Possibilities of Innovations and Reformations in Yakṣagāna : Some Thoughts - Part 2

To summarize, it would not be wrong to say that Yakṣagāna has its own costume that is self-complete and beautiful. The puṇḍu-veṣa (kedagè-mundalè) of Baḍagutiṭṭu has almost reached perfection. However, the kaṭṭu-mīsè (tied moustache) and muṇḍāsu (big turban) that is larger than necessary will have a negative impact primarily on sāttvikābhinaya. They are also detrimental to vācikābhinaya and āṅgikābhinaya, in the decreasing order. People who desire to have kaṭṭu-mīsè at any cost can switch to what is called ‘crape-mīsè’ instead. This will also help them retain the shape of the kaṭṭu-mīsè, give its appearance and serve the purpose. While several other changes have already been incorporated in Yakṣagāna, including the switching over to chemical colours, the recommended transition for moustache shouldn’t be very difficult to achieve and accept.  Moreover, the moustache that is slightly curved can gel well in its form with the rest of the costume – it goes well with the curved eye-brows, the waves of the muṇḍāsu, the curvature of the beaks of swans present on the kirīṭa and also with the shape of the scissors present on the chest.  In this regard too, it would be beneficial to reduce the size of the muṇḍāsu as per the model of Uttara Kannada Baḍagutiṭṭu. However, the beauty of the èdè-padaka (chest ornament), the thorns on the bhuja-kīrti, and the form of the kedagè-mundalè of Kundapura Baḍagutiṭṭu is catchy. The kedagè-mundalè used in the Kundapura region is much better than the kirīṭa (crown) used for the character of Arjuna[1]. Instead of tying the heads of Vṛṣaketu and Pradyumna with heavy muṇḍāsu just to infuse visual richness, it would be better to use green, black and pink coloured kedagè-mundalè for their roles.

In the Baḍagutiṭṭu school of Kundapura, Kṛṣṇa’s character has an attire that resembles a plain sari without kaccè and such an attire is rather unaesthetic, though it is said that this sari-like costume suggests the feminine nature of Kṛṣṇa. It is also claimed that it adds to the variety of costumes and that has traditionally come down. However, the fact of the matter is that it mars the sublime character of Kṛṣṇa and also comes in the way of nṛtta that involves a lot of beautiful footwork – an essential feature of the Kundapura Baḍagutiṭṭu school of Yakṣagāna. It also hampers the structural beauty of the character. Hence, such an unaesthetic practice in the name of tradition, should be discontinued.

The beard attached for the Śiva costume proves to be an obstacle for sāttvikābhinaya. This sort of beard is in vouge especially in the prasaṅgas like Dakṣādhvara, Brahmakapāla, and prasaṅgas where Śiva has a major role. Similarly, in the Viśvāmitra-Menakā-prasaṅga , Viśvāmitra is a rājarṣi and there are segments where his romance with Menakā will need to be depicted. While doing so, jaṭā-makuṭa (matted locks tied in the form of a crown, embellished with tapes of brocade) and the usual royal costume of Yakṣagāna that contains vīra-gāsè and māru-mālè (dangling embellishments from the belt) need to be employed. Kaicinna (bracelets), koraḻa-hāra (necklace), èdè-padaka (chest ornament) can be added and be made more rājasic. Unfortunately, ignoring such aesthetic possibilities, Yakṣagāna today has incorrectly adopted what is seen on television and the movies – the features of Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa in vanavāsa (forest-exile) without any upper garments and headgears. So also, sagely characters like Śiva and seers like Vaśiṣṭha are also presented bare-bodied. But traditional Yakṣagāna prefers full-armed kurta-like costumes (‘dagalè’) that are saffron or golden-yellow in colour and contain simple jewellery. We know that no veṣa in Yakṣagāna should come bare-bodied. Only characters such as a brāhmaṇa, who plays a secondary role or a hāsyagāra (jester, comedian) in specific situations are permitted to come on stage with an uttarīya (upper piece of cloth) but no major character should follow this. The characters such as Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa as well as Bhīma and Arjuna in exile are presented with kedagè-mundalè in traditional Yakṣagāna; however, as per the tenets of nāṭya-dharmī, I personally prefer a jaṭā-makuṭa with brocade work as it would simultaneously meet the demands of both nāṭya-dharmī and loka-dharmī.

