The Theyyam or Theyyattam is a popular ritual dance of North Kerala, particularly now found in the traditional Kolathunadu, of the present Kannur and Kasargod districts. As a living cult with century old traditions, rituals and customs, it embraces almost all castes and classes of Hindu religion in this region. The term Theyyam is a corrupt form of daivam or God. It is a rare combination of dance and music and reflects important features of a tribal culture.
The term Yakshagana would mean a style of music and it is a musical dance drama played in the open air. Yakshagana is one of the most important folk theatres of Karnataka and Kasargod which has brought fame to this region.
Every village in Kasargod Taluk is familiar with this art. The sister art forms are the Terukkuthu of Tamilnadu, Koodiyatam and Chakyarkuttu of Kerala, Veedhinataka of Andhra Pradesh. Yakshagana was originally known as Bayalata. The stories of Yakshagana were drawn from the Ramayana, Mahabharatha, Bhagavatha and from other mythological episodes. The main attraction of yakshagana is stage craft where characters like Gods, Demons and sanyasis are presented in a supernatural atmosphere and the audience are carried to a world of fantasy.
One side of the stage floor Bhagavatha sits with his accompaniment. Bhagavatha is the narrator, director or can be called as Suthradhara. He also sings with the accompaniment of Tala (Jagate) Mridanga (Maddale), Harmonium (Shruthi) and Chakrathala. Besides high pictched 'Chenda' (drum) is used in special occasions. In olden days oil lamps were used to light the stage.
The text of the yakshagana is called "Yakshagana Prasanga" which is narrated in sets of songs. These songs are set of different Ragas and Talas presented according to the "Kalas" (Periods of night). There are about 100 ragas in yakshagana. The yakshagana is a total theatre because it has everything of a performing art. It entertains and enlighten both the learned and the illiterate. The yakshagana performances starts and ends with the prayer to Lord Ganesha. There are about 10 troupes of Yakshagaga Bayalata in this Dist. Some troupes have the heritage of 100 to 150 years.
BOMBE-YATTA (PUPPET YAKSHAGANA)
Yakshagana Bombeyatta or Puppet show is an art form of Kasargod District and South Canara district in Karnataka State.
This is presented using string puppets and rod puppets with colourful costumes and dresses. The movements of the dolls are monitored and controlled by strings and rods. Yakshagana is presented through puppets and hence it is known as Yakshagana Bombeyatta. Puppets made out of wood are painted and dressed according to the character in the story. Bombeyatta is controlled from a curtain chamber specially put up behind the seen for the purpose. Musical instruments are also used just as that of Yakshagana. Different puppets enacts different characters in accordance with the story telling by way of dialogue followed with songs.
Now this art form is on the way of extinction. There is only one troupe in Kasargod District which preserve this excellent art form, the Sri.Gopalakrishna Yakshagana Bombeyatta Sanga, located near Sri.Bhagavathy temple, Pulikkunnu, Kasargod. They are presenting their programmes in various places in and out of the state. The troupe had also participated in the international puppet festival held at Lahore in Pakistan.