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The cultural heritage of Karnataka is rich and variegated. The Kannada words saw their entry through Halmidi inscription of 450 A.D. But prior to it, a Kannada word “Isila” occur in Ashoka’s Brahmagiri inscription of third century B.C. It is curious to note that the Sittanvasal inscription from Tamil Nadu of 1st century A.D. also has few Kannada words. The Kannada literature saw its first work entitled ‘Kavirajamarga’ during 850 A.D. and in modern times it is blessed with eight Jnanapeetha Awardees. Literary activity in other languages of neighbouring areas and purely local languages like Tulu and Kodava is also considerable. Journalism in Kannada has its history dating back to 1843 and has many achievements to its credit. Karnataka has outstanding personalities of historical significance. In the musical map of India, the State has bright spots, whether it is Hindustani or Karnatak, the latter having originated in this land. In the field of dance and art too Karnataka has creditable achievements. Yakshagana, both a folk and elite art is flourishing here. The State’s tradition in folk arts is also colourful. When one thinks of the cultural scene, Shivaram Karanth, Kuvempu, Da.Ra.Bendre, Cine star Dr. Rajkumar, Maya Rao, Mallikarjuna Mansur, T.Chaudiah, K.K.Hebbar, Pandit Bheemasen Joshi, Gangubai Hangal, U.S.Krishna Rao and Chandrabhagadevi the dance couple, B.V. Karanth, U.R. Anantha Murthy, Girish Karnad, Chandrashekhar Kambar are a few bright faces that shine forth. Recently, the Central Government has accorded the Classical language status to Kannada language also. Sanskrit, Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu and Odia are the other five India languages, who have also obtained this status.


Karnataka is rightly called the cradle of temple architecture for two major temple styles of India namely the Southern Vimana with a square storeyed superstructure and the Northern Rekhaprasada, also termed Rekhanagara, noted for its curvilinear tower were evolved here simultaneously as a result of painstaking experiments carried out in the Malaprabha valley. A third type with a conical multi-tiered roof called by some as Kadambanagara style also made its appearance and was popular for sometime in the West Coast. As a result of experimentation more than a 100 temples were built by the early Chalukya rulers at Aihole, Mahakuta Badami and Pattadakal within a short span of two centuries and a half (500 to 750 AD). They evolved sophisticated models from simple flat-roofed mandapa-type structures resembling the village assembly hall. Despite the fact that the sand-stone used by them was not soft, they could produce sculptures of high artistic value.

The Meguti temple which is dated 634 AD by the inscription of Ravikirti marks the end of the first stage of the experiment by which time the main elements of a temple namely gatbhagriha, pradakshinapatha, sabhamantapa and mukhamantapa had been evolved. The tower, however still remained undefined. As far as ornamentation was concerned it is only the ceiling, doorframe, pillars and the plinth which were used for the purpose of producing relief sculptures of animals, human figures, floral and geometric designs.

In the next stage of experiment, the first-ever attempt to evolve a temple tower forming an integral part of the structure as a whole was made around 634AD. In addition to the three major types mentioned above, there is also an apsidal or oblate form as seen in the Durga temple and the recently exposed temple in the Chikkigudi complex at Aihole. Though the Sangameshwara and Mallikarjuna temples are good examples of the vimana type, the Virupaksha temple is the most sophisticated.


The Bhoga Nandishvara Temple (9th century) at Nandi in Kolar district built in what is known as the Ganga-Bana style, consists of two temples and is the finest example of a Southern Vimana in which the storeys are clearly marked and the parapets are profusely ornamented with figure-sculptures. The pillared hall, known as navaranga carries some exquisitely carved deities and demi-gods. Its festival hall of black granite is famous for delicacy and details of carvings.


The Later Chalukyan temples show a further increase in the number of offsets in the facade of the vimana, thus providing greater scope for architectural embellishment and profusion of figure sculptures than was possible in the early Chalukyan style. The early Chalukyan feature of spacing out the wall surface with pilasters, noticeable in the Virupaksha and Paapanatha Temples at Pattadakal was carried further and a functional framework of architectural significance was given to the whole edifice.

The pilaster- framed niche was skillfully incorporated in the architectural framework and foliated curves were interposed between architectural motifs. The total mass of the superstructure was reduced and a batter was produced to give an effect of verticality as in the northern temples while other features emphasizing horizontal lines in the tower were still retained to suggest its southern origin. 

The highly ornate doorframes, the embellishment of the horizontal courses of the shikhara with miniature figure-sculptures, the ornamented bracket figures (kichakas). Its vimana and the hall are both stellate in plan and what distinguishes this edifice from the Chalukyan and Hoysala temples is the carrying of the basal projection in a ribbed format up to the 'neck’ (griva) of the tower, thus replacing the stepped pyramidal form by a soaring tower.



The material used by the Hoysala builders is bluish or grey chlorite schist which lends itself to delicate carving and takes a high polish. Of the several hundred temples built during Hoysala rule, 84 are intact. The more renowned among them are those at Belur, Halebidu, Doddagaddavalli, Arsikere, Hosaholalu, Koramangala, Arakere, Harnahalli, Nuggihalli, Mosale and Aralaguppe in Hassan district, Somanathapura in Mysore district and Nagamangala in Mandya district. An outstanding feature of Hoysala temples is the dominance of sculpture over architecture.


They evolved a new style of architecture which is known for its ornate and massive towers (gopuras) over the gateways (mahadvaras) and also for the proliferation of ceremonial halls with imaginatively carved pillars and brackets. Composite pillars carrying mythical animals and riders are a unique contribution of the Vijayanagara rulers. They built a separate shrine for the consort of the main deity and also a number of subsidiary shrines with high-walled enclosure which itself was elaborately decorated with scenes of folk dance, royal hunts, victory parades, etc., as in the case of the Hazara Rama temple.

The construction of underground and overhead canals by Vijayanagara rulers is unique in conception and design and bears testimony to their achievements in secular architecture, while the temples of Virupaksha, Vijaya Vittala, Achyutaraya, Krishna and Pattabhirama bear eloquent testimony to their achievement in religious architecture. Within the citadel walls are remains of large palaces and open platforms meant for inspecting the military parades.


Karnataka or parts thereof were ruled in the medieval period by Muslim dynasties, viz., the Bahmanis, the Baridis (Bidar) and the Adil Shahis (Bijapur). Consequently, at these and other important places, a number of impressive monuments came to be constructed in a distinct style of Indo-Islamic architecture. With the establishment of the independent Bahmani rule, there came into vogue a distinct style which drew in initial stages from the existing Tughluq style of Delhi and later on also from the building art of Persia and in its natural form, assumed a definite regional look whose characteristic features were grand and massive forms, sound structural methods and rich ornament in stone as well as stucco.

Bijapur, under the Adil Shahi rulers, developed a distinct architectural style. The most striking features of this style are largeness and grandness of conception, the three-arched facade (the central one being wider), bulbous dome almost spherical in shape, with its drum concealed within a band of upturned conventional petals, graceful tall and slender minaret and finial used for ornamental purposes at prominent parts in the parapet, pointed arch, bold projecting cornice on richly carved brackets, etc.

Architecture under different Islamic rulers flourished. The Ibrahim Rauza and its mosque are the most ornate and most perfect among Bijapur monuments, indicating the architecture style at its zenith.

The last outstanding monument of Bijapur built by Muhammad Shah (d.1656) is the Gol  Gumbaz renowned all over the world. Few buildings of its type in the entire range of Indo-Islamic Architecture are comparable with this cubic hall in simple but robust concept of stupendous mass. The large chamber, covered by an enormous dome, is externally buttressed at each angle by a multi-storeyed octagonal domed tower and decorated by a rich parapet of merlons, the walls are shaded by a massive and deeply projecting cornice. The construction of a single vaulted hall of such a huge dimension with an equally huge dome testifies to the great engineering skill of the builders. Also, the 3.3 meter wide overhanging Whispering Gallery projecting from the starting point of the dome within and running all around is in itself a marvel of structural art as well as acoustics.


With the advent of Europeans, there was a change in architecture, especially in construction of Churches and public buildings. The Portuguese who came to the West Coast had their factories in places like Mangalore and Honnavar. They built Churches in the European Renaissance style by following the Greeco-Roman patterns. Later, with the advent of the Basel Mission, country-tiles were replaced by fiat machine-made tiles and tall gabled roofs resembling those of the thatched ones on the West Coast became common. The public buildings that came to be constructed were partially Indo-Islamic but mostly Greeco-Roman in imitation of the buildings of the European Renaissance days.

The use of cement and introduction of RCC has been responsible for radical change in architectural techniques during the 20th century. This is visible in many modern buildings like the Karnatak University building at Dharwad or the Vidhana Soudha.

Of the memorable modern buildings of Karnataka, Vidhana Soudha is a notable construction of our own times. It is a building with traditional Indian features. It has an imposing entrance porch with a broad flight of steps. Its massive dome, tall cylindrical pillars and walls decorated with relief designs in cement make it an epic poem in granite. It has fine woodworks too in the interior.




The first major art style evolved in Karnataka is that of the early Chalukyas of Badami. During the Chalukya rule visible expressions were given to Vedic concepts which had receded to the background during the preceding centuries when Jainism and Buddhism were popular. It must, however, be said to the credit of the Chalukyan Kings that though they were devotees of Lord Vishnu, they gave equal encouragement to the construction of Shaivite and Jain temples. Even when Buddhism had declined, a Buddhist Vihara was also built at Aihole.


The Later Chalukyas revelled in embellishing the temples with delicately carved miniature figures of gods and demi-gods, which appear mostly in the upper register of the wall and the string courses of the shikhara. The larger figures occupy the pilastered niches surmounted by architectural motifs which are said to represent the Nagara and Dravida Forms of temple

The moulded courses of the plinth are embellished with successive friezes of elephants, scroll work, dancers, musicians and rows of female figures standing under bowers. Some ladies in the act of dressing, evoke admiration for details and delicacy of carving. The figures are well- proportioned. Above them can be seen perforated screens and above the pillars are the famous bracket figure, locally known as madanikas, standing in graceful postures. The robust anatomy of the female bursts forth through the ornaments she wears. Sculptured as dancers, huntresses or musicians, they give expression to a variety of emotions (rasas).


The use of hard granite did not permit delicate carvings in Vijayanagara art but its low relief sculptures are full of vigour and dynamism where massive (seven to eight metre high) monolithic sculptures such as those of Lakshminarasimha and Ganesha (Sasivekalu and Kadalekalu Ganeshas) are concerned, the very concept reveals a desire to impress on the people that Vljayanagara was a mighty empire. Scenes from the epics are repeatedly shown in various temples especially in the Hazara Rama temple. Animal life received the special attention of Vijayanagara artists. The composite pillars in the temples at Hampi, Srirangam and Vellore carry real and mythical animal figures.


The rich tradition in temple building had helped the growth of sculpture and painting too in ancient Karnataka. These two arts were considered as a part of architecture in ancient India. Manasollasa has also discussed these faculties after discussing architecture. The tradition in sculpture has continued in Karnataka even today. Apart from the Gudigars of the Malnad region who work on wood (especially sandal) and ivory and the Chitragars who produce toys and other such items, there are the Vishvakarmas who are familiar with bronze and stone mediums.

Some of the notable names of modern times are Siddhalinga Swamy of Mysore and his son Nagendra Sthapati, K.Venkatappa, R.S. Naidu for his works using Plaster of Paris. Hanumanthachar of Devanahalli, Vadiraj of Bangalore, Ranjala Gopala Shenoy of Karkala, Appukuttan Achary is renowned for his talent in ivory medium and Gudigars of Kumta have their names etched deep-rooted in the field of sculpting. C. Parameshwarachar of Mysore, Somanatha Shilpi of Gadag, Nagalinga Sthapati of Dharwad, Sreenivasachar of Nagamangala, Neelakanthachar of Bangalore and Basavanna Shilpi and Narasimhchar of Mysore are noted sculptors who have specialized in producing idols.


The earliest paintings of Karnataka are of the pre-historic period assigned to 2000-1000 B.C. The representations of animals, human figures etc., are painted beneath the projected rocks which formed the dwelling place of the prehistoric people. Such relics of the art of prehistoric man could be seen in the districts of Ballari, Vijayapura, Bagalkot, Koppal, Raichur, Tumakuru and Chitradurga. The Prehistoric sites like Hirebenakal, Piklihal etc., contain figures of hunters with weapons, horseriders, bulls, etc. on rocks. The peacock boat in white colour, fish in black colour are found in Siddaganga-Rameshwara hill caves in Tumakuru Taluk in 1998. Many coloured figures on mud pots are plentifully found in Brahmagiri, Chandravalli, Hemmige, Herokal, Maski and Bengaluru. The art of painting and its existence in the historical period have been referred to in the contemporary literature and inscriptions. Roots of painting clearly encouraged in Karnataka may be traced to the days of the Chalukyan ruler Mangalesha and only traces of the paintings of his time survive in Cave III of Badami. Due to historical factors, there are gaps in the continuity of this tradition of painting in Karanataka. We come across illustrated manuscripts ‘Dhavala’ at Moodubidare belonging to the Hoysala period. The figures, settings and the postures are different from the Kalpasutra paintings of Gujarat, illustrating the same themes. The style is distinctly indigenous and leave an impression of the ornamentations in Hoysala sculptures. Many references to portraits and pictures are made by Kannada poets like Rudrabhatta. “Manasollasa’ by Emperor Someshwara III has a section on this art.

A study of the paintings of the Vijayanagara period reveals that mural painting was practised on a large scale. The earliest such specimens are found on the ceilings of the Virupaksha temple at Hampi. A close study of the paintings in Karnataka indicates that instead of reflecting life as it was during those periods, the painters had adopted conventionalised settings, highly stylised postures, all bound strictly by the dictates of the Aagamas.

