Mastering the ancient art forms of coastal Karnataka Yakshagana

Mangaluru brothers Vishwanath and Divakar Padmunja teach the nuances of the art form to government schoolchildren, and migrant kids for free.

Published: 28th August 2022 02:25 AM  |   Last Updated: 28th August 2022 02:25 AM   |  A+A-

Yakshagana helps keep the youth of today rooted in their culture.

Yakshagana helps keep the youth of today rooted in their culture.

Express News Service

MANGALURU:  Yakshagana, one of the ancient art forms of coastal Karnataka, is gaining popularity across the world, aided by online classes for enthusiasts. Two brothers from Mangaluru are also promoting the art in their own way. Through ‘Rishi Prathishtana’, Vishwanath Padmunja and Divakar Padmunja are teaching Yakshagana to children of government schools, among them migrant labourers’ children from North Karnataka who live in and around Dakshina Kannada district.

Rishi Prathishtana was started by Vishwanath and Divakar seven years ago in Belthangady taluk, with an intention of creating awareness of environmental protection and promoting literature among children.

Rishi Foundation
“My son’s name is Rishik, and I named the foundation after him. Initially, through our foundation, we provided saplings to people. We also took up initiatives to create awareness among children in government schools, to protect nature from pollution. Those who planted saplings and looked after them are provided certificates and prizes. Several seminars were also conducted in schools and colleges on literature, with the help of resource persons. So now we are teaching Tenkutittu or the Southern style of Yakshagana, which is quite popular in the Mangaluru region, to children of government schools,” says Divakar, who is also a journalist from the city.

Why Yakshagana?
Students most often choose to learn Western art forms, be it music or dance. “So, we wanted to promote Yakshagana, the art form of the coast. The more we promote it, the more people will know about it and learn it. Also, Yakshagana helps keep the youth of today rooted in their culture. This is a small contribution from our side to keep the art form alive, and pass it on to the next generation,” said Vishwanath. Three classes are held every Sunday, between 8 am and 9 pm.

Vishwanath learnt the art in Dharmasthala, and Divakar also learnt it for a few months. When they decided to take up classes at Mullakadu Government School, over 40 children of migrant labourers from North Karnataka came forward to attend classes. “We not only teach them but also ensure they have a stage performance, just like Ranga Pravesha,” Vishwanath said.

So far, they have trained 200 children in government schools. The maiden performance by students, including over 40 children from North Karnataka, was ‘Sudarshana Vijaya’ which got much praise from senior artists. Now, they are also teaching Ranga Geethe related to dramas, under the Rishi Kala Kendra.

“Government schoolchildren from poor economic backgrounds cannot afford to pay up to Rs 500 a month as fees to learn Yakshagana. That’s why we decided to teach them for free,” said Divakar. He says that though Yakshagana classes are held everywhere now, no institution teaches it for free to government children. They take up classes in government schools and other private spaces available, as the foundation does not have a building of its own.

The children were also taught how to don the special grease paint for Yakshagana by Shashikiran Kavu, a renowned artiste who gave them free classes. At present, they are teaching a batch of 20 children, including some from North Karnataka. Srujan, a native of Davanagere who trained under Rishi Prathishtana, is planning to teach the art to children in his native town.

He said he is glad he could learn the art for free and also perform it. “I was fascinated by the Yakshagana costumes and dance, so I decided to learn it. Now, I want to teach the art to children,” he said.


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