Themes of Folk theatre of Karnataka mainly consist of mythological and historical elements. Yaksagana 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. Instruction with entertainment made a lasting impression on the rural audiences and thus, the lessons of the classics were inculcated. It is in this sense that Yaksagana remained the Night School for the masses, breathing the everlasting spirit of our classical Sanskrit literature.
In selecting the theme for his Yaksagana Prabandha, the composer paid particular attention to the time honoured sentiments of Veera and Raudra. He also provided scope for exploiting war dances. Thus there are elements of Indian mythology on the Yaksagana stage and prominent among them are Krishna- Arjuna Kalaga, Babruvahana Kalaga, Hansadhvaja Kalaga, Karnarjuna Kalaga and others. Even if the Yaksagana Prabandha is about a marriage (Parinaya) or diplomatic dealing (Sandhana), there is perhaps no prasanga without a battle (Kalaga) in it. The title Girija Kalyana suggests a romantic theme, but it opens with the destruction of Daksa- Yajna by Lord Shiva and ends with the battle between the demon Taraka and Subrahamanya, the war God and son of Shiva. Thus with a due emphasis placed on battles, Yaksagana, like Kathakali, is a Tandava Prakara, a variant of the vigorous war-dance of Lord Shiva. Lasya, the delicate dance-pattern, also finds its place but only too occasionally, as in Bheesma Parva, when three princesses softly dance with appropriate gesture to portray their bathing in the river Ganges, or as in Ravana Digvijaya when Ravana with his symbolic dance, washes his feet, hands and face before worshipping the Sivalinga.
But the very life of Yaksagana is valour and power, its dominant sentiments, Veera and Raudra which ideally befit a Tandava Prakara. Only recently, themes are drawn from Indian history and even here, due consideration is given to providing sufficient scope for battle dances.
(Last Updated on : 04-07-2012)