Yakshagana is the Poster-Art form Karnataka. A story is depicted through dance, drama, music and dialogue. Yaksha is associated with celestial beings (like spirits) and Gana is the music. Yakshagana is estimated to be more than 400 years old and predominantly found in the coastal regions of Karnataka. There are various forms of this traditional art form.
Thenku Thittu is the name of Yakshagana towards the south and Badga Thittu in the northern Karnataka. It is played from dusk to dawn mostly with stories from Bhagavata, Ramayana and Mahabharata.
Himmela, the music group plays the background music. The dance and dialogue group is known as Mummela. There is a lead singer in Himmela and is also the first actor “Modalane Vesha” in the play. Others in the Himmela plays the Maddala, Pipe, Organ and Drums. The Yakshagana music has a separate tradition and are based on Ragas constisting of Mattu and Tala which are the musical meter.
The play begins with an initial beating of the drums close to the sunset. The compositions are called Abbara or Peetike which last for about an hour. Only after this the actors will come on stage. The costumes and makeup have a colourful and rich format. Face painting is used in the makeup and the actors use head-dresses. Epic poems of Kavya and Purana are narrated on stage in an extravagant dance form. The main storyteller is known as the Bhagavathar.
Parthi Subba from Kumble, Kasargod in Kerala is considered as the father of Yakshagana. The great poet Muddana has composed many Yakshagana acts. Rathnavati Kalyana is one of the famous compositions of Muddana. Yakshagana is popular in Dakshnia Kannada, Kasargod, Uduppi, Uttara Kannada and Shimoga districts. This is one form of art mainly played during the rainy seasons. Other poets who contributed to this art form are Ajapura Vishnu, Purandaradasa, Nagire Subba.