The puppets ‘acted' the story in tandem with the song

A Yakshagana string puppetry show based on the story of Devi Mahatme was held at Town Hall here on Sunday. Gopalakrishna Yakshagana Bombe Aata Sangha, Kasaragod, presented the show.

Half way through the programme, the hall was half-full and adults outnumbered children.

The story, according to one of the artistes, was that of a “rakshasa” called Vidyunmaali, king of Kshonitapura, who married a woman called Malini (who was a “rakshasa kanya”). She wants a son to win over Indra because of which she has a curse upon her. As per the curse, she will give birth to a child with the face of a buffalo (Mahishasura). She approaches the “Trimurtis”, who tell her that anyone born to a woman will not be able to kill Mahishasura.

Vidyunmali dies fighting a war. Malini asks Mahishasura to avenge his father's death. He gathers the support of the leaderless “asuras” and defeats Indra. Following this, the “Trimurtis” (Brahma, Vishnu, and Maheshwara) put together all their “gunas” or qualities (“saatvic”, “tamasic” and “rajasic”) out of which is born Shambhavi. Shambhavi kills Mahishasura.

The puppets looked like miniatures of real Yakshagana artistes as they “acted” the story in tandem with the song. They danced, leaped, swirled, and activities such as mounting a horse, performing “aarathi” with real fire.

The aim is to reach children so that they improve their vocabulary, learn acting skills, and understand the parent-child relationship. “This is the first stage in attracting children to Yakshagana,” said Sudhakar Rao Pejawar, working president, Mallika Kala Vrunda.

He said the puppetry artistes had to keep pace with the singers. The “Bhagavata” must be thorough as the story is in songs. “The Yakshagana performance has an ‘elastic' quality. The same story can be compressed into one hour or it can go on for six hours,” he said. Another quality is that of “haava and bhaava”. “There is emotion (“bhaava”) and the reason behind that emotion (“haava”). For instance, the feelings of a mother who receives the body of a son, who dies fighting the nation has both “bhaava” and “haava”, he said.

Before the programme, a group of schoolchildren rendered “Yakshagana” songs.

Gajanand Bhat, principal, Raj Academy, Gunkimath, said for five years, the school had been encouraging 50 students to learn music used in Yakshagana. The students were taught by Leelavathi Baipadithaya in ‘Bhagavathike'. Two girls and one boy played the “maddale” and “chande” .

More In: Mangaluru