The catholicity of outlook has been the hallmark for Santana Dharma (Hinduism) during its long history. This endowed it with enough resilience to adapt itself to the need of the hour. Though the practical aspects of Vedic religion and culture have undergone a lot of changes over the centuries, the essential core of its tradition – its innate spirituality – has remained intact because of its universality.
The path of devotion has remained popular even though the scriptures recommend several methods for gaining spiritual knowledge. Sravanam, which is listening to the exposition of the scriptures, is considered as the best form of bhakthi, in Nana Vidha Bhakthi.
In this context, Harikatha, an ancient form of storytelling, is considered the best form of spreading the bhakthi movement. It is a combination of music and spiritual lecture, with a lot of thought-provoking messages.
One of the leading lights of Harikatha is Sri Kalyanapuram Veeraraghavan, a disciple of Harikatha maestro Embar Vijayaraghava Chariar. In his exposition on Garuda Mahimai for the Chennai Cultural Academy, he took the audience into the eclestial arena. He outlined the episode in various yugams by this torrential outfulow, commencing with a song on Garuda (Vinatha Sudhanae Veda Vadivae) in raga Abohi.
He succinctly brought out the essence of Garuda Mahimai, revealing how Garuda was the vehicle of transportation for the lord in the first yugam, telling the audience about the helping attributes of Garuda in the various other yugas. He ended it with how, in Kaliyuga, he rendered help to Andal by joining with Lord Narayana.
His admirable exposition in raga Thilang (Hayavadanam Sri Hayavadana) highlighted how Garuda is considered the Pratyaksha Deivam of Vedanta Desikar. The various compositions ended with a fitting finale in raga Husaini (Vinada Suda Rara) of Thyagaraja. It had a telling effect on the audience, attracting their appreciation.
It is my ardent desire that the sabhas should encourage this art, and the governments should have a greater role to play in recognising such Harikatha exponents on with musicians and other artistes.
This will encourage this art and stimulate interest in this art form, which was once the pride of our land.