Dr K Shivarama Karanth (1902 - 1997), with his wide spectrum of activities, outstanding achievements and very special capacities and energy, can be considered as a representative of Kannada culture and a symbol of the dynamism and variety of the life of Coastal Karnataka. He was a novelist, science writer, essayist, travelogue writer, opera - ballet composer, critic, art expert, humourist, lexicographer, author of children’s literature and what not! He has also tried his hand at and made special mark in freedom struggle, politics, theatre, cultural organization, environmental movement, art organization, education and of course many more fields.
Yakshagana is one of the important areas of Karanth’s activities. He has given a lot of his time, mind and energy to this field. Attracted towards it from his boyhood, he made a deeper study of it since the 1940s and started writing on it. His work ‘Yakshagana Bayalata’ (1957, Revised Edition 1963) is the first major work on the art. It created a new awareness and knowledge about the art. He wrote another book on Yakshagana in 1975 in English and in Kannada. Another of his work on Yakshagana came out in 1995. Besides, he has published a number of essays, papers and articles on the art in English and Kannada.
His interest in the field was not restricted to writing. His ‘Kinnara Nritya’ ballet of 1950’s was basically inspired by Yakshagana. As a Guru of the Yakshagana training center at MGM College, he took active part in imparting art education, and also directed the experimental yakshagana ballet "Yaksharanga", which won national and international acclaim. He used to train students until his last day at the age of ninetyfive.
A seminar organised by Sri Karanth (1958) at Brahmavar was the first of its kind. Since, he organised a number of workshops, and seminars on Yakshagana.
Dr Karanth’s interest in Yakshagana was mainly from the aesthetic point of views. He had studied its various aspects closely. He was concerned about the mutilation of the traditional beauty of the art. He concentrated his study and work on Yakshagana on the Northern (Badagu) style.
Yakshagana received national and international acclaim mainly due to Sri Karanth’s efforts. Modern institutional set up for and training, setting up a solid foundation for research and criticism, crating awareness about the art, exploration of the experimental theatre in Yakshagana - are his major contributions. He is a maestro to be ever remembered.
Sri Kateel Yakshagana Troupe (Mela)
Sri Kateel Yakshagana Mela is a famous Yakshagana troupe. Sri Kateel is a well known temple village, pilgrim center 25 kms away from Mangalore. The Yakshagana troupe, Kateel Sri Durgaparameshwari Yakshagana Dasavatara Mandali, popularly known as Kateel Mela is an important ‘free show’ troupe. It performs on request by devotees who have taken a vow (Harake) to arrange a show of Yakshagana for fulfillment of a desire or as a service.
Yakshagana activity is centuries old at Kateel. Kateel Sri Durgaparameshwari, or Bhramarambha, also known as Kateel Amma (Mother of Kateel) is known to be Yakshaganapriya - a deity with special love for Yakshagana, the Kateel Mela was founded in the middle of the 19th Century and is still running well, with increased support form devotees.
When the demand for performances increased, two troupes were started in 1980s. Now Kateel Temple has four full fledged troupes in its name! Yet all performances upto the next four years are fully booked! Such is the support it has got. The troupes’ main area of tour is Mangalore, Bantwal and Karkala area.
Sri Kalladi Vittal Shetty, a senior troupe organiser is running and managing the troupes under the guidance of the Temple Trust. Kateel troupe’s performances are like a festival for the people.
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