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It’s a hard life for a Yakshagana artist who is a scholar equipped with knowledge of our rich culture and stories. He is a good mathematician with skill & keen sense of the science of rhythm and its vibrant dynamic changes during the execution of the dance, he is also a make-up expert as there is no make-up man to help him with his elaborate make up.

Yakshagana as seen today is essentially a dance-drama form. Shatavadhani Dr R Ganesh’s pioneering efforts over a decade have helped in gradually bringing in a solo performance format incorporating various charis and karanas – ‘Ekavyakthi Yakshagana’ a solo Yakshagana performance where an artist will enact several characters.

Shatavadhani Dr R Ganesh has written several solo acts. Some of the solo acts written by him for Ekavyakthi Yakshagana are Bhamini, Phuthana and Seetha Vilapa. He has written “Bhama” in Kannada based on the theme of Bhama Kalapam in Kuchipudi.

I have been studying the hejje patterns of Yakshagana in comparison to the adavu patterns of Kuchipudi. Though Kuchipudi has a vast vocabulary of the adavu patterns in various jathis (Rhythmic patterns), it is still interesting to add a few modifications to the Kuchipudi style based on some of the steps (hejje) of Karnataka Yakshagana.

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Kuchipudi today

Unlike the Yakshagana of Karnataka, when the Kuchipudi dance dramas are staged, the make-up room was not as elaborate and does not have character hierarchy in seating arrangements of the green room. The make-up kit carried certain masks, “Tere” or the screen, Jarjara- flag staff, incense container, torches with raisin powder, jada- Satya Bhamas braid.

Essentially kuchipudi dance drama starts with a ‘Poorvaranga’ in an elaborate manner. The main feature of Poorvaranga which is an oral tradition consists of prayer to Ganesha, which is called Uthapana in Bharatha Shatra.

The program begins with singing of prayer and benediction for the success of play. The offerings of Nandi Prasthavana are made by Suthradhara & his 2 co artists called “paari , parshwakulu,” ‘Nandi Prasthavana’ is sung to delight the gods & wish well to the universe. 

Then there are Shlokas from the Vedas narrated while the stage is consecrated by the sprinkling of holy water. 

Jarjara Dwaja of Indira , Carrying the flag staff to the stages is done by placing the flag on the stage in north east direction by the dancer. Sometimes the dancer runs across the stage with the flag staff suggesting driving away of the evil forces and then makes a quick exit.

It is followed by Ranga Alankarana /Rangavalli or decoration of stage with coloured powder.

Then the dancers enter with incense (Dhoopam) and offer it to the gods.

After this the Deepa or a bunch of fifty eight lamps is offered to the Ranga Devatha- the chief deity of the stage.

The next group of dancers brings flowers and offers it to audience and seek their blessings.

After this the Ganapathi Prarthana is done where a dancer with the elephant mask ( Ganesha mask) dances to song ‘Tandava Nrittya Kari Gajanana’. This dance begins by two people holding a curtain and entering the stage covering the dancer with Ganesha mask in the center and two people with torches ,to flash light around. As the dancers enter the centre stage the curtain is removed and Ganapathi Prathana is danced by all the dancers.

Amba Paraku’, this is a traditional prayer to goddess “Tripura Sundhari”of Kuchipudi temple, that is sung by the bhagavathulu singers.

This is followed by reciting thodeya mangalam followed by “Naandi vachanam”, a brief about the story to be presented, is narrated by the Suthradhara, this is somewhat similar in Yakshagana of Karnataka also.

In Kuchipudi, Suthradhara sings, wield cymbals, delivers dialogues, impersonates the female role of Madhavi and also plays the role of Vidushaka(Joker). He often carries the story further. We do not find the Suthradhara in Badaguthittu Yakshagana as it is the Bhagavatha the lead singer who sings with the cymbals and talks about the story of the play. The Suthradhara in Kuchipudi does not change costumes but by his Abhinaya one can make out the distinction of all characters that he plays.

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Kuchipudi and Yakshagana differ in certain renditions of angika (body movements), aaharya (costume & ornamentation), vachika (speech and song) and satvika (emotions) abhinaya , but similar in certain approaches to narrative of the theme or the story. This article gives glimpses of Yakshagana from Karnataka and Kuchipudi.


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