Dr. K. Savithri Devi
[This research paper was published in the peer reviewed journal "NADAMRUTHAM—The Journal of Music", Volume 12, 2021- 2022 published by the Department of Music, University of Kerala, Thiruvananthapuram.]
Harikatha, yakṣagāna, gēya prabandha, rāga, rasa, daruvu, jati, laya, tāḷa
‘Saṅgīta Sāhitya Sārvabhauma’, ‘Laya Brahma’, ‘Pancamukhī Paramēsvara’, ‘Āṭa Pāṭala Mēṭi’, ‘Sahaja Pānḍitya Vilāsa’, ‘Pūrṇa Purushuḍu’, ‘Puṁbhāva Sarasvati and ‘Harikathā Pitāmaha’ Ajjāḍa Ādibhaṭla Nārāyaṇa Dās (31.8.1864 – 2.1.1945) did invaluable service to the world of Telugu literature and arts by the creation of the novel art form Harikatha. He served Harikatha for six decades (1883-1945) transporting his audience into his world of Harikatha by his awe- inspiring versatility. The connoisseurs of arts of his time conferred on him the title of ‘Harikathā Pitāmaha’. Tūmāṭi Dōṇappa in his ‘Telugu Harikathā Vāṅgmaya Caritra’ spotlights the illustrious period of six decades in which Nārāyaṇa Dās’ harikatha-s reigned supreme as Nārāyaṇa Dāsa yuga in Telugu Harikathā vāṅgmaya caritra, the years before 1883 as Prāṅ (pre) Nārāyaṇa Dāsa yuga and the years after 1945 as Anantara (post) Nārāyaṇa Dāsa yuga. The artiste carved a niche for himself and became synonymous with the art form he created, Harikatha.
Nārāyaṇa Dās authored twenty-one harikatha-s, which he termed yakṣagāna-s, including three in Sanskrit. Śrī Yathārtha Rāmāyaṇamu is the longest of all harikatha-s of Nārāyaṇa Dās. The best aspects of the various stories of Rāma were considered and the story ‘Śrī Yathārtha Rāmāyaṇamu’ was embellished with all the sentiments. It brought together the rāga, tāḷa and nṛtya forms in music and literature and lent scope to the limitless forms of prosody. The great work of art delighted all and sundry and has established itself as the means of achieving material and spiritual progress.
Nārāyaṇa Dās imbibed the knowledge of literature, music and dance naturally and was a self-taught genius. He was an ardent devotee just as poets like Pōtana and received honours of Maharāja-s in the manner of poets like Śrīnātha. He was a great Vāggēyakāra like Tyāgarāja, an independent litterateur like the poet Rāmakriṣna and had thorough knowledge of eight languages like Nārāyaṇa Bhaṭhu. He loved to be original in creativity and detested imitation.
Nārāyaṇa Dās composed Śrī Yathārtha Rāmāyaṇamu after the death of his wife, Narasamma. Her death and this Harikatha composition took place in 1915. He dedicated his work to his wife who admired Rāmāyaṇamu very much. He studied various Rāmāyaṇa-s, combined the two Rāmāyaṇa-s (Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa and Adhyātma Rāmāyaṇa of Vyāsa) derived some elements of both, discarded a few aspects, added a few of those which he thought might be the truth befitting the characters and authored Śrī Yathārtha Rāmāyaṇamu (in 1915) as a gēya prabandha. This is his original literary and musical treasure. He followed the story-line of Vālmīki and Tulasi Rāmāyaṇa-s and the depiction of Soul of Adhyātma Rāmāyaṇa.
Division Of Segments:
The story of Vālmīki’s Bālakānḍa was incorporated in ‘Śrī Rāmajananamu’ and ‘Sītā kalyānamu’. He named Ayōdhya kānḍa as ‘Padukāpaṭṭabhiṣēkamu’. ‘Śrī Rāma Sugrīva Maitri’ was spread through Araṇya kānḍa and Kiṣkinda kānḍa. ‘Hanumat Sandēśamu’ was the story of Kiṣkinda and Sundara kānḍa-s. The whole of Yudha kānḍa was changed as ‘Sāmrājyasiddhi’. At the end of each part there is an ‘Āsvāśanta gadya’ in which he mentions himself as ‘Sahaja pānḍitya vilāśa Brahmaśrīmadajjāḍādibhaṭṭa Nārāyaṇa Dāsa’.
The change was made with the view of bringing the story together to suit the Harikatha art form and the story was adapted to relate to the main characters of the epic. Śrī Yathārtha Rāmāyaṇamu is not meant to be performed in a single day. It was divided into six parts for six days’ performance. Those six parts can also be performed as six Harikatha-s. A capable and skilled performer of Harikatha can perform Śrī Yathārtha Rāmāyaṇamu for thirty days, justifying the musical and literary skills of the composer.
Śrī Yathārtha Rāmāyaṇamu of Nārāyaṇa Dās is an original work, a treasure house of literary, creative and musical excellence.
