Art of  Karnataka

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Pre historic art in Karnataka  - By Dr. A Sundara
Art & Culture

How old is rock art and when did man give expression to his strong emotions. How did he conceive and how did he execute? What was the purpose? We know that traditional knowledge, practice and experience evolved and crystalysed over a period of time into a shastra , whichever the field may be.

The history of development of human culture has a long past.Scholars in prehistory earlier thought that it goes back to 200,000 years. But in the 1990s tremendous progress was made in the study of the human past. In Isampur, a small insignificant village in Surpur taluk in Gulbarga district, excavations have been conducted by Dr. K.Paddaiah, a very well known prehistorian of international repute, from the Deccan college, for the past 20 years. In his recent investigation some fossilsof animals were found and they have been dated using the ESR technique. The dates obtained shows that the early Paleolithic cultural stage in that part of the country is as old as 1.5 million years. In Ethiopia , Northeastern Africa many important discoveries have been made. Fossil remains of almost a complete skeleton of a woman, fondly named Lucy by the discoverer were found . More astounding is the discovery of a human skull, surprisingly having modern features as well, which is puzzling, in Chad area of western-central Africa. It is dated by an international team at 6 to 7 million years !. Of course the identification of its features, are questioned and the study is in progress. Further, the present human form ( Homo Sapiens ) and brain are said to have evolved some 50,000 years ago. But today this stage of human evolution is pushed back to 150,000 years.

Researchers and amateur archaeologists did not know rock art as late as 1890s or slightly earlier, say the middle part of the 19th century. As is the case with many of the science fields, two chance discoveries at Altamira ( Spain ) and Lascaux ( France ) ultimately laid the foundation for a distinct branch called Rock-art archaeology. Rock art today occupies an important place and has become a separate discipline.

In India the first discoveries of rock art were perhaps in the last decades of 19th century. Hubert Knox in Karnataka at Kigali , Archibald Carlyle and John Cocksure in Aimer ranges, Madhya Pradesh, found the rock engravings and cave paintings. Later, in Karnataka, in 1915, Leonard Munn, an English officer was moving about in Hire Benkal ( Gangavati taluk., Raichur district, now in Koppal district) forested hill ranges, he happened to discover three caves with paintings. He published a note on them in the annual reports of the archaeological department of the former Nizam's Dominion of Hyderabad. Occasional discoveries were being made and no further studies were carried on as late as 1960s. It was the late Vishnu Wakankar of Ujjain, who found about 700 natural caves, most of them with Prehistoric paintings, in the sand stone belt in Bhimbetka near Bhopal . His Ph. D. thesis on these paintings was the first of its kind on rock art and in view of his service to rock art he was awarded Padmashree by the Government of India. Since then numerous discoveries were made in Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Bihar, Bengal . Orissa and eastern part of Punjab , etc.

To have access to the painted rock-shelters and caves, one must be determined and physically strong. In a single shelter/cave there may be one or two or even 50-100 pictures of animals, humans, geometrical designs and scenes of some significant social performances such as hunting, group dance, burying the dead, etc. which are less frequent. The pictures are executed in mineral colours like red, green, white , the first being the most common. It is said that it was mixed with pig's blood since it would not dry up fast. The pictures are in either outline or silhouette.

There are three categories of rock art. bruising caused with a stone, the engraving with a sharp stone or metal tool and then the paintings. Almost all the paintings are monochrome. In southern Karnataka, we find mostly engravings. Very rarely there are paintings in white ochre and red ochre. In eastern part of North Karnataka there are bruisings, engravings and paintings dating back to the Neolithic period (4000-2000-800 B.C.) In Badami-Hosa Mahakuta-Pattadakal-Aihole-Kutakankei area there are very interesting painted shelters mostly with animals of wild species and humans drawn in a peculiar way besides some unusual geometrical designs datable to Mesolithic
(circa.10,000 B.C.) or even earlier. There are more than a dozen sites in this area. What is more striking is the existence of a painted scene of a seated nobleman approached by his two consorts carrying lotus flowers in hand on a prepared surface in classical style in a deep rock recess dark noticed by me sometime in 1975. Later, Dr. Shilakant Pattar of Badami discovered a similar cave painting in the same area. In the Western-ghat-coastal region there are mostly engravings from Sindhu Durga( Ratnagiri district, Maharashtra ) upto mid Kerala. In the border area of Kerala-Udakamandala also cave-paintings are located. Their dating is vague.

