Ekavyakti-Yakṣagāna: Structure and Content (Part 5)

Now, moving on to bhāgavatikè. As mentioned earlier, vācikābhinaya of Yakṣagāna is of three kinds and that rendered by the bhāgavata is a major component.

There is this tradition of singing at a high pitch (tāraka-sthāyi) in Yakṣagāna. It was a result of the needs of a certain period of time and was to serve a specific purpose. Singing at high pitch is strenuous for both the artiste and the listener. The emotion of the padya cannot be captured accurately and lyrics cannot be heard distinctly. Singing at a high pitch doesn’t suit the grace that is required for a strī-veṣa. Therefore, the music was composed to align with the kaiśikī-vṛtti (graceful way of execution) of the strī-veṣa, which also enabled the rāga to be aesthetic in its rendition. This reduced the strain on the artistes and the connoisseurs and helped the bhāgavatikè become even more relishable. There is yet another significant contribution that Ekavyakti-yakṣagāna made for bhāgavatikè. The traditional music of Yakṣagāna consists of blinding sticking on to a maṭṭu (restricted musical phrase) and is considered by many to have ancient origins. We went to the roots of the maṭṭus, i.e., the rāga from which the maṭṭu is born. This gives immense possibilities for bringing in new phrases in the song and adds life to the maṭṭus. It also helped in the development of newer and aesthetically appealing maṭṭus. We did not do away with the caṇḍè and maddalè that are traditionally used as the accompaniments to bhāgavatikè. Tāla patterns that already existed in traditional Yakṣagāna were adapted as well along with the traditional dastu and biḍtigès. We employed different rāgas from Carnatic music and blended them with some nuances of Hindustani music as well. This combination worked well for the grace and the gentleness of the strī-veṣa.

We are not the first ones to bring such changes to bhāgavatikè. There have been several bhāgavatas who have belonged to vṛtti-melas (professional troupes) who have tried to refine the himmeḻa. Shivaram Karanth also played a major role in this endeavour. Kalinga Navada, Dinesha Ammannaya, and Subrahmanya Dhareshvara are a few of the bhāgavatas of the younger generation who worked towards adding beauty to bhāgavatikè, while the senior bhāgavatas and scholars including Keremane Mahabala Hegade, Rajagopalacharya, Nelavara Ramakrishnayya, and Mandeccha  have pioneered this cause. It is beyond the scope of the present work to estimate the value of such modifications or to analyse their aesthetics.

We added newer saṅgatis to the several lines of our compositions. The ones below are noteworthy:

kaṃgaLa oLamanèyalli (Madhyamāvatī), gèjjèkaṭṭuvè ninna hèjjègè (Bṛndāvanī),  èṇṇèyanòttuvè bāro (Durgā) bande baruvanu govinda (Kumud) – Śrī-kṛṣṇārpaṇa

baralihè nīnènuvāsèyiṃdali (Yamunākalyāṇī) –Bhāminī.


We also had rāgamālikās in our compositions:

ènnavaneṃ cènnano (Deś, Kāpi, Tilang, Bṛndāvanī, Dvijāvantī, Hamīrkalyāṇī,etc) – Bhāminī,

madhumāsada rūpaka (Basant-bahār, Mohana, Mohanakalyāṇī, etc) – Vijaya-vilāsa.


We have used several rāgas in each of our Ekavyakti-yakṣagāna productions: Twenty-four in Bhāminī, forty-five in Śrī-kṛṣṇārpaṇa, twenty-five in Yakṣa-darpaṇa, fifty-eight in Vijaya-vilāsa, fifty in Jānakī-jīvana and thirty-three in Haṃsa-sandeśa. We did not bring in variety merely for the sake of variety. It was brought keeping in mind the emotion to be presented and the Rasa to be evoked.

The rāgas employed by us were suggestive of different moods.

For example, in the production Bhāminī, we used the following rāgas to suggest different times of the day

Early morning – Bhauli
Afternoon – Ābheri
Evening – Pūrvi-kalyāṇi
Mid-night – Bhairavī
Early (next) morning – Malayamāruta

Vijaya-vilāsa had rāgas that suggested seasons.

Rāgas which went well with the context were chosen. To name a few instances, Nāganṛtya (Snake Dance) – Punnāgavarālī

Veṇuvādana-vilāsa  (Playing of the flute in  the Vṛndāvana) – Bṛndāvanī

Yāgaśālā-varṇana (Description of the Yāgaśālā) – Revati

Arjuna-sanyāsi (Arjuna in the disguise of a sage) – Nādanāmakriyā.