The paintings seem to be pictorial versions of sculptures which are seen in abudance even today. Even secular themes followed these stylised postures. It is possible most of the major temples in Karnataka were decorated with such murals. The Mysuru Gazetteer edited by C. Hayavadana Rao mentions many such temples where mural paintings are or were found in old Mysuru province. The Terumalleshwara temple at Hiriyur, Narasimha temple at Sibi, the Jaina Matha at Shravanabelagola, Mallikarjuna temple at Mudukutore, Virupaksha temple at Hampi, Prasanna Krishnaswamy Temple, Krishna and Varaha temples at Mysuru and the Divyalingeshwara temples at Haradnahalli, Jaina Temple at Saligrama are among them. Virabhadreshwara temple at Yadoor of Belagavi District, and Adanakuppe of Kanakapura Taluk. Ramanagara District contain mural paintings in indigenous style. These temples are long standing. The Daria Daulat at Srirangapattana, Jaganmohan Palace at Mysuru, the mansions at Nargund, Kamatagi near Vijayapura and Nippani, Amminabhavi near Dharwad, Rama temple at B.K. Halli near Haliyal, private houses at Raichur and Guledagud too have paintings. The Nalnad palace of Haleri Kings near the village Kakkabe of Kodagu Dt. contains beautiful colourful mural paintings.

From the later Vijayanagar period, the art of painting seems to have split into two branches. The Vijayanagar rulers and their feudatories followed the ancient tradition bound by the Agamas, while the rulers of Vijayapura, Kalaburagi and Bidar were resposible for the development of a distinct style known as the Daccani style. The finest specimens of this school were produced at Vijayapura. Though this school was heavily influenced by the Mughal style, it has a strong indigenous strain.

The southern parts of Karnataka continued the ancient style which was developed at Vijayanagar. After the fall of Vijayanagar, the court migrated to different places in the South. The rulers of Mysuru extended patronage to art. A considerable section of artists settled in Srirangapattana under the patranage of Raja Wodeyar. The colourful paintings on the pillars, walls, roofs, etc., of the Dariya Daulat at Srirangapattana are of varied themes and subjects. Similarly traces of paintings are available in the palace of Tipu at Bengaluru. In addition to murals, the painters were also commissioned to illustrate manuscripts. Such illustrated manuscripts with attractive and colourful drawings were in the possession of many old families. The most famous of such manuscripts is the ‘Sritatvanidhi,’ a voluminous work prepared under the patronage of Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar. This manuscript has nine parts, dealing with different topics, such as Shaktinidhi, Vishnunidhi, Brahmanidhi, Shivanidhi etc. The paintings illustrate ancient knowledge in the branches of the Aagama, Shilpas, Jyothisha, Tantra, etc. The Jaganmohana palace has portrait pictures of kings and other nobility and pictures relating to puranic themes either in water colour or oil colours on clothes, glasses, etc. Sundaraiah, Kondappa, Yellappa, Durgada Venkatappa, Narasimaiah, Thippajjappa and others adopted and developed this style. In those days, the painter prepared his own materials. The colours were from natural sources and were of vegetable, mineral or even of organic origin. Gold leaf was applied on the gesso works, the hallmark of all traditional paintings of Karnataka. Besides paper, the painters painted on glass too. 

Raja Raviverma in the early decades of the twentieth century influenced many painters of the day in Mysuru. Introduction of the European style of painting as a course of study at the Sri Chamarajendra Technical Institute, Mysuru, relegated the older traditional painting style to the background and produced a new generations of painters trained in the Western mode and styles of painting. 

Many painters were trained in different centres in India and even abroad. People like K. Venkatappa, Pavanje, K.K. Hebbar, K.S. Kulkarni, Almelkar, S.G. Vasudev, N.S.Swami, Subbukrishna, K. Keshavaiya, S.Narasimhaswamy, S. Nanjundaswamy, Y. Subramanyaraju, Dandavathimath and N. Hanumaiah are artists of outstanding merit and reputation.

Among other artists of the state, S. Nanjundaswamy of Mysuru has made an impression by his renderings on all aspects of the art of painting. M. Veerappa, S.R. Swamy and H.S. Inamati are noted for their composition drawings and paintings, mainly of the Indian tradition. Shankar Rao Alandkar of Kalaburagi is famous for his paintings which are intense with emotions. V.R. Rao, S.S. Kukke and R. Sitaram are adept at portrait painting. The composition paintings of Janab Sufi and the exquisite incorporation of the art of painting in inlay works by Mir Shoukat Ali of Mysuru are memorable. Paintings of the historical episodes by Y. Subramanya Raju show an ideal admixture of Indian and Western systems of art. Ragamala Paintings of M.V. Minajigi and the technique of mixing of water colours by M.A. Chetti in his paintings are superb. M.T.V. Acharya was noted for his paintings based on puranic themes. The portrait paintings of S.N. Swamy in oil colours and his pencil sketches, landscape paintings of Tanksale, N. Hanumaiah and F.G. Yelavatti in water colours delight even though a novice in art. Y. Nagaraju, B.H. Ramachadra, S.R. lyenger, D.V. Halbhavi, S.M. Pandit, S.N. Subbukrishna and M.H. Ramu were experts in portrait painting. Rumale Channabasavaiah, Shuddodhana, Subbukrishna, M.S. Chandrashekhar and P.R. Thippeswamy have a typical style of exposing the rural life in varied colours. P.R. Thippeswamy was also an expert painter of scenes of temples and shrines. Devanahalli Ashwattamma a drawing and modeling teacher in a sculpture art school, was preparing the idols out of mud and stone, skillfully.

Effective line drawings and caricatures are also another aspect of the art of Technical Education. Many private institutions have been established in various centres of Karnataka. The government conducts examinations on modelling. The Karnataka Lalithakala Academy assumed its present format in the year 1977. This Academy arranges annual exhibitions and art shows. It has also instituted awards that are given annually to outstanding works of art. The Academy encourages holding of art exhibitions and purchase of useful books by making liberal grants. The Academy has built up its own collection of works of art. Art camps are organised by the Academy in different centres of the state. Central Lalithkala Academy is located at Delhi with its South Zone Cultural Centre in Chennai and South Central Cultural Zone in Nagpur. National gallery of modern art (NGMA)’s south zone centre is started at Bengaluru in 2008. Bengaluru city had the privilege of hosting many prestigeous art exhibitions. Several camps have been organised by the Zonal Centres in which artists selected from the state participated. 

The academies also conduct periodic seminars on art and bring out systematic publications on the subject. ‘Kalavarthi’ is the magazine brought out by the Lalitha Kala Academy. Karnataka State Government presented a bus to the Academy which has enabled it to organise mobile art exhibitions. The vehicle moves in different places and works of art are exhibited in it. The exhibition is arranged at venues where the academy conducts its programmes like art exhibitions, art camps, seminars, symposia and during the Dasara and Sahitya Sammelanas.

Kondachari of Ballari, Purushottam, Agaram Krishnamurthy, Sherigar, Bayiri, T.K. Rama Rao and K.B. Kulakarni of Hubballi and others are famous for their line drawings. R.K. Lakshman, R.S. Naldu, R. Murthy, Ramesh, Gopal, G.Y.Hubballikar, Ranganath, N.C. Raghu, Gujjar, Pa. Sa. Kumar, S.K. Nadig, M.Vishwanath and others are famous for their caricature drawings. P. Subba Rao, R.M. Hadpad, G.S. Shenoy, S.G. Vasudev, Dandavatimath, Halabavi, Vijayasindur, U. Bhaskar Rao, M.B.Patil, V.M.Sholapurkar, V.T.Kale, M.S.Chandrashekar, Ravi Kumar Kashi, C.Chandrashekara, Babu Eswara Prasad, V.G.Anadani, Peter Lewis, V.B.Hiregowder, Usuf Arakal, M.S.Murthy, P.S.Kademani, Madhu Desai, Ramdas Adyanthaya, M.C.Chetty, John Devaraj, Shankar Patil, Chandranatha Acharya, J.M.S. Mani, E.G. Badigera, T.P. Akki, S.M. Pandit, Ramananarasaiah, Raghottama Putti, Goolannanavar, M.E. Guru, S. Kalappa, M.S. Nanjunda Rao, M.B. Basavaraj, Vishnudas Ramadas, Sunkad, Manoli, R.H.Kulakarni and others have enlivened the art scene in the state. P.R. Kamalamma, Subhashinidevi, S. Dhanalakshmi, M.J. Kamalakshi, Sheela Gowda, Pushpa Dravid, Pushpamala, Shanthamani, Surekha, Renuka Markhande, Gayathri Desai etc., are among the noted lady artists. Siddalingaswamy, Nagendrasthapathi and Mahadevaswamy are noted artists in classical paintings and drawing of traditional themes. There are many constructive art critics of whom G. Venkatachalam of Pandavapura, Shivarama Karanth, A.N. Krishna Rao, S.K. Ramachandra Rao, B.V.K. Shastry P.R Thippeswamy, C.S.Krishnasetty, K.V.Subramanyam, A.L.Narasimhan, Anil Kumar are noteworthy. A.L.Narasimhan also has written the artbooks and edited ‘Shilpakala prapancha’ a volume dealing with all aspects of Sculptures, containing the articles of scholars in the field. Art schools started by A.N. Subbarao, R.M. Hadapad, M.S. Nanjunda Rao in Bengaluru, Halbhavi at Dharwad, Minajigi at Hubballi, Akki at Gadag and Andani at Kalaburagi BabuRao at Tumakuru, Mysuru and Mangaluru have become famous. The Government has established institutes to impart training in this field. The Chamarajendra Technical Institute at Mysuru was started in 1913 and the School of Arts and Crafts, (now University Lalitha Kala College), Davanagere was established in 1964. The state government honours outstanding artists with awards instituted by the Lalithakala Academy and during the Rajyothsava. In recent years several private arts colleges established at difference places in the state, duly recognized by the respective universities are working. Chamarajendra Academy of Visual art is started at Mysuru in 1982. The Kannada University at Hampi is also conducting art exams and issuing certificates. 

The Chitrakala Parishat formed by Late M.S.Nanjunda Rao, later headed by Kamalakshi Gowda (General Secretary) at present is running art colleges, conducting workshop, art exhibition etc. ‘Chitra Sante’ is a unique idea of it for promoting art works marketing.



Indian classical music consists of two systems called Hindustani and Karnatak. Interestingly both these systems are prevalent in Karnataka. The Tungabhadra River more or less divides the domain of these two in the state. The word ‘Karnatak’ in the context of music denotes a system of music prevailing in all the four states of the South India, i.e. Karnataka. Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, in the evolution of music, the role of Karnataka has been very significant.

Music, like literature and other creative arts, has been cultivated in Karnataka from ancient times. It was an indispensable part of the social and religious life of the people. Texts on music generally mention ancient theoriticians but not the performers who gave shape to these musical ideas. Bharata’s ‘Natya Shastra,’ perhaps the oldest treatise on the subject seems to have been known in Karnataka from early times. The most notable work is Matanga’s ‘Brihaddeshi. This work deals elaborately with the science of music of the folk songs of his time. Matanga was the first to use the word ‘raga’ for the melodies that were current in his time and probably laid the foundation for the raga system of the present day music. Sharngadeva who was patronised by the Yadava (Sevuna) king of Devagiri, has given a total number of 26 ‘ragas’ in his work, ‘Sangeetharatnakara’. Between the 11th and 17th Centuries only 32 ragas were in use and this is evident from a Vachana of Basavanna. Venkatamakhi (1660 A.D.) formulated his scheme of 72 melakartas and the classification of ragas was completed by him.

A large number of theoritical works on music and dance were written by authors of Karnataka origin. The prominent were ‘Abhilashitartha Chintanmani’ also called the ‘Rajamanasollasa’. `Bharata Bhashya,`Sangita Sudhakara and Sangeeta choodamani written by Haripala; Vidyaranya`s `Sangeetasara; Bharatasara sangraha`; Viveka Chintamani of Nijguna Shivayogi; Sangeeta Sarvodaya of Bhandaru Lakshmi Narayana; Tala deepika of Gopati Tippu; Swarna Mela Kalanidhi of Ramimatya; Sangita Sudha of Govind Dixit; `Chaturdand` Prakashike` of Venkatamukhi; `Shadraga Chandrodaya` Ragamanjari, Ragamala and Narthana Nirnaya of Pundarika Vittala; `Shivatattva Ratnakara of Immadi Basavappa Naika; Shrusti Siddantha of 20th century Halaguru Krishnacharya and `Nisshanka Hrudaya` of Mysuru by Dr.R.Sathyanarayana etc., are the main works in the field of music and dance. 

An abundant variety of instruments were used in Karnataka. The Kannada poets were well aware of the classical four fold divisions of musical instruments into string, wind, percussion and solid. They also reveal familiarity with an astonishing number of these instruments which were in vogue. Among the stringed instruments kinnari, vellaki, vipanchi, ravanahasta, dandika, trisari, jantra, swaramandala and parivadini find a mention. Shankha, shringa, tittira, kahale, vamsa, bombuli are the wind instruments mentioned. Among the large number of percussion instruments tala (tada), karadi, mridanga, dhakke, pathala, dundubhi, panava, bheri, dindima, traivali, nissala, dhamaru, chambaka, dande, dollu, dolu and runja are prominently mentioned. Some solid instruments used were ghanta, jayaghanta, kinkini, jhallari, tala and kamsale. Palkuriki Somanatha mentions about Veena 32 types and flutes 18 types. 

Khanda, Shukasarika, Tripadi, Chatushpadi, Shatpadi, Varna, Dhavala, Suladi, Pada, Vachana, Kirtana, Tattva, Ugabhoga were the different types of poetic composition. Karnataka had a great number of reputed composers whose compositions are popular and relevant even today. There were many prominent composers of the Veerasaiva faith like Sakalesha Madarasa, Basavanna, Nijaguna Shivayogi, Muppina Shadakshari, Bala Leela Mahanta Shivayogi, Nagabhushana, Ghanamatarya, Madivalappa Kadakola, Nanjunda Shivayogi, Karibasavaswamy and Sarpabhusana Shivayogi. The Haridasa Kuta is said to have been founded by Narahari Teertha, the disciple of Madwacharya. Sripadaraya was called Haridasa Pitamaha. The Haridasas composed songs in Kannada in praise of Lord Vishnu. Vyasaraya, Vadiraja, Purandaradasa, Kanakadasa and others composed Kirtanas. Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar was also an able composer. Jayachamaraja Wodeyar too has composed 94 songs[Kritis] in different languages in Karnataka sangita tradition.

