Origin of Folk Theatre of Karnataka
The origin of folk theatre is to be found in the religious and ceremonial cult through which primitive peoples of all times have sought to promote the welfare of the tribe by incurring the favour of deities and placating the spirit of evil. The rituals played a crucial role in the folk theatre. Rituals, when analysed, show the effort of the primitive man to invoke the aid of the phenomenal powers to get their assistance in keeping the four-fold fears away from his doors, or to offer thanks when his wishes were fulfilled. There is perhaps no ritual which is not either an invocation or a thanksgiving to an unearthly Power. Of the four, the fear of evil (Bhaya) dominated and gave rise to a number of rituals. The ritual was to please the evil spirit (Devva) which was understood to have been causing the evil, or to please its superior power (Deva) which was capable of controlling it. It was natural that the ghost (who in the eye of the folk, would express themselves by hurling an earthquake or a famine or casting a devouring plague), a master of evils was much feared and respected. The state of Karnataka, with its thunderous skies, pouring rains, thick forests and dangerous valleys, intensely feels the presence of Phenomenal Powers, and so, has been the home of ghost-worship.
Apart from ritual dance, the Folk theatre of Karnataka is also known for dramatic dances. The "dramatic dances" are particularly colourful and impressive because of the costumes and make-up of the participants. The beating-drum is an inevitable accompaniment with fast and changing rhythms. The real ' dramatic ' element is noticed in the dance when the group divides into two camps, one replying to the other either in music or in dance patterns.
Themes of Folk Theatre of Karnataka
Yaksagana, a folk theatrical dance from, deals with themes built around the mythological superhuman personalities, gods, demons and dream lands. Ramayana, Mahabharata and Bhagavata have provided suitable themes in abundance for Yaksagana. Moreover, they maintain a continuity of the Vedic influence by simplifying into didactic stories, the lofty tenets and philosophical teachings of the Vedas and Upanisads. Apart from mythology, the themes are also derived from history.