The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams established Yuva Layam with an aim to encourage youth to take up classical music, nurture talent and enhance standards of teaching Carnatic music. In collaboration with Sri Venkateswara Music & Dance College, Hindu Dharma Prachara Parishat and Andhra Music Academy, Yuva Layam conducted a youth festival in November 2012. The festival included lecture demonstrations by eminent musicians, debates, quizzes and a Carnatic music competition. About 32 teams comprising 250 young musicians (from the four southern states) filtered from two earlier rounds participated in the final music competition. A conference on Promotion of Carnatic music amongst youth was organised as part of the festival. Yuva Layam published a souvenir to commemorate the event. The following article entitled Pandit Srimadajjada Adibhatla Narayana Das (by Upadhyayula Narayanadas) appeared in the souvenir.
It is well nigh impossible to find a parallel for him in the history of Indian literature. Pandit Srimadajjada Adibhatla Narayana Das (1864-1945) was the only scholar who had mastery over four classical languages—Sanskrit, Telugu, Persian and Arabic—and translated from Persian and English into Sanskrit and Telugu; the only litterateur who wrote a comparative treatise on the works of Kalidas and Shakespeare; the only writer-composer who translated into Telugu and set to music Rig Vedic hymns and the only writer-composer who composed a geeta-malika comprising 90 Carnatic ragas. As a writer-composer who composed music in all the 72 Carnatic ragas he was next only to Thyagaraja.
Pandit Narayana Das was a writer, poet, asta-avadhani, musician, dancer, linguist and philosopher. He was a rare litterateur to whom, ‘the indiscriminately employed and hackneyed phrase ‘versatile genius’ may be justifiably applied’. The Hindu (June 30, 1894) referred to him as a ‘versatile genius’ in a review of his Harikatha:
“[…] an exquisite poet, a versatile genius conversant with English, a profound scholar in Telugu and Sanskrit and an accomplished musician of the most enchanting type. While this pride of Vizianagaram was unfolding the story with his inimitable skill, the audience was beside itself with joy. Not only was he applauded time and again, but at the close, there was a spontaneous outburst from every one present exclaiming that it was a rare and excellent treat. Of the gifted expounder, it may well be and truly said that he is entitled to be spoken of in glowing terms by the best of Pundits, by the most skilful songsters, by the most ardent lovers of music and by the most reputed of elocutionists. The rhythmic cadences of his harmonious voice, the melodious intonations of his musical flight and the snatches of vivid and picturesque representations of nature, conjured up his lively and constructive faculty of imagination and his powerful command of language appealed to the listeners’ spiritual sensibilities […]”
His literary output was voluminous. He wrote original Kavyas and Prabandhas that reflect a rare creative genius, erudition and great felicity of expression. He wrote over fifty books in Telugu, Sanskrit and Atcha-Telugu (Desyandhramu or Telugu unmixed of Sanskrit). His works included original story-poems (Kavyas and Prabandhas), Harikathas, prose works, musical works, dramas, translations, treatises on philosophy and Vedic studies and children’s literature. Here is a brief list of his works:
In Navarasa Tarangini, he compared and contrasted the treatment of the nine rasas or moods in the plays of Kalidas and Shakespeare. His magnum opus Jagajjyothi is a treatise on various streams of Hindu philosophy.
In Rubaiyat of Omar Khaiyam, he translated the original Persian quatrains and Edward Fitzgerald’s English translation into Sanskrit and Atcha-Telugu, to prove that Fitzgerald’s translation did not do justice to the Persian poet. Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (former President of India) had this to say of the work:
“[…] was greatly struck by his varied talents, remarkable linguistic equipment, and technical power of versification. […] The Telugu verses are written in what is called Atcha Telugu or pure Telugu, which is rather difficult. […] I am tempted to congratulate him on a performance which, taking all things into account, is certainly astounding.”
In a review published as an editorial entitled ‘A Monument of Scholarship’, The Hyderabad Bulletin (16-1-1937) had this to say of the work:
“[…] We are certainly unaware of any recent instance in India where so much learning has been brought to bear on what is no less certainly a labour of love, for it is evident that there are few persons familiar with the Sanskrit language who are anxious to have a rendering of the Persian original.
“Pandit Narayandas’s erudition is enhanced by the fact that even in using his own mother tongue, he has selected what is called Atchha-Telugu, a language that only a handful can understand. The work therefore is not intended for the masses, and the learned author expects no profits out of his scholarship. […]”
Sahitya Akademi has recently brought out a new edition of Rubaiyat of Omar Khaiyam originally published in 1932.
His Samskrit works include Tarakam (an original Kavyam that reflects his rare command over Sanskrit idiom and grammar); Harikathamrutam (the story of Sri Krishna in three Harikathas); Ramachandra Satakam and Kasi Satakam. His Atcha-Telugu works include Talli Vinki (exposition of Sri Lalitha Sahasranamams, each in a verse); Vennuni Veyi Perla Vinakari (exposition of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamams, each in a verse) Ruksangraham (also known as Mokkubadi, a translation and musical composition for 304 selected Ruks) and Manki Mink" (an introduction to Ayurveda).
