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Bhadragiri Achyuta Das performing Harikatha.

Harikatha (lit. "stories of the Lord"), otherwise called Katha Kalakshepa is a form of Hindu religious discourse, also known as Katha storytelling format, in which the story teller explores a religious theme, usually the life of a saint or a story from an Indian epic.

Harikatha is a composite art form composed of story telling, poetry, music, drama, dance, and philosophy. Any Hindu religious theme may be the subject for the Harikatha. During its peak Harikatha was a popular medium of entertainment, which helped transmit cultural, educational and religious values to the masses.

Main aim of Hari Katha is to imbibe truth and righteousness in the minds of people and sow the seed of devotion in them. Also one of the aims is to educate them about knowledge of self(atman) through stories and show them the path of liberation.

In Hindu mythology[edit]

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A Lady Playing the Tanpura, ca. 1735 (Rajasthan)
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In Hindu mythology, the first Harikatha singer was sage Narada who sang for Vishnu, other prominent singers were Lava and Kusha twin sons of Rama, who sang the Ramayana in his court at Ayodhya.[1]


Telugu Harikatha originated in Coastal Andhra during the 19th century.[2] Harikatha Kalakshepam is most prevalent in Andhra even now along with Burra katha. Haridasus going round villages singing devotional songs is an age-old tradition during Dhanurmaasam preceding Sankranti festival. Ajjada Adibhatla Narayana Dasu was the originator of the Telugu Harikatha tradition, and with his Kavyas and Prabandhas has made it a special art form.


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 emphasise 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 to keep beat.

Famous exponents[edit]

Following Krishna Bhagavatar, other great exponents of this art form such as Pandit Lakshmanachar, Tirupazhanam Panchapakesa Bhagavatar, Mangudi Chidambara Bhagavatar, Muthiah Bhagavatar, Tiruvaiyyar Annasami Bhagavatar, Embar Srirangachariyar, Konnoor Sitarama Shastry, Sulamangalam Vaidyanatha Bhagavatar, Sulamangalam Soundararaja Bhagavatar, Ajjada Adibhatla Narayana Dasu, Embar Vijayaraghavachariar, Saraswati Bai and Padmasini Bai popularized the Harikatha tradition.[citation needed]

Paruthiyur Krishna Sastri started out as a Harikatha exponent and then changed to Pravachan style.[citation needed] Recent practitioners of Harikatha include Veeragandham Venkata Subbarao, Kota Sachchidananda Sastri, Mannargudi Sambasiva Bhagavatar, Banni Bai, Mysore Sreekantha Shastry, Kamala Murthy, Embar Vijayaraghavachariar, Kalyanapuram Aravamudachariar, Dushyanth Sridhar, Gururajulu Naidu, and T S Balakrishna Sastry.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Singh, p. 2118
  2. ^ Thoomati Donappa. Telugu Harikatha Sarvasvam. OCLC 13505520. 


External links[edit]