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Yakshagana Dance


Yakshagana is an enchanting traditional folk dance that holds sway in the Coastal districts of Karnataka and some areas in Kerala. This lively dance form has its roots in the Vaishnavite bhakti movement, and it’s a delightful blend of dance, music, song, meaningful conversations, and colorful costumes.


  • Yakshagana is a traditional theatre form of Karnataka.
  • It is a temple art form that depicts mythological stories and Puranas.
  • It is performed with massive headgears, elaborate facial make-up and vibrant costumes and ornaments.
  • Usually recited in Kannada, it is also performed in Malayalam as well as Tulu (the dialect of south Karnataka).
  • It is performed with percussion instruments like chenda, maddalam, jagatta or chengila (cymbals) and chakratala or elathalam (small cymbals).
  • The most popular episodes are from the Mahabharata i.e. Draupadi swayamvar, Subhadra vivah, etc. and from Ramayana i.e. Rajyabhishek, Lav-Kush yuddh, etc.

What are the Elements of Yakshagana?

  • Act: Each performance typically focuses on a small sub-story (known as ‘Prasanga’) from ancient Hindu epics of Ramayana or Mahabharata. The show consists of both stage performances by talented artists and commentary (performed by the lead singer or Bhagawatha) accompanied by traditional music.
  • Music: Musical instruments used in Yakshagana include Chande (drums), Harmonium, Maddale, Taala (mini metal clappers) and flute among others.
  • Dress: Costumes used in Yakshagana are very unique and elaborate. Large size headgear, coloured faces, elaborate costumes all over the body and musical beads on the legs (Gejje).

    Salient Features of Yakshagana 

    Some of the salient features of Yakshagana important for the UPSC exam are:

    • It is one of the most ancient theatre art forms of Karnataka.
    • It was performed in the court of the Vijayanagar dynasty by the Jakkula Varu community.
    • The performance of Yakshagana is based on the Ghandharva grama musical system.
    • The present form of Yakshagana is influenced by the Vaishnava Bhakti movements.
    • It also takes a resemblance to Bhoota-kola and Theyyam.
    • It was formerly known as ‘Bayatala’ by some groups of people in Karnataka.
    • The performing team of Yakshagana consists of 15 to 20 actors.
    • The main feature of the Yakshagana is the beautiful facial expressions, dialogues, and dance moves.
    • The dialogues are usually delivered in Kannada, Tulu, or Sanskrit.
    • There are two sub-groups of Yakshagana:
      Moodalopaya – It is popular in East Karnataka and it is the oldest form.
      Paduvlopaya – It is popular in West Karnataka.
    • The Paduvlopaya form has three sub-groups:


    Yakshagana, a captivating dance-drama, hails from the vibrant state of Karnataka in southern India. Its roots go way back to the 16th century, adding a touch of history and tradition to its allure. Even today, Yakshagana remains a beloved art form, not just for entertainment but as a cherished part of our cultural heritage.

    Read Also: Folk Theatre in India

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