The variations in the form of rock art are mainly due to the prevailing rock conditions. Yet another aspect of the rock art to be considered are the contents or the designs. In the Ghat-coastal region, cattle such as bulls, cows and infrequently geometrical designs are strikingly common. Human representation is scarcely in evidence. In Badami area, paintings only of wild animals such as pigs, animals with stripes on the body, to be identified and depictions of stick like humans with an exaggerated trunk with a end, have no parallels in the other parts of Karnataka and the South. In the Eastern part of North Karnataka all three forms of the art i.e. bruisings, engravings and paintings and some traditions of society such as group dance, burial hunting ritual etc occur frequently.

With regard to painted humans in the eastern part, there are varieties of singles, large and small, in pairs or multiples hand in hand etc. The largest depiction of a nude human standing with squat legs and with geometrical designs painted all over the body obviously engaged in some ritual is in Narayanapur near Hampi. It is appreciably proportionate. How the artist managed to draw the figure from the tip of the surface about four meters high from the ground level, is to be admired.

In geometrical designs, certain types of what are known as mandala s prepared in rangavalli even today in religious performances are found in the paintings and engravings. Double lined two squares, obliquely intersecting with loops at the corners is the most common as found at Hire Benkal, Chik Rampur in painting, Sonda (Uttara Kannada dt.) and Gavali near Kundapura (Dakshina Kannada) in engraving. What is interesting is that such a design is attached to the bull's legs, at the last two places. Also endless six knot design attached to three bulls' legs in a row, a similar design in exclusion of bull/s is found on a loosely lying stone slab at Hire-Madapura, (Hire Kerur tk. Haveri dt.) And enigmatically it is used by villagers to cure horn diseases of cattle even today. Thus it appears that such designs were believed to have some magical powers by rural folk especially the pastoralists even in the past.

Thus rock art are the most effective visual evidences giving an insight into the beliefs and practices of the peoples of the past dating at least from the Upper Palaeolithic . It is needless to say that they are the only source of knowing the visual art of the Prehistoric communities.  


The diverse linguistic and religious ethnicities that are native to Karnataka combined with their long histories have contributed immensely to the varied cultural heritage of the state. Apart from Kannadigas, Karnataka is home to Tuluvas, Kodavas and Konkanis. Minor populations of Tibetan Buddhists and tribes like the Soligas, Yeravas, Todas and Siddhis also live in Karnataka. The traditional folk arts cover the entire gamut of music, dance, drama, storytelling by itinerant troupes, etc. Yakshagana of coastal Karnataka, a classical folk play, is one of the major theatrical forms of Karnataka. Contemporary theatre culture in Karnataka remains vibrant with organizations like Ninasam, Ranga Shankara, Rangayana and Prabhat Kalavidaru continuing to build on the foundations laid by Gubbi Veeranna, T. P. Kailasam, B. V. Karanth, K V Subbanna, Prasanna and others. Veeragase, Kamsale and Dollu Kunitha are popular dance forms. The Mysore style of Bharatanatya nurtured and popularised by the likes of the legendary Jatti Tayamma continues to hold sway in Karnataka and Bangalore also enjoys an eminent place as one of the foremost centers of Bharatanatya.

