Srimat Ajjada Adibhatla Narayana Das

Dr. T. Kanaka Raju, a medical professional, hailed from Vizianagaram and practised at Rajahmundry. A contemporary of Narayana Das from school days, he greatly admired his literary and musical genius; never gave up an opportunity to attend a Harikatha by Narayana Das.

Srimat Ajjada Adibhatla Narayana Das

Dr. T. Kanakaraju

I had the good fortune of being a student of the Maharajah’s college, Vizianagram, at a time when Narayana Das was in his hey day of glory. He was then also the principal of the Maharajah’s Music College, the first of its kind in Andhra. As a student living in the neighbourhood of Kanukurti-vari veedhi where Narayandas was living, I was fascinated by his talents and many incidents where he chose to be independent and detached from the temptation of being a slave to Royal patronage. I can never forget his walking daily on the road with his host of disciples, singing and making them sing under the banyan tree at the cross-road leading to Kanukurti-vari veedhi.

Endowed with a charming graceful, dignified and well proportioned body he invariably attracted every body by his magnetic personality, keeping large crowds spell-bound in his Hari-katha Kalakshepams.

His scholarship was wide and deep in Sanskrit, Telugu. English, Urdu and Persian and his compositions and Prayogas were original and thought provoking. They cover a wide range, as can be seen in his Sanskrit poetic composition Tarakam. His Yakshaganams, Satakams, his setting to Music, swara and thala and transliteration into Telugu, Rugvedic hymns are feats of rare excellence.

His ‘Batasari’ in Telugu is not, as usually mistaken a translation of Goldsmith’s Traveller but it is an allegory scintillating with a deep philosophy rendered into simple Telugu verse. His translation of Omar Khaiyam into Sanskrit is a work of stupendous and astounding merit portraying bhakti cult, as meant, understood and annotated by the great devotee Omar.

His standard work Navarasa tarangini a collection of world famous popular passages from Shakespeare and Kalidas with their Telugu translations proves his wide reading and scholarship. They are classified under nine rasas, indeed a difficult task particularly because of the different language and cultural backgrounds.

His composition “Dasa Vidha Raga Navathi Kusumamanjari” is a rare and unique presentation which is a feet of memory, erudition, scholarship and mastery over all the ragas difficult to render for even the most talented artist. His play Sarangadhara is original and a sympathetic and realistic approach to human nature, told in most acceptable and lovable manner. Chitrangi is not such a lusty or a cruel being. Sarangadhara is saved from the gallows; he renounces the mundane world in search of ultimate and real spiritual happiness.

Numerous are his Harikatha compositions and Kirtanas. Savitricharitram, Yadartha Ramayanam, Rukminikalyanam, Dhruvacharitra, Harischandra, Markandeya-Charitramu, Gajendramoksham, Ambarisha etc. original inimitable and full of music thought and devotion. It is Narayana Das who created the modern school of Hari-katha ganams combining poetry, philosophy, music, laya, nrutyam of high order accompanied by musical instruments. Never before such rich harvest of pleasure and devotion were so well integrated. He was a whip to society and with a delicate sense of humour comparable to British humour and known for his spontaneity in repartees. He never spared the greedy hypocrite the prince or the man in power. His style was straight and simple, full of sentiment and sampradaya profound philosophy and Upamalamkaras. He gave a new orientation to old classics.

His voice was thunderous, Megha garjana, albeit, melodious and expressive of the appropriate emotion to transport listeners into a realm of ecstasy.

He is rightly called Laya Brahma known for his originality in feats of laya. He is the original exponent of the Panchamukhi Tala, to sing a kirthana in five different thalas at the same time, because of which he came to be known as the Panchamukhi Parameswara. His dancing and abhinaya were exquisite. He was an assiduous reader of classics; with a castor oil Bath he used to pore over into the lore of Sanskrit, Vedic and other literature with concentration, till late after midnight. He was in the sense a student all his life; reading was a passion with him.

My esteemed friend Late Bhamidipati Kameswararao colleted many of his forgotten krithis. He often used to say that the krithis of Narayana Das are more in number than those of Thyagaraja and also exquisite in quality. But it is a pity in contemporary life we often cannot see the bright spots. It is heartening however that he was admired by the learned, intellectual aristocrat and the commoner in his later life.

He is no more with us. But his works will forever live giving us the message of ancient philosophy Bhakti Sanmarga jeevitham through his poetry and parampara of students who could deliver his melodious and harmonious music and philosophy pregnant with deep and delicious religious devotion.

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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