Hagarana (hagaraNa) (ಹಗರಣ) is one of the earliest theatrical forms of Karnataka. It has survived more as a folk performance rather than a proper drama, over the centuries. Early Kannada texts such as ‘Kavirajamarga’, ‘Vaddaaraadhane’, (9th C.) ‘dharmaamrita’ and the Vachanas of the 12th century make a specific mention of this word and give some details. The information provided in these texts is sufficient to conclude that ‘pagaraNa’ or ‘nAL pagaraNa’s were professional performances presented by artists with proper training and with an access to costumes and masks. (mara moga= face made of wood) Some scholars have tried to derive this word from the Sanskrit ‘prakaraNa’. ‘hagaNa’ is another variant.
Currently, ‘hagaraNa’ is a region specific and caste
specific form of entertainment. Researchers have found ‘hagaraNa’ performances
Another manifestation of ‘hagaraNa’ is to be seen at ‘hirEgouja’ and six more surrounding villages in ChikkamagaLUr district. Here, it is associated with a female deity called ‘baLalikavva’. (ಬಳಲಿಕವ್ವ) This performance takes place during the fair of the Goddess which takes place only once in seven years. The ‘jaatre’ is also called ‘hagaraNada habba’. There are mythological events associated with ‘BaLalikavva’ and ‘hIrEgauja’ houses her temple. ‘HagaraNa’ starts after the ritual death of ‘BaLalikavva’ and her children and goes on for seven days. Actually the wit and humour associated with performance provide a comic relief after the sad event. However there are certain practices that are followed rigidly. Particular theatrical performances and roles are reserved for specific communities and villages and others are forbidden from participation. For instance, bEDara kanNappana vESa’ is played only by the ‘kuruba’s hailing from ‘kuri chikkanahalli’. Similarly only lingaayats from hirEgauja are allowed to perform ‘mArammana vESa’.
Most of the performances are associated with acts, songs and dialogues that are bawdy and ribald. Even here there is no story line. It seems that people belonging to different communities come together at least temporarily and enjoy a few hours forgetting the boundaries that divide them. This feature is common to both the regions.