Karnataka also has a special place in the world of Indian classical music with both Karnataka(Carnatic) and Hindustani styles finding place in the state and Karnataka has produced a number of stalwarts in both styles. While referring to music the word 'Karnataka', the original name given to the South Indian classical music does not mean the state of Karnataka. The Haridasa movement of the sixteenth century contributed seminally to the development of Karnataka (Carnatic) music as a performing art form. Purandara Dasa, one of the most revered Haridasas, is known as the Karnataka Sangeeta Pitamaha ('Father of Karnataka a.k.a.Carnatic music'). Celebrated Hindustani musicians like Gangubai Hangal, Mallikarjun Mansur, Bhimsen Joshi, Basavaraja Rajaguru, Sawai Gandharva and several others hail from Karnataka and some of them have been recipients of the Kalidas Samman, Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan awards.


Karnataka is a treasure of ritualistic dances, all denoted by the generic term Kunitha. Dollu Kunitha is a popular drum dance of Karnataka accompanied by singing. The men of the shepherd community known as the Kuruba community perform the vigorous drum dance. Powerful drumming, energetic movements and harmonized group formations mark the dance. Drums are decorated with coloured cloth and slung around the necks of the percussionists. Puja Kunitha is another dance, in which a wooden structure with a deity is carried on the dancers heads.

Devare Thatte Kunitha, Yellammana Kunitha, Suggi Kunitha and others take their name from the deity or the symbol or instruments which are balanced on the head or held in the hand of the dancer. The Pata Kunitha (a dance by men carrying tall bamboo poles decorated with coloured ribbons and crowned with a tiny silver or brass umbrella), the Gorava Kunitha (a dance performed by men in a black rug-like costume with fur caps and carrying percussion instruments and flutes) and the Kamsale (originally a religious dance, performed by men with cymbals) are some of the other common ritual dances.

Classical Dance

The oldest and most popular form of classical dance in India is the Mysore style of Bharatanatyam, which is widely performed here. Other mainstream classical dances here include Kuchipudi and Kathak.


Yakshagana is a classical folk art form of the state of Karnataka in India mostly popular in the districts of Uttara Kannada, Shimoga, Udupi, Dakshina Kannada and Kasaragod district of Kerala. This would be considered to be a form of opera in western eyes. Actors wear costumes and enact the various roles. Traditionally, Yakshaganas would go on all night. It is sometimes simply called as Aataa in both Kannada and Tulu (meaning play). Yaksha-gana literally means the song (gana) of a Yaksha. Yakshas were an exotic tribe mentioned in the Sanskrit literature of ancient India .

Yakshagana consists of a Himmela (background musicians) and a Mummela (dance group). Himmela consisting of Bhagawata who is also the facilitator (singer), Maddale, Hormonium for drone and Chande (loud drums). The music is based on the Karnataka Sangeetha but with a heavy folk influence. A Yakshagana performance begins at the twilight hours with the beating of several fixed compositions on drums called Abbara or Peetike, for up to an hour before the 'actors' get on the stage. The actors wear resplendent costumes, head-dresses, and painted faces which they paint themselves. A performance usually depicts a story from the Hindu epics and puranas. It consists of a narrator(Baghawatha) who either narrates the story by singing or sings precomposed dialogs of a character, backed by musicians playing on traditional musical instruments as the actors dance to the music, with actions that portray the story as it is being narrated. All the components of Yakshagana, music, dance and dialog are improvised. Depending on the ability and scholarship of the actors variation in dance and amount of dialog may change. It is not uncommon for actors to get into philosophical debates or arguments without going out of the framework of the character being enacted.

The Word and the World

Yakshagana is a traditional theater form combining dance, music, spoken word, costume-makeup, and stage technique with a distinct style and form. ? Both the word Yakshagana and its world are interesting and intriguing. It is a theater form mainly prevalent in the coastal districts and adjacent areas, in Karnataka. It is closely connected with other forms prevailing in other parts of Karnataka, and its neighboring states of Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Tamilnadu and Maharastra.

