Themes of Yakshagana mainly deal with the mythological superhuman personalities, gods, demons and dream lands. Ramayana, Mahabharata and Bhagavata have provided suitable themes in abundance for Yakshagana. 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 Yakshagana remained the Night School for the masses, breathing the everlasting spirit of classical Sanskrit literature.
In selecting the theme for his Yakshagana Prabandha, the composer pays particular attention to the time-honoured sentiments of Veera and Raudra. He also provides scope for exploiting war dances. Thus, one can find that all the important battles mentioned in Indian epics are brought on the Yakshagana stage and prominent among them are Lord Krishna- Arjuna Kalaga, Babruvahana Kalaga, Hansadhvaja Kalaga, Karndrjuna Kalaga and others. Even if the Yakshagana 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, Yakshagana, like Kathakali, is a Tandava Prakara, a variant of the vigorous war-dance of Shiva. Lasya, the delicate dance-pattern, also finds its place but only too occasionally, as in Bhishma Parva, when three princesses softly dance with appropriate gesture to portray their bathing in the Ganga river, 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 Yakshagana 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. One of the representative prabandhas is Rana Rajasinha, composed by Sri K. P. Venkappa Setti. Social themes in Kannada theatre have not made their appearance on the Yakshagana stage, for the obvious reason that anything dealing with the ordinary human being would lack sustenance with the rural audience. The folk people could derive lofty morals only from the super-human characters.
(Last Updated on : 19-04-2012)