Yakshagana, pronounced as yaksha-gaana, a traditional dance drama, is a unique harmony of musical tradition, elaborate costumes, authentic styles of dance, improvised gestures and acting with its extemporaneous dialogue. It is a vibrant, vigorous living form of theatre art. It is popular in the districts of the undivided Dakshina Kannada, Uttara Kannada, Shimoga, and the Kasaragod district of Kerala. The form is said to have arisen from the Vaishnava bhakti movement in the 11th century as a means of entertaining and educating the common people. Yakshagana played a vital role in propagating the virtues portrayed in Indian mythology as it chose its themes from the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and the different mythological tales from the Puranas.
Yakshagana is performed in a rectangular stage, built with four wooden poles on the corners and covered on top by mats of palm leaves on the top. Away from the backstage is a small chowki, the green room for the performers. The audience sits on all the three sides of the platform and a curtain covers only the back of the stage. A raised bench or some tables are placed behind the stage for the Bhagavata and his accompanists, the Himmela. The man who plays the chande (drum) sits at the right hand corner. A performance begins with a prelude called the “Sabhalakshana’ followed by the “Prasanga” The dialogues are traditionally impromptu, and are rendered by the actors with the flow of the song. The unique feature of Yakshagana is that the female roles are portrayed by male actors.
The two variants of Yakshagana are Badagutittu and Tenkutittu, differentiated by the instruments played, and the costumes worn. Thenku thittu is seen in some parts of Udupi district, Dakshina Kannada district and Kasargod. It is characterized by the influence of carnatic music and the dance where there are a lot of high spins in the air and continuous spinning as well. The Badagu Thittu is from Kundapur to Byndoor and Uttara Kannada district. Here importance is given to dialogues and facial expressions. The headgear and costumes of this form are also very elaborate.
Our institution has had a Yakshagana Kendra for the last four decades imparting training to the students in this rich art form. Those trained here have won acclaim for their excellence all over the state. The troupe of the Kendra has won prizes in the university level yakshagana competitions a number of times. Yakshgana performance has been an indispensable part of the Annual Day celebrations of the college since the Kendra came into existence. The uniqueness of the Kendra lies in the fact that it has succeeded in transforming a large number of female students into excellent yakshagana artistes over the years.