|Snippets of Information |
* 18 Aug 21
Religious discourses were essentially a means of communicating the
essence of the great scriptures - the epics, puranas, to thecommon
man through easily acceptable formats, different methods of
Smriti or "remembered" texts which refers to a specific body of Hindu
religious scripture. The Smritikaraka defined the qualification of
the Guru in their Smritis. Thus the human intervention through smritis
was essential to preserve the purity of the imparting of Srutis. Also
the Smriti mandates that the person who learns the Vedas should impart
it to others and prescribes penalties for the failure of such duties.
Thus traditionally the guru sishya parampara system ensured that the
vedas were transmitted from one generation to the next by
listening. This time-tested methodology because of its purity of
transmission of knowledge by a proper guru, who was bound by the rules
of the smritis on his conduct as a guru, was adopted as most suited mass
communication methodology in discourses on Dharma to the common
man. Our Smritis include Dharmasastra, Itihasa (Mahakavyas or
Epics Mahabharata and the Ramayana), eighteen Puranas, Vedanga
(the Shiksha, Vyakarana, Chandas, Nirukta, Jyotisha, & Kalpa),
Agamas or the doctrines, Darsana or philosophies (Nyaya, Vaisheshika,
Sankhya, Yoga, Purva Mimamsa & Vedantas).
Right from the beginning, our ancestors carried our traditions by word
of mouth through storytelling and discourses. This tradition has
continued till today. In India each region has developed its own
style and tradition of religious discourses in various regional
languages. Epics, Puranas and ancient stories of wisdom in
Sanskrit were the common material for religious discourses in most of
the regions of India. Such performances were usually held in Temples,
weddings and other religious or social functions and nowadays discourse
has become a part of the fine art season in sabhas too. The art of
religious discourses was usually a one-person theatre, but now a days
more than one also perform. The performer had to be versatile and
resourceful in all the aspects of the exposition and was looked upon as
an acharya (teacher) who can explain religious and mythological texts of
the past with simplicity, to the present and future generations.
Prasangam (Lecture), Patakam (Dissertation), Upanyasam (Sermon),
Pravachan (Expounding Scriptures), Harikatha (Story of the Lord),
Harikeertan (Lord's Praise), Kalakshepa (Narration with Music),
Villupattu (Reciting with bow instrument), Burrakatha (Tales with
Tambura Instrument) are some of the traditions that are practiced in
different parts of India. They are all similar in the sense that they
are all discourses and story telling on religious theme, yet they are
different in presentation style. Pravachana (Expounding
Scriptures) and Kathakalakshepa (Narration with Music) are the two main
forms of Hindu discourses popular throughout India.
Source: The Art of Hindu Religious Discourses, - C.R. Kaushik, Texas, USA, indian-heritage.org
* 18 Aug 21
Harikatha or Kalakshepam
Harikatha (lit. "Stories of the Lord"), otherwise called Katha
Kalakshepa is a form of Hindu religious discourse was introduced to
Tamilnadu by the Maharashtrian Keerthankars during Maratha rule in
Thanjavur during the 17th century. The Bhakti movement of
Maharashtra, called Bhagavata Sampradaya, saw saints like Janabai,
Ghorakumba, Vikoba, Namdev, Jnandev and others use simple verses to show
people the path to salvation.
The songs by the Odhuvars, Villupattu, upanyasam were prevalent for a
long time in South India. It is this art form that was modified and
refined during the Maratha rule. Marathas were great supporters of art
and culture, and Carnatic music flourished and grew during their rule.
During the 17th and the 18th century, the Marathi Harikatha was
introduced in Thanjavur. To Tukaram goes the credit of amalgamating the
elements of the Varkari tradition with its emphasis on songs and chants,
and the Naradiya tradition with its emphasis on narration. Tukaram’s
Harikirtana was later codified by Samartha Ramadas, who gave it the name
Harikatha. Samartha Swami introduced Harikatha in Tamil
Nadu. He established his Mutt in 1663. Some of his disciples
like Bhimaraja Goswami conducted keertans and bhajans in the Mutt
regularly. During the late 17th century, many other Maratha keerthankars
helped popularize the Harikatha style. One of the early pioneers of
Harikatha in Tamil Nadu was Thanjavur Krishna Bhagavatar (1847 - 1903),
who wanted to improve the Kalakshepa style.
Harikatha involves the narration of a story, intermingled with various
songs relating to the story. Usually the narration involves numerous
sub-plots and anecdotes, which are used to emphasize various aspects of
the main story. The main story teller is usually assisted by one or more
co-singers, who elaborate the songs and a Mridangam accompanist. The
storyteller uses a pair of cymbals for maintaining the beat.
