Yakshagana poet Parthisubba is a celebrated composer of many Yakshagana prasangas. His place, time, and authorship have been the subject of much controversy. According to popular legends, Parthisubba was born in Kumble of Kasargod, Kumble was also known as Kanipura. Parthisubba was the son of one ‘Parthi’ (Parvathi) and hence his name. He was a great devotee of Lord Sri Kumble Kanipura Gopala Krishna.

Subba is said to be of prodigic brilliance and artistic abilities. He is believed to have visited and lived in Tiruvankod (Travencore) of Kerala, where he learnt and practiced Kathakkali (Ramanattam of that time). His Ramayana compositions show clear influence of Raja Kottarakara’s Ramayana Attakathagal.

After returning from Kerala, Subba is said to have founded the Mela (troupe) in Kumble, in which he brought in the Ramanattam influence on Yakshagana, which already existed. So Subba is believed to be the originator of a new regional style, the Tenkuthittu, the ‘Southern School’ of Yakshagana.

Subba has written light Ramayana episodes. Puthrakameshti (including Seethakalyana), Pattabhisheka, Panchavati, Valivadhe, Chudamani, Sethubandhana, Angadasandhana, Yuddhakanda and Lava Kusha. He has also authored Krishna Balaleele and Airavatha. In addition he is also believed to be the author (probably the collector and editor) of Sabhalakshana. This Sabhalakshana is a collection of songs used for the preliminary (Purva Ranga) of Yakshagana.

Subba is a composer, poet of great ability. His compositions show a fine combination of literary flavoures, musical aptness, grip of rhythm and mood. His style is simple, yet profound. His expressions are very moving. He is model for operatic writing and are the basis of learning for Yakshagana singers.

Himself a Bhagawatha and actor, Subba had widely travelled. His Ramayana is being used all over Karnataka by the traditional theatre by all the styles of Bayalata.

Parthisubba is believed to have lived in about 1600 A.D.

Dr. M. Prabhakara Joshy

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