Purandaradasa strode like a colossus in the musical history of Karnataka. ‘Pillari geetas’ composed by Purandarasa, form the foundation for learning Karnataka music even today. Purandaradasa is revered as the ‘Karnataka Sangita Pitamaha’ and is credited to have given a new direction to Karnatak music.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, there was a marked separation of the popular and classical compositions. Mysuru Sadashiva Rao adorned the royal court of Mysuru was the guru of celebrities like Veena Subbanna, Sheshanna and others. Mysuru Sadashiva Rao was famous for his classical compositions – like `Sri Parthasarathi` on god Parthasarathi of Tiruvallikkeni, Samrajyodaya Kesha` on the god Ekambaranatha of Kanchi, ‘OM Raja Rajeswari’ as the Godess Devi Kamakshi; and Tillana, Padavarna based on Sringara rasa composed in favour of his patron Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar the Maharaja of Mysuru.

Muthaiah Bhagavatar by about 1927 came to Mysuru and Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV admired his melodious music style and appointed him as his Asthana Vidwamsa [court scholar]. Bhagavatar has composed Astottara Kirtanas in Kannada. Telugu and Sanskrit on the Mysuru royal family deity Sri.Chamundeshwari. Consequently he was awarded the title ‘Gayaka Shikamani’, in 1928 by the palace. He was the first doctorate achiever of music field in the year 1943. 

Ponnaiah Pille of 19th century, was also court (music, dance) scholar of Mysuru palace. He has organised the order system of Baratanatya by using Sarale, Jantivarase and Dashakaranas. His main invaluable contribution to Baratanatyam system was Alaripu, Jatiswara Ragamalika shloka, Tillana. Mysuru Sadashiva Rao, Veene Subbanna, Sheshanna. Sambaiah, Muthaih Baghvathar, Mysuru K. Vasudevacharya composed kirtanas in Kannada, Sanskrit and Telugu. Devottama Jois, Karigiri Rao, Bidaram Krishnappa, Mysuru T. Chowdaiah, Jayachamaraja Wodeyar, Aliya Lingaraja, Veena Krishnacharya, Rudrapattnam Venkataramanayya, Tiruppanandal Pattabhiramaiah, Kolar Chandrashekhara Sastry, Ballari Raja Rao and others have left behind a rich tradition of their compositons. Among the lady musicians mention may be made of Bengaluru Nagarathamma who renovated the samadhi of Sri Tyagaraja at Thiruvaiyar.

The reign of the Wodeyars of Mysuru may be considered the golden age of music in Karnataka. They extended patronage to local musicians and also musicians of other regions. Veena Bhakshi Venkatasubbayya, Shivaramaiah, Pallavi Ramalingaiah and Lakshminarayana were prominent among the musicians of the state who received royal patronage. Other eminent vocalists and instrumentalists who lived elsewhere but graced the Mysuru durbar were Sadashiva Rao, Lalgudi Ramayyar, Mugur Subbanna, Krishnayya, Karigiri Rao, Bhairavi Kempe Gowda, Rudrappa, Janjhamarutam Subbayya, Lalgudi Guruswamy Iyer, Bidaram Krishnappa, K. Vasudevacharya, Tiruvaiyaru Subramanya Iyer, Kolar Nagarathanamma, Shatkala Narasayya, ChikkaRama Rao, Belakavady Srinivasa lyengar, Chintalpalli Venkata Rao, B.Devendrappa and Pitil T. Chowdaiah.



As mentioned earlier, Pundarika Vitthala (1562-1599), a native of Satanur near Magadi was proficient in both Karnatak and Hindustani music. Though the Mysuru rulers mainly patronised Karnatak music, they also encouraged Hindustani music. In the northern part of Karnataka, petty principalities of Ramadurga and Jamakhandi patronised Hindustani music. Eminent Hindustani musicians were employed in their durbars. Giants of Hindustani music like Balakrishna Raste, Ganapath Rao Raste, Nandopant Joglekar, Balanwantrao Vaidya, Dada Khare, Antubuva Apte, Balawantrao Katkar, Alladiya Khan, Khan Abdul Karim Khan, Rahmat Khan, Ramakrishnabuva Vaze, Shivarambuva, MunjiKhan, Vishnupant Chatre, Nilkanthbuva, Shankara Dikshit Janthali, Siddarama Jambaldinni, Dattopanth Pathak, Panchakshari Gavai, Hanumantharao Valvekar, Vithalrao Koregaonkar and Ramabhau Kundgolkar (Savai Gandharva) were some artistes who resided permanently in these regions and brought luster and pleasure of fulfillment to these places with their music. 

Some stalwarts in the Hindustani arena from Karnataka are Mallikarjuna Mansoor, Gangubai Hanagal, Basavaraja Rajaguru, Bhimsen Joshi, Kumar Gandharva, Devendra Murdeshwar, Vishudas Shirali, Puttaraja Gavai, Basavaraja Mansoor, Krishnabai Ramdurg, Phakeerappa Gavai, Gurubasavaiah Hiremath, V.V. Uttarkar, D. Garuda, N.G. Majumdar, R.S. Desai, Arjunasa Nakod, Sheshagiri Hanagal, Lakshmi G. Bhave, Manik Rao Raichurkar, Sangameshwar Gurav and Shyamala G. Bhave. Dr.Panchakshari Hiremath is also a notable munician in Hindustani music. 

Many vocalists and instrumentalists have attained distinction and enriched the tradition of Karnataka by their original contribution. Among the vocalists, Chintalapalli Ramachadra Rao, Channakeshavaiah, Padmanabha Rao, T.N. Puttaswamaiah, R.S. Narayana Swamy, R.K. Ramanathan and R.K. Sreekantan, Kurudi Venkannacharya, Thitte Krishna Iyengar, L.S. Narayanaswamy Bhagavathar, B.S.R. Iyengar, A. Subba Rao, R. Chandrashekharaiah, Pallavi Chandrappa, M.A. Narasimachar, Rallapalli AnanthakrishnaSharma, Sandyavandanam Srinivasa Rao, Srinivasa lyengar, Vasadam Iyengar, Chokkamma, Neelamma Kadambi[with veena also], Channamma, Papa Chudamani, Tirumale sisters T.Sharada, T.Shacidevi etc. are prominent. 

Among the instrumentalists, Veena players like Srikanta Iyer, V. Doreswamy Iyengar, Balakrishna, R.N. Doreswamy, M.J. Srinivasa Iyengar, R.K. Srinivasa murthy, R.K. Suryanarayana, R. Visweshvara, Chokkamma, R. Alamelu, Suma Sudhindra and Rajalakshmi Tirunarayana are notable. The flutists include M.R. Doreswamy, B. Shankar Rao, V. Deshikachar, M.P. Upadhyaya, Rajanarayana, Shashidhar and Shashank (child prodigy). The notable violinists are R.R. Keshavamurthy, Anoor Ramakrishna, H.V. Krishnamurthy, A. Veerabbadraiah, Mahadevappa. M. Nagaraj and M. Manjunath, Sheshagiri Rao, A.V. Krishnamachar, H.K. Venkataram, Tatachar, Kanchana Subbaratnam, M.S. Subramanyam, M.S. Govindaswamy, H.K. Narasimhamurthy, T.G. Tyagarajan and A.V. Venkataramaiah, B. Viswanath. Players of percussion instruments include M.S. Ramaiah, V.V. Ranganathan, Ramachar, M.S. Seshappa Bengaluru. K. Venkataram, A.V. Anand, T.A.S. Mani, K.N. Krishnamurthy, V.S. Rajagopal, Rajachar, Rajakesari, Chandramouli,Bhadrachar, Praveen, Sosale Sheshagiridas, B.G. Lakshminarayana, Sukanya Ramagopal, Dattareya Sharma, Ananthakrishna Sharma and K. Muniratnam Ravindra Yavagal[Tabala] Naranappa (mukhaveena), Ramadasappa, Ravikiran (gotuvadya) and Kadri Gopalanath (saxophone), Narasimhalu Vadavatti, Bindu Madhava Pathak (Rudra Veena) and Rajiv Taranath (Sarodist) are other popular instrumentalists. Smt.Suma Sudheendra is notable Veena player who has secured ‘Kalamani’ title from Tamil Nadu.

Gamaka art is an ancient one. The practitioners of this art in recent times include Joladarasi Doddanna Gowda, S. Nagesha Rao, B.S.S. Kaushik, H.K. Ramaswamy, Gunduramaiah, S. Vasudeva Rao. R. Shankarnarayana, Hosabele Seetharama Rao, G.B. Gopinatha Rao, Talakadu Mayigauda, M. Raghavendra Rao etc. There is a Gamaka Kala Parishat at Bengaluru.

The romantic poetry of modern period derived a new style, melody and new musical form, called ‘Sugama Sangitha’. This form of music was influenced both by classical Kamataka and Hindustani music and also western music. P. Kalinga Rao was a pioneer in this field. He was followed by Mysuru Ananthaswamy who made this form of music extermely popular. C. Aswath. H.R. Leelavathi, Jayavanthi Devi Hirebet, Anuradha Dhareshwar, Shivamogga Subbanna, Ratnamala Prakash, Malathi Sharma, Kasturi Shankar, Shyamala G. Bhave, B.R. Chaya, B.K. Sumitra, Shymala Jahagirdar, Yeshwant Halibandi, Usha Ganesh, Narisimha Nayak, Indu Vishwanath, H.K. Narayana, E.G. Ramanath, Archana Udupa, Y.K. Muddukrishna and others have made light music popular. 

Other noteworthy artists in the field of music are: Vidhushi B.S.Chandrakala, Pallavi Chandrappa Vidhushi B.Jayamma, Vidwan Srinivasa Raghavachar, Vidwan Parvathaiah, Mysuru M.Nagaraj and M.Manjunath[violinist brothers], Vidhushi Kasturi Shankar, Harmonium A.Arunachalappa, Violinist Veerabhadraiah and M.L.Veerabhadraiah, Master V.Praveen, Gamaki Ramaradhya, Shakuntaladevi Panduranga Rao, Puttur Narasimha naik etc. 

The Government of Kamataka has a separate section devoted to the advancement of music in Karanataka. The Secondary Education Board conducts examinations in music and awards certificates to the participating candidates. Many universities in the state offer courses at the graduation and post-graduation levels in music. The government also awards scholarships to talented and deserving candidates who are interested in learning music. The casette revolution has made an immense contribution in popularising light music and also classical music by taking it into every household in the state. The role of the Kannada stage in popularising music (Ranga sangita) is in no way small. Varadachar, Malavalli Sundramma, Aswathamma, Nagesh Rao, Subbayya Naidu, Gangubai Guledgud, Sonubai, Subhadramma Mansoor, Vajrappa, Garuda Sadashiva Rao,Mohammed peer, Enagi Balappa, B.N. Chinnappa, Sarojamma Dhuttaragi, H.K. Yoga Narasimha are a few artistes who made a name in this field.

In addition, the annual music festivals like the Ramanavami and Ganesh Chaturthi, music festivals in Bengaluru and Mysuru, art festival in Hubballi, Savai Gandharva Festival at Kundagol and a host of other music festivals conducted annually by different organisations and association are providing stimulus for the popularisation of music in the state.Several institutions run by organisations are training students and aspiring youngsters in music. Sri Ayyanar College of Music, Vijaya College of Music, Ganakala Mandira, Vijayakalamandira, Sri Venkateshwara Gananilaya, Sri Vijaya Sangeetha Vidyalaya, Adarsha Film Institute, Vijaya Film Institute, (all founded in Bengaluru), Sri Panchankshari Krupa Poshita Sangita Shala (Gudur, Vijayapura), Sri Raghavendra Sangita Vidyalaya (Raichur), Tyagaraja Sangeeta Vidyalaya (Ramanagar), Sri Vanividya Society (Shivamogga), Sri Panchakshari Lalitha Kala and Sangitha Kala Sangha (Vijayapura), Suptha Mahilamandir, Tumakuru, Lalitha Kala Vrinda, Karkala, Ekanatheshwari Sangita Kala Mandira (Chitradurga), etc. are some of the institutions affiliated to Karnataka Sangita Nritya Academy, Bengaluru. In addition to this a large number of private institutions are running music calssess in many urban centres of the state.

In the field of Music there are four different awards. The State Sangeetha Nrutya Academy from 1959 to 2008 honoured. 549 eminent artists in various disciplines of music. In the name of the great dasas like Purandaradasa and Kanakadasa the composers of Kirtanas and Ugabhogas and the superb personalities of Karnataic music [parexecellance of Karnatic music], ‘Kanakapurandara’ award used to be awarded from 1991 for the musicians who have rendered unique service to music field. Since 2010 this award has been renominated as ‘Nijaguna-Purandara’ Prashasti. The awards are being issued to persons rendered invaluable service in Karnatak, Hindustani music and musical instruments.



As dance is a visual art, the visual impression of this dynamic art is lost on the sands of time. The tradition of dances currently at vogue in Karnataka can be broadly divided as Janapada and Shista, the former being localised in certain areas only, whereas the latter has spread to other parts outside the state. Very few art lovers of yore have left any written literature on the then existing dances. The word ‘Natakena’ refers to a person who was the disciple of Damoraka and son of the acharya jayantaka. This information is in the Banavasi inscription of Satakarni Shivaskanda Nagasiri 159 A.D. The great Epigraphists Buhler [Indian Antiquary Vol.14] and G.S.Gai [Epigraphia Indica Vol.34] opine the ‘Natakena’ means ‘Narthaka’[dancer]. It is an indication of existence of dancers in 2nd century in Karnataka. 

