During my school days after exam I often went to Manglore my native place for summer vacation. There in village we have a big ceremony at Ganapati Temple every year during that period. During this ceremony they had drama and dance performance by artist for entertainment of the villagers . I remember I use go with my uncles and enjoy staying out whole night watching traditional dances, drama performed by the locals and the most fascanting thing that attracted me was the Yakshagana performance.
Yakshagana is a dance drama popular in the state of Karnataka. It is also called as Aata (meaning play) in both Kannada and Tulu language. I speak Tulu and hardly understand Kannada but my uncles use to explain me whats happeing in the Aata as it was been narrated in kannada . Yakshagana is a combination of song, dance and drama also called as Raaga and Tala. Stories depicted from the epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata and the Puranas. Yakshagana consists of a Himmela (background musicians) and a Mummela (dance and dialog group) which together perform a Yakshaga Prasanga..
Actors wear costumes and enact the various roles. The unique feature of Yakshagana is that the female roles are portrayed by male actors. The actors wear resplendent costumes, head-dresses, and painted faces which they paint themselves. I use to love the way the performers use to dress and manage to perform for such long hours with excellent facial expressions and delicate movements of hand and feet . Its been said that earlier times such art forms were successful in educating the masses with the tales from holy books. They worked as fables with a moral ending. Yakshagana, thus, served a dual purpose of education and entertainment. Still the purpose is the same but only difference is that they are now performed in theatres with few people interested to watch this dance form. So if you ever happen to visit karnataka and an art lover do try to catch up with Yakshagana performance happening in a theatre around. I consider it to be a form of indian opera for western eyes.