Of the two surviving Yakshagana string puppetry troupes in Tulunadu, one based in Kasaragod, Kerala, is about to enter its 30th year of existence.

Sri Gopalakrishna Yakshagana Bombeyata Sangha, Kasaragod, has been carrying forward the traditional string puppetry since September, 1981. It recently received the Best Traditional Puppet Performance award from the World Association of Puppeteers based at Prague in the Czech Republic.

It bagged the award at the 14th World Puppetry Show held in Prague from May 31 to June 6, according to K.V. Ramesh, who leads troupe.

He said that troupes from 38 countries participated in the conference. Finally, eight troupes from various countries received awards in different categories such as animation and modern puppetry. The troupe presented “Narakasura Vadhe” Yakshagana prasanga (episode) at the show.

His brothers K.V. Prakash, K.V. Sudarshan and brother-in-law P.K. Venugopal were part of the troupe that bagged the award.

The other one

The Uppinakudru Yakshagana string puppetry troupe, the other surviving troupe near Kundapur, is more than four decades old.

About three decades ago, Mr. Ramesh recalled, there were eight such Yakshagana troupes, including his own, in Tulunadu spread over Udupi, Dakshina Kannada and Kasaragod districts. Of them, two were in Belthangady and the remaining in Udupi district. Only the Uppinakudru troupe survives now.

A trip to remember

Mr. Ramesh said that his troupe's first foreign jaunt was to Pakistan in 1998 to participate in the Fourth World Puppetry Show at Lahore. “They treated us very well. They had respect for Indians,” he reminisced. The people of Pakistan, he said, took special interest in talking to them after seeing their Indian badges. “We presented Sri Devi Mahatme prasanga in Lahore,” he told The Hindu.

The troupe has presented more than 2,200 shows in the past 29 years. It will turn 30 on September 13, 2010.

“In our performances abroad, we read out before the audience the gist of the text from mythology chosen for the performance. It helps them understand the performance and characters,” Mr. Ramesh said.

His troupe presented demonstrations on Yakshagana sting puppetry in Paris in 2004 and at Dubai in 2009. “We did not present performances there,” he said.

Some of the tailor-made Yakshagana prasangas of the troupe for puppetry performances are Panchavati, Indrajitu Kalaga, Veeramani Kalaga, Lanka Dahana, Garuda Garva Bhanga, Atikaya Kalaga and Vali Vadhe, he said.

The puppets are made from light wood and all members of his family are involved in the process, Mr. Ramesh said.

More In: Mangalore