Yakshagana, like many other forms, defies neat classification into categories like folk, classical, rural. It can be included into each of these, or all of them together, depending upon our line of approach. Being a theater form, unlike a dance form, it is more plural and dynamic. And hence it exhibits many types and varieties inside itself. However, Yakshagana can be rightly called a traditional form. Primarily it is a name given to the one prevailing in Coastal and Malnad areas of Karnataka, though in fringe forms like Doddata are also called by the same name often, especially recently. The traditional theater form Mudalpaya of Southern Karnataka, the Doddata of Northern Karnataka , the Kelike in the borders of Andhra Pradesh, the Ghattadakore of Kollegal in Chamarajnagar district – are such forms. Among them, the Ghattadakore is a direct branch of Coastal Yakshagana, while Mudalapaya is the most closely connected form. There is a form called Yakshaganamu in Andhra Pradesh also which exhibits resemblance to the forms of Karnataka plateau region.

The Genesis

The origin of any art form is in a way difficult to fix and the time and process of formation conceived is often arbitrary. As art forms grow over a period, and they include various elements from time to time and undergo many changes until they appear as we see them today. Theater forms become solo performances (for example, Kathak) and may be vice versa.

The Origin

Basically Yakshagana is the product of the Vaishnava Bhakthi movement. Vaishnavism as a school of thought and religion is quite old. The Bhakthi movement proper, spread with vigor after the 10th Century. It took religion to the common man, to the lower strata of society, those classes to whom the highly formalized and Vedic religion was beyond reach. Hence Bhakthi movement was a social movement also.

In order to propagate and spread the message of devotion, it adopted and adapted the existing folk as well as classical literary forms and performances. It created its own forms. Most of the traditional theater forms are the result of this phenomenon. Hence there are clear resemblance among the members of the 'Traditional Theater Family' like Ankhia Nata ( Assam ), Jathra (Bengal), Chau (Bihar, Bengal ), Prahlada Nata (Orissa), Veedhinatakam & Chindu (Andhra), Terukoothu Bhagawathamela (Tamil Nadu), Kathakkali (Kerala). Yet there are major differences also. Yakshagana is a member of this group and so its origin is connected with a wider historical situation.

Experts have placed the origin of Yakshagana from the 11th Century to the 16th Century. Earliest limit is fixed by a finding by Vidwan Bannanje Govindacharya who says a legend goes to show that Sage Narahari Thirtha (c, 1300) started a Dasavathara Ata performance and a troupe in Udupi and later this spread to other places and grew into what we call Yakshagana today.

Anyway, Yakshagana must have been an established form by the time of famous Yakshagana poet Parthisubba (1600) who wrote the Ramayana in Yakshagana. Because he is said to be a Bhagawatha (singer) himself and is believed to have founded a troupe, and probably he is the formulator of the Tenkuthittu (Southern style) of the art. Troupe centers like Koodlu and Kumbla in Kasaragod District, and Amritheshwari, Kota near Kundapur claim having a troupe three to four centuries ago. So we can safely assume that this art form had taken shape by about 1500. However, what we see today as Yakshagana, must have been the result of a slow evolution, drawing its elements from ritual theater, temple arts, secular arts like Bahurupi, royal courts of the time and artists imaginations – all interwoven over period.

Growth and Changes

With the socio-economic changes of the 19th Century, arts like Yakshagana also changed. The 19th Century produced a big number of compositions. Around 1800, a troupe from Dharmastala visited the court of the king of Mysore and established a troupe there. In the 1840s, a troupe from Uttara Kannada ( North Kanara ) visited Maharastra, and inspired the first modern age mythological drama by Vishudas Bhave. A number of troupes arose all over the Coastal Karnataka and probably in other parts of Karnataka too. By the early decades of this Century the structure of Yakshagana reached a definite shape and form.

1930s saw some changes in compositions, organizations and presentation. Dance and the spoken word was further developed and refined. But in costume, a type of degeneration started setting in due to the use of 'modern' clothing and stone jewellery, in place of hand loom clothing and wooden ornaments.

