Music

Power of Harikatha

Pool of knowlege Simhachala Sastry, a man of many words and talents. Photo: C.V. Subrahmanyam.   | Photo Credit: C_V_SUBRAHMANYAM

Telugus can preen with pride. A Harikatha exponent — not more than 50 years of age — has won the prestigious Sangeet Natak Akademi, an award under the ‘Other major traditions of music' category for Harikatha.

Muppavarapu Venkata Simhachala Sastry is beaming with joy at this recognition, “less on the personal front and more for the medium. Harikatha is worthy of a national award. It is a testimony of the power of this artistic expression,” he says in a humble tone.

Presently working as a lecturer in department of Harikatha and an ‘A' grade artiste of the All-India Radio, Simhachala Sastry's experience spans across 29 years in this performing art. Accolades started coming in at quite an young age, when he was conferred ‘Harikatha Chudamani' instituted by the father of Harikatha Adibhatla Narayana Dasu, the first principal of the Maharajah's Government College of Music and Dance, Vizianagaram. “I was just 38 then. Later, I was also bestowed with the honour of ‘Asthana vidwan' of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam. I am very fortunate that I am chosen to perform in the name of God with utmost devotion,” he states.

What made him take up Harikatha as a profession, considering the non-lucrative aspect of this particular art form? “I took to it at the age of 15 inspired by my first guru Karur Krishnadasa Bhagavatar who lived right in front of my house. That was in Guntur, my native place.

My mother was a good singer and my father had great regard for music. In order to master this very tough art, it was mandatory that I learn Carnatic music. So my parents put me under the tutelage of Addanki Tirumalacharyulu and S. Lakshmi Ramana Rao, where my vocal skills were further honed in a gamaka-yukta (tonal undulations), metrical, rhythmic manner. As luck would have it, I had the blessing of all great names in Carnatic music who heard me in rapt attention as I recited all the vaggeyakaras' compositions in chaste diction and melody.”

Can we know something about the Harikatha as such? “The fundamental aspect of this genre is to bring home to the audience a vision of spiritual reality culled out of Puranic lore. The skill of this art lies in its articulation and presentation. I follow the guidelines of this form with utmost dedication and render it with the objective in mind. Hence the success,” the manner in which he explains speaks volumes of his simplicity.

The exponent is so upbeat about the future of such performing arts. “Despite the constant refrain that these form of art is dying, I'm more than certain that it will survive if pursued with a never-say-die attitude towards to performing arts. Any vidya or learning can reach the zenith only with sadhana or untiring practise. There are no short cuts. It goes without saying that sadhana is the crest of recognition or realization.

To put in modern terms, performance skills create public relations and once this is established on a strong footing people will take to you and to your art. The onslaught of television is a standing example of how to reach people and remain on the top. Performing arts also require in-depth research to cater to each age and generation.

Harikatha has an edge over others in traditional arts field. It can imbibe the current situation and incidences and weave them into the ancient lore as it is being narrated. People can relate to it and the bhagavatar would be able to achieve his objective of injecting the human and ethical values of yore through his medium of expression.”

He swears by this genre when he vociferously states that ‘Harikatha can achieve in one show what 100 universities cannot over a stipulated period of learning. This form of art can inculcate values as it spurs the intellect to evaluate its own moral values and contribution to society.

Many a national leader derived inspiration from Harikathas and moulded their future like Kandukuri Veeresalingam Panthulu,” he rounds off.


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Printable version | Jan 17, 2022 4:55:27 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/music/power-of-harikatha/article2302002.ece

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