Cascading effect of Keremane’s artful journey
- Jyothi Raghuram

February 26, 2013

If one looks at the cultural activities in the major cities of India, Bangalore emerges as a vibrant place that hosts very many events connected to traditional performing arts, not all of them confined to performances. If this is a barometer of nurturing the arts, several organizations outside the state capital have been working with greater fervour, but have not come into the limelight because of their geographical location and their simplicity of not seeking publicity.  

When the five-day Sri Keremane Shambhu Hegde Rashtriya Natakotsava-4, concluded at verdant Gunavante in Uttara Kannada recently, it was time to mark out the event as a spectacular show in style, variety, content, and substance. Keremane Shivananda Hegde, the son and artistic heir of Keremane Shambhu Hegde, the “Bhishma pitamaha” of Yakshagana, created this festival as a tribute to his father four years ago. It has turned out to be a celebration of every kind of performing art not just on stage, but also through brain-storming discussions, lecture-demonstrations and seminars that run parallel to the evening performances. 

“It is very difficult to sensitize people to the existence of innumerable traditional art forms, especially when they are steeped in Yakshagana, as they are here. To bring these arts to the people of Karnataka itself, is one of the objectives of the festival. ‘Yakshangana,’ the festival venue, should also become the nucleus of all arts and artistes, infusing new life and meaning into the realm of art,” says Hegde.


Shivananda Hegde speaks

Janapadu haadu

Yakshagana Shashiprabha

Although in its infancy, four years of the Natyotsava prove Hegde’s words to be not only genuine, but of already having created the matrix for nurturing even dying arts in however humble a way. The five-day festival was literally crafted as a celebration of art. The academic session inputs and evening performances combined with the informal interaction of several litterateurs, dancers, musicians, academics, scholars and visitors, acted as a catalyst for further such interactions. It also set the base for the coming Natyotsava, where colour, variety, and vibrancy would continue to be the core.  

Carnatic vocal by T.M. Krishna,  Andhra Natyam by Kala Krishna, Therukkoothu by  Kannappa Tambiran and team from Tamil Nadu, Hindustani vocal by Venkatesh Kumar, Mohiniattam by Pallavi Krishnan and troupe of Kerala, Kathak by Rajashree Shirke and troupe of Mumbai, archery by Lingamagontla Subbarav of Andhra Pradesh, Yakshagana by the Yakashagana Centre of Udupi, Bihu by the Assam Tunbiri Sankrit Gosthi,  Odissi by Uday Shetty and team from Kalatheera, Bangalore, Bharatanatyam – Odissi -Mohiniattam brought by the Ananya banner, Bangalore, and “Shudra Tapasvi,” a play by Rangayana, Mysore, were some of the arts and artistes presented this year. 

Lecture-demonstrations on Thenkuthitta by Sri Idagunji Mahaganapati Yakshagana Mandali Keremane, the festival organizer, and on Therukootthu by Dr. V.R. Devika, Chennai, were among the topics dealt with in the morning sessions.


Hindustani vocal by Venkatesh Kumar

Rajashree Shirke and troupe


The Natyotsava was a star-studded, meaningful affair in one more sense. All five days of the festival saw the presence and active participation of stalwarts such as Hosthota Manjunatha Bhagawathar, veteran scholar and Yakshagana specialist, Gururaj Marpalli, impressario, and Prabhakar Joshi, scholar-writer and Yakshagana expert. M.L. Samaga, President, Karnataka Yakshagana Academy, Jayant Kaikini, poet and writer, Diwakar  Hegde, member, State Yakshagana Academy, Bhuvaneshwari Hegde, academic and humour writer, and Dr. Vijayanalini Ramesh, research scholar, were among those whose  presence at the festival gave it a special status and boost.

At the heart of the event is Shivananda’s gratitude to his father and his Kathak teacher, Guru Maya Rao, “who are the inspiration and support for everything I do.” Yakshangana, the open-air theatre, is an oasis of peace amid a surrounding canopy of greenery. Right next to the stage is the “samadhi” of Keremane Shambhu Hegde, lending the theatre space a sanctity of its own.

Keremane Shivarama Hegde Award

The Natyotsava is headed in the direction of gradually transforming into an art movement, going by its inclusive nature and very wide canvas. It has much appeal in the slot of cultural tourism. Situated in Uttara Kannada district, against the backdrop of the biodiversity hotspot, the Western Ghats, it is strewn with innumerable ancient temples, waterfalls, streams, and thick forests and mountains. It is as much a tourist destination for this reason too. Gunavante houses a Shiva temple which is one among the “Panchakshetras” (five Shiva temples) in the district.

The Keremane family boasts of three national awardees in Yakshagana—Shivarama Hegde, Mahabala Hedge and Shambhu Hegde. In the remote village of Gunavante, Shambhu Hegde set up a Yakshagana school, and constructed an indoor auditorium in memory of his father, Keremane Shivarama Hegde. He honoured those who had contributed significantly to Yakshagana and other performing arts. In keeping with this tradition, Keremane Shivananda Hegde, who is also adept at Kathak, felicitated about a dozen artistes and those working in allied fields.  

The concluding day three put up a surprise from the youngest member of the Keremane family. Dr. Devika made an audio-visual presentation on Mahatma Gandhi, especially for school children, and left the stage open for questions. Keremane Shashidhar Hegde, Shivananda’s 10-year-old son, was full of questions, and gave his opinion too on issues such as veganism, environmental protection in daily life and the dangers of fast foods. It revealed a sense of awareness and social commitment that is so essential to be a genuine artiste, the budding photographer that Shashidhar is.


Jyothi Raghuram is a journalist with over two decades experience in both the print and electronic media, having worked with news organizations such as PTI, The Hindu and Indian Express. Her specialized writings on the performing and visual arts have been considered as benchmarks for their comprehensive and in-depth dealing of the subjects.