We made sure that all the subtle aspects of music were brought about in the bhāgavatikè. Sthāyi, graha, aṃśa, nyāsa, kāku, svarabhāra and śvāsatrāṇa – were all kept in mind. Intensity and gentleness were optimized as a function of the character and the situation that was presented. Every song was sung keeping the inherent metrical pattern in mind. Bhāgavatikè was a grand success in our productions. Connoisseurs could independently enjoy just the music accompaniment of our Ekavyakti-yakṣagāna productions. It gives me great pleasure to state that the variety of rāgas that we brought in our productions set a model to several dancers and musicians. They found it aesthetically viable to adapt the same model in their art forms too.[2]

We employed all the tālas that are traditionally used in Yakṣagāna. We also took in all biḍtigè and dastus as required by the sequences presented. We paid great deal of attention to ensure that in singing all the padas, the gīta-padagati always aligned with bhāṣā-padagati and chandaḥ-padagati – this ensured that the saṅgīta-padagati was holistic and had no aesthetic ruptures. This naturally brought in clarity to the lyrics of the pada and the rāga and the tāla bolstered the text and the emotion. Even those who were not regular connoisseurs or performers of Yakṣagāna found the bhāgavatikè appealing. In most cases, the text and the sequence required that the bhāgavatikè was in the madhyama-laya (moderate speed). We employed druta and vilambita (fast and slow) speeds only when the context required us to do so. Most of the compositions were set to Ādi, Eka, Aṣṭa (equivalent of Miśra-chāpu of Carnatic Music) and Trivuḍè-tālas. Rūpaka, Maṭṭè (Triśra-gati) and Jhampè-tālas (Khaṇḍa-chāpu) were less frequently used. The Korè-tāla came in here and there and added subtle nuances. Some compositions were sung in vitāla (absence of tāla) too. Compositions set to Vṛtta, Kanda, Caupadi, Ṣaṭpadi and Sīsa-padya were sometimes sung vitāla and at times set to rhythmic pattern. We also had gati-bhedas – switching of rhythmic patterns – at several places. This not only helped overcome monotony but also helped in intensifying the Rasa experience.


To be continued...
This series of articles are authored by Shatavadhani Dr. R Ganesh and have been rendered into English with additional material and footnotes by Arjun Bharadwaj. The article first appeared in the anthology Prekṣaṇīyaṃ, published by the Prekshaa Pratishtana in Feburary 2020.

[1] The list of rāgas we used is as follows: Kānaḍā, Paṭadīp, Sāramati, Candrakauṃs, Haṃsadhvani, Amṛtavarṣiṇi, Dvijāvanti, Durgā, Pantuvarāḻi, Śāhana, Seś, Suraṭi, Bihāg, Māṇḍ, Bilahari, Hindoḻa, Kāpi, mārubihār, Kedāragauḻa, Śaṅkar, Bāgeśrī, Toḍi, Ārabhi, Rītigauḻa, Mohana, Pahāḍi, Madhyamāvati, Ṣaṇmukhapriya, Nāṭa, Ābheri, Bṛndāvanī, Sindhubhairavī, Ānandabhairavī, Sāma, Mohanakalyāṇi, Aṭhāṇa, Bhairavī, Śrī, Śubhapantuvarāḻi, Valaci, Kalyāṇi, Jañjūṭi, Pūrvi, Māyāmāḻavagauḻa, Mukhāri, śaṅkarābharaṇa, sāraṅga, Tilaṅg, Dhanyāsi, Haṃsānandi, Begaḍe, Vasanta, Basant-bahār, Śuddha-dhanyāsi, Bhūpāḻi, Kīravāṇi, Sāveri, Kuntalavarāḻi, Nādanāmakriya, Śivarañjani, Kumud, Yarakalakāmbhoji, Kāmbhoji, Vācaspati, Jonpuri, Khamāc, Saurāṣṭra, Rañjani, Kedāra, Hamīrakalyāṇi, Kharaharapriya, Cānd, Pūrvikalyāṇi, Māravi, Rāmapriya, Sarasvati, Bahudāri, Malayamāruta, Nīlāmbari, Revati, Cārukeśi, Darbārikānaḍā, Siṃhendramadhyama, Nāṭakurañji, Āheri, Punnāgavarāḻi, Śuddhasāveri, Bhauḻi, Kurañji, Sālagabhairavī.





Dr. Ganesh is a 'shatavadhani' and one of India’s foremost Sanskrit poets and scholars. He writes and lectures extensively on various subjects pertaining to India and Indian cultural heritage. He is a master of the ancient art of avadhana and is credited with reviving the art in Kannada. He is a recipient of the Badarayana-Vyasa Puraskar from the President of India for his contribution to the Sanskrit language.



Arjun is a writer, translator, engineer, and enjoys composing poems. He is well-versed in Sanskrit, Kannada, English, Greek, and German languages. His research interests lie in comparative aesthetics of classical Greek and Sanskrit literature. He has deep interest in the theatre arts and music. Arjun has (co-) translated the works of AR Krishna Shastri, DV Gundappa, Dr. SL Bhyrappa, Dr. SR Ramaswamy and Shatavadhani Dr. R Ganesh

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