Man is the child of environment. If he attunes life in accordance with this well established aphorism, his life will be in fine fettle. Unfortunately it hasn’t happened that way. The progress of civilization, increase in population and advancement of technology seem to have conspired together to give man a false impression that he is the master of environment.

The effect of such a paradigm shift became pronounced in the second half of the twentieth century, Denudation of large tracts of natural forests, increased industrial pollution, virtual decimation of wildlife, and such other devastating factors are there for everyone to see, feel and suffer.

How can mankind be saved from this path of self-destruction? Environmentalists are ever active all over the globe in tackling this grave problem. One method is to educate people about environmental conservation through the mass media like radio, TV, Cinema, drama etc. It is in this context that the popular folk theatre of coastal Karnataka – Yakshagana Bayalata and Talamaddale – seves as a powerful medium.

Both these variations of the theatre unfold to the audience a story, mostly mythological with its powerful metaphors and suggestive themes, enacted live on the open stage, supported by appropriate music, impromptu dialogues etc. In the case of Bayalata colourful costumes and makeup, dance and action lend a new dimension to the story.

The spectators in these shows quite involuntarily turn inward, assimilate the values, and weigh them with their own experience. Thus a continuous reformation along with enchanting entertainment is the benefit of these shows.

How can the save-environment message be put into the minds of the people through the Yakshagana medium? Professor Amrita Someshwara (1935), a poet and a composer of Yakshagana themes has taken a mythological story and woven around it a Yakshagana prasanga: Maarishaa Kalyaana (2000). The poet has composed the songs and tuned them. Bhagavata (vocalist) sings these compositions to the accompaniment of maddale and chande (percussive instruments). In the Talamaddale show, the actors (arthadhaaris) on the stage weave the dialogues in accordance with the theme and carry on the story.

The mythological theme of Maarishaa Kalyaana briefly is as follows:

Chandradeva (moon) asks Dhanvantari (the physician of the mythological gods) to grow a herbal garden containing different medicinal plants, which the latter does.

Centuries later, King Prachetasa, through penance wins the grace of Lord Parameshwara and begs Him to grant him (Prachetasa) the status of Prajaapati (Creator). The Lord says that Prachetasa by birth is not blessed with that luck. However he will get a son who will attain the Prajaapati position.

Prachetasa drunk deep with power, goes on annihilating animals as they are perceived to be inimical to human life. He destroys forests mercilessly to deprive wildlife of its natural abode. In the resulting war of revenge climaxing in a fight between Chandradeva and Prachetasa (metaphorically a deadly fight between environment and man), Lord Shiva calls a halt to Prachetasa’s mad venture (self-destruction), and as a gesture of goodwill Chandradeva marries his foster daughter Maarishaa to Prachetasa.

The boy (read mankind) to be born out of this wedlock between Chandradeva’s daughter Maarishaa (read nature) and Prachetasa (read the destructive element in man now refined) is to become Prajaapapati (read environment-friendly person) in future as per Lord Shiva’s (read the Universe) boon.

I have personally witnessed the maiden Talamaddale enactment of Maarishaa Kalyaana at the ‘Kaadamane’ open air theatre in Abhayaranya on January 16, 2000. The poet’s creative instincts were equally imaginatively transmitted to the audience by the leading lights in the field of Yakshagana who tellingly but artistically communicated the universal message of love; live in harmony with nature lest you should be destroyed.

The book Maarishaa Kalyaana, priced Rs.18, is now available with

Athree Book Centre, 4 Sharavathi Building, Balmatta, Mangalore – 575001.

A unique feature of this book is that it contains the text of the impromptu dialogue carried out at the “Kadamane” theatre. The stage show was canned and later transliterated. The editorial intervention is kept at a minimum so that the printed text carries the flavour of naturalness and creativity as much as possible.
Prof. G T Narayana Rao
No 8 Athree
Kamakshi Hospital Road
Mysore 570009

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