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Aestheticism marks Vishaka Hariís discourse on Parvathi kalyanam
A chartered accountant, a vocalist and a story-teller, she is all rolled in one. She has a charming disposition and sports classical attire. A mellifluous voice and an easy narrative skill make this Madisar-clad artiste a communicator par excellence. It’s no surprise that she has a huge fan following. If proof was needed, it was available aplenty as Harikatha exponent Vishaka Hari led the packed audience at Sivakami Pettachi Auditorium to a trip back in time for a peep into `Parvathi Kalyanam’ during a discourse organized by Brahma Gana Sabha on the final evening of the first decade of this century.

Vishaka Hari brought bliss to a diverse audience which shunned other diversionary entertainments to dip itself into some soulful moments on the eve of New Year. For close to two-and-a-half hour, Vishaka Hari held the audience spell-bound. She was accompanied by Dr.Jyothsna on violin and by H.Sudhindra on mridangam and Sukanya Ramgopal on ghatam.

Her musical prowess and knowledge of ancient `puranas’ and epics – they were all in full display. She elegantly combined these two to present in an easy-to-assimilate way a concert-style discourse which had something for everybody. Coming from Lalgudi’s school, her music was of superior quality. As Vishaka Hari commenced the evening event with an invocation kriti “E Vasude Nivanti Deivam” (Sahana rag) of saint Tyagaraja, she spread the invitation for a fascinating journey to discover the glory of Lord Shiva and Parvathi. This kriti was among those composed by the Saint while he was on a tirtha yatra (pilgrimage) and formed a part of the Kovur Pancharatnam. This is in praise of Lord Shiva, who bestows everything on a devotee who worships him just for half-a-minute. He grants this `half-a-minute’ worshiper everything from Ayus to Arogya and Aishwarya. Yet, Lord Shiva feels He has not given this devotee enough! Taking cue from the Saint’s ``Rama Ni Samanam Evaru”, Gopalakrishna Bharathi too praises Shiva as “Sabapattikku Samanam”.

According to Vishaka Hari, Shiva and Shakthi is one `tattva’. Hence, it’s no surprise for her that Shiva is portrayed as Ardhanareeshwara. The world itself is a collage of `Stree’ and `Purusha’ (masculine and feminine). Akasha-bhoomi and Samudra-Nadi represent this principle of reality. Like how Surya can’t be split from its rays, Shiva and Shakthi too can’t. They are two sides of a coin. Shiva and Shakthi are considered `Nithya Dampathi.’ There is no such permanency in a normal couple, who can separate for assorted reasons.

Kalidasa begins his Raghuvamsa with an invocation sloka ``Vagarthaviva Samprukthou” and “Jagathah Pitharau vande Parvathi Parameshwarou”. According to Kaildasa, Shiva and Parvathi are the divine parents of all in this world. A word and its meaning can’t be separated. So does Shiva and Parvathi. Here Kalidasa pays his obeisance to the `divya dampathi’ Shiva and Parvathi, seeking to bestow on him the knowledge of the words.

Vishaka goes on sing a Tyagaraja kriti, where the Saint describes Shiva as a “Nadatanumanisham”. Nada is Shiva and Raga Ambal or Parvathi.

To buttress her point, she renders a composition tuned by her guru Lalgudi. In this, Ambal takes different raga names such as Anandhabharivai, Sarasangi, Bhairavi, Lalitha, Hemavathy, Shyamalangi, Kamalmanohari, Kalyani, Gowrimanohari, Durga, Shankarabharanam and Bhavani.

To an attentive audience, Vishaka Hari explains lucidly the significance of Daksha yagna, as mentioned in the Bagavatha Purana fourth canto. Daksha is Manu’s son. Parvathi is Daksha’s daughter and Shiva his son-in-law. ``Vinaya’’ or humility is, however, not given to Daksha, who disrespects Shiva at available opportunity. Lord Shiva, a personification of all good qualities, is ever pleasant. His disposition toward Daksha has remained neutral always. Notwithstanding this, Daksha’s hostility towards the Lord grows by the day. So much so, he skips calling either Shiva or Parvathi for his grand yagna. Parvathi is known as Dakshayini in her previous birth. For the yagna, he invites the entire community of Devas and a host of others.

