The folk theatre of Karnataka, Bayalata
(open air theatre) has derived its form from religious rituals.
All folk performances are part of a ritual festival conducted in
the name of the local deity. Dasarata, Sannata, Doddata, Parijata
are the five types of Bayalata commonly performed. In Parijata and Yakshagana a
single narrator - sutradhar
- controls the story, while the other forms comprise a chorus of
four to five narrators, aided by a Vidhushaka
Dasarata is performed by a group of dasas (mela) men and women
who enact themes of Radha and Krishna with the aid of vibrant
gestures. This popular style has been adapted by the Marathi
theatre as Tamasha.
Sannata, or the
small play, is an improvisation of the Dasarata. Sannata has a
full-length story that spans around six hours, instead of several
small stories. Sannata
works on three distinct themes - the Vaishnavite theme, the
Shaivite theme and the social theme. Unlike the other styles like
the Yakshagana, Doddata and the puppet plays, Sannata
brings the folk theatre to the social plane.
like the Sannata is also
an opera, where the actor summarizes and explains the song. The
key character is the Bhagvata, who doubles up as narrator and
clown. The main story is based on the mythological romance of
Krishna and Rukmani-Satyabhama. The Doddata
is a combination of verse and prose. The performances are on an
extravagant scale, with gorgeous costumes, grand stage and several
characters shouting 'shabaash'.
Yakshagana is a typical dance-drama of
the North Kenner and South Kannara districts of Karnataka (and
also of Andhra Pradesh). It is an admixture of dance and drama.
Its heart lies in 'Gana' meaning music. It is about 400 years old.
Yakshagana is a true people's theatre, commonly staged in the
paddy fields at nights and the themes are the same as all over
India, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and mythological tales from
the Puranas. It enjoys immense popularity and its exponents are
honoured just as great stage artistes are. The earliest Yakshagana
manuscript goes back to 1651 AD. Yakshagana,
like the other four styles of Bayalata, is performed during
the night. The stage is set in front of a temple open to the
audience on three sides. The story to be presented is called the Prasanga.
The first character to enter is the clown. The language is Kannada
and the themes are based on Hindu epics. The costumes are almost
similar to the Kathakali
ones and the style seems to have drawn inspiration from Kathakali.
As prescribed in the Natya Shastra, it has the
Sutradhara (conductor) and the Vidhushaka (the jester).