakshagana. He has interacted with hundreds of Yokshagana artistes to find out what customs in training and interpretation had prevailed earlier and had fallen into disuse and deserved to be resuscitated. He has put together his findings in the shape of two standard books Yakshagana- Bayalata(1958) in Kannada, and Yakshagana in Kannada and English (1975). The present volume is a revised edition of the earlier book, with additional material and illustrations.

It is hoped that the book will provide valuable insights into one of the most attractive and dynamic art forms of our land, as well as into a penetrative mind.

About the Author

DR. KOTA SHIVARAMA KARANTH (b. 1902) is one of the most arresting personalities in the literary and theatre world of India. His interests have been vast and varied; he is a novelist, playwright, essayist, encyclopaedist, cultural anthropologist, art historian, lexicographer, populariser of science, and environmentalist. Besides honorary doctorates from several Indian universities and fellowships from two national academies- the Sahitya Akademi, he has received the Jnanpith award in 1978, Dadabhai Nauroji award and Tulsi Samman in 1990. He has over 150 publications to his credit. His works have been widely translated into several Indian languages and filmed as well.

Dr. Karanth has made a singular contribution to the preservation of Yakshagana. While a votary of tradition, he is not averse to innovation in the traditional theatres. His Yakshagana ballets have been performed in sixty. Centers all over India. That Yakshagana has come to stay on the Indian national stage is due largely to Dr. Karanth.

Now in his ninety-fifth year, Dr. Karanth continues to radiate his restless energy, writing, directing plays, and functioning as an unelected tribune of the people and their freedoms.


Born in the coastal village of Kota, in South Kanara District, ever since my childhood, I was very much impressed with the folk theatre of my native land. But as a boy, when I began to attend the high school, commercial drama troupes of the time, belonging to various parts of Karnataka, slowly began to cast their spell on me It seemed to be a more sophisticated drama form, with realistic dresses, glamorous stage equipments, more pleasing music and with better facilities for seating the audience. This made me forget for a long while the charms of the folk theatre of my village.

After I gave up my studies at the College, during the years 1921-30, I began to take greater interest in the commercial drama troupes of my land, with occasional inspiration from such troupes that were a rage in Bombay (Maharashtra), which city I began to visit once a year at least.

During this decade I began to write plays in Kannada and stage them too. My contacts with commercial drama troupes increased and I gave them a few of my plays and, as their author, directed the actors in staging the plays too. These attempts brought me into closer touch with its music, prose and normal stage techniques.

But between 1930-40, somehow, I was attracted to Puttur, where due to my mentor, late Molahally Shiva Rao, I could carry on very many activities, of which the theatre was one. During this period, my association with Sri Padukone Ramanand made me realize indirectly the vastness of the English drama theatre. I began to read voraciously various types of plays published in English. It was not my nature to read and enjoy and then keep quiet. I too began to write and stage plays of various types. I wrote straight plays that had social content, which in those days were full of sentiment and melodrama. I wrote some farces and blank verse plays. With little knowledge of Hindustani music, I attempted at writing operas and stage them too. Puttur, for nearly fifteen years, became a laboratory for me in the field of such experimentation in drama forms. Shadow plays, mimes, operas and tableaux plays. A particular play of mine (Mukta Dvara), which had in it as a main character the element of 'time', impelled me venture into the field of 'dance' too. I was deeply interested in finding out what medium suited best for a particular type of thought content. Hence, along with prose and music, dance too came as a full-fledged medium of dramatic expression.

At this stage, I had to look back to my past, and realize that Yaksagana folk theatre was indeed a great medium, that had achieved such beautiful costume, dance, music and other theatrical elements.

Between 1940-60, I did a lot of research in the field of Yaksagana in all its aspects, namely, dance, music, literature, costume, etc., and during the next decade, with the active co-operation of many professional artistes, I engaged myself in staging ballets and conducting further research over its various components. I have found in it a worthwhile creative medium, whose potentialities seem to be very rich and aesthetically satisfying.

In 1958, I wrote my first book on Yaksagana in Kannada and revised the same in 1962. But since then I have never remained quite. I have been constantly working at it, staging ballets, conducting seminars, carrying its message to its own practitioners in the village, who alone I feel will be able to resurrect this great art.

Now in 1974, I am bringing out a book in English for the first time. It is appearing in Kannada too, not as a revised edition, but as a thoroughly re-written work. I am very thankful to the Institute of Kannada Studies, Mysore University, for publishing both the Kannada and English versions.


  Foreword to the New Edition 5
  Foreword to the First Edition 11
  Preface 13
  Acknowledgements 17
1 Looking Back and Around 21
2 Presentation of a play 36
3 Sabhalaksana (The prologue) 63
4 The Language Medium 68
5 Yaksagana 82
6 Dance 103
7 A Medium of Fantasy (Costumes and Make-up) 119
8 Antiquity of Yaksagana Tradition 147
9 Yaksagana and its Variants 155
10 Playwrights and Plays 160
11 Tradition Made Relevant 175
  Appendix I: Babhruvahana Kalaga 197
  Appendix II: Requisites 214
  Appendix III: Chronology of Plays 217
  Appendix IV: Choreography 221
  Appendix V: Yaksagana Ragas 227
  Appendix VI: The Yaksagana Theatre 237


Sample Pages

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