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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Harikatha exponent Sri Embar Kasthuri Iyengar

Harikatha is a form of Hindu religious discourse in the format of storytelling tuned to music and laced with moral values. Harikatha usually deals with the stories from the Indian epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata or the life of saints.  It aims  to educate the people on the literary and religious values.   In some ways in Ramayana age itself, this existed and Naradha muni propagated; the epic Hero Rama’s sons Lava Kusha sang the ithihasam Ramayana as learnt from Sage Valmiki.  Harikatha owes its existence to Andhra Pradesh and is still prevalent in most parts as an age-old tradition. 

There are only few exponents in this classical art. Sri TN Seshagopalan, the famed vocalist  was recently conferred ‘Harikatha Choodamani’ Award by Sri Krishna Gana Sabha. Earlier recipients of this award  are Kalyanapuram Aravamudhachariar and Thanjavur Kamala Murthy.

For generations, Harikatha exponents have conjectured everything from the effortless, spontaneous outpourings to mystic compositions of Puranic yore, bringing them to life in Harikatha. The art of imparting good values and spreading religious beliefs through the means of story telling has existed from time immemorial, in almost all ancient civilizations of the world. For us the greatest Ithihasa purana - Valmiki’s Ramayana is structured as the narrative of the sons of Rama, Kusha and Lava, at their father’s court. Most importantly the twins are described as having sung the work. The unique art of Harikatha sprung to prominence a couple of centuries ago. It was well sustained and supported by many kings – prominent among them being the Maratha kingdom of Thanjavur.

In recent times, the most famous among Harikatha exponents have been Sri Embar Vijayaragavachariar and Sri TS Balakrishna Sastrigal.  There is now youngster in their footsteps – Sri Embar Kasthuri Iyengar hailing from Thiruvali Thirunagari.

At Thiruvallikkeni divyadesam, sashtiapthapoorthi celebrations of   Methavimani, Gambhira Vakvarshi, Dr Mandayam Ananthanpillai Venkatakrishnan Swami was celebrated grandly. The first phase lined up great scholars performing kalakshepams at Nampillai sannathi at Thiruvallikkeni.   It is reaching a crescendo and on Sri Jayanthi day  with  – ‘Krishna Ganam’ by Padma Bushan, Sangeetha Kalanidhi, Vainika Gayaka Shiromani, Harikatha Choodamani  Madurai TN Seshagopalan. 

On 22nd Sept. 2014,  it was Harikatha kalakshepam by Sri Embar Kasthuri at Sri Parthasarathi Swami Thirukovil.  Sri Kasthuri enthralled the audience by his devoted uninhibited style of story telling, singing, jathi – permeated with bakthi rasa.  Here are some photos taken on the occasion.

Adiyen Srinivasa dhasan.

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