The Tamil text ‘Silapadhikaram’ refers to a dance of the Kannadigas witnessed by the Chera king Sengoottavan. An inscription in Pattadakal reveals that Devadasis were engaged in ‘Nritya seva’ in temples. Ganga rulers like Durvineeta and Narasimhadeva Satyavakya are described as well versed in dancing and singing. During the Rashtrakuta and the later Chalukya periods, the courtesans had duties assigned to them in temples and they were accomplished dancers. Many inscriptions have praised Shantaladevi, the queen of Hoysala Vishnuvardhana as being an expert in dance. Bhandaru Lakshminarayana the Natyacharya in Krishnadevaraya’s court was called Abhinava Bharata. Dancers and artistes were encouraged to perform during the annual Dasara celebrations by the Vijayanagar rulers. The Mysuru court also encouraged traditional dance, following the footsteps of the Vijayanagar rulers. ‘Manasollasa’ of Someshwara III, Pundarika Vitthala’s ‘Narthana Nirnaya’, ‘Lasya Ranjana’ of Simha Bhupala, ‘Rasikajana Manollasini’ ‘Sara Sangraha’ and ‘Bharata Shastra’ written by Venkatamudarsani, are works devoted to the art of music and dancing. An inscription of Pattadakal indicates that one by name ‘Achalan’ was an expert in Bharata[Natya]Sastra, during the regime of Vijayaditya of 696A.D. He was also famous as great dancer. The Shikaripur inscription describes the distinctive style of dance of Lacchaladevi. She was besfowed with title ‘Sri Nrutya Vidyadhari’.

The Persian travellor Abdul Rajak was astonished about the agility of dancers of Early Vijayanagara period. The inscriptions of 8th-10th century indicates that there were dance artists troupes by name ‘Natuvamela’. Even female artists were there in these troupes. U.S.KrishnaRao writes that in 1502A.D. during the regin of Narasimha in Vijayanagara, ‘Brahmana[Brahmin] Bhagavatulu’ adept in ‘Koochipudi Bhagavatulu’ of Andra came to Vijayanagara and performed a dance-drama in the palace. 

In Karnataka, regional traditional dances like Huttari Kolata (cultural ritual sports), Bhoota Nritya[spirit dances or ancestoral memory dances], Harrest dances, Maleraya dances, Nandikolu dance, Lambani dance, Veeragase-Karadi Majalu Etc., belong to folk dance category. 

Perhaps, the greatest phenomenon that contributed to the preservation and flourishing of dance in the state was the practice of Devadasis offering service in temples. By the end of the 19th century, in Mulbagal; Mugur near T. Narsipur and Poovalavadi near Chintamani, there were as many as 200 professional dancing women living with a number of Nattuvaras (or dance masters). There were many Brahmin scholars well versed in Sanskrit, Baratanatya and Abhinaya who taught the Devadasis the intricate art of Abhinaya. In the erstwhile Mysuru state, it is heartening to note that Bharatanatya developed its own style, due to their efforts. There developed a repertory of Bharatanatya in which Mangalam, Stuti, Alaripu, Jatiswara, Vemam, Pada and Tillana came in a sequence. During that period Kavisvar Giriyappa, Kashi Guru, Amritappa, Appaya, Dasappa, Kittappa and Jetti Tayamma are some reputed teachers, while, Venkatalakshamma, Puttadevamma, Ramamani and Mugur Tripurasundaramma were dancers of repute. 

Bengaluru came to be recognised as a very important centre for the teaching of Bharatanatya. Between1910-1930, the art and the artistes witnessed decline due to breakdown of social values and also due to the influence of Western education which eclipsed the traditional and indigeneous art. After 1930, people like E. Krishna Iyer, Rukmini Arundale, Ramagopal, U.S. Krishna Rao and his wife Chandrabhaga Devi popularised this art in the 1940s. 

During the wake of this renaissance in the 40s, many dance teachers gained ground in Karnataka. In the 50s the state of affairs changed with the foundation of the Central and State Academies of Dance, Drama and Music. These academies extended grants and aid to good teachers and institutions. Gradually, in the erstwhile Mysuru state and later in Karnataka, the dissemination of the knowledge of dance art improved. Later, the then government of Mysuru started the government examination in Junior, Senior and Proficiency grades in Baharatanatyam. The whole horizon of Bharatanatyam also changed after the reorganisation of the State. As the 1970s dawned, Karnataka, especially Bengaluru and Mysuru could boast of many dance teachers and institutions capable of producing proficient dancers. The Bengaluru University started the department of dance, drama and music. The future of Bharatanatya therefore promises to be very encouraging in Kamataka. 

Many Institutions run by veterans of art, are imparting training in Bharatanatya and other styles. In Bengaluru city, apart from the Mahamaya Nritya Peetha of Dr. U.S. Krishna Rao, others like the Keshava Nritya Shala of H.R. Keshavamurthy, Menaka Nritya Shala of T.S. Bhat, Bharatanatya Kalashale of Manikyam, Bharateeya Vidya Bhavana Nritya Kendra, Ganesha Nritya Shale of Lalitha Dorai, Saraswati Nritya Shale of Shekhar, Venkateshwara Natya Mandira of Radha Sridhar, Meenakshi Sundaram Pillai School of Leela Ramanathan, Chittaranjan Kalakshetra of C. Radhakrishna, M.V. School of Bharatnatyam’, Sri Venkateshwara Natya Mandira and Gana Nritya Kalashale of V.S. Lokaiah and the dance schools run by Maya Rao, Narmada, Prathiba Prahalad and Vani Ganpathy are among the noted ones. Many other schools in different centres of the state like Rajarajeswari Natyashale of K.M.Raman Melalaya have gained reputation. 

A dance village named Nrityagrama was established in Hesaraghatta on the outskirts of Bengaluru city by the famous Odissi exponent, the late Protima Gauri. She had arranged for the training of students in all disciplines of traditional Indian dance under one roof in her Nrityagrama.

The Institute continues to promote dance even after the death of the founder. Even though Bharatanatyam is overwhelmingly dominated by female artistes, some men have stormed into this female bastion and have gained great reputation as worthy challengers. Some of them are, K.R.S. Prasanna, A.R. Sridhar, Ramu, Arun, B.K. Shyamprakash and Rajendra.

Artistes of great renown have been striving for popularising this art, N. Many Gundappa and K. Venkatalakshamma, S. Sundramma, M. Jejamma, Subbamma, Chandrakantamma, Maya Rao, Shanta Rao, Chinnamma, U.S. Krishna Rao, H.R. Keshavamurthy and V.S. Koushik are noteworthy. Besides, Leela Ramanathan, B.K. Vasanthalakshmi, C. Radhakrishna, Radha Sreedhar, Lalitha Srinivasa, Padmini Ramachandran, Padmini Ravi, Usha Datar, etc. have become famous and have also gained international recognition and reputation.



The Film industry in Karnataka has a history of over six decades. In their early phase, films produced in Karnataka were only based on themes from the Kannada Theatre. The first ‘Mooki’ (silent) film Mrichchakatika’was produced and directed by Mohan Bhavanani with Yenakshi Rama Rao, Kamaladevi Chattopadhyaya, T.P. Kailasam, O.K. Nanda and others were its actors. 

During the 1930s two Bombay Industrialists, Haribhai R. Desai and Bhogal Dave established the first Southern Indian studio in Bengaluru named Surya Film Company and made about 40 silent films in about four years. During 1929, with the co-operation of Devudu Narasimha Sastri, Gubbi Veeranna and Algod of Belagavi, an organisation named ‘Karnataka Pictures Corporation’ was established through which silent movies ‘Harimaya’, ‘Song of Life’ and ‘His Love Affair’ were produced. ‘Sadarame’, (1935), ‘Hemareddy Mallamma’ (1945), ‘Gunasagari’, ‘Bedara Kannappa’ (1954), ‘Bhutarajya’ and ‘Domingo’ were the prominent movies of that age with the last two being produced by Dr. Shivaram Karanth. Other notable films were ‘Sati Sulocaha’ ‘Samsara Naukey’, ‘Vasanthsena,’ ‘Purandaradasa,’ ‘Bhakta Kumbara,’ ‘Mahatma Kabir,’ ‘Krishnaleela,’ ‘Chandrahasa,’ ‘Bharathi,’ ‘Nagakannika’ and ‘Jaganmohini.’

The notable personalities who made an impact on the silver screen in the early times were T.P. Kailasam, M.G. Mari Rao, Gubbi Veeranna, R. Nagendra Rao, M.V. Subbiah Naidu, Tripuramba, C.T. Sheshachalam, M.V. Rajamma, B.R. Pantulu, Kemparaj Urs, Shankar Singh, B.V. Vithalacharya, H.L.N. Simha and B.S. Ranga, the last two of whom were instrumental in bringing the Kannada Film field from Madras to Bengaluru. ‘Bedara Kannappa’ (1954) launched Rajkumar who later grew into a legend in the Kannada film industry and also won the Dada Saheb Phalke award in 1997. In the 1950’s the trend of social films began and the notable films of that decade were ‘Premadaputri,’ ‘Modala Thedhi,’ ‘School Master,’ ‘Kanyadana.’ ‘Adarshasati,’ ‘Bhakta Markandeya,’ ‘Ratnagiri Rahasya,’ ‘Nala Damayanti,’ ‘Bhookailasa,’ ‘Jagajyothi Basaveshwara.’ ‘Dashavatara,’ ‘Ranadheera Kantheerava’ and ‘Bhakta Kanakadasa.’ 

The year 1964 was significant in the history of Kannada films for the production of the first entirely colour movie ‘Amarashilpi Jakanachari’. The same year witnessed the release of ‘Naandi,’ a new wave film made by N. Lakshminarayan. In the 1960’s the man acknowledge by one and all as the greatest director in Kannada film history, Puttanna Kanagal, made memorable films like ‘Bellimoda’ (1967), ‘Gejje Pooje’ (1968), ‘Sharapanjara’ and in the 70s movies like ‘Sakshatkara,’ ‘Nagara Havu’ etc. The first film based on Children’s subject ‘Makkala Rajya’ was also released during this period.

In the 1970’s film makers started adopting Kannada novels of famous authors to the screen and this phenomenon became immensely popular. The novels of eminent novelists like Aa Na Kru, Ta Raa Su, Krishnamurthy Puranik, Triveni, M.K.Indira, Poornachandra Tejasvi, S.L. Byrappa, Sai Sute and T.K. Rama Rao were made into movies. Poems of great poet like Kuvempu,Bendre, K.S. Narasimhaswamy, Gopalakrishna Adiga etc., were converted into film lyrics and they gained acclaim.

The decade 1970 is considered as the age of the new-wave or experimental films through movies like ‘Samskara’ (1970), ‘Vamsa Vriksha’ (1972), ‘Abachurina Post Office’ (1973), ‘Kadu’ (1974), ‘Hamsageethe’ (1975), ‘Chomana Dudi’ (1975), ‘Pallavi’ (1976), ‘Karavall’ (1977), ‘KanneshwaraRama’ (1977), ‘Ghatashraddha’ (1977), ‘Chitegu Chinte’ (1978), ‘Ondu Orina Kathe,’ ‘Ondaanondu Kaaladalli’ ‘Maleyamakklu,’ ‘Spandana’ (all in 1978), ‘Kadu Kudure’ and ‘Arivu* (1979), ‘Yellindalo Bandavaru’ (1980), ‘Grahana’ and ‘Moorudarigalu’ (1981), ‘Bara’ (1982), and in recent years Avasthe, Pushpaka Vimana , Surya, Tabarana Kathe, Kaadina Benki, Tarka, Idhu Sadhya, Santha Shishunala Sharif, Bannada Gejje, Hagalu Vesha, Nagamandala, Vimukti, Shabari, Mouni, Athiti, Bettada Jeeva, Puttakkana Haiway, Bhagavati Kadu, Hejjegalu., etc. films can be noticed. The commercially successful films of that period were ‘Nagar Havu’ and ‘Bangarada Manushya’ (1972), ‘Yedakallu Guddada Mele’ and ‘Professor Huchchuraya’ (1973), ‘Upasane’ and ‘Bhootayyana Maga Ayyu,’ (1974), ‘Aparichita’ and ‘Parasangada Gendethimma’ (1978), ‘Mother,’ ‘Mithuna’ (1980), ‘Gaali Maatu’ (1981), Manasa Sarovara (1982), Phaniyamma (1983), Anubhava (1984), Bettada Hoovu, Masanada Hoovu (1985), Malaya Maruta (1986), Ondu Muttina Kathe (1987), Suprabhata (1988), Sankranti (1989), Udbhava, Shabarimale Swamy Ayyappa (1990), Ramachari (1991), Kraurya, Pallavi, Anuroopa, Khandavideko Mamsavideko, Sankalpa, Banker Margaiah, Geejagana Goodu, Savithri, Giddah, Ghata Shradda (President’s Gold Medal), Akramana, Mane, Tayi Saheba (President’s Gold Medal) (1997), Aparichita and Beladingala Bale. Chaytrada chigaru, Hoomale, Donisagali (1998). Kanuru Hegaadati, Chandramukhi Pranasakhi (1999). Mussanje, shapa, kurigalu sar kurigalu (2000). Dveepa, Eakangi, Shanti, Neela (2001). Artha, kshama, lali Hadu (2002). Chigaridakanasu (2003). Monalisa, Beeru, gowdru, Hasina(National award, Tara best actress), Mithaye mane (2004). Tutturi (2005). Nayineralu, Nayineralu, Nenapirali Amrutashere (2006). Kallarali Hoovagi Kadabeladingalu, Care of Footpath (2007). Gulabi Talkies, Mooggina Jade, Preethi Prema Pranaya, Matad Matad Mallige, Banada Neralu (2008) etc.,

In the 1980s the Government of Katnataka granted 50% tax exemption to Kannada films completely made in Kamataka and it increased the subsidy amount to films. At present all Kannada Films produced and processed entirely in the State is eligible for Rs. 2.50 lakhs (black & white) and Rs. 3.50 lakhs (colour). L.V. Prasad established a Colour Processing Laboratory in Bengaluru, Besides, Sanketh, a recording studio of the Nag Brothers and the Chamundeshwari studio were started. The availability of good infrastructure and encouragement received from the Government and the viewership had a cascading effect and there was a jump in the number of films made each year, in this decade.Films based on political and social themes, like ‘Accident,’ ‘Antha,’ ‘Bara,’ ‘Chakravyuha,’ ‘Aasphota,’ etc., were made in this decade. Films that were commercially successful in this decade were ‘Ahtha,”Chakravyooha,’ ‘Hosabelaku,’ ‘Haalu Jenu,’ ‘Mududida Taavare Aralithu,’ ‘Bandhana,’ ‘Benkiya Bale,’ ‘Anubhava,’ ‘Anand,’ ‘Rathasaptami,’ ‘Neebareda Kaadambari,’ ‘Premaloka,’ ‘Pushpaka Vimana,’ ‘Ranadheera,’ ‘Suprabhata,’ ‘Sangliyana,’ Muttina Hara,‘Nanjundi Kalyana,’ ‘Avale Nanna Hendathi,’ ‘Hendthige Helabedi,’ ‘Indrajit’ ‘Dada,’ ‘Deva,’ ‘Anjadagandu,’ ‘Hridaya Haadithu,’ ‘Gagana,’ ‘CBI Shankar’, ‘Gajapathi Garvabhanga,’ ‘Ramachari,’ ‘Chaitrada Premanjali,’ ‘Bhanda Nanna Ganda,’ ‘Jeevan Chaitra’ and ‘Aakasmika’, Yuddha Kanda, Halli Mestru, Janumada Jodi, Halunda Tavaru, Tavarige ba Tangi, Mungaru male, Manasare, Jogi, Akash, Yazamana, Aptamitra, Galipata, Mussanje Matu, Moggina Manasu., etc.

