Yakshagana Performance in its original form is truly a mesmerising experience. Through the night air there come the tense high-pitched drumming beats of the chande, mellower rhythm of the maddale and the tinkling brass peal of the tala accompanying the melodious singing of the story-teller the “Bagawatha”. Yakshagana is a rare and unique traditional theatre of Coastal region of Karnataka state in India and has a recorded history of more than five centuries. It is a rich artistic blend of loud music, forceful dance, extempore speech and gorgeous costumes, this art combines the features of opera as well as drama, the characteristics of moral education and mass entertainment.

Vasu Aithala and a team of Yakshagana enthusiast from Houston brought this unique mind blowing experience to Houstonians on Saturday, July 28th. Under the auspices of Shri Krishna Vrundavana and Houston Kannada Vrinda, for the first time in USA, Yakshagana Bayalata (Open-air Field Drama) was presented in the parking ground in front of Krishna Vrundavana, Sugar Land, Texas by professional artists from “Sri Yakshadeva Mithra Kalamandali, Belvai, India touring US.

The Episode (Referred to as “Prasanga”) presented was “Mahisha Mardhini” from “Sri Devi Mahatme of Sri Durga Saptashati of Markandeya Purana. The everlasting conflict between good and evil, the fight between Gods and demons, depicting the supremacy of Mother Goddess Durga.

Beautifully set up open air stage imitating the traditional look referred to as “Rangasthala”, casual seating of the young audience on the floor fully captivated with the show, Vibrant entry of Demon Mahishasura (buffalo headed demon) playing with fire from the crackle and flash of resin powder thrown into fiery torches, grand entry of Goddess Durga with 8 arms, excitement of a tiger walking on to the stage from the audience as vehicle for Goddess Durga, fierce battle between Mahishasura and Goddess Durga ending with killing of Mahisha, celebrated with magnificent fireworks made this entire performance into a spectacular show.  The excitement became the true physical sensation.

More than 500 people both Kannada speaking and non-Kannada speaking including a significant number of children enjoyed the performance. Keeping up with the tradition hot snacks were distributed to the audience during the show. Depicting the street stalls, ladies prepared churmuri -chilli puffed rice.

Well known Bagavatha Patla Sathish Shetty was accompanied on Maddale by Padmanabha Upadhya and on Chende by the team leader Devananda Bhat. Prof. M.L.Samaga as Lord Vishnu, Chandrashekara Dharmasthala as Shurpashaka and Devendra, Prashant Nelyadi as Malini and Devi, Mohana Bellippady as Mahishusara and Mahesh Maniyani as Dootha were aptly supported by local artists Meena Aithala as AadiMaye, Sharath Akirekadu as Lord Brahma and Suhas Aithal as Lord Maheshwara.

In their own words:

Satish Rao of Udipi Café said “What a fantastic weekend! felt like I was back home in Hiriyadaka, Coastal town of Karnataka watching Yakshagana bayalata. One of a kind event to remember for a long time to come, it was an awesome show!!

Dinesh Pejavar said “Having it out door was a brilliant idea and brought back fond memories of the bayalata performance in Pejaver some 60+ years ago!

Tara Narasimhan said “It was like watching in the paddy fields of India as the weather too was just about the same...The fireworks in between – was added bonus to the Superb group of dancer’s musician and dramatists combined- a tiger walked on to the stage from the audience as vehicle for Mahishasuramardhini- spectacular...and Mahisha’s atrocious behavior was simply outstanding”

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Bengaluru, Jul 22: Karnataka Labour Minister Santosh Lad on Monday said the proposal to extend the working hours of employees in the IT/ITeS/BPO sector has come from the IT industry, and the government will take a decision after looking into opinions shared by all stakeholders including leaders in the field and employees.

Stating that the IT employees union has expressed their dissent, he urged industry veterans and captains to also come out and share their views.

The proposed 'Karnataka Shops and Commercial Establishments (Amendment) Bill 2024' seeks to normalise a 14-hour work day. The existing act only allows a maximum of 10 hours work per day including overtime.

"It is not the Minister who has brought himself (the proposed bill). The industry is pressurising. (They) are asking and they want it. Since there is pressure from the industry, the bill has come to us. We are still evaluating it at the Labour department. The question is for all the heads of the industry to discuss this," Lad said.

ALSO READ: Bengaluru IT sector to face 14-hour work day? Employees' Union expresses opposition

Speaking to reporters here, he said: "The matter is in open domain, people are free to discuss this. They (industry leaders) express (opinion) for every thing, so I want all the big heads (of the industry) to debate and express their view. There is dissent from IT employees. I want people to have their opinion. Based on that as a department we will look into what has to be done."

Karnataka State IT/ITeS Employees' Union (KITU) that has urged the Siddaramaiah-led government to reconsider the plans to extend the working hours, strongly opposing the proposed amendment which, it said, poses an "attack on the basic right of any worker to have a personal life."

This amendment will allow the companies to go for a two shift system instead of the currently existing three shift system, and one third of the workforce will be thrown out from their employment, it claimed.

To a question on the impact of this proposed extended workers on the health, social and personal life of the employees, the Minister said: "Let the IT heads, the so-called big heads of the country, discuss. For everything they come out. I want the IT heads, IT company owners, Directors -- let them come and share their opinion, whether it is required or not.

The dissent is coming from the union, let the IT industry people, the heads have to speak about it positive or negative, and the government will look into what has to be done."

The IT industry is pressuring the government to go ahead with the proposal, he said. "Without their consent why would we do it suo moto. It is not done by any department, nor by the IT Minister. The pressure is from the IT industry itself, and that's how the proposal has come to us."

Asked as to why the government cannot say that they will not act on the proposal, considering the adverse impact it will have on the employees, the Minister said: "the government has done nothing. The proposal has come from the IT industry, it is good that it is in the public domain, definitely the government and my department in its wisdom will definitely take a call, but let people give their opinion."

Suhas Adiga, General Secretary of the Karnataka State IT/ITeS Employees Union, citing various reports regarding health implication of this proposed move, said as per the current understanding the employees might have to work 80-85 hours in a week.

"This cannot be accepted under any circumstances. We call upon all IT/ITeS Employees and their dependents or family members to come out and resist this," he added.

Targeting the government on the issue, state BJP President B Y Vijayendra said the Congress government in Karnataka has not only made a mockery of themselves but is "leaving no stone unturned to destroy everything in its way."

"While the Siddaramaiah govt itself is in a sleeping mode, it plans to propose a bill that will force the IT sector to work 14 Work Hours A Day, 70 A Week," he posted on 'X'.

"The Congress government (should) better worry about its own under-performing productivity, the collapsing state economy and degrading infrastructure before setting policies for a sector that's efficient & thriving," Vijayendra added.

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