The year 1950 saw the birth of 'tent' troupes, giving performances to audience by tickets, with 'tent theaters' and furniture for seating. These troupes brought in commercialization of Yakshagana, with both merits and demerits. Yakshagana saw major changes in form and organisation, electrical lights replaced the 'gas lights' or 'petromax' lamps. Seating arrangements improved. Major changes came in the themes, with the inclusion of folk epics, Sanskrit dramas and created (imaginary) stories forming the thematic base. Popular entertainment became the criterion in place of 'classical' presentation. Tulu, the language of the Southern part of the D.K. district was introduced on the stage, where hitherto only Kannada was used. This gained great popularity. All these trends continued with added vigor after 1970s, with a new element of influence. Noted writer, Late Dr. Kota Shivaram Karanth experimented with the dance form by introducing Western musical instruments. He also reduced the time of a Yakshagana performance from 12 hours to two and half hours, for the convenience of city dwellers. Another trend that has emerged in modern Yakshagana is the incorporation of movie stories.

Yakshagana has undergone innovation in dance and theatre, which includes performances of Shakespeare.

The Variations


The Badagutittu style, as its name indicates, is prevalent in Northern parts of South Canara , that is, from Padubidri to Byndoor and North Kanara District. It makes use of a typical Karnataka chande.[8] The Badagutittu style was popularized by Shivram Karanth's Yakshagana Mandira at Saligrama village in Dakshina Kannada as a shorter, more modern form of Yakshagana.[8] Keremane Shivarama Heggade, the founder of the Yakshagana troupe, Idagunji Mahaganapathi Yakshagana Mandali is an exponent of this style of Yakshagana. He is also the first Yakshagana artist to receive the Rashtrapati Award.


The second variation, the Tenkutittu style, is prevalent in Southern areas of South Canara , that is, from Mulki to Kasargod. It is accompanied by a Kerala maddalam. Another aspects that sets it closer to Kathakali than its northern counterpart is the less exuberant costumes, notable the demon ones.[8] One notable practitioner of Tenkutittu style Yakshagana was the late Sheni Gopalakrishna Bhat.

Yakshagana Puppetry

Another interesting facet of Yakshagana is the its use in puppetry. Evidence shows that there were more than 30 string puppet troupes in the undivided Dakshina Kannada district during the period 1910 – 1915 in places like Basrur, Barkur, Kokkarne, Mudabidri etc.

The puppetry in Yakshagana style is interesting as the presentation is highly stylized and adheres strictly to the norms and standards of Yakshagana. The puppets used are generally 18 inches high and the costumes are similar to those worn by the characters from Yakshagana with the same elaborate make-up, colorful head gear and heavy jewellery. The person who infuses life into the puppet and makes it come alive, by dexterous manipulation is known as the Suthradhara. The content in the Yakshagana puppetry, is drawn heavily from the ancient epics.

Background of Yakshagana Puppetry

Though Yakshagana puppetry had existed since a long time, it was moulded by Laxman, Narasimha and Manjappa Kamath, hailing from Uppinakudru village in Kundapur taluk. Devanna Padmanabha Kamath, the grandson of Laxman Kamath infused new life into it and performed shows all over India . Currently, his son Kogga Kamath is at the forefront, performing shows and training youngsters in Yakshagana puppetry.

Training and Research

Training schools for Yaskhagana are very few in Coastal Karnataka. As most troupes are associated with temples, the training has been confined to the temple premises. However, the Govinda Pai Research Institute, located at MGM College , Udupi, runs a Yakshagana Kalakendra in Udupi that trains youngsters in this ancient dance form. The Govinda Pai Research Institute does research work on language, rituals and dance art forms of Tulu Nadu.