The Marathi Keertan or Harikatha were of two types: Varkari and Narada.
The Varkari style consisted of singing various compositions of Marathi
saints. These songs were accompanied by explanations of these songs.
There was no appreciable story telling in this style. The Narada style,
which became popular in the Thanjavur court, gave importance to stories
from prominent epics. Thanjavur Krishna Bhagavathar adapted the Marathi
metrical compositions used in stories to highlight the mood and the
After Krishna Bhagavathar the noted stalwarts in the field were:
1. Sri Soolamangalam Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar
2. Sri Mangudi Chidambara Bhagavathar
3. Sri Chidambaram Srirangachariar
4. Sri Srirangam Sadagopachariar
5. Sri S.T.Srinivasachariar
6. Sri Tirupazhanam Panchapakesa Sastrigal
7. Sri Pandit Lakshmanachar
8. Sri Avaduyarkoil Harihara Bhagavathar
9. Sri Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavathar
10. Sri Thiruvaiyaru Annasamy Bhagavathar
11. Sri Neduntheru Sadagopachariar
12. Sri Embar Vijayaraghavachariar
13. Sri Balakrishna Sastrigal
Noted lady exponents of Harikatha were:
1. Smt. C. Saraswathi bai
2. Smt. Kanagambhujam
3. Smt. Banni bai
Source: kalyanapuramaravamudan.com ; hindu.com
"For 100 years (1860-1960) we followed Krishna Bhagavathar's Marathi
tradition. We are at the crossroads now. We need elements like short,
simple songs and a livelier narration to make it entertaining. We have
to pitch the story telling in a language that is colloquial and easily
understood. In Tamil Nadu we sing in four languages. "
Source: Premeela Gurumurthy, hindu.com
* 1 Aug 21
Harikatha and Burrakatha are two great art forms in Telugu. Harikatha
means the stories of Lord Hari, so it is all about devotional.
Burrakatha is keen on patriotic or historic subjects such as Alluri
Sitarama Raju, Palnati Yuddham, and Bobbili Yuddham etc. This was
introduced during the English rule in India, to motivate people to take
part in the struggle for independence. Harikatha makes the people
devotional, and expose them to the holistic knowledge.
* 30 Jul 21
Paruthiyur Sri Krishna Sastri (1842-1911), revered as
'Paruthiyur Periyava' 'Pravachana Pithamaha' and 'Ramayanam Sastrigal'
was a pioneer of Hindu religious discourses. He was considered the
greatest exponent of the Ramayana, who had traveled all over India and
had conducted discourses in various subjects spreading the knowledge. He
was a versatile Sanskrit scholar well versed in Vedas, who was good
with ragas and had conducted many Harikatha Kalakshepa, narrating story
with music in a grand style. With good knowledge of the Sastras, he
quoted from Pracheena Vyakyanas like Govindaraajeeya Kavyas and Thilaka
Vyakyanas in his lectures and his Pravachanas made him most famous.
Sastri was an avid connoisseur of Hinduism, a Philanthropist and above
all he was a great Bhakta with immense devotion to Sri Rama.
Reference: Brahmasri Paruthiyur Krishna Sastri by C.R. Kaushik, indian-heritage.org, 2008
* 30 Jul 21
Pravachan (Expounding Scriptures)
“Pravachanam” is a Sanskrit word which means a discourse from a Guru on
any matter related to spirituality or code of conduct. In the good old
days of Guru-Shishya tradition, Gurus dedicated their lifetime
propagating the principles they believed through “Pravachanams” to the
interested Shisyas in particular, and to the common public in general.
Purana-Pravachana, literally means, "expounding the Purana".
Pravachan is a form of Hindu religious discourse, which are
lectures about scriptures. The Pauranika or the Pravachan pandit becomes
a spiritual interpreter of these scriptures. Pravachans usually have a
religious theme, usually the life of a saint or a story from one of
India’s epics. He elaborates on the significance of the sloka or
scripture he reads and gives several bhavas and angles to look at a
single verse or even a single word. Upanyasa or Pravachanas concentrated
mainly on Sanskrit and Tamil texts. Music was kept to a minimum
and was used sparingly to recite the slokas. Reading the original sloka
and presenting the meaning was the methodology followed by Pravachan
The 19th-century Paruthiyur Krishna Sastri
provided interpretation and commentary for each verse; creating a new
style, he is considered the father of pravachans. Pravachan, Patakam and
Upanyasam can be synonyms for the narration of stories from epics and
puranas and the interpretation of scriptures.