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 in North Canara and Chikkamagalur districts of Karnataka. Apparently these two practices are not connected to one another. In North Canara, ‘hagaraNa’ is performed mainly by people belonging to ‘hAlakki okkaliga’ community and to a lesser extent by ‘gAmokkals’, ‘mukri’ and ‘ambiga’ communities. This is performed either during the harvest season or when the people return from a pilgrimage to places such as Gokarna and Tirupati. It is usually held in their habitats. (koppa) It starts after assembling at the ‘tuLAsi kaTTe’ (The holy basil plant) and worshipping the deity ‘jaTTiga’. Hagarana is essentially a donning of various masks, costumes and dresses. Some of the artists prefer to walk on stilts. (maragAl) Every one is bent on attracting the spectators with his get up. There is nothing traditional about these disguises and the artist is free to choose his own attire. Policeman, Lineman, Christian priest, Muslim vendor, college students and deities such as Hanumaan are some examples of these disguises. They move around in a celebratory mood and no religious rituals take place. The show is confined to the men folk. Background musical support is provided by instruments such as ‘gumaTe’ and ‘maddaLe’. This harvest ‘hagaraNa’ often concludes at the place where the River Aghanaashini meets merges with the sea. HagaraNa is held in many places of North Canara. Gradually ‘hagaraNa’ is loosing its lusture and as the well known historian Dr Jyotsna Kamat puts it, Hagana these days is reduced to smaller disconnected performances of amateur artistes who take it up for fulfillment of a vow, of their tribe or community.”

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. 


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