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Jesus banned in Yakshagana? Is it fair to see the art form through the eyes of religion?

  • The revised version of the book 'Mahachetana - Yesu Christa Mahatme' will be released on May 27
  • The author Muliya Keshvaiah has the credit of introducing 'Talamaddale' in English too
  • Hindu fundamentalists have opposed the book calling it as an attempt of conversion

Is it fair to see Yakshagana through the eyes of religion
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Forty years after he wrote the original book 'Mahachetana - Yesu Christa Mahatme' (The life and journey of Jesus) which witnessed many successful stage adaptations before being translated into other languages, veteran author Muliya Keshvaiah's revised edition of the book has now stirred a controversy. This book of Yakshgana beautifully recalls the life and journey of Jesus Christ is making news for all the wrong reasons with Hindu fundamentalists crying against it. The book will be released at Don Bosco Hall on May 27 in Mangaluru. The author is now releasing the book with explanation and footnotes for better reach.

In fact, the book originally was published in 1976 and it was adapted to the stage performance. Yakshagana artistes had performed to a packed audience then, for the first time in Mangauru Town Hall in 1980. The team went on to present over 100 shows later. Muliya Keshvaiah earned an appreciation from the Vatican for his attempt.

Besides, the book was translated into English and German languages and Yakshagana performances were presented in these languages too. Yet, there was not a single incident that raised a voice against the author's attempt to bring the story of Jesus to folklore.

But a few people identified with various fringe Hindu organisations have now raised an objection to the book terming that this is an attempt by the author to provoke conversion among Hindus. Yuva Brigade founder Chakravarthy Sulibele's caustic remarks on the programme - on his Facebook - have been lapped up by his legion of fans and others.

But the celebrated author, Muliya Keshvaiah, scoffs of at such accusations. Christianity is like any other religion which advocates peace and non-violence among other values. Even Hinduism advocates it and not to forget Buddhism and Jainism that are based on these values. Does that mean, I'm not a Hindu, asks Muliya Keshvaiah.

"What's wrong in having a Yakshagana literature on Jesus? Is Jesus is an untouchable? Yakshagana is an art and the art is not restricted to one religion alone," he says. He goes on to say that "If Yakshagana is only about Hinduism - which is mostly of Hindu mythology - then aren't we discouraging Christians or other community members from watch this beautiful art?," Keshavaiah asks.

Like Yakshagana, Bharanatayam was also perceived to be of "Hindus" alone. But there are many girls from Christian community who are learning this art and do we need say anything about Muslim girls mastering over Bhagavd Gita? Yakshagana is an art and one should stop seeing it from the frame of religion, he observed.

Recalling the performances, when his book was first released, he said there were packed halls in Mangaluru and Puttur to watch the performance. Malpe Shankarnarayana Samaga, a respected Yakshagana artiste, had donned the role of Jesus. "Does that in any way make him inferior to his religion," Keshvaiah asks.

In fact, it is not easy to write Yakshagana prasanga (literature) on Jesus. "We cannot go wrong with anything. I have read at least 60 books on old testaments, Bible and John Milton's "Paradise Lost" to understand the religion, before I wrote the book," Keshvaiah says. Fr Mark Waldar from Moodbidri, who has a great interest in Yakshagana told Newsable that "It's our fortunate that such an attempt is being made." It is necessary to change our mindset with the time and broaden our horizons than seeing the art in an orthodox manner, says Keshvaiah.

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