Yaksagana at MCPH

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The students and teachers of MCPH have participated in a 2-month course of Yaksagana dance, at the centre. This was led by Guru Bannanje Sanjīva Suvarṇa, a renowned Yaksagana teacher based in Udupi. Following is the personal account of one of the participants.

Tā Hastā Dindā Dhiku Taka Tā Tōm Taddhinnakka. I grew up with, and listened to all this throughout my life. The vigorous, energetic, crisp and fiery chende rolling with the smooth, caring and consoling maddale. The chime of the tāḷa that punctuates and structures the whole performance. To my left was as always my father allowing me to lean on him and sleep off, listening to the songs and dialogues of the Yakṣagāna. I don’t remember how many times I have fallen asleep on my father’s shoulder listening to the story of Cakravyūha. Yes, that didn’t happen. I wasn’t there in my mother’s womb while listening to Cakravyūha. But I remember that particular day when, in the field of Karkikoppa school near Sagar, half asleep, I watched the episode of the brave child-soldier Abhimanyu getting inside the concentric circles and decided that I too would do Yakṣagāna. However, I  never managed to do it till it all happened in Manipal.

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Taiku Taiku Dhit Tākdtka Dhinna. I never imagined that I would move my feet to the rhythm of tāḷa in Manipal. One fine day, Sundar walked into the room where all the PhD students work and told us that there would be Yakṣagāna classes at MCPH. I was reluctant, not knowing what kind of a class it would be. But I decided to do it, when Sundar said that Guru Bannanje Sanjīva Suvarṇa would come to the Centre. I had heard his name when I was very young and already seen many performances which were choreographed by Guru Sanjīva.

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Titti Tai Titti Tai. Classes early in the morning. Get up, take a shower and swoosh, I’m in the centre almost on time, my hair still dripping as I never get those two minutes to dry it up when there is Yakṣagāna! It all started slowly with Titti Tai Titti Tai. We were taught a variety of hejje (steps) in different tāḷas. Guru Sanjīva is that kind of a teacher who believes in internalizing the rhythm and dancing through the body. Though he tells us which tāḷa it is, the most important thing is to go with the flow of the rhythm. All traditional teachers of Yakṣagāna I have seen would make their students bring a notebook to the class and take down the break-up of the rhythmic patterns, mug them up and recite them. But Guru Sanjīva’s teaching is not written. It is not even verbal most of the times. He teaches ‘through the body’. He does not seem to have any problem teaching a student even when they do not have a common verbal language.

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Dhēm Dhinna Takka Dhinna. Keeping legs wide apart, thighs parallel to the ground, left hand stretched out towards the front with three fingers touching the palm, thumb and the little finger stretched perpendicular to the ground, the right hand is pulled back with the elbow bent, the little finger aiming at the left hand, fiery eyes wide open, serious and angry face, yes freeze yourself in that posture! With very smooth but royal jumps start turning your whole body towards your right. By the sixteenth beat you complete a round and are in the original position where it all started! When I do this, I will always be double performing. This move is usually done by a warrior. For me, watching Yakṣagāna from my early childhood, the characters like Bhasmāsura, Vāli, Rāvaṇa are as real as performers like Chittani, Hadinbal or D.G. Hegde. Or, because I have watched most of the overnight performances half asleep, the performers are as mythical, mystical and mysterious as the characters from Mahābhārata or Rāmāyaṇa. So when I move my body to a rhythm, I seldom think of myself performing something. Most of the times I will be performing the performance of the artists I have seen. I will be Chittani performing Kīcaka or Hadinbal performing Śhūrpanakha. And I find a new self in me.

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Dhit Tōm Taiyyata Dinna Dhēm. MCPH, a research institute, has broken the walls of the fort of thinking-and-imagination-through-oral-and-written texts. In the true sense the body has made its way to the space, both physical and mental, of MCPH. To push all the chairs in the lecture hall to a corner and totally ignore them as if they don’t exist; to reclaim the space for dancing itself is a refreshing activity. Even hours after we have concluded the practice for the day, the rhythm lingers on. The energy created by all the jumping and dancing to fast rhythm lingers on. The hearty laughter we had when we missed a step lingers on.

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Nārāyaṇāya namo Nārāyaṇāya

Nābhikamalake śaraṇu Nārāyaṇāya

Gurudaiva Gaṇapatige śaraṇu śaraṇendu

Karagaḷeraḍanu mugidu śirabāgi nindu

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Madhava Chippali

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