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Mrs.Jayanthi Savithri - Harikatha artist from Tirupathi, India

Smt. Jayanthi Savithri is an omnius Bhagavatharini (Harikatha artist) of TTD propagating the "Pada Kavithas" of Annamacharya in the form of Harikatha. She has recently performed more than 5 performances in Colorado. Desishades got some time to chat with her.

DesiShades : Namaste Savithri garu, We are from, Colorado South Asian Desi web portal that offers free classifieds, events, galleries, local coverage etc. We want to know about you and share it with our readers. To start with, can you briefly tell us about your childhood, how you were inspired into Harikatha etc
Smt.Savitri :
Om Namo Venkatesaya!!
At the age of 12 years, I have joined Sarvaraya Harikatha Gurukulam in Kapileswarapuram near Rajamandry, and was trained in Harikatha, Carnatic music, Dance, Telugu, Sankrit for 6 years. Then I completed my diploma course at Vijayanagaram Music College and got selected for All India Radio. I have been rendering Harikathas for almost 32 years. In 1992, I was selected for Annamacharya Project in Tirulama Tirupati Devastanam (TTD) in Andhrapradesh. While talking about this, I should mention about my Gurus. The father of Harikatha is Sri Adibhatla Narayana Dasu. His disciple is Sri Vadlamani Narasimha Dasu, who was my guru in Vijayanagaram. I am so fortunate to be the 2nd level disciple of Sri Adibhatla Narayana Dasu. The exposure to music and literature is all because of my other guru Sri Rajasekharuni Lakshmipathi Rao garu of Piduguralla in Gunturu district, who was the principal of our Harikatha Gurukulam. He made us extensively work on our epics such as Ramayana, Mahabharata, and Bhagavatam. He exposed us to the performances, while teaching us all aspects of this art form.

DesiShades : What are different stories you render? Did you write any of your own?
Smt.Savitri :
My gurus taught us the Rukmini Kalyanam., Prahlada Charitra, and several pieces in Ramayana written by Sri Adibhatla and Maha Bharata by Sri Parimi Subrahmanya Bhagavatar. As per my guru, a Harikatha artist must be able to render any Harikatha with a prepared script. If the script is not ready, he/she should be able to make one and render. It needs the ability to write the poetic narration (Manjaris and Keertanas) of a scene with grammar rules and the ability to write the dramatic narration of the scene. My guru Lakshmipathi Rao garu has expertise to do this. He wrote about 150 Harikathas such as Bhakta Kuchela, Dhruva Vijayam, Prahlada Charitra, Bhakta Tyagaraja, Bhakta Ramadasu, Bhakta Siriyala, Sugreeva Vijayam etc. He wanted us to continue the writing of new stories, so he thoroughly taught us the art of writing them. Under his guidance, at my early age, I wrote Srinivasa Kalyanam and Kummari Molla. Then I wrote Durga Devi Mahatyam from the Devi Bhagavatam. The famous story I wrote was about Tarigonda Vengamamba, a great devotee of Lord Venkateswara of Tirupati for TTD.

DesiShades : Can you elaborate about the Telugu art forms Harikatha and Burrakatha?
Smt.Savitri :
Harikatha and Burrakatha are two great art forms in Telugu. Harikatha means the stories of Lord Hari, so it is all about devotional. Burrakatha is keen on patriotic or historic subjects such as Alluri Sitarama Raju, Palnati Yuddham, and Bobbili Yuddham etc. This was introduced during the English rule in India, to motivate people to take part in the struggle for independence. Harikatha makes the people devotional, and expose them to the holistic knowledge.

DesiShades : Who are some notable personalities in Harikatha? Who are your contemporaries?
Smt.Savitri :
There are a lot of artists in Harikatha. Sri Ammula Viswanatham, Sri Kota Sachidananda Sastry, Sri Mulukutla Sadasiva Sastry, Burra Sivaramakrishna, Smt Maddali Suseela are some of the notable artists. There are about 3000 artists in Andhra Pradesh. The top 10 artists were selected by AIR, based on their talent in music, literature, dance, extensive knowledge into our epics etc. I am fortunate to be one of them.

DesiShades : For the past several years, how is Harikatha evolving? Are there any modifications to this art form from initial design by Sri Adibhatla with the time ?
Smt.Savitri :
No. Sri Adibhatla has introduced this art form very comprehensively. There is no need to add anything, as it is complete in itself. A Harikatha artist is not just a dancer or a story narrator or a singer, but to mix all these in a very balanced way. The tradition that Sri Adibhatla has established certain guidelines about the attire for a Haridasu and the abilities that he/she must be very knowledgeable into our epics, is able to narrate ably, be able to dance per situation, be able to mix some humor as needed, be able to sing the poetry etc. The tradition has been continuing since his time.

DesiShades : How is TTD fulfilling its role for Hindu dharma pracharam?
Smt.Savitri :
TTD is for Lord Venkateswara. The motto of TTD is to propagate the Hindu dharma and culture. TTD has different projects such as Hindu Dharma Prachara Parishat, Annamacharya Project, Alwar Divya Prabhanda project, Purandara Das project, Tarigonda Vengamamba Project to work on different purposes. Annamacharya project was started about 30years ago, and works on the literary works of Saint Annamacharya, who rendered 32000 krithis. All these krithis have the impact of our Vedas. The project works on propagating these krithis to the world. I am working in this project with the objective to take the bhakti tatva (philosophy of devotion) to the people across the world.

DesiShades : Can you brief about your 2009 USA tour?
Smt.Savitri :
I used to come to US on my vacation every time. But this year I was granted to make this tour on-duty, to work on this mission. I should be thankful to the Executive Office Mr.Ramanachari and the director of Annamacharya project Mr.Medasani Mohan, who let me do this tour that enables me to work more effectively. I am planning to do at least 40 programs in 3months, and I have already completed 5 of them just in Colorado. I am very thankful to Dr.Yasoda Sagar and the local community for I am very confident that I will reach my target with the blessings of Lord Venkateswara and all the community support.

DesiShades : What is your family role in the success of your career?
Smt.Savitri :
My mother encourages me very much. My husband cooperates with me all the time. My son plays the mridangam. My parents and grand parents have exposure to music and Harikathas. Music has been a part of our family. All my family members support and inspire me for my career.

DesiShades : What are the best ways to our kids here to keep in touch with our culture and traditions?
Smt.Savitri :
I see the kids are already being exposed to the traditional music and dance. They are taken to the temple, exposed to our arts and culture. They are taught Bhagavad- Gita slokas and other sacred hymns. This is the way they can be connected with our culture. If this continues, they will be connected to the Indian culture and traditions.

DesiShades : Thank you Madam, for spending some time with us in your busy schedule.
Smt.Savitri :
Thank you!!

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