Libmonster ID: U.S.-1432
Author(s) of the publication: I. LAPTEVA

Yakshagana - "yaksh song", which is native to Karnataka, is a performance that combines singing, dialogue and dance. There is a legend that in ancient times it was performed by fabulous treasure keepers - yakshas. These warlike creatures were great musicians and dancers. It is even said that the king of the gods Indra danced in his childhood, imitating the yakshas. They were commanded by the lord of wealth Kubera. His abode - the wonderful city of Alaku-was surrounded by evergreen gardens and groves. Golden lotuses bloomed in the rivers and lakes, and the walls and roofs of houses were decorated with precious stones. Fierce yakshas guarded Kubera's domain.

Yakshagana is more than 400 years old. It is performed by professional troupes belonging to temples. In the old days, there were about fifty of them; today, there are less than a dozen. Yakshagana is considered the best way to thank God for getting rid of a serious illness or other misfortune, so villagers often turn to temples to organize a performance.

There are several hundred pieces performed in the Yakshagana style. They usually choose their subjects from the Mahabharata, Ramayana, and Bhagavata Purana. The language of the plays is very simple. Epic texts are specially adapted for perception in vocal performance.

The dance is represented by lively and at the same time graceful movements. Preference is given to performing in the dynamic tandava technique. A mandatory element of the style is battle scenes accompanied by frequent drumming. They use rotational movements, including those performed on the knees. Sign language is almost nonexistent. Facial expressions are natural. Numerous combinations of shapes are designed to reflect the mood of the hero. On the ankles of the dancers - several rows of bells, their ringing is very melodious.

The order of the presented plots of the play is directed by the manager-bhagavata. He puts them in a random order, according to his own design.

One of the most notable characters in the show is the fool. He entertains the audience with frivolous remarks and funny gestures, and performs the roles of guardians and messengers as needed.

The play begins with the introduction of the main characters, who enter the stage one at a time, and only the inseparable Pandava brothers appear five at a time.

The warriors wear a headdress in the shape of a lotus leaf. It is covered with red or black fabric with gold cross stripes. The rest of the characters have crowns decorated with pieces of glass mirror. If the crown is worn sideways, then you have a hunter in front of you. The size and richness of the headdress indicates the significance of the hero. The costumes of Krishna, Indra and Rama are complemented by an embroidered fan. The makeup of gods and warriors is bright pink. There are red shadows on her eyelids, and her eyes are lined with black. The faces and hands of the performers of the roles of Krishna and Rama are painted blue. The faces of demons are red, green, or black. All the male characters, with the exception of Krishna and the youngest of the Pandavas, Sahadeva, have a thick black moustache. Kings, in addition to their moustaches, have a sacred sign on their foreheads, while demons have a semicircular beard and white balls of rice paste on their noses.

Dancers wear red, blue or green sweatshirts and checkered orange-red dhotis. A colorful crown, a bright jacket, a wide skirt and openwork metal "epaulettes" are signs of a creature of demonic origin. Sages and women have a natural make-up and costume. Female roles are played by men. According to tradition, artists wear numerous ornaments sparkling with gold and stones.

In the northern and southern regions of Karnataka, stylistic differences are noticeable: for southerners, dance is the main thing in the performance, while for Northerners, facial expressions are the main thing. The costumes are brighter in the south. Here, apparently, the influence of the neighboring state of Kerala and the Kathakali style affects.

Today Yakshagana is back in fashion. Solo dance compositions performed in a traditional manner are particularly popular.


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I. LAPTEVA, CULTURE, LITERATURE, AND ART. India. Yakshagana // New-York: Libmonster (LIBMONSTER.COM). Updated: 06.06.2024. URL: https://libmonster.com/m/articles/view/CULTURE-LITERATURE-AND-ART-India-Yakshagana (date of access: 25.07.2024).

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