CREATION OF HARIKATHA
Traditional religious discourses in the form of Harikatha as a medium to inculcate Bhakti and entertain were in vogue in several states including Maharastra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra. Each had a different format and they all had more than one performer, for story telling, rendering music etc. Narayana Das opined the art form of Harikatha dated back to Vedic times. There were references to Harikatha in Rig Veda. These Harikathas involved the performance of several artistes during performance of Yaznas. The objective of these Harikathas was to keep the Yaznik awake during the course of the Yazna and entertain the audience. In the Harikatha Narayana Das created, he fused several art forms into one. These include kathaprvachanam (story narration), aasukavitwam (composing poetry extempore), rendering classical music, dancing and acting. The musical part has the usual instrumental accompaniments like mridangam and violin but the Haridas has to perform all the five components. Narayana Das stated that the objective of his Harikatha was to inculcate Bhakti and Jnana and seeking Moksha through virtuous behaviour. Having invented the vehicle, he wrote twenty one Harikathas, seventeen in Telugu, three in Samskrit and one in Atcha Telugu. The creation Harikatha earned him the title of Harikathapitamaha. The literary and musical elite of his time awarded him the title of Sangeetha Sahitya Sarvabhouma.
The Tirumala Tirupathi Devasthanam has undertaken the task of republishing Narayana Das’ Harikathas. Yadhartha Ramayanamu, a compilation of six Harikathas based on stories from Ramayana, Ambarisha Charitramu, Prahlada Charitamu, Savitri Charitramu and Harikathamrutamu (the story of Sri Krishna in three Harikathas in Sanskrit) were published so far.
The Vijayanagaram of the late nineteenth century was a haven of literary and artistic talent and was - to borrow a phrase from renaissance literature - in a state of intellectual ferment. It was the perfect ambience for the muses in the soul of a burgeoning artiste, fluttering wings to break free and find expression in his work. It was in the company of virtuosos like Durvasula Suryanarayana Somayajulu, Kaligotla Kamaraju, Mohabat Khan, Pappu Venkanna and Veena Venkataramana Dasu that Narayana Das’ innate artistry blossomed and flourished.
The cultivation of the Hindustani style added a rare and unique hybrid timbre to his music not usually found in the rendering of Carnatic singers and won him many accolades including those from the Maharajah of Mysore and Rabindranath Tagore. This is because it was unusual for Carnatic singers to be able to sing Hindustani and vice versa.
The hybrid style he developed left an indelible stamp on the progress of Carnatic music. It was adopted by later musicians including some of the greats of Carnatic music, marking it as the sui generis of Vizianagaram music. Eventually when Narayana Das became the first principal of Sri Vijayarama Gana Pathasala it became part of the curriculum, which was sought by Rabindranath Tagore to be introduced in Visva-Bharati University.
Narayana Das exhibited his musical genius in the asta-avadhanams he performed too, by introducing several musical elements in them. He called his asta-avadhanams, sangeetha-asta-avadhanam and asadhya-asta-avadhanam. The sangeetha asta-avadhanam included composing a kriti based on a specified raga and tala; singing a kriti synchronising it with three different talas played by three different panellists. The musical feats in the variations of avadhanam (asadhya ashta-avadhanam and sangeetha ashta-avadhanam) were Narayana Das’ initial experiments with tala which evolved into panchamuki and shanmukhi in later years.
Narayana Das was the first principal (1919-1936) of Sri Vijayarama Gana Pathasala, South India’s first music college founded by the Maharajah of Vizianagaram. In fact, the Maharajah established the college to honour Pandit Narayana Das and enable enthusiasts to learn music from him. The college produced many great musicians. Pandit Narayana Das inducted violin maestro Dwaram Venkata Swamy Naidu as a lecturer in the college.
A MONUMENT OF LITERARY & MUSICAL CRAFTSMANSHIP
Dasavidha Raga Navati Kusuma Manjari is a musical work in which Pandit Adibhatla Narayana Das exhibited his monumental skill in literary craftsmanship and musical composition. It is a raga malika comprising ninety ragas in ten categories and nine ragas in each category. The ten categories are: (1) Sarva-sampurna ragas (2) Shadava-oudava ragas (3) Oudava-shadava ragas (4) Sampurna-oudava ragas (5) Oudava-sampurna ragas (6) Suddha-shadava ragas (7) Sampurna-shadava ragas (8) Shadava-sampurna ragas (9) Suddha-oudava ragas & (10) Vakra ragas. As the ninety ragas are woven as flowers in a garland, it is named Dasavidha Raga Navati Kusuma Manjari.
The raga malika is a prayer to goddess Kanyakumari and is in two parts, the first half in Sanskrit and the second in Telugu. The names of the ragas are used as a part of the prayer in each line of the first part. The same ragas are repeated in the inverse order in the second half. The raga malika can be sung in all talas evolving from the five jatis of eka tala. An important feature of this raga malika is this: while a vocalist sings it, and five musicians keep time each with a different eka-tala, by the time the raga malika is completely sung all the eka talas could be concluded and not anywhere in between.
If a musician can accomplish singing the raga malika to five different talas it would be a great achievement. Pandit Narayana Das used to perform such a feat which he called Panchamukhi, after the five facets of Paramasiva. The five talas correspond to the five facets of Paramasiva known as Sadyojatha, Vamadeva, Eesana, Tatpurusha and Aghora. The five talas he used to perform were trisragati with the right hand; chaturasragati with the left hand; khanda with the right shoulder; misra with the left shoulder and sankeerna with the head. He also performed Shanmukhi (singing to six talas) in which, he performed all the five talas mentioned above while performing a sixth tala called laghusekharam. The performance of Panchamukhi and Shanmukhi earned him the titles of Panchamuki Parameswara and Laya Brahma.
‘Mahamahopadhyaya’, ‘Sangeethasekhara’ Nookala Chinasatyanarayana has this to say of the Sangeetha Prabandham: “A student of this prabandham who begins his musical education with the first line becomes a vidwan by the time he accomplishes singing the 180th line or aavartham. If a music vidwan practises this Prabandham daily, there would be nothing beyond his capability with regard to performance of music or tala.”
For more on the life and work of Pandit Narayana Das and reviews of his literary works, see: