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Draupadi Sharanagati - A Musical Storytelling

Krishnan Vaidyanathan
06/20/2019

As we navigate our busy lives and feel exhausted someone special comes along and elevates our thinking to a higher level. Smt Vishakha Hari was that special person who adorned the beautiful Chinmaya Mission auditorium at Andover, MA on June 16 2019. Vishakha ji was named Harikatha Choodamani (crown jewel)  by a prestigious Musical organization in Chennai, India. Harikatha is an ancient art form that combines music and storytelling from the scriptures.

Vishaka ji had a traditional upbringing in a typical south indian household that valued education as much as the arts. She learnt South Indian classical (Carnatic) music from the esteemed violin exponent and composer Padma Bhushan Shri Lalgudi Jayaraman.She also trained in the classical dance form of Bharatnatyam. She excelled in the arts while completing her Chartered Accounting (equivalent to Certified Public Accounting) certification as an All India Gold Medalist.  All these skills were put to great use in the service of the divine when she started learning Harikatha from her father-in-law Sri Sri Krishna Premi Swamigal a renowned spiritual teacher from Tamil Nadu, India.

The unique topic for the evening was Draupadi’s unconditional surrender to the Lord and it was started by Vishakha ji singing the Thiruvaimozhi Pasuram extolling the virtues of singing the name of the Lord.  Draupadi, a central character in the epic Mahabharatha, despite the many hardships in her life she always keeps her faith in the Lord who in turn cherishes her unconditional love for him. Vishakha ji guided us through the story of the Mahabharatha starting with Santanu marrying the goddess Ganga and the birth of their son Bhishma. She stayed with the theme of empowered women by sharing the strength shown by Satyavati, Kunti devi and Draupadi. The performance reached its crescendo with the crucial dice game the Pandavas lost themselves and Draupadi in.

Vishakha ji’s entire story telling was carefully interspersed with wonderful music. She sang compositions by renowned composers and saints including Thyagaraja, Purandaradasa and Sadashiva Bramhendra among others. She was ably accompanied by Shri Anathakrishnan on the violin and Shri Arjun Ganesh on the mridangam. One of the highlights was the dialogue between Dushasana and Draupadi sung only with carnatic music notes composed by her guru Shri Lalgudi Jayaraman. Vishaka ji’s rendition of a Patanjali composition along with the mridangam emulating the damru brought Lord Nataraja to us.

Vishakha ji’s 4 hour performance was capped off by a mangalam which followed the audience rising in unison to give her a standing ovation. Her offer to take a few questions was taken up by a few youngsters and she answered their questions with ease and clarity. Most folk did not want to leave the atmosphere of divinity created by the performance and could be seen milling around the stage. We hope and pray that Vishakha Hari visits the Boston area regularly and brings us the nectar of divine love through her music and storytelling.




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