Shambhu Hegde, a titan of Yakshagana: RIP

PURUSHOTHAMA BILIMALE writes from Gurgaon: Keremane Shambhu Hegde is no more. The yakshagana maestro expired at this birthplace Gunavante, a tiny village in Honnavara, yesterday, while performing his favorite character Shri Rama in an episode called Kusha –Lava.

A proponent of the badagu tittu (northern style) for more than 50 years, Hegde’s contribution to the development of yakshagana is unique and unparalleled, having worked as an artiste, organiser, innovator and researcher.

Hegde’s brilliance infused freshness to every facet of an an ancient artform, and to his Idagunji Mahaganapathi Yakshagana Mandali goes the credit for taking the fragrance of yakshagana to audiences across regions, languages, and continents.

Hegde was the son of another great artist, Keremane Shivarama Hegde. But he brought his own luminousness to it without breaking the traditional canvas. He always encouraged artists in his troupe to innovate and introduce new methods and techniques, which have enriched the art.

Originally, yakshagana was performed for rural audiences, but Shambhu Hegde gave a new dimension to it, leaving even urban audiences spellbound. He performed in many parts of India and also took up the arduous task of presenting yakshagana to a global audience.

Above all, with his extraordinary command over English and Hindi, he became a powerful ambassador of the art during all the regional, national and international tours of the Idagunji mela. The troupe received rave reviews and won many honours.

He was awarded Sangeet Nataka Academy and Karnataka State awards for his unique contribution to theatre. He served as the president of Karnataka Janapada Academy and also as a member of the Central Sangeet Natak academy. He was a member of the governing body of the South Zone Cultural Centre.

Shambhu Hegde revolutionized yakshagana . His influence can be seen in almost every stage of yakshagana today. This was just possible because of his rare genius, untiring efforts, spirit of enquiry and experiment.

Some of the characters portrayed by Shambhu Hegde were those of Duryodhana, Dushtabuddhi, Karna, Shrirama, Hanuman, Kartavirya, and  Jarasandha.

Yakshana is poorer without him, but thanks to him Yakshagana survives and competes with other major forms of theatre and hold its head high as a great artform.

Purushothama Bilimale is Director, American Institute of Indian Studies, Gurgaon

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20 Responses to “Shambhu Hegde, a titan of Yakshagana: RIP”

  1. subbulakshmi Says:

    i was waiting for thsi post. thanks bilimale.

  2. Shrinidhi Hande Says:

    May his soul rest in peace…

  3. nagarajarao@tarikere Says:

    Though I am not very familiar with yakshagana art, I have seen few troops performing in Bangalore in temples. The dance, jumping, sound of maddale is quite enjoyable. The death of Mr. Shanbu Hedge has created a vaccum in yakshagana art. But, consolance is that he has trained many who are shining like starts and they would continue to follow his guidance. Shanabhu hedge marayare, nimmanna nensoru bahala mandi inddare. Nimma athmakke shanthi irali.

  4. clash Says:

    May his soul rest in peace….

    Speaking of Yakshagana, Did anyone over here knew that it is a competition item in Kerala State School Youth festival, along with Kathakali and other Keralaite performing arts?

  5. vinayak pandit Says:

    Dear Purushotham,

    Its really very so sad, the legend of yakshagana is no more. I express my deep sorrow and grief on sad demise of Shri Shambu hegde I pray to almighty to rest the soul of departed into eternal peace. t
    hanks for your post

    Vinayak Pandit

  6. sathya Says:

    Art for art’s sake and a commited artist. May his sould est in peace. Artist is no more but the art should should grow and go on.

  7. sisya Says:

    RIP. And thanks Bilimale.

  8. Gana Says:

    Such a sad news.
    may be I am the only one here who has seens Mr.Hegde in all his glory and all his characters.
    He was my Appayya’s classmate and used to visit us whenever there is a ‘aata’ nearby. :((

  9. Prashanth Bhat Says:

    The doyen of yakshagana and one of the last great artist from the last generation of people who worshipped the art rather than just performing it.

    Keremane Shambhu Hegdeyavarige nanna bhaavapooraka shraddhanjali. Yakshagaana irruvavaregu neevu chiraayu.

  10. Aadithya Says:

    Good coverage and summarized article.

  11. alwayssaynotoracism Says:

    I had seen the master’s awesome performance in Houston once.
    He had said “America Bhogaboomi, aadare Bharata tyaagabhoomi”
    100% true

  12. Not A Witty Nick Says:

    A person with so much contribution to the art and culture of our country, our elected leaders fail to acknowledge it. :(

    We should have a people’s alternative to the various national honours where the real deserving people are recognised and the awards are not reserved for fellow ideologues and wag-tails.

  13. Coffee addict Says:

    New Delhi, dhns: The Sangeet Natak Akademi has mourned the passing away of eminent Yakshagana master Keremane Shambhu Hegde.

    The Akademi hailed him as an outstanding artiste. “On his passing away, the world of Indian theatre traditions has lost an outstanding personality,” the Akademi said in a resolution. “A versatile actor, he had played some 175 roles, male and female, in a large number of performances and had won wide acclaim at home and abroad. He had also brought about innovative changes in the repertoire and techniques of Yakshagana.”

  14. tarlesubba Says:

    hegdaere, neev badkidaaglantu haeLlilla. eeglaadru haeLbeku.


    wherever passionate and dedicated men go, i hope you go there.

  15. Dakshin Says:

    Keremane Shambhu Hegde was a genuine Yakshagana legend. Its regretable that he was not honoured with any Padma award. He deserved it and his contribution to Yakshagana is immense.

  16. ramu Says:

    Shambu Hegde was not just great artist, wonderful human being as well. It is a great loss….On the other hand, how lucky he should be to say bye to this worldly life in such a manner……

  17. P. Bilimale Says:

    Delhi Karnataka Sangha organizes a tribute to Keremane on February 8, 2009 at 11 am at its seminar hall.

  18. Venkatraman Marathi Says:

    It is really sad to miss him…Great artist, protectot of Kannada culture… Thank lot to you…

  19. Shankar Shetty - Kuwait Says:

    Oh God!

    My long held dream of organizing a Yakshagana at my home in Padu Kudoor (Karkala), invloving this great artist remained an empty dream, never to fulfilled.

    I think this great artist has no parallel in Yakshaga histroy. Not in the past, not in future.

  20. Kavita Sadashiv Says:

    It is a great loss to the YAKSHAGANA ART.But I hope his son will try to fill the void and continue the parampara.

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