Prestigious Kerala State School Festival has been going on in Kozhikode for the last three days. Except for some disputes regarding the judgements and consequent appeals, things have been peaceful since the very inception. Any untoward incident can kill the beauty, pageantry and elegance of the Kerala School Youth Festival, launched in 1957, a few months after the state of Kerala was formed. But, this time, the authorities created trouble before the students staged Yakshaganam. They stopped Choukki Pooja, an integral part of the presentation of Yakshaganam. They put out the traditional lamp lit as a part of the Yakshagana tradition.
Consequently, tension mounted in the “Muppilisserry” Stage in the Achuthan Girls School on January 04. Choukki Pooja is a ritual to be performed before the artists wear the make-up and the necessary costumes. It is the concept of seeking Lord Vighneswara’s permission. It has been part and parcel of Yakshaganam for the last several centuries. It is being followed in Youth Festival stages also. The authorities asked to stop the Pooja when the second batch geared up to stage the programme as a part of the competition. They forcefully put out the traditional lamp. Pooja was performed for the teams from Kozhikode, Wayanad, Kasaragod and Kannur districts. They alleged that the units used musical instruments. But, at that time, there was no programme on the stage. It was the time of the interval.
Yakshagana Guru Madhavan Netanika said it was the first ever incident in his 22-year-old artistic life. The artists protested and declared they would not participate in the contest until the authorities apologised. Guru said: “We forgave them, but God would not.”
Police came when Yakshagana artists lodged their complaints. Media men got wind of the issue and went to the spot. The organisers and police prevented them. And two policemen remained there as sentries. The police pacified the artists, then the contestants agreed to participate in the programme. But, the police did not take any action against the organisers who unleashed atrocities against the contestants.