CHENNAI: Comfortably dressed in a kurta, 31-year-old Bengaluru-based upanyasakar, Dushyanth Sridhar, can blow your mind with his flawless English, relevant examples, and engaging anecdotes. A graduate from BITS Pilani (2009), the inquisitiveness and thirst for knowledge from Ramayana to Bhagavad Gita has made him render over 1,000 hours of discourse in English and Tamil to an audience of all ages across the globe. He has now launched an app, Desika Daya, which will have all his discourses.
From delivering discourse to just one person in 2010 to now having a YouTube channel with eight million viewers and 22,000 subscribers, Dushyanth has come a long way. "My first recording was Ramayanam lectures in English. I recorded about 80 hours, edited it to 55 hours, and released my first set of CDs. In 2015 I shifted to memory card to accommodate the exceeding hours of content. In the end of 2017, I finally decided to make it free for all through an app," he explains.
The app will have harikas interspersing music and lecture, exclusive upanyasams, talks, gallery, and events. "I wanted the app to be an conglomeration of everything. There is a section called prashnottaram where people can post questions. It'll be compiled by my team and I'll answer them. Somehow I felt that I was making money out of content that I did not own. Vyasa and Valmiki have imagined and positioned the characters in strong roles. The rich content with similes and metaphor is irreplaceable," he says. His latest coffee table book on Vedanta Desika, a 13th century scholar, was launched earlier this year. He runs Desika Daya, a trust that restores temples, mainly in Tamil Nadu, and takes care of the livelihood of priests.
For a person who teaches 11,000 people in five continents with the help of nine volunteers through WhatsApp, this very much simplifies the work. Dushyanth believes that unless the questions are answered patiently, diligently and whole-heartedly, the religion will never progress. "More than half of my contacts on Whatsapp are middle-aged. They are just getting used to technology. It was a common question that if everything is available online then people won't attend live discourses. But for most of the people, online medium is a motivation to attend live sessions," he shares.
He has given lectures in 16 countries, metros, tier two and three cities. The talks are laced with humour and they are majorly events from his engineering life. Dushyanth believes that music and dance as art forms continues to unite global audience. But when it comes to detailed upanyasams, it is only enjoyed by the religious sphere. In the last three years, his analytics show an increase in listeners in the 25-45 age group.
While majority of his lectures are complete upanyasams he also delivers a few of them interspersing lectures and music. "I collaborate with musicians, prepare a script, and tell them where to sing. I've also done eight dance productions. While the music lovers complain of less music, the serious ones complain of music as a distraction. I need to strike a balance between both sets of crowd. When I delve deep into the scripture people find it difficult. They prefer superficial storytelling," says Dushyanth who studied in a convent and was brought up in a progressive household. His philosophy is to deliver the content in the righteous manner. He neither prefers forcing thoughts on people nor likes being forced upon.
Dushyanth plans to bring in more ancestral works across different time periods and deliver it through elements of science, maths, and astronomy. He is all set to play the role of his guru Vedanta Desika in a film. "We have not preserved much from the rich heritage of the past. These scriptures will be relevant only if they are practiced. Otherwise they'll continue to remain on the shelves. At least engineering has helped me to think analytically," he shares.