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Singing Gita for spiritual elevation

When he sings the Bhagavadgita (song celestial), the listeners think that the famous audio cassettee of the legendary crooner, Ghantasala, is being played. Such is the richness of his voice. His ambition is to create a spiritual awakening by spreading the message of the Gita.

Meet noted Gita singer from the city, Surisetty Rama Rao. He has been a fan of Ghantasala right from childhood and won several awards in various competitions, when he was barely nine years old.

He met the Ghantasala Venkateswara Rao in Chennai in January 1966 and impressed the latter. "Lord Krishna will protect you" - Rama Rao recalls Ghantasala's blessings and says they came true after 17 years, when he sang the Gita for the first time on stage. There was no looking back for him ever since.

Rama Rao joined as a clerk in Visakhpatnam Port Trust in 1967. He considered Ghantasala his guru and used to sing the latter's film songs when he was in the company of his friends and acquaintances. In the late 1970s, he started practising Gita singing and mastered the slokas.

A teacher at the Residential School, Simhachalam, P. Nirmal Raju, inspired Rama Rao to sing the Gita in public for the benefit of the masses and thus he gave his first public performance at the temple of Lord Rama in Railway New Colony in 1993. Till date he has given over 1,000 stage performances in almost all districts of the State, besides West Bengal, Bihar, M.P., Chattisgarh, Orissa, Pondicherry and Tamil Nadu and also in Malaysia.

He was flooded with awards, rewards and titles by various organizations. His first title "Abhinava Ghantasala" was given following a stage performance at Samalkot in December 1994. The Andhra Dramatic and Literary Society, Jamshedpur gave him `Gita Gana Kalanidhi in November 1996 and the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) gave him a special certificate.

"My most satisfying performance was when I sang the Bhagavadgita on the death anniversary of Ghantasala in Chennai on November 2, 2000. A number of film personalities had attended the programme," he recalls. The Kalpakkam Telugu Samithi felicitated him on the occasion of its silver jubilee in December 2000.

At the invitation of the Telugu Association of Malaysia, Rama Rao sang the Gita in four states of that country in October 2001. He was felicitated and conferred the titles `Gaana Khantirava' and `Gita Gaana Pundit' by the association.

He recorded his first audio cassette in Chennai in July this year. The music for it was scored by noted playback singer, G. Anand. The cassettee was released recently. The drawing room of his modest house at Thatichetlapalem is filled with prizes, mementos and commendation certificates.

Before starting a public performance, which he mostly gives at temples, Rama Rao gives a synopsis of the Gita and how it can be applied in day-to-day life. No wonder, the gathering listens to him in rapt attention. "When you cannot recite all the 701 slokas contained in 18 chapters of the Gita, you can do brief Gita Parayanamu i.e., reciting the 51st, 52nd and 53rd slokas in the 18th chapter. For those who cannot even do this, reciting the last sloka (78) in the 18th chapter daily will have the same effect as reciting the entire Gita," he asserts.

The recitation of slokas will help one to gain control over the body and mind, knowledge and maintain good health. "Man will fear to commit crimes, when there is Bhakti (devotion to God). The vehicle to promote Bhakti is `Gita'. Other religions have also borrowed from the Gita. Quoting Swamy Vivekananda, he says: "The reconciliation of the different paths of Dharma and Karma without desire are the special characteristics of the Gita".

Mahatma Gandhi used to consult the holy book, whenever he had a problem, says Rama Rao, whose dream is to make the world a better place to live without hatred and animosity by spreading the message of the Gita. Going by his discipline and determination, there is no doubt that he will achieve it.

B. Madhu Gopal

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