A True Sampradya Harikatha Artist

Muppavarapu Venkata Simhachala Sastry, renowned Harikatha exponent who has entertained audiences across the country and globe was in the city of Nawabs on Sri Rama Navami Day to receive another honour. The Sanathana Dharma Charitable Trust, Anandavanam, Bheemunipatma,, Visakhapatnam Dist. AP, presented Simhachala Sastry the Sree Rama Navami Pratibha Puraskaram at Tivoli Gardens, Secunderabad.

Enthralling the audiences for over three decades now, Simhachala Sastry was born in a traditional Brahmin family in Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, to Sri M Kesava Rao and Smt. Subamma. Since childhood, his mother instilled devotion, philosophy and fine arts and Simhachala Sastry was initiated into Harikatha by famous Harikatha exponent ‘Kalaprapurna’ Late Sri Karur Krishna Dasa Bhagavathulu, who was the very first disciple of Sri Adibhatla Narayana Dasa, the founder of this art form. In short, Simhachala Sastry attained first-hand training in sampradaya of Harikatha in a true sense. 

In the month of April itself before Sri Rama Navami, Simhachala Sastry gave three performances in the city. Before travelling to Hyderabad, he elaborately performed Sita Rama Kalayanam at his native place, received his honour and returned the same night to perform at Vijayawada the next day. The Rasikas no doubt enjoy his performances as he mesmerises them with his performances and they reach divinity in his art form. Once the Harikatha expert started giving performances, he soon became famous for presenting the Hindu epic- ‘Ramayana’. 

According to critics, the elevating factor in his performances is invariably his deep knowledge of the intricacies of Carnatic music which enables him to emote the various songs he presents to perfection. Many have hailed him as one of the greatest Harikatha artistes of the generation.

Many Accolades: Recently, Sri Vaagiswari Harikadha Gana Sangham, Kadapa, bestowed the “Harikadha Tapaswi” award to Simhachala Sastry. This Guntur born artist is the youngest recipient of the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award and is also the first and only person in India to receive the same in the field of Harikatha. The Tirupati-based Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeetha bestowed the honorary D. Litt. ‘Vachaspathi’ in recognition of his great service to the art form.

An ‘A’ Grade artiste of All India Radio, Simhachala Sastry served Lord Venkateswara (Tirupati) as the Head of the Department of Harikatha in Sri Venkateswara College of Music and Dance, Tirupati. During his tenure at Music College, he organised Harikatha seminars, Saptaahas and publication of books. He was instrumental behind the installation of the statue of Sri Adibhatla Narayana Dasa, the founder of Harikatha, with the cooperation of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams and SV College of Music and Dance.

Religious Commentaries: In addition to Harikatha performances, Simhachala Sastry has also given several religious commentaries on SVBC. To promote Harikatha, he has visited educational institutions and universities to give lecture demonstrations as part of SPIC MACAY programmes. As secretary of Syama Krishna Gana Sabha, Guntur, since 2005, Simhachala Sastry has organised many rare and thematic music programmes such as Akhanda Aradhana of Syama Sastry Krithis.

In recognition of performing continuously for 23 hours, Simhachala Sastry was conferred the title – “25 Ghantala Nirivirama Harikatha Gana Yagna Praveena.” Many sabhas and organisations have honoured him with titles, some of them being – Harikatha Sudhanidhi, Harikatha Chudamani, Sri Rama Katha Sudhanidhi, Sri Rama Katha Dharadhara, Harikatha Kahana Samarat, Ugadi Puraskar (2006), Ugadi Vishstha Puraskaram, Govt. of Andhra Pradesh (2008), Akkineni International Award Rangasthala Ratna (2018), Suvarna Ganda Penderam (2019), Harikatha Gana Kala Bharathi by Visakha Music and Dance Academy (2019), Asthana Vidwan of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham, Achyutja Sri Rashtriya Puraskaram by Shadja Kalakendra, Bangalore (2018).

Simhachala Sastry is now training students to carry forward the glorious tradition of Harikatha fur future generations.Other Awardees: The Sanathana Dharma Charitable Trust also presented the Sree Rama Pratibha Puraskarams to Smt. Maddali Usha Gayatri, Kuchipudi dancer, teacher and choreographer; Sri Challa Sambi Reddy, founder Sri Pavana Sewa Samithi, which publishes works in Telugu and makes books available to school children and needy; Sri C. N. Gnaneswara Rao, Carnatic musician and organiser of music sabhas, also rekindled interest in Carnatic music and Hindustani Music in Ananthapur and Sri S. V. Sastry, well-known artist and short story writer.

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