Even though the background instrumental music was in vogue in silent films, songs were sung in the first talkie film in 1934. It is said that the advent of modern orchestra in films was due to the efforts of P. Kalinga Rao in 1941. Playback Singing became popular later. Music directors like P. Shamanna, R. Sudarshan, G.K. Venkatesh, T.G. Lingappa, Vijaya Bhaskar, Rajan Nagendra and Hamasalekha have become popular. NonKannadigas like S.P.Balsubramanyam and Yesudas have sung songs for Kannada films and their songs are very popular. B.V. Karanth, Prema Karanth, Girish Kasaravalli, M.S. Satyu, Siddalingaiah, Girish Karnad, Suvarna, G.V. Iyer, Nagabharana and Baraguru Ramachandrappa and Nagathihalli Chandrashekhar are film directors who have won national awards. A promising young women film maker is Kavitha Lankesh (Deveeri Film). Master Kishan who won the fame as the very youngest director by directing the film ‘care of footpath’ has been included to Ginnis record.

Many Kannada films have won a large number of State and National awards over this period of time. Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce was started in Bengaluru in 1944. Also Karnataka Government is awarding from 1966, state awards to Kannada films. Some amateur film societies are producing film in 17 mm or 8 mm cameras. They are ‘Aseema,’ ‘Srishti,’ ‘Swajan’ and ‘Suchitra’ Societies.

The first regional office of the National film Archives of India, was started in Bengaluru in 1982 at Chowdiah Memorial Hall. It is engaged in collecting and preserving old and memorable films made in all the regional languages of South India. The popular film studios of Karnataka are Premier Studio at Mysuru and Chamundeshwari, Sree Kantheerava and Abhimaan at Bengaluru. Many colour laboratories, processing and recording units are also functioning in Bengaluru. It is deemed as the film city of Karnataka.

Apart from veteran “Karnataka Ratna” Dr. Rajkumar who has won prestigious Dada Phalke Award, the Kannada screen has produced a host of talented artistes like Ashwath, Balakrishna, Narasimha Raju, Kalyan Kumar, Udaya Kumar, Gangadhar, Vishnuvardhan, Ambarish, Prabhakar, Sridhar, Ravichandran, Kashinath, Shankar Nag, Ananth Nag, Lokesh, Rajesh, Sudharshan, Srinath,Tugudeepa Srinivas, C.R. Simha, Dwarkish, Vajramuni, Musari Krishna Murty, H.G.Dattatreya, Dhirendra Gopal, Shivaraja Kumar,Raghavendra, Rajakumar, Puneet Rajakumar, Darshan, Sudeep, Ramesh Arvind, Ramgopal etc., and actresses like M.V. Rajamma, Mynavati, Leelavathi, B,V, Radha, Jayamma, Pandari Bai, B. Saroja Devi, Jayanthi, Kalpana, Aarti, Bharati, Manjula, Harini, Jayamala, Padma Vasanthi, Jayalakshmi, Malashri, Sudha Rani, Vaishali Kasaravalli, Tara, Bhavya, Sruti, Umashri, Abhinaya, Bhavana, Prema, Vinaya Prasad, Soudarya, Ramya, Pooja Gandhi etc. G.V. Iyer is the first to make the Film in Sanskrit “Adi Shankaracharya” in 1984, which won for him the nations highest award. He further made “Madhwacharya” in Kannada in 1986 and “Ramanujacharya” in 1988 in Tamil trying to bring out the teachings of those saint philosophers, through Cinema media. Iyer again won the national award for his film “Bhagavadgeetha” in 1993.

Both Central and State Government have established various awards separately and honouring film actors and actresses, producers, directors, technicians and other related to film land annually. Dr. Rajakumar was given the nation’s prestigious Dada Saheb Palke award by the central Government in 1997. V.K.Murthy the cinema photographer was awarded Dada Saheb Phalke award in 1998. This is an honour bestowed on Kannadigas for their superb talents. Likewise the Swarna Kamal award for the best Kannada films, best actors award to Kannada artists are given by the central government regularly. So far many Kannada movies and actors have received these awards.

For the first time for the work ‘Sinima yana’ written in Kannada with regard to film field, by K.Puttaswamy, has been given ‘Swarna Kamala’ award. Apart from giving awards for best Kannada films, for achievements in different fields of films, the Indian Government began to give film field awards at National level, which are best motion picture awards. It is a matter of pride that Kannada film, film producers; directors have secured such awards at National level. The postal department in 2009 has brought out the stamp in the name of the Dr.Rajkumar.

The Karnataka Government established Karnataka Chalana Chitra Academy in 2008. T.S.Nagabharana was the president of the academy during 2008-2011. Film actress Smt.Tara became the next president since 2011. S.V.Rajendra Singh Babu is heading the academy since February 2014. Now the academy consists a committee of nine members including the ex-official [officers] member from the government side. The Academy has in its activity, conducting International film festival, Bellihejje programme, dialogue with eminent personalities of the film-field, photography and documentary film exhibition, workshop for writing film story[chitra katha], camp for the knowledge of aesthetic perception, getting starting silver screen troupes, silver screen entity branches, publication of books on film field etc., 

Apart from this for the achievements in different fields talented Kannadigas, have the note worthy securement of Murtydevi award, Kalidas samman, Tansen samman, Dada Sahib Palke, Bilvara, Rajaji, Kumarn Ashan, Shankaradev, Godavari, Surasingar, Magsesay, Right livelihood, Saraswati samman, etc., those being National and International awards.

In 2011, Dr.S.L.Byrappa secured Saraswati Samman award for his work ‘Mandra’ which carries a cash award of 7.50 lakh rupees. Dr.Geetha Nagabhushan has secured ‘Rachana Samagra Sahitya Purascar’ for the year 2011- 12 from Bharatiya Basha Parishat of Calcutta, which carries a cash award of rupees 1 lakh with a momento. She is the first Kannada Literary woman who secured this award.



The Kavirajamarga of Srivijaya indicates in the first Aashwasa the existance of Nataka and Natakashala of its period. Dr.H.K.Ranganath quoting from Salatore’s ‘History of Vijayanagara’ writes in his [Karnataka Rangabhoomi’] during Krishnadevaraya’s regime, in the capital Vijayanagar ‘Pattada Natakashale’ was existing. Ikkeri [Keladi] the sub-ordinate [samantha] of Vijaynagara had a ‘Navarathna Khachita Natakashala as a regional centre. It is interesting to note that Godnapur inscription of 550 A.D too refers to drama, among other finearts with which Mayra’s destor Veerasharma. Another inscription form Mugunda [now Muguda village] in 1045 A.D, indicates the existence of a ‘Kannada theatre’. 

The first written play in Kannada belongs to 17th century A.D., ‘Mitravinda Govinda’ written by court poet ‘Singararya’. It was an adoption of Sri Harsha’s Sanskrit play ‘Ratnavali’. As the Literary scene in Karnataka was dominated overwhelmingly by Sanskrit; almost everyone could understand Sanskrit plays and as all Kannada poets modelled their poems on great Sanskrit poems, they took pride in composing poetry than in writing plays. Thus Sanskrit plays were only available till 17th centuy. But still we can recall the mugunda inscription of 1045 A.D. There must have been Kannada plays or translated from Sanskrit to Kannada, plays which were played in Kannada Nataka Shala.

Gradually writing plays in Kannada by eminent Kannada writers picked up. The situation was that from historical perspective, we see that writing of plays was at that time considered vulgar and cheap taste. But classical style dramas were either written or translated from Sanskrit and English and later staged.

In the regime of Kantirava Narasaraja Wodeyar of Mysuru [1638-1659 A.D], the palace had ‘Nataka Shale’. Govindavaidya has written this in his Kantirava Narasaraja Vijaya. In Keladi during the regime of Venkatappa Naika ‘Nataka Shale’ existed as per ‘Keladi Nripa Vijaya’ of Linganna Kavi’ Ratnakaravarni in his ‘Bharatesha Vaibhava’ [1577A.D.] describes ‘Nataka Shale’ of romantic nature.

The ‘Jambavathi Kalyana’ said to have been written in Sanskrit by Krishnadevaraya was staged during ‘Virupaksha deity’s Chaitrotsava’ at Vijayanagar. Saletore has stated this with evidence. Durgasimha of 11th century in his Panchatantra, says about ‘Kruthaka [artificial] NatakaShalas’ which was used to be played for the amusement recreation of queens, in their apartments.

H.K.Ranganath in his book ‘Karnataka Rangabhumi’ says that Karavali Yakshagana of Karki Mandali has inspired the inception of Maharashtra professional theatre. Pagarana or Hagarana seems to be an amusemental type of performance. It was a folk theatre type. In this inscription of Pattadakal of 8th century the famous ‘Natyacharya’ seems to be a folk dancer. H.K.Ranganath in his books also writes about the antiquity of Kannada [stage] theatre, folk theatre [stage], professional theatre, amusement theatre.

In 1850’s Aliya Lingaraja Arasu had profusely written Yakshagana dramas. Many of them were used to be demonstrated in ‘Palace Kudure Totti’. Aramane Dashavatara Company was established in 1812 with the help of Dharmastala artists. Girija Kalyana, Modi Nataka etc., in 1826[during Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar] was said to be enacted by Aramane Drama Company. At Bengaluru N.G.Bullappa Hindu Theatrical Company used to enact some bayalatas during that period. Yakshagana dramas of Parthi subba and Nanjunda Bhagavata used to be played at Mangaluru. Yakshagana Dramas were also there at Dharwad. Just as Parsi companies trying to dominate theatre in South Karnataka, in North Karnataka, Maharashtra drama companies of Sangli and Jamakhandi were trying for cultural domination. Then by 1874, Sakkere Balacharya [Shantha Kavi] started Karnataka Drama Mandali at Gadag. Just little earlier Halasangi Nataka Mandali was started at Halasangi. Shantakavi brought his own dramas viz., Kichaka, Banasura and Vatstrapaharana on the stage. Halasangi Company used to play Srimati Parinaya, Madalasa Parinaya, Droupadi Vatstrapaharana, and Bhoumasura vadhe etc., written by Venkannacharya Agalagatti. The North Karnataka stage in one way being a people theatre, took its birth as a challenge to Marathi theatre domination; while Mysuru theatre was patronised by Mysuru palace. It cannot be denied that the self-esteem was awakened with reference to professional Kannada theatre, when Marathi and Parsi Drama Companies staged their dramas in Mysuru with pomp and glitter of stage set [stage craft], scene composition, grandeur of costumes curtain drops and lifts etc, This gave a new attraction to the Mysuru people. Indirectly for the development of Kannada theatre, Balivala Parsi company staged dramas was also responsible.

Abhinava Kalidasa Basavappa Shastri translated Sanskrit dramas to Kannada in 1880 so as to fit in to stage acting and thus he was responsible for the Kannada stage inception. Sri Chamarajendra Wodeyar has established during 1880–82 `Sri Chamarajendra Karnataka Natakasabha in Mysuru. The palace scholars also had a role in this attempt.

Apart from this some interested artists in 1879 – 80 under the leadership of C.R.Raghunatha Rao started a Nataka Mandali [Drama company] by name `Sri Shakuntala Karnataka Nataka Sabha`. But when the palace Nataka Sabha was started the artists joined to it. Even Parsi Balivala Company`s some artists when they came again in 1902 joined palace Nataka Sabha.

‘Nataka Sangha’ started at Sultanpet. Though it has not long survived, a contemporary drama company namely ‘Pere Shamaiyangar Company took its birth at Sultanpet. Mandya Rangacharya, Bengaluru Veena Vidwan Gopala Rao Timmappa of Sangita Sagara Chandrodaya Nataka Sabha [Yalahanka bagila company] etc., took initiative in staging dramas. Another contemporary company namely ‘Gollarapete Nataka Company, later divided itself and gave rise to the above Sangita Sagara Chandrodaya Nataka Sabha and City Opera Troupe [Rangabhoomi, 1925,].

