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Queen of Yakshagana

Dr Kollyuru Ramachandra Rao was born in Kodla, of Karopadi village, Bantval Taluk of Dakshina Kannada district, on 09/11/1932.  His father’s name was P. Narayana Bhatta and Mother Radhamma.

He lost his mother at the youthful age of four. His Mother’s younger sister Parvati then became a real mother to him. Although Ramachandra was the fourth child with three of his aunt’s children, the mother lovingly cherished him as if he were her own child.This is the reason he had never felt like a motherless child.

Grandmother Akkani Amma was a renowned naturopathy physician of their area, so as a child, Dr Kollyuru never needed to visit a doctor.

His proximity to his grandfather Mahabala Bhatta made Kollyuru’s life pulled in towards the way of art.

Mahabala Bhatta was a famous Talamaddale ‘arthadari of the time. The percussion sense of his time isn’t the same as today. He played the reprobate Ravana’s role. He had a loud voice.  He was nicknamed ‘puttu kunna’. He was famous by the name ‘Ravana Puttu Kunna’ which is an extension of his renowned epithet.

‘Puttu kunna’ and ‘Oppa Kunna’ together imply that the Talamaddale is walloping. ‘Oppa Kunna’ is none other than Kuriya Venkataramana Shastri, the pilgrim of Kuriya Vitthala Shastri. They are notable for their ‘Ravana – Mairavana’ percussion.

Alongside his grandfather, Kollyuru would go to the Talamaddale. He would pay attention to the plays with interest.

It was a custom at home that every day grandfather would recite a discourse and poetry. Gradually his recitation was grandfather’s discourse; the grandfather’s recitation was his discourse.

Even when his mother Parvati was occupied with other household works, he would sing the poetry one by one. His young ears received the poetry as ease of practice. Poems such as the Tharave Ramayana, Gadagu Bharata, Bhagavata etc. were all so memorable to him that he knew them by heart little by little.

Kolyuru, first studied at Mittanadka Primary School near Karopadi, Thereafter he studied at Sri Vani Vijaya Senior Primary School and became a qualified student up to 8th grade. This was the capability required to become an elementary school teacher around the time. A person with the qualification of fifth grade was a teacher there.

Sri Vani Vijaya Senior Primary School

Yet, the profession of teaching did not draw to him. His family moved to Kollyuru after his brother Mukunda Raya became a school teacher and settled there. His grandfather also lived with them. Like this, he turned into the Ramachandra Raya of Kollyuru.

He was still a youth of fourteen years at that time. He stopped going to school. Further education, would not have benefited the financial condition of the house. He would spend the day playing here and there. It was during this occasion that his life had received direction.

Kuriya Venkataramana Shastri took over the plantation of the Kollyuru temple and built a house there. It is suggested that he had already understood Yakshagana during that time.

He was also an actor in the Yakshagana play along with making his name by running the Yakshagana Drama Society. This was the time when his son Kuriya Vitthala Shastri was new to this field.

Recognizing the need for child artists for a son’s percussion, “Will you send this boy to a game fair?” Venkata Ramana Shastri asked the mother about the boy who as of late ended his studies.

The mother concurred that it would be nice if a boy who had no work found his way. The following day Kollyuru went off alongside Venkatramana Shastri in 1945.

In addition to the fact that he appeared as a child artist in the Yakshagana Drama Society of Venkataramana Shastri, Dr K. Shivarama Karant’s ”Kinnara Dance’, he also learned the yakshagana dance from the renowned Natyaguru Kavu Kannavana and began performing for the plays along with Kuriya Vitthala Shastri as an impersonator. It was only then when he became a public impersonator. He was nearly twenty years older than him at that time. When Venkataramana Sastri brought  Kollyuru, the Dharmasthala Mela of the Vitthala Shastri was camping in Moodabidri. The beginning of his Yakshagana training started there.