Costumes and make-up of Yakshagana form an essential part of the folk theatre of Karnataka. Yaksagana artist is himself an adept in make-up and costume; he can use these elements expertly so as to bring out the innate character of the role he is portraying. The leading role of the performance is called Bannada Vesha or, literally, the character in colour. The name is a worthy compliment to the imposing make-up and gorgeous costumes of the role. The artist playing the Bannada Vesha spends in the normal course, four to five busy hours in making up and getting into his imposing garb. Make-up is a specialised art with Yakshagana and Kathakali and is the mainstay in recreating the atmosphere in which the Superman revelled. It is the imposing make-up and costumes that recreate the Superman on the stage and drive the audience in to a dreamland. The diffused dim light of the oil lamp called Panju or Deevatige and the great distance between the last spectator and the artist were obviously the considerations that conditioned the art of make-up in Yakshagana in the olden days; and further, the costumes were to be convenient for the vigorous dancing performed almost at every stage of the performance.
Costumes of Yakshagana
Over the Kavacha, the tight upper banian and Challana, the tight trousers, every performer wears a full sleeved upper garment usually in green or red, and a veeragacche (hero's girdle, a way of wearing the dhoti). If the role is of Yama - the God of Death, Narasinha, the great human with lion's head or that of a demon, the girth of the character will be increased three fold with the help of thick sheets of cloth or sarees tied round the body. Loose garments, in appropriate colours to reveal the innate quality of the character - dark for the demon and reddish brown for kings, gods and chiefs (Maha Nayakas) are worn over and then come up the waist coat, embroidered with pieces of glass. The ornaments used are: bead necklaces and garlands, patti, koralahara, and sage around the neck, Bhujakeerti for the elbow, Tola pavada for the wrist, gold plates for the arms, crown for the head with Karnapatra (wings attached to the crown), Kennappo for the ear, Dagale the flowing piece of embroidered cloth falling in front from the waist, and jingles around the ankles. There are significant head-dresses and crowns with pronounced differences in shape and size. The most prominent crowns are Battalu Kireeta with a great halo, worn by royal characters like Dasaratha and Dharmaraja, Pombe Kireeta worn by characters like Lord Rama and Arjuna, Rakkasi Kireeta with peacock feathers worn by demons like Shurpanakhi and Hanumanthana Kireeta for Hanuman. A circular halo of the headdress made of white and black cloth decorated with silver lace tape and peacock feathers is called Sirimudi and is worn by characters like Lord Krishna and Abhimanyu. Sirimudi is in the shape of the human heart and is made in varying sizes and colours specifically for different characters. The size of the Sirimudi is symbolic of the stature of the character which wears it. After making up and wearing the prescribed costume, ornaments and the head dress, the Yakshagana artist gives a final touch by holding the relevant weapon - the mace, sword or the bow and arrow.
(Last Updated on : 19-04-2012)