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A lesson in Harikatha

P. SRINIVASA GOPALAN

Vishaka Hari used her knowledge to cast a spell with her stories.



Story teller Vishaka

Vishaka Hari an established exponent of Harikatha chose ‘Kuchelopakhyanam’ on the first day and ‘Rukimini Kalyanam’ on the second day for a Sangeetha Upanyasam at Keyes High School. A disciple of two great maestros of classica l performing arts – Krishna Premi and Lalgudi Jayaraman — the young artiste asserts modestly: “This is an art that calls for manodharma.” She chooses the kritis and improvises on the stage as the story moves along. Vishaka uses lyrics from several composers in her performances – beginning from Purandara Dasa to Narayana Theertha, from Tulasi Das to Meera Bai, from Jayadeva to the Alwars. Although her favourite ones are from Saint Thyagaraja “because of the intense bhakthi element one finds there.”

Vishaka has elevated the art of Harikatha, which used to be a mere religious discourse infused with music. Vishaka also performs with husband Sri Hari, who uses his English literary background to supplement her kathakalakshepam performances.

She began her upanyasam on ‘Rukminikalyanam’ with a slokam on Sri Mahalakshmi with mesmerising voice and took ‘Hiranmayeem lakshmeem sada’ in Lalitha. Her references to the context were apt and her explanations and the entry into the topic brilliant. She chose all such kritis and compositions which had a reference to Rukmini and Sri Krishna’s spiritual deeds. In the process she sung Ganamurthe in Ganamurthe ragam with rich ragabhavam followed by Samajavaragamana in Hindolam followed by Thygaraja Pancharathna Sadinchane in Arabhi. Here she explains Lord Krishna’s mesmerising acts in which he establishes Dharma. She concluded her upanyasam with ‘Bhagyada Lakshmi Baramma’ a Purandara Dasa composition.

‘Kuchelopakhyanam’ on the first day was a special one and contained brilliant explanations about friendship between Lord Krishna and Kuchela. The accompanists Anantha Krishnan on the violin was brilliant with his soothing following and Arjun Ganesh on the Mridangam lent excellent support with his nadam and anticipation. The two day upanyasam by Vishaka Hari enthralled the rasikas and indeed it was good effort by Chandrashekar, the organiser of this show.

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