A trip to the coastal belt would be incomplete without watching the Yakshagana - an elaborate dance-drama performance unique to Karnataka. It is a rare combination of dance, music, songs, scholarly dialogues and colourful costumes. A celestial world unfolds before the audience as loud singing and drumming form a backdrop to dancers clad in striking costumes. Hence the name Yaksha (celestial) Gana (music). This is a night-long event, with elaborately adorned performers dancing to the beating of drums in open-air theatres - usually village paddy fields after the winter crop has been reaped.
Yakshagana literally means the music of celestial beings. It is also the name for a theatrical form of Karnataka and in this context signifies a particular style of music never really gained national prominence and remained as an accompaniment to the magnificent dance drama traditional of Karnataka and so Yakshgana today invokes images of only its theatrical version. In earlier times the dance drama that was written with the yakshagana style of music was called Bayalata, Bhagvatara ata. of Dashavatara ata. Over 160 ragas or melodies seemed to have existed, though today only about 30 are repeated most often.
Yakshagana (ya-ksha-gaa-na, roughly translated as Celebration of the Celestials)
complete theater which includes song, dance and drama and, is extremely popular in Malnad, Uttara and Dakshina Kannada districts of the Karnataka State. It is essentially a stage form which entertains and educates the rural folks. A team consists of 15-20 actors who carry their bag and baggage on their heads and walk from one village to another, covering 20-30 kilometers a day. They camp in a temple, and erect an extremely simple stage by using just four poles and many leaves for decoration. People with their families walk or ride their bullock carts to witness a performance. An episode from Ramayana or Mahabahrat is elected and accordingly the team do their own make-up and wear very attractive and colorful costumes. There are no women in any team, and hence men wear saris and bras, and thus become women!