Nārāyaṇa Dās, an expert of classical dance form, adopted the features of classical dance in his harikatha-s and made use of daruvu-s and jati-s at the end of his kṛti-s and would perform pure nāṭya singing them. He would show mudra-s to explain the meaning of a particular word or sometimes to express the meaning and sometimes to add significance to the abhinaya. After presenting every kṛti with proper abhinaya and dance steps, he would present pure nṛtya on svara prastāra-s. The beauty of presentation of classical dance always depends on the trio of music, literature and laya. Harikatha-s of Nārāyaṇa Dās follow these norms which make them very much suitable for a dance performance.
Nārāyaṇa Dās’ narration of the story would be very interesting and captivating. Every bit of it was musical. The anecdotes and humorous stories in between the main storyline were narrated by him equally interestingly.
For example: In a story where a tiger tries to get hold of an animal which it sees at a distance, the tiger makes several moves before it achieves its target. Enacting the various facial expressions and movements of the tiger, Nārāyaṇa Dās would render it through a rāga sancāra, befitting the mood of the story. By the time he concluded the effective rāga sancāra, the tiger would catch the animal. He would express such incidents through svara sancāra-s in hundreds or thousands of varieties.
Rāga And Rasa In Śrī Yāthārtha Rāmāyaṇamu
Ādibhaṭla Nārāyaṇa Dās was all in one. He appeared the greatest musician to musicians, the greatest litterateur to litterateurs and the greatest dancer to dancers. All arts flourished and reached their peaks in one person. Harikatha art became the right platform for his multi-faceted personality. Though we can’t now listen to his music and see his spectacular dance, we can perceive his inimitable prowess only through his scholarly works which are only a few rays of the vast light of his genius. For him music and literature were the two facets of an art and deserved equal prominence. They are so closely related to each other that he opined: “Music is scene and Literature vision, Music is world and Literature Soul, Music is Prakṛti and Literature Puruṣa, Music is worldly and Literature spiritual, Music is universe and Literature Īswara, Music is Vikṛti and Literature Prakṛti, Music is Life and Literature Death, Music is saguṇa and Literature nirguṇa.”  They cannot be separated. He observed ‘Poetry is abstract, and Music is concrete. Poetry is theoretical and spiritual, and Music is practical and material. Poetry is the cause and Music is the effect. He believed in the theory of Gāndharva Vēda –‘Gītaṃ vādyaṃca nṛtyaṃca trayam saṅgītamucyatē’. He proved that the combination of gīta, vādya and nṛtya is the characteristic of music. He adored and practiced such true music like Śiva Nārāyaṇa Tīrtha. For him the compound word, ‘Saṅgītōpanyāsa’ had a specific meaning. ‘Saṅgīta’ meant gīta, vādya and nṛtya; and upanyāsa meant ‘dramatic narration, combined with aesthetic experience’.
He reiterated that all arts are God-given and they are meaningful only when they are offered to God. He made Harikatha a unique divine art, an astonishing union of arts appealing to perception in totality. All the characters divine and human, men and women, young and old, rich and poor came alive in him and his narration completed the yakṣagāna prabandham. The skilful coordination of dhātu and mātu, the libretto and the music portrayed the intended rasa or feeling. However, the tradition of Harikatha with a proper blend of sāhitya, nṛtya, gīta and vādya had had its heyday in the tenure of the incomparable versatile genius of Nārāyaṇa Dās.
His yakṣagāna-s are of kīrtana-s in a variety of rāga-s that depict the nine rasa-s which are perceived and felt. Śrī Yathārtha Rāmāyaṇamu is the most renowned of all his yakṣagāna-s portraying all the rasa-s effectively. There are many kīrtana-s which can be sung by all with devotion, taken out of the situation in Śrī Yathārtha Rāmāyaṇamu and many kīrtana-s have all the requisite elements for being sung in musical concerts.
‘Śrī Yathārtha Rāmāyaṇamu’ contains kīrtana-s, mañjari-s, vacana-s composed in gait and devotion. Besides composing in prominent rāga-s like Kharahara priya, Śubhapantuvarāḷi, Kāmbhōji, Kēdāragauḷa, Malayamārutamu, Kannaḍa, Nīlāmbari, Śrīrāga, Śahana, Mōhana, Dēvagāndhāri, Nārāyaṇa Dās composed in Bēhāg, Yamunā Kaḷyāṇi, Husēni, Dēśi and other Dēśi rāga-s also.
Rare Tāḷa-s Used
Adept in laya, Nārāyaṇa Dās’ composed kṛti-s in all tāḷa-s and jāti-s. The use of rare tāḷa-s is outstanding in Śrī Yathārtha Rāmāyāṇamu. Tempos in different rhythm cycles create different rasa-s. The right tempo has to be chosen to convey the desired emotion. For example : The kṛtis sung by Bhārgava, Virādha turned Tumbura, Śarabhaṅga, Sutīkṣṇa, Hanuma were set in tāḷa-s Saṅkīrṇajāti Rūpakamu, Sankīrṇa jāti Tripuṭa, Caturasrajātyaṭa tāḷa, Miśrajāti Tripuṭa tāḷa, Tryasrajātyaṭa and Śaṅkīrṇajāti Dhṛva tāḷa.
