The all-female Harikatha Saptaham saw renowned artistes present mythological stories with histrionic excellence and musical skills.

A recent all-female Harikatha week (saptaham) organised by the state government saw talented artistes from different parts of the state being invited to participate. It was held at Ravindra Bharati’s open air theatre.

Padmalaya Acharya of Nagarkarnool in Mahabubnagar district opened the saptaham with a narration of the story of ‘Venkateswara Kalyanam’, written by Peddinti Suryanarayana Deekshitadasu. Taking some liberties with the original, the artiste introduced a few kirtanas of Annamacharya that are relevant to sequences.

The story, narrated interestingly by the artiste with good voice and musical skills, was based on the oft narrated Sthala Puranam (legend of the location) of Tirumala, abode of Lord Venkateswara.

During the presentation, she explicitly dramatised portions of the theme right from how Bhrugu Maharshi, infuriated by Mahavishnu’s indifference kicks on the Lord’s chest to how and why Lord Srinivasa finally settled atop the seven hills in the form of an idol. Popular kirtanas of Annamacharya like Adigo Alladigo, Vinaro Bhagyamu, and so on figured in Padmalaya’s presentation — all interspersed with thematic narrative.

Bhagavatarini Padmalaya, a lecturer in Mahbubnagar, displayed histrionic excellence.

Her daughter, also well versed in the art of Harikatha, also presented some songs, giving her mother a break now and then. However, she avoided dancing, which is a Harikatha norm, for some reason. The accompanists made a curious combination of key board by Sankar and tabla by Hanumanthu.

Rukmini Kalyanam

On the second day, D. Umamaheswari of Hyderabad presented her favourite subject of ‘Rukmini Kalyanam’, originally written by Harikatha Pitamaha Adibhatla Narayanadasu.

The story narrates the love story and marriage of princess Rukmini with Srikrishna, and the problems that Rukmini faced in the process. Umamaheswari opened the narration with Rukmini’s birth and how as a young woman she falls in love with Krishna.

Her brother Rukmi however wants her to marry Sisupala. Rukmini’s letter to Krishna requesting him to take her away and the subsequent arrival of Krishna and their elopement and consequent battle with Rukmi form the rest of the narration.

Umamaheswari is an artiste well equipped with musical knowledge and art of drama by virtue of being a student of Harikatha Pathasala in Kapileswarapuram.

She sings extremely well and has the skill of presenting a few dance movements too. She was accompanied by Ramgopal on violin and Padala Ramadasu on mridangam.

Bhakta Markandeya

P. Vijayalakshmi a native of Kapileswaram and student of the Harikatha Pathasala there, presented the story of ‘Bhakta Markandeya’. Since this story is not often narrated, it attracted greater attention. It is about childless Mrikanda Mahamuni praying to Lord Brahma to give them a child.

Lord appears before him and places a choice to choose between a boy with short span of life but with impeccable character or one who is wayward. The sage chooses the former and is then blessed with a son Markandeya who grows up to be a great devotee of Lord Siva. Eventually, when it is time for Lord Yama (God of death) to fulfill his duty of terminating the life of the boy, as was destined, Lord Siva appears and saves the boy by blessing him with a long life - all because of Markandeya’s devotion.

In her narration, Vijayalakshmi displayed a good sense of drama and musical skills that captured the interest of the audience.