Sri Idagunji Mahaganapathi Yakshagana Mela (Troupe) is one of the very important groups of Yakshagana. It has made significant contribution to the field. Idagunji is famous temple Pilgrim centre, about ten kilometre southeast of Honnavar in Uttarakannada District.
There was probably a Yakshagana troupe under the Iadgunji temple, at least by AD 1800. Actually, not one, but may be more than one. Because, Yakshagana troupes of the surrounding areas were all called Idagunji troupes only. So there would
be three or four Idagunji Melas, simultaneously.
The presently famous Idagunji troupes, also known as ‘Keremane troupe’ was founded by the great acter Keremane Shivarama Hegde in 1934. This troupe heralded a new age. Shivarama Hegde combined the two Northern styles – the ‘Badagu’ of Dakshina Kannada and the ‘Badagu’ of Uttara Kannada- the two sub styles of Northern Yakshagana. The troupe made a mark on the field because of the great acting abilities of Shivarama Hegde, as well as, the new coordinated style. The troupe continued upto early 1960’s.
Keremane Shambhu Hedge revived his father troupe in 1974 and it ran eleven ‘thirugatas’ successfully. From 1985, it changed the its organisational structure and is now a giving performances of limited duration (Shivananda Hegde, Son of Shambhu Hegde) is now managing the troupe, with his father’s guidance.
Shambu Hegde’s troupe has many remarkable achievements. The troupe stood firm in the policy of adherence to good taste and traditional beauty of the art, in spite of groving commercial tendencies. Hegde struggled against many odds to base the troupe on a definite art policy. He made many imaginitive changes in the organisation like the reform in the stage design, better green room, better seating arrangement etc. His troupe gave some of the finest performances with himself in the lead role.
Krishna Sandhana, Harischandra, Chandrahasa, Pattabhiseka, Karthaveerya, Karnaparva – are some of the major success of this troupe. Shambhu enriched the dance and acting, bringing in new elements of stage craft and interpretation. Hegde is now also running a Yakshagana training centre. He has started the work of conducting Yakshagana Bhavana (Theatre-Auditorium) at Gunavante, Honnavar.
Dr. M. Prabhakara Joshy