When it comes to Baṇṇada-veṣa (demonic characters), Tèṅkutiṭṭu stands out for its brilliance and it is advisable for Baḍagutiṭṭu to adopt some of its features. In the case of baṇṇada-veṣa, the sthāyi-bhāva – permanent, durable emotions and features of these characters are represented on the face by means of the mask-like make-up that brilliantly caters to the purpose; this has been richly developed in Tèṅkutiṭṭu. Such judicious borrowing will never corrupt the purity of the different schools. Scholars like Dr. Raghava Nambiar have shown through their research that many features of the āhārya of the present-day Baḍagutiṭṭu were also integral aspects of Tèṅkutiṭṭu in the previous century. Such positive features have to be seriously studied and suitably adopted. Mutual sharing between the two schools will only enhance their strengths.

 

A lot of reformation has to take place in the puṇḍu-veṣa (youthful male character) of Tèṅkutiṭṭu. Unaesthetic use of socks and stockings mar the beauty of the legs and feet. Even the gaudy beadwork that decorates the jewellery has to be aesthetically modified. In the place of bhuja-kīrti, frilled clothing is used in the puṇḍu-veṣa of Tèṅkutiṭṭu and this is an eye-sore. The piece of cloth that hangs behind the headgear is yet another distraction. These are some of the features of puṇḍu-veṣa that have brought down its beauty to a great extent. It is an aesthetic requirement that the footwork of the artiste has to be adequately seen by the audience. The costume of the male characters needs to be refined to enable this. The present day bāla-muṇḍu (skirt) of puṇḍu-veṣa puts to question the very masculine features of these characters. Earlier, instead of the pyjamas, dhotra (kaccè-pañcè) was used and it is desirable to revive it. The loose and short bāla-muṇḍu being worn these days disturbs the total proportion of the costume. It can be done away with, if kaccè-pañcè is adopted . In contrast to the puṇḍu-veṣa of Tèṅkutiṭṭu, the puṇḍu-veṣa of Baḍagutiṭṭu is far superior; here, one can realise the total harmony of costume, jewellery, and make-up.

At this juncture, it would be good to recall the influence of Kathakalī on Tèṅkutiṭṭu. Kathakalī employs a wider and shorter bāla-muṇḍu, in comparison with Kṛṣṇanāṭṭam and Kūḍiyāṭṭaṃ art forms that predate it. Scholars opine that the width of bāla-muṇḍu has been increasing over the years and has transgressed the limits of aucitya. This is clearly seen in Tèrukkūttu. It is my feeling that, with time, the same kind of changes have taken place in the Tèṅkutiṭṭu, especially with respect to bāla-muṇḍu, callaṇa and kaccè. Perhaps the influence of Kṛṣṇanāṭṭam is one of the reasons behind doing away with kaccè-pañcè . The result is a lack of visibility of the lower part of the torso, which predominantly participates in many cārīs and in footwork. When artistes perform ākāśa-cārīs like Sūcī, Apakrānta, Atikrānta, Ūrdhvajānu, Ḍolāpāda, Vṛścika, Bhujaṅgatrāsita and others, the audience cannot appreciate it due to limited visibility. This is all because of the gaudy costume that covers the legs completely. Unfortunately, over the years this bāla-muṇḍu has crept into Baḍagutiṭṭu as well. Earlier, it was only èlè-vastra at the back and sogèvalli (uttarīya or upper garment) in the front and sides. In the recent years, they have been overshadowed by the gaudy costume that envelopes the potion between knees and waist similar to bāla-muṇḍu. Even today, traditional artistes of Baḍagutiṭṭu of Kundapura do not use this. Among others, as far as my knowledge goes, the artistes of makkaḻa-meḻa (child artistes) of Saligrama, Yakṣagāna Kendra of Udupi, and Yakṣaraṅga of Dr. Shivaram Karanth haven’t adopted this; such a stand must indeed be lauded.

To be continued...
This series of articles is 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] This is particularly true of the episodes connected with Yuddha-parva and those that occur before the war in the Mahābhārata. This excludes the story of the Jaiminibhārata

 

Author(s)

About:

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.

Translator(s)

About:

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

Prekshaa Publications

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