Divatige is a torch that radiates light from a burning wick, fed by any organic oil. It may be fixed at a point or held by hand and moved around to illuminate the immediate surroundings. Naturally its light is soft, dim and fluctuating. Now imagine a situation where you are suddenly placed alone amid a forest on a dark moonless night. The star-studded canopy high above you is the roof and all around pitch darkness is the canvas. Can any one paint a picture on it? If so, can you see it? Yes, in the real world of light and darkness set to a natural background.

At the far off distance you hear the gentle beats of the drum called chande. You become alert at this call of civilization. As the source moves nearer and nearer your eyes wonder whether the night is blossoming! Yes, several divatiges move in harmony and converge just in front of you! Are you not the centre of the celestial sphere?

A natural stage (rangasthala) is set up. Yes, where the folk artists in their attractive costumes sing and dance hilariously there springs a genuine stage. You begin watching the unfolding drama so intently that within moments you are sublimated to the very theme of the drama. True, here the very spectators are the actors.

Phantom figures come from nowhere to fill the void and begin dancing to the background music. The music ensemble comprises a Bhagawatha (singer and prime mover of the show), Maddalekaara (mridanga player) and Chandekaara (field drum beater). A harmoniumist provides shruti (pitch). So simple, yet so profound! “The simple is the soul of the true, and beauty is the splendour of truth” exclaimed Prof. S Chandrashekar at the end of his Nobel speech (1983).

Bhagawatha sings the story to the accompaniment of maddale and chande. Normally it is a mythological one drawn from Ramayana, Mahabharata, Bhagawatha or such other epics. The actors on the stage are appropriately attried, ornamented and decorated, and their faces are made up to represent the characters. The song and the complementary dance and acting indicate the scene to follow.

Dance over, the characters begin impromptu dialogue elaborating the content of the preceding song. Wit, humour, repartee, value-emphasis etc all fit into the theme so well that you begin to look inward – the drama reverberates within you and generate new ideas. It is pure ecstacy, for “a thing of beauty is joy for ever.”

In this mysterious world of dancing colors reflected by the divatige light (unadulterated by modern technological gadgets, loudspeaker menace or dazzling artificial light) creating a mysterious dreamland, you find your roots and cultural heritage. Naturally Omar Khayyam whispers within you –

For in and out, above, about, below
‘Tis nothing but a Magic Shadow-show
Play’d in a Box whose Candle is the Sun,
Round which we Phantom Figures come and go

Read Divatige for Sun, the actor-spectator combine for the Phantom Figures, and the theme for the Magic Shadow show, you understand how authentically absorbing is the divatige show that you have just now witnessed. Even as you are in a state of dazzed wonder unable to separate the magic from the real, you notice the night beating a gradual retreat paving the royal way for the entry of the morning sun!

The aboe narrative is not a flight of imagination but an “emotion recollected the tranquility”. It sums up my feelings on witnessing the divatige field drama conceived, directed and presented by K M Raghava Nambiyar at two different places.

“Divatige show is the mother of Yakshagana Bayalata,” asserts the research-writer Nambiar. His research book Divatige was unveiled on April 14th, 2003 at Mahatobhara Sri Vishweshwara Devasthana, Yellur in Udupi district.

An overnight divatige show that followed this formal function brought home to the discerning connoisseurs clearly the pest that is afflicting today all forms of classical arts (music, dance, drama, painting etc) erosion of clasicism by commercialization. Any form of art, which is essentially personal and individualistic, aimed at a limited number of connoisseurs, perishes when it is bitten by the publicity mania. Yet for art to thrive and the artists to survive, finances and publicity are essential. What can lovers and promoters of art do to stop the scourge? Read Divatige.

Yakshagana Bayalata today has degenerated into a commercial venture. It has become global. Under the threat of modern technology it is unmistakably exhibiting the Procustom Bed Syndrome – a disease where technology dictates art how to ‘behave’!

Naturally in such a degraded state the non-discriminating audience misses the mat for the skin. these issues are discussed thoroughly in Divatige, and pragmatic solutions born out of practical experience, reinforced by theoretical expertise are offered. It is the first knowledgeable book on this topic.

Divatige is a research work, a reference book and a practical guide. Its style is lucid. The several illustrations and color plates in it reveal yet another fascinating story.

DIVATIGE – book in Kannada, 88 pages, 12 B & W and 10 line drawings plus 9 color photographs on art paper, authored by K M Raghava Nambiar, Panchamoda, Journalists Colony, Near Sri Indrani Temple, Kunjibettu, Udupi 576102 (Phone : 0825 572355)

Published in 2003 by Athree Book Centre, 4 Sharawathi Building, Mangalore – 575001 (Phone: 0824 2425161, 2492397). Price: Rs.60/- Email: [email protected]

G T Narayana Rao

[G T Narayana Rao, is a leading writer on science music and arts. He is a reputed teacher and editor of encyclopedias]

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