“Yaksha” a spirit an “Gana” a music makes the word “Yakshagana”. Believed to be a favorite act of Yakshas when they needed an entertainment. Also called “Bayalata” (Open theater play) or simply as “Ata” (Play) in coastal tulu area around Dakshina Kannada district in Karnataka State (India)
Yakshagana basically comprises of a “Himmela” a background music supported by the singing by the “Bhagawatha” (Background singer) and the “Mummela” which is dance and the dialog by the artists in the foreground.
Oldest existence of Yakshagana found from 16th Century. The play basically enacts a short episode from vast Hindu Purana, mythological stories are called “Prasanga”. Generally Yakshagana is dusk to dawn program. Lot of different types of ancient drums and bells played as himmela.(Background music)
One of the main highlight of Yakshagana is the colorful vibrant costumes!
My memory of watching Yakshagana goes back to my childhood, played at local temple (Mari Amma Temple, Bolar, Mangalore), I was mesmerized with the glory of the colorful costumes accompanied by the beats of drums making the the whole program and breathtaking.
Generally Yakshagana is performed by male actors, even female characters of the play is acted by men. But lately lot of encouragement is given to uplift one of the oldest traditional play of ancient times and surprisingly girls have shown great interest. So now lot of apprenticeship programs inducted to bring in female players into main stream Yakshagana art work. Even the male characters including the Rakshasa (Demons) which are generally considered to be physically exhausting and challenging roles are also being performed by ladies.