There was a time when a stage would be set at every possible crowded corner of two states during the festivals. People would gather, and the curtains would raise. Harikatha would begin, telling the most enchanting stories that have been ever heard. You would be left with a surreal feeling of being exposed to an audible and visual charm. Now, where is the magic gone, really?
Harikathas and Purana Pravachanas have been an integral part of the system in the Telugu communities. In the days of zero technology, blissful ignorance and innocent livelihood, people would finish their dinner or break their day long fast to gather, sit and listen to the stories. Skies would be clear and pure, devoid of the present day choking pollution. The fact that you could count the stars without rubbing your eyes twice. Now, where did all those days vanish?
The legacy is sinking, clearly. The first Guru of Harikatha was Ajjada Adibhatla Narayana Das. Most of the dummies of the current times flaunting their Telugu origins and connecting pride with castes and communities would not know that. The great act called Harikatha that branched off from the timeless tradition of the Bhajans and Yakshagana is now a forgotten oblivion. Most young kids don’t even know what a Harikatha means or reflects.
Harikatha – The stories of the Lord
Also known as Katha Kalakshepam, Harikatha is a Hindu religious discourse rendered in a lyrical and a musical way. Originally from Andhra, Harikatha along with its other twin, Burra Katha, still prevails in the most remote parts of the state where people don’t bother to prioritise Wi-Fi over tradition.
From Yakshagana to Epic Adaptations – Harikatha, the Telugu glory
Harikatha comes from the roots of Bhajans and Yakshaganas. However, the art has been adapted and improvised as more legends took over. The stagecraft that began in the 14th century saw the rise of some of the greatest writers and orators who brought enchanting tales of epics and Puranas to the world. The great legends like Annamacharya and Chinnayya came into the scene after the 15th century to empower the act. They wrote some of the priceless compositions that will never die.
The massive evolution of Harikatha began in the 18th century, where modernity added its flavour. Great Harikatha legends started writing more and more stories that were combined with lyrical melodies and instruments.
Poetic Variations in Harikatha
There are graded poetic metrical variations in Harikatha, such as Padya, Churnika, Dvipada, Champakamala, Utpala Mala, Kanda Padyam and Sisapadyam. Some of the greatest Harikatha legends known from the 19th century include Chittimalle Rangayyadasu, Dulipali Krishnakavi, Ramanujadasu, Bageyupalli Anantha Ramanujacharyulu and Lakshmi Narasimha Yogini.
The Current State of Harikatha is in Shambles
The glory is slowly disappearing. It’s really time for everyone to hold hands, come together and resurrect the legacy called Harikatha. There are poor families of Harikatha orators who lack financial assistance. They have no livelihood, thanks to the changing times. If we reflect deep within our hearts, we will want the lost glory be restored. Who better to start with than our own self?