Dr Shivarama Karanth’s celebrated book ‘Yakshagana Bayalata’ is the first detailed treatise on yakshagana. And it still remains the major title on the subject. This book has both historical and academic significance. It is also a testimony to Karanth’s astonishing range of interests. First published in 1957, its revised edition came in 1963.
The book has 2 parts, sixteen chapters in total, thirteen in the first and three in the second. These chapter deal with a general introduction, the yakshagana troupes, the origin of the art, stage conventions, the music, dance, the text and the spoken word, costume, variants of the form, the task of preservation and work to be done, a survey of the yakshagana prasanga, poets etc.
The plan of the book is well conceived. It is written both for a general reader and for insiders. It exhibits a fine grasp and understanding of yakshagana in its totality and its various aspects. The book is mainly based on the Badagu (Northern) style of yakshagana. A great deal of field work, thinking and critical analysis have gone into the writing and it is rightly rated as a classic in the field of writings on traditional art in Kannada.
Dr Karanth strongly argues for the preservation of the traditional beauty and stylistic structure of the art. At the same time he has suggested meaningful reforms, reconstructions and rejuvenations to foster and preserve the great form.
Karanth’s book has raised some debates and controversies, of course. Some of his finding may require revisions today. But his book is one that raised interest in yakshagana and attracted the attention of experts towards it.
Running into about 300 pages, Karanth’s book is a monumental work, that is the product of real understanding of the concern for the art.
Dr Karanth has later written a book ‘Yakshagana’ in 1975 (Mysore University) both in English and Kannada and one more book in English in 1996, besides a number of articles. ‘Yakshagana Bayalata’ forms the base for all these writings.
– Dr. M.Prabhakara Joshy
(Yakshagana Bayalata: K Shivarama Karanth
Harsha Publications, Puttur, 1957 & 1963)