Parvathi is a young child who is married to Shiva. She is described as `Bale’ or a young girl by Purandaradasa. Should we not be going for the yagna? Parvathi implores her husband. An intelligent Parvathi doesn’t refer to her father’s yagna. Rather, she reminds the Lord of the yagna being performed by HIS father-in-law. Admiring Parvathi’way of articulating exemplarily a sensitive subject, Vishaka Hari gets into singing mode and outcomes Tyagaraja’s “Maravairi Ramani Manjubhashini”. The lyrical excellence of the composition comes out expressively as Vishaka Hari renders it so beautifully. Ignoring cautions from the Lord, Parvathi decides to attend the yagna. Parvathi’s presence notwithstanding, Daksha ignores any mention of Shiva during the yagna. A slighted Parvathi ends her life in a yoga agni. At this juncture, sage Narada intervenes. At his prodding, Shiva slays Daksha with a strand of HIS hair, who becomes Veerabhadra. He ruins the yagna and kills Daksha. This leaves the yagna incomplete. Following pleas from Devas, the Lord resurrects Daksha with a goat head and shorn of ego. Thus, the Lord facilitates the completion of the yagna.

By rendering “Nambi Kettavar Evarayya” (Hindolam), a composition of Papanasam Sivan, underscores the divinity of the Lord. This kriti is based on Lord Kapaleeshwara of Mylapore. Papanasam Sivan had, in fact, composed a number of kritis on Kapaleeshwara.

Parvathi takes a rebirth as the daughter of Himavan, the King of Himalayas and an ardent devotee of Shiva. Parvathi is also known by other names such as Lalitha and Girija. Dikshitar describes Parvathi in “Sri Kanthimathim” (Hemavathy rag) as a `resonating bee’. Parvathi’s wedding finds mention in Shiva Puranam and Skanda Puranam. Sant Tulasidas mention’s `Parvathi Vivaha” in his `Ramacharithara Manas’’. Dikshitar too refers to “Annapurane Vishalakshi” (Sama), who is the embodiment of all wealth. As she narrates the story, Vishaka Hari often gets into singing mode, invigorating the atmosphere further. Even as Vishaka Hari mentions Lalgudi Pancharatnam kritis, she starts rendering “Jagadisha Pahimam”(Kalyani). Kalidasa also describes Parvathi as “Pravrudha Srimathi” in his Kumara Sambhava.

She then goes on to elucidate how Parvathi the daughter of Himavan meets Shiva at Kailash and how she accompanies her father daily to do service to Shiva and how she garlands HIM with flowers. At this moment, Kama (cupid) throws an arrow at Shiva, but fails miserably. Shiva burns him to ashes with his Trinetra (third eye). At this point, Parvathi realizes that the only way to reach Lord Shiva is penance. She informs this to her mother, who promptly cautions her saying ``hu ma’’ (means no). Thus, `hu ma’ becomes Uma, one of Parvathi’s names. “Thaye Tripurasundari”(Suddha Saveri) is a composition of the Saint on Devi Parvathi.

Vishaka Hari goes on to explain that `sharira’ or the body has to be controlled by following the yoga practice. First Yama, Niyama, dharana and then the mind has to concentrate on meditation. “Sankari Sankuru Chandramukhi” (Saveri) of Shyama Sastri sketches the beauty of Parvathi. Vishaka Hari emphasizes the holiness of Shiva in “Shiva Shiva Shiva Enarada” (Pantuvarali) as she sings this kriti with great devotion. She does a neraval at “Agamamula Nutiyinchi”, interspersing it with some delectable swara phrases. Lalgudi brand is ubiquitous in her rendering. There is also a `tani avathanam’ in the Harikatha discourse! Vishaka Hari pictures the tapas or the penance of Parvathi. During summer, Parvathi surrounds herself with agni. In the winter, she immerses herself in severe cold water. As she endures a tough penance, an old man appears before Parvathi from nowhere. He goes on to indulge in Shiva-biting exercise. A composed Parvathi explains to the old man the greatness of Shiva. When a long argument ensued, Parvathi decides to quite the place not wanting to hear anything ill of the Lord. As she is about to leave the place, the old man catches hold of her arm. When a shocked Parvathi looks back in anger, there stands before her the Lord Shiva himself. Vishaka Hari sings “Parath Para” (Vachaspathi). Shiva appears as Kalyana Sundereshwara , decked in silk garments and jewels like Lord Rajagopala upon request from Vishnu, and marries Parvathi. Kashi Vishwanatha then goes to Kashi yatra. Dikshitar brings the beauty of Parvathi in a kriti as “Kanchadalyadakshi” (Kamalamanohari). By singing “Karpagame Kann Parai” (Madhyamavathi), the artiste transports to the marriage of the Gods. This Kalyanam is like Seetha Kalyanam (Ram & Seetha) who is the foremost `Divya Dampathi’, sums up Vishaka Hari. Well, blessed are those who listened to this Harikatha by this artiste.

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