Śrī Yathārtha Rāmāyāṇamu, comprising six harikatha-s, is a testimony of Nārāyaṇa Dās’ literary excellence, musical brilliance and splendour of dance. Apt rasa-s that suit different situations were depicted through appropriate rāga-s and tāḷa-s. The essence of the art is aesthetic delight.
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2. TūmāṭiDōnappa, Telugu Harikathāsarvasvam, Gunṭūr: Nāgārjuna Viśvavidyālayamu, (1st print) 1978.
3. Vyzarsu, Bālasubrahmaṇyam, The Musical Genius of ‘Harikathā Pitāmaha’ Śrī Ādibhaṭla Nārāyaṇa Dāsu, Chennai: Kaḷātapasvi Creations, 2012.
4. Komānḍūri Śēṣhādri, Nārāyaṇa Dāsa vāggēya śilpamu, Rasamayi (cultural monthly magazine), January, 2007
5. Vāsā, Kriṣṇa Mūrthi, “Dāsugāri Sangītagurutvamu” in Śrī Ādibhaṭṭa Nārāyaṇa Dāsa Sārasvata Nīrājanamu, pp. 1151-66.
Notations For Two Keertanas
1. Rāga: Vasanta Rāmā nava nava Tāḷa: Caturaśrajāti aṭa
Rāmā nava nava mēgha śyāmā | Raghukulābdhi sōma ||
Bhūmijā mānasābhi Rāma saṃ | pūrṇa sarva kāma ||
Satya jñānānanda svarūpa | Sajjana ḥṛddīpa ||
Stutyaguṇa kalāpa drutaharacāpa | sura vinuta pratāpa ||
- Śrī Rāma Sugrīva maitri, p.14.
, s M g M , d N m D | , Ṡ n ṡ n ġ ṙ ṙ ṡ Ṡ |
Rā . mā . na va na va mē gha śyā . . . mā . .
, n Ṡ n D | m d ṡ n d m || g r
Ra ghu ku lā . bdhi sō . . ma . . Rā . mā .
, d N ṡ Ṡ , ṡ Ṁ ġ Ṁ | ṁ ġ ṙ ṙ ṡ n ġ ṙ ṙ ṡ Ṡ |
Bhū . mi jā mā . na sā . bhi Ra . ma . . . saṃ . .
ṡ n ġ ṙ ṡ n D | ṡ n d m g m g r || g r
pū . . . rṇa . . sa . . rva kā . . ma . .
, ṡ N , D D D | m n d m m g d m g r S |
Sa . tya jñā nā nan . da sva rū . . . pa . .
, s M g M | d m d n ṡ n || D
Sa . jja na ḥṛ . ddī . . . pa
Stutyaguṇa kalāpa drutaharacāpa | sura vinuta pratāpa ||
2. Rāga – Bēgaḍa Rāmacandra Sītāmanōhara Tāḷa – Ādi
Rāmacandra Sītāmanōharā | Raghukula jaladhi śaśī Paramātmā ||
Nī mahima deliyanenta vāḍanē | nī mudrikadālpa nātaraṃbā ||
Nīvu dēvuḍani nēnerigitinī | nirhētuka kṛpa nī dāsuḍanu ||
Kēvala dharma svarūpa ninnuṃ | gīrtimpani vāri janmamēla ||
Māyāmānuṣa vigrahā nā | madi śōdhincedavā || yōdēva ||
Rātinātigā jēsina nī pada | rajameppuḍu dālceda nā śiramuna ||
- Śrī Rāma Pādukāpaṭṭābhiṣēkamu, p. 118.
; , G m P ; P ; Ṡ | Ṡ ṡ ṙ ṡ n D | P , m d p m g ||
Rā ma can dra Sī tā ma . nō . . ha . rā . . .
m r g M d P p p m g R s ṇ | S ; ; Ṡ | ṡ n d P , m g ||
. . Ra ghu ku la ja . la . dhi śa . śī . . pa ra . mā . tmā .
; n Ṡ ġ Ġ Ġ Ġ Ġ Ġ | Ġ Ṁ Ṗ Ġ | Ṙ Ṡ Ṡ ; ||
Nī . ma hi ma de li ya nen . ta vā . ḍa nē
; d Ṙ ṡ Ṙ N N D P | P p d N D | P, m d p m g ||
Nī . mu . dri ka dā . lpa nā . . ta raṃ . bā . . .
; , G m P ; P D P | ; p d N D | P p m d p m g ||
m r g M d P g m dpP g r S | ; ṇ S G ; , r G M P ; ||
. . ni . rhē . tu . ka.. kṛ . pa Nī . dā . . su ḍa nu
; m P d P Ṡ ; Ṡ N | Ṡ Ġ Ġ Ġ | ṁṗ ġ Ṙ , ṡ Ṡ ||
Kē . va la dha rma sva rū pa ni . . . nnuṃ . .
; d Ṙ ṡ R N N D ; | P p d N D | P , m d p m g ||
gī . rtim . pa ni vā ri ja . . nma mē . la . . .