Mandya Rangacharya started `Metropolyton Theatrical opera` [Rajadhani Nataka Mandali] in the public interest. It ran for some time. Gowri Narasimhaiah who was acting hero role in that opera, started Saraswati, Vilasa Nataka Sabha, to which Varadacharya also entered and showed his superb talent. In 1890 this sabha went to Bengaluru and Ballari, gave shows and became famous.

A revolutionary change came over the Kannada people’s theatre when the stories of the two Sanskrit epics- Ramayana and Mahabharata-were made available to them through oral tradition. The hold of these epics on the mind of illiterate common people can be gauged from the fact that even to this day the majority of themes of their plays come from the stories of these epics. Dance and music predominated such plays. Gradually plays were written to placate gods to bestow goodwill on the subjects. This gave rise to Yakshagana, Bayalata, Krishna Parijata and many other forms of folk theatre. The British colonialists also contributed in a great way for the development of the theatres. They brought with them theatre troupes, which performed plays of Shakespeare and other popular plays in English. Encouraged by this, translations of these English plays to Kannada appeared and they were staged successfully.

Gradually, to cater to the people’s tastes, plays with a lot of dance and music in them were written. In the early days, people of low castes, who worked as labourers in the day time were illiterates, used to perform on the stages. Gradually it changed and all section people started acting in plays. Many literates started performing and another fact was that earlier, only men used to appear on the stage. Later changes in society encouraged women also to appear on the stage. Professional drama troupes started touring the state and performing at different centres. Some very old troupes like the Gubbi Company toured the state successfully. They made a name even in the neighbouring states and flourished. In North Karnataka, the companies like the Konnur Company, the Shirahatti Company, the Vishwa Gunadarsha Company, etc,, which had talented actors and singers like Yallamma, Gurusiddappa, Venkoba Rao, Garuda Sadashiva Rao, Master Vaman Rao and others, gained prominence. In Southern Karnataka, there were eminent people like Varadachar, Gubbi Veeranna, Mohammed Peer, Malavalli Sundaramma, Subbayya Naidu, R. Nagendra Rao, Hirannayya, H.L.N.Simha, B.V.Gurumurthappa and others. Again in thin stories, uninspiring dialogues and melodrama notwithstanding, which was in vogue these artistes held the audience spell bound by their melodious voices and comedy, playing with the dramas of suitable standard. Inspite of all this, drama companies were unable to compete successfully with cinema as a source of entertainment, and commercial theatres slowly disintegrated. The latter part of the 19th Century and the early 20th Century were the best times for the commercial theatre.

Amateur theatre was the theatre of the educated people. It catered people of refined tastes and it has variety in subjects. Kalidasa’s Shakuntala was translated into Kannada by Basavappa Shastri poet in the Mysuru court. These plays required educated artistes. This movement helped in bringing to light more and more educated Amateurs. In 1909, Amateur Dramatic Association (A.D.A.) was started in Bengaluru, Bharata Kalottejaka Sangha (1904) in Dharwad, Young Men’s Football Association of Gadag etc.,

As a matter of fact, the stage plays seem to have jumped from puranic conscious of the first early half of 19th century to historical, social and national consciousness in early 20th century. That means puranic consciousness gave way to national consciousness in the theatrical opera. This is very clear from the dramas played by Mohammed Peer.

The translations started from Sanskrit Shakuntala in 1880’s, to Kannada, proceeded with English dramas of Shakeshpear, Sheridan and Goldsmith were translated into Kannada. Court [palace] scholars like Bellave Narahari Sastri, Tirumale Srinivasa Iyenagar, Panyam Sundara Sastri, Ananthanarayana Sastry translated these dramas with the help of Basavappa Sastry and Jayarama Acharya. Subba Rao translated Othelo [Shoorasena Charitre]. Anand Rao translated Romeo Juliat as Ramavarma Leelavathi], Merchant of Venice [Panchali parinaya] and Hamlet. These were staged at Dharwad, Belagavi, Ballari and Andra successfully.

H.K.Ranganath states that in the last decade of 19th century, Gubbi Company of Veerana had the credit of establishing the Kannada stage is South India. Many professional theaters also took birth in Mysuru and Bengaluru. In the midst of traditional existence of these professional drama troupes, the ‘Rathnavali’ theatrical company of Varadachar increased the luster and charisma of the Kannada theatre in south India during 1904. Varadhacharya Nataka Mandala rendered profuse [copius] entertainments both to scholars and common man. It improved stage music [theatrical music].

The classical stage or theatre in one way was Royal theatre/palace theatre. i.e., it was a court stage. Varadhachar transformed it into people’s theatre. Mohamed Peer kept the music in the people’s theatre within the limits and converted it into prose oriented play theatre and poem oriented theatre. He enacted in Natakarathna Gubbiveeranna Sri.Channabasaveshwara Kripa Poshita Nataka Sangha [1925]; Bharata Jana Manollasini Nataka Sabha[1925-26] and he himself established Lalitha Kala Vardhini Nataka Sabha[1927-29] Chandrakala Karnataka Nataka Mandali. Through his Mandali, he staged ‘Gowthama Buddha and Shahajahan’ plays written by B.Puttaswamaiah which were very popular. In the centenary celebration of Mohammed Peer (1997) a book on Mahannata Mohammed peer written by M.G.Nagaraja was released. 

The theatrical movement got a fillip in the second decade of the 20th Century when Kailasam (Bengaluru) and Narayanrao Huilgol (Gadag), Samsa (Venkatadri Iyer) wrote their first original plays. To begin with, they were against the melodramatic commercial theatre. Secondly, they touched current social problems; and thirdly, they did away with music, dance and irrelevent comedy. Kailasam was a genius with his ready wit. Vasudeva Vinodini Sabha, Kannada Amateurs etc., were the new troups. There were playwrights like Ksheerasagar, A.N. Krishna Rao, Parvatavani, Kaiwar Raja Rao, Sriranga and others. In the earlier years, the amateur theatre was mostly a theatre to be heard. The amateur theatre was a protest against the artificiality of professional theatre. The language of the dialogues was closer to the colloquial style as against to the pompous, artificial dramatic rhetoric of the commercial theatres. It was this which brought about an intimacy between an audience and the play. After Independence, amateur theatre saw a spurt of activity. Academies were established, subsidies were granted, drama festivals were conducted and competitions were arranged. National school of Drama established in Delhi trained some aspirants from Karnataka along with others. Sri Ranga introduced them to the Kannada amateur theatre. In the commercial theatre the audience used to watch a great actor or listen to a great singer in that particular troupe but in the case of amateur theatre they went to watch the play itself. Thus, the need for a capable director was felt. Talented directors like B.V. Karanth, came into the limelight.

The latter part of the twentieth century was a period of assimilation of various Western ideas on theatre and following some of their practices regarding theoritical activity. Due to these inputs, contemporary theatre movement gained momentum. In 1945, Parvathavani’s ‘Bahaddur Ganda’ (a transcreation) was staged 150 times continuously in which child prodigy Yamuna Murthy, the first lady artiste to appear on the Amateur Stage, played the lead role. Among the playwrights of the romantic period, Sriranga and G.B.Joshi could understand the new wave of theatres and wrote plays accordingly, and this happened after 1955, the reason being a change of outlook with the advent of freedom to the country.

Among the playwrights Girish Karnad, Lankesh, Chandrashekara Patil, Chandrashekara Kambara, B.C. Ramachandra Sharma, A.K. Ramanujan, Keertinatha Kurthakoti, N.Ratna and Puchante are the important people who contributed to the movement. New directors like B.Chandrashekar, B.V.Karanth, M.S.Nagaraj, K.V. Subbanna and N.Ratna rose to the occasion. Plays like ‘Yayati’, Tughlaq’, ‘Kelu Janamejaya’, Teregalu’, ‘Jokumaraswamy’, ‘Appa’, ‘Kunta Kunta Kuruvatti’, ‘Neelikagada’, ‘Neralu’ ‘Brahmarakshasa’, ‘Ellige’, ‘Yamala Prashne’ etc., are important and popular even to this day. 

Sriranga has been a pioneer in this field. He has about 45 plays to his credit and all his plays reflect social situations in the state. ‘Harijanavara’, ‘Prapancha Panipattu’, ‘Sandhyakala’, ‘Shoka Chakra’, ‘Kelu Janamejaya’, ‘Nee Kode Naa Bide’, ‘Swargakke Mure Bagilu’, and ‘Agnisakshi’ are some notable plays of Sriranga. The contributions of others are equally significant. Among them G.B.Joshi, Girish Karnad, P.Lankesh, Chandrashekhara Kambara are very important. Some plays worthy of mention of these writers are Sattavara neralu, ‘Ma Nishada’, ‘Hayavadana’, ‘Anju Mallige’, ‘Hittina Hunja’, ‘Kranthi Bantu Kranthi’, ‘Sangya Balya’, ‘Baka’, ‘Neralu.’, ‘Neeli Kagada’, ‘Jokumaraswamy’, ‘SiriSampige’, ‘Rushya Srunga’, ‘Mohamaye’ Etc.

Recent theatre enthusiasts like B.S.Venkataram, Prasanna, H.K. Ramachandra Murthy, G.V.Shivanand, C,R. Simha and Ka.Vem. Rajagopal Siddagangaiah Kambalu adopted or translated many English plays of Brecht and staged them. Siddagangaiah Kambulu has written the plays viz., Benakana Kere Shunashefa, Tirukaraja, Chorapurana etc., L.N.Mukundaraj has rendered the Bengali drama of Smt. Shuvalimitra into Kannada as ‘Nathariddu Anatha’. Vaishampayanatira and novel based dramas like ‘Igo-Panjara-Ago mugilu’ and Mullina Kirita; History based drama ‘Sangrama Bharata’, folk based drama Nelavanta and ‘Jeevagatra’, drama based on Adipurana of pampa, all these are to his credit, have been published. 

In the 1980’s theatre enthusiasts like B.V.V. Raju, Srinivasa Raju, T.N. Seetharam, Vishnu Kumar, ‘Shudra’ Sreenivasa and D.R. Nagaraj have been successful in carrying the theatre tradition forward. B.V.V.Raju’s ‘Sandarbha’ and ‘Sannivesha’, T.N. Seetharam’s ‘Asphota’, Sreenivasa Raju’s ‘Nale Yaarigu Illa’, ‘Yarillige Bandavaru’ and Vishnu Kumar’s ‘Donkubalada Nayakaru’ have made them famous. The theatre movement has reached all district centres while it was restricted to Mysuru, Dharwad and Bengaluru initially. Young directors like M.S.Prabhu, R. Nagesh,T.N.Narasimhan, C.G. Krishnaswamy and veterans like Prasanna and Jayashree are in great demand. K.V. Subbanna of Heggodu near Sagar has won the prestigious international Ramon Magsesay award for fostering the development of culture. This is a feather in Karnataka’s cap. 

In the past decade, the theatre movement has undergone a sea-change. It failed to sustain the interest of the audience and the plays folded up with a whimper. Several important theatre personalities migrated to cinema and many others went out of Karnataka in search of greener pastures. To overcome this gloom, several trends came to the fore in this decade. Stage versions of popular Kannada novels, short stories and even poems, appeared on the scene. ‘Chomana Dudi,’ ‘Karimayi’, ‘Tabarana Kathe’, ‘Odalala’, ‘Samskara’, ‘Chidambara Rahasya’, ‘Chikaveera Rajendra’, ‘Kakana Kote’, ‘Kalki’, ‘Helathena Kela’, ‘Saviraru Nadigalu’, ‘Vaishaka’, ‘Kusuma Bale’, ‘Bhoomigeetha’, ‘Kindari Jogi’, ‘Mookajjiya Kanasugalu’ etc., were staged. Similarly Jangama Baduku, Singiraja and Mahachaitra of H.S.Shivaprakash, Jalagara[100 shows] and Yamana Solu have been staged, under the direction of K.V.Nagaraja Murthy. Apart from this he has also directed `Appa` of Champa [Chandrashekar Patil]., `Sayo Aata` of Bendre.; `Kalyana Kranti` of Mahadeva Banakar., `Mouni’ of `Ananth Murthy [100 shows]., Kambali Seve [300 shows including the shows at America and London]., `Shivaratri., of Chandrashekhar Kambara, all these have been directed by Nagaraja Murthy. He has also directed the rendered drama form of Kuvempu`s Ramayana Darshanam`. He himself wrote the drama Sonnalige Siddarama and directed it in the name `Srusti. He has planned student stage forum [Vidyarthi Rangabhoomi] and already trained 5000 Students under the banner of the troupe institution namely Bharata Yatra Kendra`. He has also produced Urubhanga – under Sainikavrithanta written by H.S.Venkatesha Murthy. Mallammana Hotalu of H.S.Shivaprakash. Raja Bete [Royal Hunt] written in English by Srinivasa Prabhu and directed in which 110 artists participated and the expenditure for the production was 3 laks rupees. `Manteswami` Katha Prasanga` directed by Suresh Aanagalli and produced by ‘Prayoga Ranga’ troupe of K.V.Nagaraja Murti has exceeded more than 380 shows. The drama ‘Namma Nimmolagobba’ has given 116 shows. The ‘Ondu Sainika Vrittanta’ has won National Drama Academy award for its direction. 

Dr.Vasantha Kavali was a good Play-Wright and the famous director of dramas. ‘Kanvacation’ was his famous play writeen. ‘Basaveshwara’ was his best directed drama during centemary celebration [1964], which was performed many shows in Karnataka and even at Bombay. Adya Rangacharya[Sri Ranga] was not only play wright but also directed many dramas. He has written a valuable book ‘Ranganataka Shastra’[1971- Dramatics] which is a scholarly manual very much useful to directors, actors, stage craft technicians etc., it is both Scientific and historic in contents. Sri Ranga also used to conduct teachers training camps in 1960’s with the co-operation of Natya sangha theatre. 

Another trend was the one-man-show by C.R. Simha in 1983, titled ‘Typical, T.P.Kailasam’. Its success encouraged several similar attempts like ‘Neegikonda Samsa’, ‘Shakespiyarana Swapna Nowke’, ‘Rasa Rushi-Kuvempu Darshana’ etc., came to light. During this period several plays reached their hundred show-mark and notched up a rare feat in Kannada amateur theatre. Benaka’s ‘Sattavara Neralu’, Kalagangothri’s ‘Mukhya Manthri’, Ranga Sampada’s ‘Sangya Balya’, Yashaswi Kalavidaru’s ‘Samsaradalli Sarigama’, Sanketh’s ‘Nodi Swamy Naavirode Heege’, and ‘Nagamandala’, ‘Nataranga’s ‘Tughlaq’, Vedike’s ‘Typical T.P.Kailasam’.

Several other institutions and dedicated theatre people at different centres of Karnataka are doing very useful service to the theatre movement. Ranga Shankara Amara Kala Sangha, Samudaya, Samathentho (Mysuru), Bhoomika,Abhivyakthi, Yavanika, Abhinaya, Ranga Bhoomi, Kalamandira, Nataranga, Prayogaranga, Ratha Beedi Geleyaru (Udupi), Ranga Nirantara are among the theatre groups. 

Na. Damodara Shetty, Ananda Ganiga, Devi Prasad, I.K. Boluvaru (of Dakshina Kannada), Gopala Vajapeyi (Dharwad), Abhinaya Ranga, Garood (of Gadag), Srinivasa Thavarageri, Ashok Badardinni, Dhruvaraj Deshpande (of Vijayapura), Sripathi Manjanabailu (of Belagavi), M.B. Patil and Girish Hiremath (of Raichur), Mudenura Sanganna (of Chigateri), Dr. Basavaraja Malsetty (Hosapete), Vishwanatha Vamshakrithamatha (Ilkal), Addanda Cariappa (Kodagu), Suresh Anagalli, R. Nagesh, Prasanna, Basavalingaiah and many others are actively associated with several activities of the theatre.

Outside the state also several persons and associations are striving to spread the essence of Kannada drama. In this regard Venugopala (Kasargod), Ballals, Manjunath, Karnataka Sangha and Mysuru Association (all of Bombay) and Karnataka Sangha, Kannada Bharathi Narayan Rao, Prabhakar Rao and Nagaraj (Old Delhi) can be mentioned. Suchitra film society Bengaluru is arranging Lectures on drama artists and play wrights and engage itself in theatric activities.

Amateur Theatre new troupes are active throughout Karnataka. Rangashankara, K.H.Kalasoudha, have established themselves as prominent, prestigious luminary theatres. Ranga Shikshana Kendra of Sanehalli is in co-ordination with the esteemed Ninasam Ranga Shikshana Kendra. Similarly other theatrical education centres like Kundapur, Abhinaya Taranga, VijayanagaraBimba, M.E.S.Centre, District Rangayanas [three] are teaching, theatre disciple in Kannada. Shivasanchara of Sanehalli and accompanying Ninasam and Rangayana reperttoies are going to different parts of Karnataka and continuously rendering their stage performances, with new experiments. Very recently Basavalingaiah has transformed the novel “Malegalalli Madumagalu” of Kuvempu, for the stage performance at Mysuru Rangayana and Bengaluru Kalagrama, being exhibited with a fine direction. Similarly, the noteworthy directed theatrical performance are `Let positive yane yare koogadali` of Kotaganahalli Ramaiah, `Nirinatana and Baduku Bayalu of Shankar Venkateswaran, `Shivarathri of Kambar, Bendakalu, on tust of Girish Karnad, `Yettaharide hamsa of Raghunandan. `Bharatayatre` of K.V.Akshara `Anabhigna Shakuntala` of Prakash Belavadi and K.Y.Narayana Swamy etc, are some new dramas, in recent times. The theatre has become a challenge. The novels have been transformed and expose themselves for drama performances. The design of the theatre is extending and projecting itself in new facets. The dramas like Kusumabale, Manushajati Tanondevala, ‘Malegalalli Madumagalu’ are the fine examples in this direction.

Kasaragodu Chinna is not only a talented actor, but also strived diligently in direction, production and in many wings of the theatre. Dr.Vijaya has worked in the field of theatre and she is an eminent theatre critic also. She has written many dramas. B.T.Lalitha Naik also has written many dramas.

Mallikarjuna latte, Chandrakanta Kusanur, Channanna Walikar etc, are some of the noteworthy dramatist, who have written the new wave dramas collateral to the Amateur Theatre. Ranga Madhyama `of Kalaburagi dt, Abhinaya Gangotri of Bidar dt, `Rayachur dt, etc, have their own contribution to theatrical activities.

In the second half of the decade, significant plays emerged. H.S.Shivaprakash wrote ‘Manteswamy Katha Prasanga’ and ‘Madari Madayya’. T.N.Seetharam’s ‘Nammolagobba Najukaiah’, Gopala Vajapeyi’s ‘Doddappa’, C.R.Simha’s ‘Bhairavi’, Chandra Shekhara Kambara’s ‘Siri Sampige’ and Girish Karnad’s ‘Thale Danda’ and ‘Nagamandala’. 

‘Suthradhara Vartha Patrike’, now changed its name as ‘E Masa Nataka’, is a monthly being published by pratima Ranga Samshodana Pratistana and the managing editor is L.Krishnappa, ‘E Masa Nataka and and ‘Ranga Tharanga’ the new magazine are documenting theatre activities. Hubballi has ‘Ranga Thorana’, with similar purpose. 

A tragical loss to the amateur theatre was the accidental death of young talened actor-director Shankar Nag in 1990 and B.V. Karanth in 2002. Ashok Badardinni and Druvaraj Deshpande are also no more. Kannada amateur theatre also went abroad in this decade. C.R. Simha’s ‘Typical T.P. Kailasam’ created a record by being the first play to travel outside India by presenting sixteen shows in America and Canada during 1986. B. Jayashri took her ‘Lakshapathi Rajana Kathe’ to Egypt and Bulgaria. Prabhath Kalavidaru went out to the Far East and the U.S. Mysuru’s Rangayana presented its ‘Hippolytus’ in New York.

K.V. Subbanna’s ‘Nee Naa Sam’ and ‘Thirugata’ and the State Government’s ‘Rangayana’ at Mysuru are active, with talented directors like Chidambara Rao Jambe, K.V. Akshara, K.G. Krishnamurthy and guest director Prasanna. ‘Thirugata’ has been coming out with three or four productions every year. Rangayana, a State run Theatre Repertary was headed by B.V. Karanth. With trained and talented people like Jayatirtha Joshi, Basalingaiah, Raghunandan and Gangadharaswamy. Rangayana has come out with significant productions like ‘Kindari Jogi,’ ‘Shakeshpeyarige Namaskara’, ‘Kusuma Bale,’ ‘Bhoomigeeta’ and ‘Hippolytus’. Basavalingaiah has taken over the Directorship of Rangayana after B.V. Karanth and C.R.Jambe. The ‘Malegalalli Madumagalu’ of Rastrakavi Kuvempu was directed by Basavalingaiah, who staged it in such a way that it brings the dense experience of Malnad and it has become a highly popular drama which has made a record. Next the writer and dramatist Lingadevaru Halemane, Smt. Jayashree, B.V.Rajaram have become the directors of Rangayana in succession. Prayogaranga and Yuvaranga apart from their own productions, organise drama competitions regularly in Bengaluru to encourage college and industrial drama groups. C.G.K’s Ranga Niranthara organises play writing by a group of young writers.

Karnataka Nataka Academy, in the last ten years has provided a lot of impetus throughout the state, by organising workshops, festivals and by providing financial grants to deserving professional companies. To help the theatre people monthly pensions are being sanctioned. Dr. Rajkumar, Famous Cine Artist is conferred with title “Kala a HAND BOOK OF KARNATAKA 716 Kousthubha” by the Karnataka Nataka Academy and “Karnataka Ratna” by the Department of Kannada And Culture.



Yakshagana, one among the several folk theatrical forms of Karnataka more popular in recent times. In addition, earlier forms like ‘Bayalata’, ‘Bhagavathara ata’ or ‘Dashavatara ata’ also existed. It acquired its present name because these plays were written in the form of musical dramas and that particular style of music was called Yakshagana. This term now has become a synonym for the theatrical form too.

We get rich harvest of Yakshagana plays during 16th - 18th Century in Karnataka. In between the 16th and 17th Century Siddendra Yogi, the founder of the Kuchipudi School of dance wrote his plays in the Yakshagana style. Thirthanarayana Yati, the disciple of Siddendra Yogi took these plays to Tanjore. Later, most of the 300 and odd playwrights came from the coastal regions of Karnataka, mainly undivided Dakshina Kannada. Old playwrights had utilized the Yakshagana style of music for every type of emotions and situations in their songs and dramas. Over 160 ‘ragas’ were used in their compositions, though today Bhagavatas are rarely conversant with 30 ragas or so. There are few ragas that are not found even in classical music. Nepali, Gujarati, Madhavi, Panchagati, Gopagite, Huvu, Divali, Charite, Haradi, Mechale etc. are some of them. The themes for the play are selected from the Ramayana, Mahabharata, Bhagavata and other Puranas. Barring a few narrative lines, all the rest was set to raga and tala. One essential element of depiction consisted of music and the other, dance. Both had simple literary material as their basic text. The dance elements had good support from percussion instruments like Chande, Maddale and cymbals. The characters of the play wore ankle bells (gejje) too. The essence of the drama was conveyed to the audience in prose which is dependent on the textual content of the songs.

To an audience not conversant with the Kannada language, the range of costumes and make-up seemed to capture the grandeur of a wonderland, which was ably supported by a rich musical background. In totality, Yakshagana theatre is one of the few rich theatre forms that have persisted even today. The ethical and religious background provided by temples have yielded to commercialism, for popular entertainment.

Towards the beginning of this century, there were a number of Yakshagana troupes, sponsored by prominent temples in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi. Saukur, Marnakatte, Mandarthi in the north, Mulki, Dharamasthala and Koodlu in the south are prominent among them. The temples concerned used to maintain them from their funds and some devotee of the temple used to pay for each performance which was free to the audience. There were quite a number of local patrons in the villages too. The plays were staged each night on special request. The actors and dancers who were orginally agriculurists, served in the plays more as service to the deity than as a profession.

From 1940’s things began to change very much in the institutional set up of the troupes. Temples began to auction the rights of conducting the shows. By then, the influence of the commercial drama troupes had attracted people very much and Yakshagana artistes began to copy the stage costumes and slowly discard traditional dance. Another feature, namely, the running of the troupes on a commercial basis with tents and allowing spectators entry into the tent by selling tickets, began to gain ground; with this the total attitude of Yakshagana theatre changed.

Now, there are a dozen commercial troupes and very few temple troups maintained by devotees that offer free performance. Yakshagana has become a financial success by catering to mass appeal. Many traditional elements of the Yakshagana theatre have been left in the cold. Much of the Prose utterances in Yakshagana theatre have eclipsed dance tradition. Like the cinema’s craze for novelty, new themes are gradually replacing all old popular themes based on puranic and epic ones. Vulgarity in dialogue has become the chief element in creating mass appeal. A few prominent Yakshagana troupes are from Irodi, Surathkal, Saligrama, Amrutheshwara, Perdoor and Idugunji. Among old temple troupes those belonging to Mandarti, Dharmsthala, Katil and Maranakatte still thrive, but there too the trend of giving up old plays seem to gain ground. The M.G.M. College of Udupi has a Yakshagana Kendra where about a dozen students are taught traditional dance and Yakshagana methods. Two more training centres have working at Kota and Dharmasthala since 1972. The creative art form of Yakshagana with its rich costumes, dance and music has great potential, but the people have yet to realise its greatness. All efforts of bringing out Yakshagana as a sophisticated art form have received scant respect and encouragement. 

Several artistes of Yakshagana have enriched the art by their efforts. Veerabhadra Nayak, Uppuru Narayana Bhagavata, Irodi Sadananda Hebbar, Polali Shastri, Malpe Shankaranarayana Samaga, Mowaru Kittanna Bhagavatha, Alike Ramayya Rai, Haaradi Krishna Ganiga, Haaradi Narayana Ganiga, Haaradi Rama Ganiga, Damodara Mandecha, Basava Naik, Bailpa Subbaraya, Hiriyadka Gopala Rao, Agari Srinivasa Bhagvata, Kuriya Vithala Shastri, Udyavara Madhava Acharya etc., are among the noted exponents of Yakshagana from Dakshina Kannada. Keremane Shivarama Heggade (Kendra Sangeetha Nataka Academy awardee in 1971), K. Sadananda Heggade, Ganapathi Bhatta, Mudkani Narayana Heggade (Kendra Sangeetha Nataka Akademy awardee), Babu Bhatta, etc., are among the noted artistes of North Kanara District. 

Yakshagana is very popular even in other parts of Karnataka and it is identified as ‘Mudalapaya’. Aparala Tammanna the author of ‘Sri Krishna Parijata’, Kulagoda Tammana of Kulagodu in Belagavi district and Aliya Lingaraja of Mysuru are famous Yakshagana poets. It is also said that Yakshagana tradition was in Mysuru district at the time of Kalale Veeraraja. Nanjunda Bhagavata`s grandfather Dasaiah Bhagavatha is said to have migrated from Tulunadu with Yakshagana Mela to Mysuru or he may be a native of Mysuru. The name `Nanjunda` indicates such happening, as viewed by scholar S.K.Ramachandra Rao. This Nanjunda Bhagavata was patronised by Alia Lingaraja [1799 – 1868]. He has written the book `Vrushabhendra Vilasa Yakshagana Mahanataka`, a pictorial text Yakshagana. This Yakshagana Mahanataka is primarily concerned with Bhakti Bhandari Basavanna of 12th century. Bhagavata’s preceptor was Guru Recharya. `Kavicharite` pre-suppose that Nanjunda Bhagavata might have migrated from ghat area and patronised by Aliya Lingaraja at Mysuru. It further suggest all his works are in Yakshagana form and enumerates those eight works as follows.`Tripura dahana, Radha Vilasa, Somashekhara – Chitra Shekhara Kathe, Moha Viveka Kalaga, Harischandropakhyana, Balichakravarti Charitre, Sarangadharana Kathe, Chandrahasana Kathe.

