Although their exist conflict about an origination of folk theatre form Yakshgana, it is agreed that it is an ancient
art. Some believe that it emerged in the 16th century and by others in the 18th century. Its origins and growth can be traced
back in Sanskrit literature in its theatre on the one hand, and even in Kannada literature and the many forms of ritual dancing
and music prevalent in the area on the other. It relates with many of the traditions and conventions of the Sanskrit theatre
or drama, particularly those of the Purvaranga, and the existence of a character, vidushak.
The original form of Yakshgana involves the use of recitative modes of poetry sung in loud voice, melodies of music, rhythm,
and dance techniques and above all, costuming and graceful make up. It is distinctly differs in many ways from the norms of
the Sanskrit stage, as it does not contain a highly elaborate language of hand gestures and eye- gestures. But it should be
noted that it is closely related to developments in literature in the adjoining states of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu and
has some affinities to literary forms.
Unfortunately, hardly anything of the literature from the period A.D. 450 to 850 has survived & accessible today.
However, from the work of Kavirajamarga mainly a treatise on poetry, some valuable information can be gathered about literary
styles, metrical forms etc; all of which have some relevance to the literary composition called the Yakshgana of a much later
period is available.
YakshaThe 15th and the 16th century were interesting from many points of view. The first Yakshgana play although is in
Telgu & was written in the 16th century by Peda Kempa Gaudan and was called Ganga Gauri Vilasam. Resurgence followed in
the 17th century and this was the time when the Yakshgana form developed in Karnataka, Andhra and Tamil Nadu. In Andhra, this
form is known both as a sung narrative and as a dance drama since the 15th century. The form was also related to the Prabandha
natak, which originated in slightly later period.
Yakshgana as a theatrical form regained popularity only in the 18th century. Till that time written plays continued to
be created but mainly as scripts for presentations. One fact must be kept in mind that the Yakshgana emerged as a full-fledged
theatre form in south Kannda at a time of great political unrest and social disturbances.
Sadasiva Nayaka (1544-1565) had ruled the territory `Tulu Rajya` in the time of Portuguese and other threats. The reigns
of his successors, namely Venkatappa Nayaka and Virabhadra Nayakla (1629-1641), especially the reign of the Virabhadra Nayakla
was full of all kinds of troubles. The scene of political struggles continued well till the early18th century until the British
finally entered the region.
But, as a theatrical form, the Yakshgana has recently received due attention of scholars and artists from many parts of
India. Its history is known and its connections with forms inside the Karnataka and from other parts of India are also obvious.
But, still it remains a vast subject remaining unexplored.