A Silent Sketch

W.V. Rama Rao, was a senior advocate at Visakhapatnam; a scholar and literary critic. His family used to host Narayana Das during his visits to Berhampore. Had several anecdotes to recollect Narayana Das’ greatness and the thrill of listening to his Harikatha performances. A great admirer of Narayana Das, often heard to remark, “Visakha public expressed its admiration of Vizianagaram literary genius by installing Gurazada’s statue at Dwaraka cross roads; however it is incomplete without a statue of Narayana Das at the corresponding Asilmetta cross roads.”

A Silent Sketch

W. V. Rama Rao

At least a little of the best of a great man is worth knowing if you are intending to lay the foundations for a good life. Late lamented Sri Adibhatla Narayana Das (Suryanarayana) Garu is a great man who led a full life in all its facets. He combined in himself the best qualities of a poet, philosopher, artist and musician. His performances as a Hari Das were unique, inimitable and grand, with a reverberating voice full of sweet music based on choicest cadence and rhythm. He was a spark of the nineteenth century and left the trail of his blazing light in the twentieth century.

I do not propose to give the reader a biographical sketch of revered Das Garu but confine myself within the limit of my admiration for the grand man when I was a boy just creeping into adolescence.

Sri Narayana Das was a friend of my father who had the frequent pleasure of entertaining him as his guest whenever he visited Ganjam. The Oriya Zamindars of my native District (Ganjam) were greatly attracted to him and to his versatile talents. He was, so to say, himself a great master who sprinkled his learning wherever he went. Not an Epicurean as many may say of him but a scholar-musician-philosopher a type rare to come across. The prize-winners in Natyam were feeling small before his attractive dancing during Harikatha Kalakshepams. I had the pleasure of witnessing and enjoying his performances; the sweet music of his songs is still lingering in the archives of my mind. I now and then recall his songs and enjoy them with his lovely ‘feminine’ figure before me.

The past, present and future are well knit in his works and translations. No wonder he was a votary of Goddess Rajarajeswari.

Sanskrit and Atchcha Telugu are not familiar to the present day generation but Sri Narayana Das was always at home with them and he could with felicity produce good books in both the languages. Shakespeare and Kali Dasa were his ‘lungs’ to breathe the poetic and philosophic air of eternity. Many may not know that he was the author of a book on Ayurveda also. How in that span of his life he could be so great is the wonder to many in the many fields of culture. Rajahs of Chikati and Dharakote, Maharajahs of Vizianagaram, Mysore and Pithapuram, Judges like Mr. Bardswell, members of the steel frame, poets and philosophers like Tagore enjoyed the talents of this “Servant of Hari”. Too soon to forget him but the moment one forgets him he would be awakened by any reference to the contribution of eminent Andhras to the field of culture.

It may be asked as to why I am impertinent to think of writing a small note on this great man of Andhra and my simple answer is that if by paying homage one is considered impertinent I do not like to avoid the remark. Many might know many things about him but few know his fullness of perfection as a man of varied tastes and talents.

I remain with my best regards to Sri Karra Venkata Rao, M.A., of the Educational Service for encouraging me to offer my humble tribute to the one and only Hari Das, poet and Philosopher, Sri A. Narayana Das Garu.

Reproduced from the "Harikathapitamaha Srimadajjada Adibhatla Narayana Dasa Satajayantutsava Sanchika" (1967), the souvenir published by the Samskruthi Samithi, Chirala to commemorate the great man's birth centenary.

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