S.Shivanna cites many more books of Nanjunda Bhagavata viz; Druva chatitre, Rukmangada Kathe, Viravaramana Kalaga, Vrushabendravilasa, Shanimahatme, Samudra Manthana, Siriyalana Kathe Etc., and it is said pururava kathe, Soundarya mohana nataka, hilayyanna kathe, Shwetha kathe, in all 23 works have been noticed though all of them are yet to be found physically. Mainly ‘Nanjunda Bhagavata Virachita Vrishabhendra Vilas Yakshagana Mahanataka’ manuscript has been edited and published by the peethadhipati of Suttur mutt, Ja. Sri.Shivarathri deshikendra mahaswamiji in 2008. This Yakshagana Mahanataka was staged at Mysuru by the artists of Sri.Dharmastala Manjunatheshwara Kripa Poshita Yakshagana Mandali, in 2009.

In the coastal region, Nanjaiah, Parthi Subba, Halemakki Rama, Hattiangadi Ramabhatta. Venkata Ajapura, Nityananda Avadhuta, Pandeshwara Venkata, Gerasoppe Shanthappaiah, Nagire Subrahamanya, Dhwajapurada Nagappaiah, noted Kannada poet Muddanna and Halasinahalli Narasimha Shastry are among the noted writers. There are two school of Yakshagana, called Tenkutittu (Southern) and Badagutittu (Northern). They vary in costumes, dance and other aspects from each other. Many Telugu Yakshaganas also came to be written in Karnataka and among these Kempe Gowda, the ruler of Bengaluru composed ‘Ganga Gowri Vilasam’, many more such works were composed in the Mysuru Court. In Puppet Theatre too, the text and theme is of Yakshagana itself. Uppinakuduru Kogga Kamath from Dakshina Kannada is an outstanding master of this art.

Mudalapaya is the variety of Yakshagana seen on the plateau, as mentioned above. An institute to foster it is functioning at Konchalli in Tiptur tq, by the efforts of Prof. J.S. Paramashivaiah, noted folklorist. The Mysuru University Folk Arts Department also promotes this school. In Kalaburagi and Dharwad areas it is called Doddatta. Karibhantana Kalaga, Sarangadhara, Kumara Ramana Kathe are popular themes in that area. Basavaraja Malasetty of Hosapete and Basavalingaiah Hirematha of Kittur are noted directors in the field. Narasappa Bhagavata of Konchalli, Puttashamachar of Bellur (Mandya dt.) Yatirajayya, (Gondetahalli) are some of the artistes from Southern Karnataka. Monappa Sutar from Afzalpur, Budeppa from Byahatti, Najundayya Hiremath from Talur (Sandur tq), Ganachari from Gogi and Chandanna Gogi from Hugar (Shahpur tq) are among the artistes of this school.



The State Government has instituted different academies for the all-round development of Kannada Literary and cultural activities. It resulted in the formation of different academies. 


The Mysuru State Sangita and Nataka [music and drama] Academy was inaugurated on 18.2.1955. But in 1978 it was renamed as Kannada Culture and Dance Academy. Arranging Music, Drama and Dance conferences, honouring the artists with awards and providing monthly allowance or pensions, apprentice scholarship, arranging seminars and Symposiums, cultural exchange programmes, encouraging demonstration of artistic talents at State and National level, publication of significant and valuable books etc., are being executed by the Academy. It has provided four awards to the Music field. This Academy from 1959to 2013 has honoured in total 635 artists with annual awards who were eminent in different branches of art and music. From 2008 and onwards this award is named as ‘Karnataka Kalashri’.

It was remodified as 16 annual Kalashri awards and two Honour [Excellence] awards from 2005. But this honour award began to be given by rotation to the different areas of music and dance. The annual award carries a cash award of 25000 rupees, while honour award carries 10000 rupees. For the year 2011-12 Lalit.J.Rao, M.L.Channakeshava Shastri [Gamaka]; for 2012-13 B.V.Narayana [Karnataka Sangeetha], Komal Raj [sugama sangit] are the honour award winners. The eminent artists who have been the presidents of this Academy are as follows: Komala Varadan[1978-81];Gangubai Hanagal[1981- 84];VeenaDoreswamyIyengar[1984-86]; MayaRao [1987-90]; Pandit.R.V.Sheshadri [199095]; Chandrabhagadevi [1995-97]; Shamala G. Bhave [1997-2001]; H.R.Leelavathi[2001-04]; Pandit Rajashekar Monsoor[2005-08]; Pandit Narasimhalu Vadavati[2008-11]; Vaijayanthi Kashi[2012]; Smt.Gangamma Keshavamurthy has been made its president in February 2014.



It took its birth in 1964. But in 2008 it was reconstituted, to create interest and impart knowledge in painting to common man and to encourage artists with variety of programmes. Also it is planned to conceive such programmes so that the artist get recognition at state and National level; granting scholarship to give monodemonstration both outside the state; to provide aid for copying mural pictures; publication of art news periodicals; giving prizes and awards; demonstration of selected works of art; art painting camps and workshops; giving annual awards and encouraging art of photography etc., all these have envisaged.

Karnataka Lalithakala Academy award initiated in 1966 except during 1974-80 till about 173 artists have been honoured by the Academy. From 2011 the Lalithakala Academy introduced the practice of giving special award to those who have rendered distinct service in the field of fine arts. The achievers in this field are D.K.Chowta [2001]; C.Revanasiddaiah [2002]; K.R.KrishnaSwami [2003]; Sharana Basappa Appa [2006], Veerendra Heggade [2007],(2008), (2009) have been honoured so far by the Academy. 


The Nataka Academy started giving the award since 1959. Dr. Raja Kumar was honoured by presenting the title ‘Kala Koustubha’. So far the Academy has given various awards like fellowship, annual awards, paddanna award annually, Drama company award, Nepatya award[Green room award], K.Hirannaiah award, C.G.K.Youth award, Ranga sahitya[stage Literture],Ranga sajjike (stage arrangements), Ranga geete-stage songs awards, lifetime theatrical achievement award etc., to artists and their organisations. Although some of the awards are stopped, few have been continued with new technical nomenclature. Till 2010 about 790 artists have been honoured. In 2011 the Nataka Academy celebrated ‘Suvarna Sambhrama’ and presented Suvarna Ranga Prashasti to 50 stage designers; A commemorative volume ‘Ranga Sampannaru’ was also published on the occasion. 

The Academy has modelled the programmes for professional and amateur theatre for their development and progress. During 2011-12 and 2012-13, 30 artists were honoured with award. The year 1985-86 was celebrated as ‘Folk theatre year’ and 1986-87 as ‘Amateur theatre year’. Folk camps, district drama festivals, Kailasam’s centenary celebrations, Mohamed peer centenary celebrations in March 1997 in collaboration with Kannada and culture department with a seminar was also organised.


Theatre personality Lakshmi Chandrashekar of Bengaluru and painter K. Ameen of Ilkal have been awarded the Karnataka Nataka Academy’s honorary theatre awards for 2014 and 2013 respectively. Comedian K. Hirannaiah Endowment Award was given to G.V. Krishna (2013) and Siddu Naalathawada (2014). Rajanna Jewargi of Kalaburagi was chosen for the Chindodi Veerappa Endowment Award for 2013 for professional theatre, while Revanna Hosurmath Siddaiah of Ballari has been chosen in the same category for 2014. G.N. Mohan’s works Rangakinnari and Third Bell have been chosen for the Theatre Book Award for 2012 and 2013. Octogenarian N. Ramachandra Murthy will be presented an award in recognition of his six-decade-long career as a makeup artist. Mr. Siddharaju, academy registrar, and members Gudihalli Nagaraj, Akki V.N., Halakurke Shivashankar and Kalpana Naganath also spoke on the occasion. 


This Academy had its independent existence since 2008-09 having separated from Janapada and Yakshagana Academy. Kumbale Sudharao became its president. Dr.Amrita Someshwara was honoured with ‘Parthisubba’ award in 2009; Manjunatha Bhatta Hosthota in 2010. During 2011 Yakshagana Academy award was given to 9 artists and one institution. During 2011-12 and 2012-13 20 artists were honoured with award. Sri. Belagal Veeranna is its president since February 2014.           


The folk and yakshagana art is an oral tradition of cultural eminence. It is abundant and hence to retain its mode and develop its continual existence in original form in the midst of modern planes, the Academy found its inception on 3.11.1980. Its Presidents were H.L.Nagegowda [1980-87]; S.K.Karim Khan[1987-90];Ji.Sham. Paramashivaiah[1991-95];H.J.Lakkappa Gowda [1995-98]; Kalegowda Nagavara [1998- 2001]; Hi.Shi.Ramachandra Gowda [2001-04]; Keremane Shambhu Heggade 2005-08]; Go.Ru. Channabasappa [2008-11]; Later Bananduru Kempaiah [2012) became its president. Pichalli Srinivas has been made the president of this Academy in February 2014.Since 2008-09 ‘Janapada and Yakshagana Academy began to function as independent academies to encourage folklore Scholars and artists. They are being honoured with ‘Janapada Tagna’ title with annual awards. Till 2011 about 800 folk Literature and folk arts eminent have been honoured. ‘Janapada Tagna’ award winners are as follows


Simpi Linganna [1986]; Mattigatta Krishnamurty [1988]; D.Javaregowda [1989]; H.L.Nagegowda [1990]; H.M.Naik and B.B.Handi[1991];Ku. Shi.Haridasabhatt and K.R.Lingappa [1992]; Chandrashekara Kambara and Mudenuru Sanganna [1993]; M.Chidanandamurty, P.R.Tippeswamy and N.R.Nayak[1994]; G.Narayana, Go.Ru.Channabasappa, Devendra Kumar Hakari, M.G.Biradara, Amrita Someshwara and C.P.Krishna Kumar [1995]; Hampa Nagarajaiah, Ramegowda [Ra.Gow]; Somashekar Imrapura and R.C.Hirematha[1996]; B.A.VivekaRai, Basavaraja Malashetti and P.K.Rajashekara[1997]; M.M.Kalaburgi, M.B.Neginahala, T.N.Shankara Narayana, D.K.Rajendra and P.K.Khandoba[1998]; Kyatanahalli Ramanna, ShanthiNaik and A.V.Navada [1999]; Num.Tapaswi Kumar, M.N.Wali and H.J.Lakkappa Gowda [2000]; Taltaje Keshava Bhatta, C.H.Mahadeva Naik, M.T.Dhupada, T.S.Rajappa and M.A.Jayachandra[2001]; Siddalingaiah, William Madta, Srirama Ittannavar [2002]; Channanna Walikar, B.S.Swami, Nallur Prasad[2003]; M.G.Eshwarappa, Srikantha Koodige, Prabhakara Joshi have also been honoured.

Since 2004 Janapada Tagna award was stopped. But in the name of B.S.Gaddagimath and Ji.Sham.Pa, the awards were begun to be issued to folklore scholars. To the Janapada experts, an honorarium of Rupees 10 thousand cash award and a plaque, and to the folklore artists and folk literture books, the prize contents are 5 thousand rupees cash and plaque award used be given and honoured.

Gaddagimutt Award: Keremane Mahabala Heggade [2004]; Veeranna Dande [2005]; H.K.Rajegowda [2006] D.B.Naik [2007]; C.K.Navalagi [2008]; Dr.Kalegowda Nagavara [2009]; Dr.S.P.Padmaprasad, Prof.Sugaiah Hiremutt [2011]

Ji.Sham.Pa award winners are: Hi.Shi. Ramachandra Gowda [2004]; M.K.Raghava Nambiyar [2005]; Basavaraj Nellisara [2006]; G.S.Bhat [2007], Y.C.Bhanumathi [2008]; Dr.Krishnamurty Hanur [2009]; Dr.K.R.Sandya Reddy [2010]; Dr.MeeraSabihalli Shivanna [2011] each folklore experts will be given 10 thousand rupees, honorarium, award plaque; Prizes for books on folklore will be Five thousand rupees cash, award and a plaque.



In Karnataka, both architecture and sculpture are heterogenous, widespread and permeating. Since Neolithic age till modern age, it has the background of continuous growth and heritage. In order to sustain, protect and make this art to grow, on 10.8.1964, the Academy was established. It was a part of Lalitha Kala Academy in earlier days. Karnataka Shilpakala Academy was established as a separate entity in 1995. From 1996, Karnataka Shilpakala Academy started its activities. It honoured sculpturists, arranged sculpural workshops and demonstrations. It is publishing the books on traditional and modern sculptures from 1965. Upto 2009, about 78 famous sculptors has been honoured by the Academy. The Central Textile Commission for handicrafts has honoured the president of Shilpakala Academy [1998-2001] C.Parameshwarachar for his superb achievement in sculpture in 2003, with a cash of 7.5 lakh rupees. In 2004 Nilakantachar was honoured with the title ‘shilpaguru’. The Academy is striving to preserve the traditionally developed temple sculptures carved in stones, copper, Panchaloha, ubbacchu, wood and mortar made classical sculptures. It is trying to get rid of pausity of skilled persons in Sculptural area; arranging sculpture camps, wooden sculpture camps, preparing scrap and murals in fibre glass, terracota workshop, conference of sculpture artists, Karnataka sculpture festival, sculpture-picture-graphic art camps, designing Literteur and artists portraits sculpture; conducting seminars on traditional sculpture style, publishing books on traditional and modern sculptures; arranging Stone sculpture Exhibition giving tour-grants to the artists; on workshop conducting cement sculpture, Line drawing and mural painting practice camps have been executed by the Academy.


(Source: A Handbook of Karnataka, 2015, Department of Gazatteer, Government of Karnataka)

Last Updated : 13-09-2021 12:04 PM Aprover: Admin

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