Narayana Das The Savant

S. N. Jayanti, an M.B.A. graduate from Harvard was a corporate executive. A connoisseur of arts and an office bearer of the Andhra Association, Kolkata, he strove for the cultural and educational development of Andhras and the propagation of Telugu language.

Narayana Das - The Savant

S.N. Jayanty

The name of Sri Narayana Das is quickly associated with his achievements in the field of Harikatha Kalakshepam. True, Sri Narayana Das excelled himself in this field and has lifted this form of entertainment, which up to his time was practiced, mainly as a bread winner, by a few professionals, into a work of great artistry, that combined in itself scholarship, knowledge of music and dancing.

Story-telling, mainly for entertainment and partly for the spread of knowledge, has been an age old form of art in India. The great wealth of knowledge contained in the pureness and the classics has been handed from generation to generation by a dedicated band of successive story-tellers frequently referred to in literature as Sruts. While very little is known about the lives and personal achievements of these Srutas except in the case of a few, we are indeed fortunate to have had in our own midst, Sri Narayan Das, the last of these great story-tellers, perhaps the greatest of them all, at least as far as the Andhras are concerned.

However, his talents as a Haridas are but a very minute portion of the scintillating personality of Sri Narayan Das. A master musician, a composer, linguist, scholar, writer and a dancer, Sri Narayan Das was one of the rare few, who justly deserve to be called savants. Two examples are sufficient to show that he was no dilettante who ventured into fields that he was not prepared to master; just as Ramamohan Roy, the great social reformer, mastered Aramaic in order, that he may read the Bible in its original form, so too Sri Narayan Das taught himself Persian to be able to translate the Rubayat; and again there is not a raga known, in which he did not compose a song a feat that even Thyagaraja did not attempt.

I remember an old friend, himself an authority on music, remarking many years ago that as a composer alone, Sri Narayan Das should find a place on the same pedestal as that of Sri Thyagaraja. Just as it has taken some decades, if not centuries, for the public to recognise the genius of Sri Thyagaraja, one day, he fondly hoped, Sri Naraya Das would be accorded the greatness that is his due. It is indeed gratifying to note from the efforts of organisers of this souvenir, that such a day may not be far off.

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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