The known Yakshagana artists - a few are listed


late Agari srinivasa bhagavata,Maindappa rai,Ira gopala krishna bhagavata, Balipa Narayana Bhagavatharu,Kadatoka Manjunath Bhagavataru ,late Damodara mandechcha,Puttige Raghuram Holla, Tenkabail Thirumaleshwara Shastry, Dinesh ammannaya, Padyana Ganapathi Bhat,Leelavati Baipadittaya,Polya Laxminarayana shetty,Balipa Prasada bhagavata, Balipa shivashankara bhagavata ,Late GR Kalinga Navuda, Subramanya Dhareshwara, Heranjal Gopala Ganiga, Raghavendra Mayya, H Suresh Shetty, Narayanappa Uppur, Vidhwan Ganapathi Bhat, Raghavendra Achari, Nelluru Narayana, Polya Laxminarayan Shetty, Narayana Shabaraya, , others...


Late Nedle Narasimha Bhat, Divana Bheema Bhat,Kudrekkodlu Rama Bhat (allrounders of tenkutittu), chipparu krishnayya Ballal,Mambady Subrahmanya Bhat, Peruvai Narayana Bhat,Padmanabha upadyaya,Harinarayana Baipadittaya,delantamajalu subrahmanya bhat,prabhakara gore,chandrashekhara konkanaaje,Adur Ganesh Rao, Kudrekodlu Ram Bhat,Shivananda Kota and others

Mummela (Patradarigalu)

Keremane Shivaram Hegade, Keremane Mahabla Hegade, Keremane Shabhu Hegade, Chittani Ramachandra Hegade, Gode Narayan Hegade, Bhaskar Joshi, Balkur Krishna Yaji, Uppunda Nagendra Rao, Kondadakuli Ramachandra Hegade, Kannimane Ganapathi Bhat, Manki Eshwar Naik, Thombattu Vishwanath Achari, Kumble Sundar Rao, K. Govinda Bhat, Kolyuru Ramchandra Rao, Subramanya Hegade Chittani, Thirthahalli Gopala Achari and Others

Tal Maddale

Sheni Gopalkrishna Bhat,deraje seetaramayya,Moodambailu gopalakrishna shastry,sunnambala vishweshwara bhat, Dr. Prabhkar Joshi,kumble sundar rao, k.govinda bhat,Jabbar Sumo,Subrahmanya bhat venur...


Imbued with the devotion of Kanaka Dasa and Purandara Dasa, the music of Karnataka flourished under the royal patronage of the Vijayanagar Empire and the Wodeyars. Direct in descent in the Mysore Veena tradition are Veena Seshanna and Veena Doreswamy Iyengar. T.Chowdiah, who gave the violin in Carnatic music a new character altogether. Gangubai Hangal, Bhimsen Joshi, Mallikarjuna Mansur, Kumar Gandharwa, Basavaraj Rajguru and Puttaraj Gavai are some of the illustrious names in Karnataka's contribution to Hindustani music.
Development of Carnatic music in Karnataka

Karnataka is a state of India with a long tradition of innovation in the fields of both Carnatic and Hindustani classical music.

Basaveshwara, King of Kalyana, leader of the Bhakti movement and Prime Minister of Bijjala, created his Vachanas, an integral part of the Indian classical music's development during this period, which also saw the rise of composers like Chandraja, Shantala, Akka Mahadevi and Allama. Later, Vidyaranya's Sangitasara, Ventamakhin's Chaturdandi Prakashika and Chaturkallinatha's Sangitaratnakara further refined these traditions.

With the rise of Vaishnavism and the Haridasa movement came prominent composers from Karnataka like Purandaradasa, Kanakadasa, Vijaya Dasa and Jagannathadasa. The Wodeyars of Mysore were great patrons of the arts.


In earlier times, Sangeeta Shaastra followed the “Guru-Shishya” tradition, and there did not exist any written text. First classical music began as abhyasa, and it was only later that shaastras were formed. It is estimated that only during the period of Bharatamuni (300 BC) were the theories of sangeeta documented for the first time, and this was termed as “Naatya Shaastra”. For a considerable period of time it was one of the only authoritative treatise (PramaaNa Grantha) for the whole of India.[citation needed] After that, independent growth of classical music occurred across different parts of India , in different forms.

