It was the usual time when we were amidst the people after reaching the venue and ascending the traditional throne engrossing ourselves with the daily routine of providing relief to their worries; it was like appearance of a rainbow under clear blue sky, like a brush immersed in paint entering a sparkling white canvas, like a marvelous crown being placed over the painted face of a Yakshagana artist; coloring the countenance of the captivated crowd with cheers entered the mighty monarch who is crowned every day in the empire of Yakshagana! Chittani Ramachandra Hegde had arrived!
As the respect and pride brimming within him overflowed to find outwardly expression in the form of bowing down with utmost reverence and submission, his gaze moved towards the man standing next to Guru waving a traditional hand-held fan made of palm leaf. The gaze conveyed in unequivocal terms – “it is my right to wave the fan and provide comfort to Guru, when I am here this service is mine!”
That settled the matter; Chittani moved towards the man and exercised his loving command, “here you go; handover the fan to me!” When the volunteer hesitated, Chittani snatched the fan with affectionate force! What followed was “Chãmara Sëvãm avadhãrayã!” (please accept this service from me) – seva from the established emperor of the art world to his Guru!
The love laced cool breeze flowing from the hand of the ever-crowned King of art was conveying to Guru a glimpse of the depth of submissiveness within the mountain of art!
None expected this service from Chittani. There was nothing he could gain materially out of it. It was the most natural expression of his patently natural orientation of service towards his Guru.
This gesture was not a game for the gallery; it was the stuff for his soul!
It was not play acting of service; it was innocent service from a born actor!
It was unveiling of the self-effacing servant hidden within the super hero shining on stage!
It was indeed uncomfortable for us being served by such a personality – mature in age, elegance and depth of knowledge. But unmindful of our own discomfiture, our heart was enjoying the childlike innocence and selfless flow of affection; we were enjoying the celebration of Chittani with the fan! Wasn’t his happiness more valuable than our discomfort?
It is not a one-time event; it used to repeat frequently, whenever Chittani visited us, every time he visited us – just like his famous performances on stage!
This is how people come closer to the heart despite attaining the heights! Climbing to heights is good in life as long as it doesn’t come climb to head!
Chittani, who ruled the world without a tinge of pride, was indeed a majestic hidden within a modest man!
What else can explain this? Even till his end, standing in his feet Chittani continued to beat “Jagate” in the Chowki during Aarti to Lord Ganesha – this is the humility from the master when all other artistes of Yakshagana genre stand up with respect by his mere sight!
Otherwise, can you imagine Chittani begging on the streets of Honnavara while doing his bit in the #GouPranaBhiksha campaign of SriMatha to avert the danger of mass massacre of over seventy thousand cows at Male Mahadeshwara Hills due to acute draught?
This reminded Chittani’s appearance as Lord Shiva who came begging with skull of Brahma as his begging bowl in the famous Yakshagana “BrahmaKapala”!
One who does not empathize in the pain of others cannot become a human, leave alone an artist!
Artiste, the creator!
Art is nothing but a balm to the pains of life; it is dawn of delight. It is a blessed fraction in time when lives suffering from the pangs of life, forget their worries and feast in the sumptuous nectar oozing from the sacred fountain of art!
Why does human look up to the divine? For healing the hardships of life and guiding to the glory of great joy!
An artiste is God personified, not only on stage but in real life too!
An artist is ever an ascetic!
If art form is yoga, artist is a yogi. In the science of Yoga, Parakaaya pravesha (That is the power to leave your body consciously and enter into a new one) is a MahaSiddhi (great attainment). While it comes through effort and persistence to an ascetic, it comes as gift of providence to an actor!
An artist is no less than any Guru:
Guru shows invisible God within you; artiste shows him on stage! Isn’t an artiste, who makes you see Rama~Krishna~Durga~Shiva who are hidden behind the womb of time or nature, a Guru himself?
Entertainment + Enlightenment = art
Guru graces enlightenment upon every soul. But its reception depends on one’s eligibility. For some uncoated representation of knowledge tastes bland. Hence it is not within everyone’s reach. An artiste packages the same enlightenment mixing it with entertainment for all! He reaches the audience which a Guru doesn’t reach and serves the essence of vedas and shastras laced with sugar.
True artistry is true Mastery (Guru-hood)!
Society will see an artiste in a high pedestal when it realizes this doctrine. When an artiste understands this, both his art and life will scale great heights!
Villain on stage; adorable child inside!
Chittani excelled in villainous roles. But there is no trace of such traits in his real life! He ruled the stage with roles like Kichaka, Bhasmasura, Dushtabuddhi etc., but in real life, he never had any of their traits! He never thought ill of anyone, didn’t create obstacles to anyone’s ascent, never fought with anyone – Chittani was an intimate human with innocent heart!
Art forms and games are for cleansing the mind of evil thoughts:
Looking objectively, our ancestors designed various art forms and games with a view to cleanse our minds from the inbuilt tendencies of cruelty and villainy. Games are nothing but peaceful forms of war. Mutual enmity, valor, struggle, win and defeat are things common to games and war! Symptoms like severance of limbs and casualties which we find in wars are not there in games to a great extent; barring this, games are indeed softer forms of war!
Approach of the older generations while attempting to ward off the cruelty and villainy within human characters by way of games is really very meaningful!
This is the secret behind justification of villainous characters in stories. Tendencies of cruelty and villainy which are hidden beneath us like venomous snakes inside their snake holes, get wiped out of us, when we play and watch the villains on stage. This will make way for a pious life free of such negative elements!
Innumerable artistes are indebted to this wealthy artist!
Chittani is undoubtedly a wealthy man in terms of art, if not in terms of currency wealth! He had inexhaustible treasure of presenting each emotion in various ways! We can explain this with following words:
If a person picks what Chittani trashed from his treasure, it can fill the coffers of the picker!
Today we see a large army of artistes who have benefited from Chittani this way in the world of Yakshagana!
No stinginess in his art!
We can’t wind up this without highlighting another virtue of Chittani. There was no cheating in him when it comes to performing. We have lot of artists who ‘adjust’ their performance based on the quality and volume of spectators. Chittani was an exception to this; it doesn’t matter if there were only three plus one spectators, even if there were only young children in front of him, if he didn’t serve everything that he had, he was not Chittani!
Here Chittani reminds us of GouMata, who empties her udders without keeping anything for herself!
Let the feast by fire flourish forever!
While preparing himself to retire from world stage to the ‘Chowki”, Chittani found solace in the fact that his grandson Kartika would fill the void created by his absence – like Sun God who sets with the contentment that the resulting darkness would be addressed by the soothing moonlight. Having born in Krittika – AgniNakshatra, his entry to Yakshagana was in the role of Agni, he excelled on stage for seven decades like an AgniGola (fireball), Chittani embarked on his journey from this world to the other world on a Tuesday, that is Agni’s day! Chittani was born on Krittika, word “Kartika” means ‘one who is born on Krittika’! Both mean the same thing! One is whole, other is a spark!
Let the spark grow to become the whole, let the feast of fire ignited by Senior Chittani continue in the form of Junior Chittani to illuminate the Yakshagana stage and the inner stage of those with blessed eyes forever!
- Jagate: the brass instrument used as an accompaniment while performing ‘aarti’ to Lord
- Chowki: Greenroom in Yakshagana
— RaghaveshwaraBharati (@Shankaracarya36) October 4, 2017