How prepared are the young people, who take the stage, to present discourses?

Papier mache pillars that shone like burnished gold, with iconic representations of Lakshmi, Muruga and Anjaneya on them. Rajasthani style jalis in the background. Gossamer thin curtains imparting an ethereal touch - Vijay TV had come up with a grand set for its annual ‘Bhakti Thiruvizha’ held at the Narada Gana Sabha.

The speakers were a mixture of the renowned and raw. The illustrious ones are regularly featured, their scholarship and commitment well-known to the spiritually inclined. Would it be worthwhile to attend the lectures of a few of the new aspirants? Random choice fell on Navasakthi Parimalam and Dushyant Sridhar.

Parimalam spoke on the Pandya queen Mangayarkkarasi, who revived Saivism in the Kingdom. She has a voice that would carry across the auditorium even in the absence of amplification. Parimalam explained why the queen sent for Gnanasambandar. The need of the hour was for someone to point out Lord Siva’s supremacy. Who better to do this than Gnansambandar?

The story of the conversion of the Pandya king to Saivism is well known, and Parimalam offered no new insights or meaningful references to embellish the main points. But even without saying anything new, she managed to stretch her lecture to well over an hour!

The last day saw 24-year old Dushyanth Sridhar lecture on Sundara Kandam. Dushyanth has a B.E. degree from BITS Pilani, and works for an MNC. His Tamil lecture had an abundant sprinkling of English words, some of which were glaring malapropisms.

Describing Anjaneya’s speech as ‘pompous,’ and ‘grandiloquent’ was hardly complimentary to Anjaneya and Dushyanth seemed to be completely unaware of this! One wondered why he had to use English words, which were not apt for the context. While describing Anjaneya meeting Sita in Lanka, Dushyanth said, “Anjaneya could not say to Sita, ‘Let me give you a hug!’” This was in bad taste, besides offending religious sentiments.

It is laudable to encourage youngsters but is it wise to field them before they are ready? Discourse is not mere narration. It is an art that combines extensive knowledge accumulated from various sources, command of the language, guidance of a guru, dedication, hard work and humility. All these take time. Premature exposures will not help talent to blossom.

Vijay TV offers a golden opportunity for the spiritually inclined to soak in bhakti and good literature. Perhaps it should think twice before fielding small children and youngsters, who are clearly untrained in one of the ancient art forms used to propagate bhakti.