Friday 6 September 2013

Kempe Gowda's Yakshagana

Normally, Kempe Gowda I or simply known as Kempe Gowda, the ruler of Bangalore, is credited with having founded the metropolis of Bangalore.
He is also known as Hiriya Kempe Gowda or Bangalore Kempe Gowda. He was the son of  Kempananje Gowda.
Kempe Gowda is also credited with having made Bangalore the capital after shifting base from Yelahanka.
Many tanks and lakes, fort, temples are ascribed to him as are the many petes of the old town that exists even today. The petes-Chickpet, Doddapet, Nagarthpet, Ranasinghpet, Balepet exist even today.
However, Kempe Gowda is known for one more achievement of which little is known. He is credited with the composition of a Yakshagana composition “Ganga Gowri Vilasamu”.
This work is in Telugu and it is the earliest known Yakshagana in Bangalore and also among the first of such works in Telugu.
The fact that Kempe Gowda wrote in Telugu and not in Tamil gives credence to the fact that they were Morasu Vokkaligas from near Kolar and that even if their forefathers came to Karnataka from near Kanchi, they could not have been native Tamils.
They had first settled at Avati from where the family branched out to different places-Yelahanka, Magadi and Anekal.
The branch that first settled at Yelahanka and then moved to Bangalore was the Kempe Gowda family. Apart from founding Bangalore and investing it with so many facilities that it quickly became a centre of trade, commerce and business, it also was a place of art and literature.
Kempe Gowda himself encouraged art, sculpture, architecture and literature. His Ganga Gowri Vilasamu has 44 songs in different ragas. It closely follows the Bayalatta style of composition.
Though Yakshagana is native to coastal Karnataka, particularly, Utara Kannada, Dakshina Kannada, Shimoga and Udupi, the fact that Kempe Gowda wrote one such play is testimony enough that this form of art had spread to south Karnataka as well and that it was a popular form of entertainment then apart from Javali singing.
Kempe Gowda’s work came when Yakshanaga in Telugu and even in other languages were just beginning. It was only a few decades later that Yakshagana developed into what it is today.
Even today, the Vilasamu is staged in Bangalore city by several troupes. However, apart from the field of literature, Yakshagana and research, not many are aware of  Ganga Gowri Vilasamu.  
Kempe Gowda died in 1569, having ruled for about 56 years. A metallic statue of Kempe Gowda can be seen at the Gangadhareshwara temple in Shivaganga. This was installed in 1609. Another statue of  Kempe Gowda was installed in 1964 and this was in front of the Corporation offices in Bangalore.
His eldest son, Gidde Gowda, succeeded him

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