Around 1200 BC, a scholar by name “Shaarjnadeva” wrote a treatise, which was named as ”Sangeeta Ratnakara” - an Indian musical treaty that is considered to be the first documented work on South Indian classical music. He hailed from Devagiri, which was at the time a part of Karnataka (but is now Daulatabad, province of Hyderabad ). Later, in 1350BC, South Indian classical music obtained a well-defined structure through the works of Maadhava and VidhyaraNya. Apart from strengthening the sangeeta shaastras (sangeeta shaastra pravartane) by writing “Sangeeta Saara”, they were also ministers of the Vijayanagara Empire, and Heads of Shringeri Mutt.

Carnatic music saw renewed growth during the Vijayanagar Empire by the Kannada Haridasa movement of Vyasaraja, Purandara Dasa, Kanakadasa and others. Among the Haridasa movement, Purandara Dasa who is known as the Sangeeta Pitamaha (the father of Carnatic music), is credited with the founding of the system of teaching Carnatic music. Others of the Haridasa movement, helped shaped the music of their time and prepared for the future by influencing some of the composers who came after them. Thyagaraja acknowledges the influence of Purandaradasa. Tulajaji, the Maharashtra ruler of Tanjore (1729-35 A.D.), writes of the music of Haridasas in his book Sangita Saramrita,[citation needed] and venerates Vyasaraya and Purandaradasa as great composers.

Around 1650 AD, Govinda Deekshit, who was a minister in the court of King Achyuta Nayaka of Tanjavore, wrote “Sangeeta Sudha”, where he has quoted a lot about “Sangeeta Saara” by Maadhava- VidhyaraNya. His son was the renowned Venkatamakhin, who is credited with the classification of ragas in the Melakarta System, and he wrote his most important work; Chaturdandi Prakasika (c.1635 CE) in Sanskrit. Kshetrajna who wrote “Shrungaara padas” (which also deals with theory of Sangeeta Shaastra) was also living at this time (1650). During the time of VidhyaraNaya, there were 15 meLakarta raagas, which became 22 during the time of Venkatamakhin. Apart from above mentioned theorists, many other theorists like Kallinatha, Raamaamaatya, Somanatha, etc. have contributed a lot to the development of Carnatic music.

The development of Carnatic music in Karnataka, from Sharngadeva to Venkatamakhin (a duration of 650 years), resulted in further expansion and establishment of Carnatic music.


Performing arts represent the cultural segments of a particular region and language. The performances presented on the stage or open fields are blended with songs, dances, facial expressions (with or without make-up), and music. These elements form the basis of any folk performing art. Audience is the most important element, whether it is an indoor or outdoor performance. The complexity traits of the performing arts gained popularity in a few regions because of its regional uniqueness

A folk theatre art form popular in Uttar Karnataka. It is a combination of Yakshagana and Byalatta with themes culled from the great epic Mahabharata.

No less interesting is the Bhootha Aradhane or devil worship, very common in the coastal towns of Karnataka. Idols representing ‘bhoothas' are taken out in a procession to the beating of drums and bursting of firecrackers. As the procession ends, the idols are placed on a pedestal.

The People of Dakshina Kannada perform an elaborate ritual called Nagamandala to appease the serpent spirit. It is conducted in an extravagant manner throughout the night, wherein dancers known as the Vaidyas dress themselves as nagakannikas and dance the night away.


trip to the coastal belt would be incomplete without watching the Yakshagana – an elaborate dance-drama performance unique to Karnataka. It is a rare combination of dance, music, songs, scholarly dialogues and colourful costumes. A celestial world unfolds before the audience as loud singing and drumming form a backdrop to dancers clad in striking costumes. Hence the name Yaksha (celestial) Gana (music). This is a night-long event, with elaborately adorned performers dancing to the beating of drums in open-air theatres - usually village paddy fields after the winter crop has been reaped.

Togalu Bombeaata, is the ancient art of leather puppetry that draws heavily from mythology, especially stories from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. This art form is still prevalent in some remote villages. In some places, puppetry is performed to seek rain or a good harvest or to get rid of a disease or pestilence.

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