Talamaddale-Ancient Art Goes Virtual

Context: The traditional art of ‘talamaddale’, a variant of Yakshagana theatre, has gone virtual in times of COVID-19.


Tala-Maddale is an ancient form of performance dialogue or debate performance in Southern India in the Karavali and Malnad regions of Karnataka and Kerala. The art form is popular in Uttara Kannada, Dakshina Kannada, Udupi and Shimoga districts of Karnataka and Kasaragod district of Kerala.

  • The plot and content of the conversation is drawn from popular mythology but the performance mainly consists of an impromptu debate between characters involving sarcasm, puns, philosophy positions and humour.
  • The main plot is sung from the same oral texts used for the Yakshgana form of dance- drama. Performers claim that this was a more intellectual rendition of the dance during the monsoon season.

Main Features

  • A typical Tala-Maddale show consists of veteran artists sitting in a circular fashion along with a Bhagavata (the singer, with “Tala” or pair of small hand cymbals) and a “Maddale” (a type of drum) player.
  • Artists play the roles of characters in stories, typically, from Ramayana, Mahabharata, and other puranas.
  • Tala-Maddale performances are mostly held during the night, the traditional reason being that in ancient times, people finished their work by this time and assembled in temples to watch Tala Maddale.
  • Kannada language is the normal medium of communication.
  • Episodes have also been created on other more current issues, some of which include the Second World War, the Tashkent Agreement, the Indian freedom struggle (Swarajya Vijaya) and computerisation (Ganakasura Kalaga)



Yakshagana is a traditional Indian theatre form, developed in Dakshina Kannada, Udupi, Uttara Kannada, Shimoga and western parts of Chikmagalur districts, in the state of Karnataka and in Kasaragod district in Kerala that combines dance, music, dialogue, costume, make-up, and stage techniques with a unique style and form. Yakshagana literally means the people (gana) who are the yaksha (nature spirits).

  • Yakshagana is traditionally presented from dusk to dawn.
  • The most popular episodes are from the Mahabharatae. Draupadi swayamvar, Subhadra vivah, Abhimanyu vadh, Karna-Arjun yuddh and from Ramayana i.e. Rajyabhishek, Lav-Kush yuddh, Baali-Sugreeva yuddh and Panchavati and other epics from both Hindu and Jain traditions.
  • The main instruments used include maddale, Yakshagana bells or cymbals and Chanda (drum).
  • Gombeyatta puppet theatre closely follows Yakshagana.
  • The tenkutittu style: It is prevalent in Dakshina Kannada. Tenkutittu is noted for its incredible dance steps; its high flying dance moves; and its extravagant rakshasas (demons).
  • The Badagutittu style: It is prevalent in Uttara Kannada District and places more emphasis on facial expressions, matugarike (dialogues), and dances appropriate for the character depicted in the episode.

Difference between Yakshagana and Talamaddale

  • Unlike the Yakshagana performance, in the conventional ‘talamaddale,’ the artists sit across in a place without any costumes and engage in testing their oratory skills based on the episode chosen.
  • If music is common for both Yakshagana performance and ‘talamaddale’, the latter has only spoken word without any dance or costumes.
  • Hence it is an art form minus dance, costumes and stage conventions.
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