Udupi: Freedom fighter, 'maddale' artiste Hiriadka Gopal Rao passes away

Daijiworld Media Network - Udupi (MS)

Udupi, Oct 18: One of the priceless jewels of Yakshagana art field, fondly known as 'Maddale Mantrika', centenarian Hiriadka Gopal Rao passed away in his residence Sitharama Nilaya near Hiriyadka on the night of Saturday, October 17. He was 101.

A folk musician, a traditional doctor, a freedom fighter who played an important role in the Indian independence movement, Gopala Rao Hiriadka was born on December 15, 1919 at Hiriadka to farmer couple Sheshagiri Rao and Laxmibai. He pursued his education at an aided school near Madanantheswari and board higher elementary school, Hiriadka. He had to stop his education after seventh standard.

He learnt to play maddale from his father Sheshagiri Rao at the age of 16, and Yakshagana art from his teacher Nagappa Kamath. In 1934, he entered the Yakshagana field as an acting artiste in Hiriadka mela. In 1936, he became a maddale artiste. In the next year itself he joined Perdoor Mela as a main maddale artiste and never looked back.

From 1939 to 1967 Rao worked as the chief Maddale artiste of the then renowned Mandarti mela of Badaguthittu. In 1961 he came in contact with Kota Shivarama Karanth. He worked as a Maddale artiste for the Yakshangan dance presentations and seminars of Karanth. Rao's life in the field of Yakshagana art got a new twist after he got acquainted with Shivarama Karanth.

In 1968, Rao joined as the teacher for the Yakshagana center started by Karanth at Brahmavar. Next year, he worked with Peter Class at California university. In 1970, Gopal Rao returned back to India as per the advice of Shivaram Karanth. He worked as a resource person for Martha Auston, who came to Udupi to do doctorate in Yakshagana, and taught her Yakshagana dance.

From 1971, Rao worked as a teacher at the Udupi Yakshagana center for five years. In 1976, he got retired. Later he travelled round the world with Martha taking a Yakshagana team and gave presentations in various countries. In the midst of this he also participated in the NSD camp of B V Karanth at New Delhi in 1973.

Gopal Rao toured the world several times with the Yakshagana team. He was conferred with state Sangeetha Nataka Academy award in 1972, Karnataka Janapada and Yakshagana Academy award in 1997, Janapada Shree award in 1998 and Janapada Siri award in 2012. In 2018, the state government honoured Gopal Rao with Rajyotsava award. The then minister Jayamala had personally visited the residence of Gopal Rao at Hiriadka to present the award.

Gopal Rao has given presentations and conducted camps in several national and international art festivals.

Rao is survived by son, scores of fans and well-wishers. Family members have conveyed that his last rites will be held on Sunday, October 18.

Gopal Rao had played the Maddale instrument last year at the age of 100 and had shown his magical skills with the instrument.


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