Harikatha may be defined as a versatile and a composite art in which a
single person indulges in the act of dramatization, consisting all the
vital components of the theatre craft such as music, dance and dramatic
presentation of the themes.
is a solo recitation which is a combination of literature and lilting lyrics
which reflects rich musical and literary material in its content. Harikatha
is known in one form or the other with different names like Katha, Katha
Keerthan, Shiva Katha, Katha Kalashepam, Kathaprasangam keertan and
Sankeertan etc in the country.
present form of Harikatha is believed to be 150 years old and existed even
during the early sixteenth century. Most of the religious festivals and special
occasions are marked by 'Harikatha programmes'. The medium of Harikatha is the
cheapest and the simplest mode of communication. It is a theatre craft which
does not require a stage, set, scenery, costumes and other paraphernalia.
Harikatha artiste is accompanied by two or more members and wears a simple,
casual dress. The principal performer is the chief singer narrator of the
story and is called Dassa or Keertankar. He is accompanied by few artistes
in background to give him vocal support. Musical instruments like
the mridanga, the tabala, the violin, the harmonium and the cymbals are
played by them while the Keertankar plays castanets (a two part chinking
instrument made of wood).
of its important characteristics is that it enables the artiste to alter the
message according to the mood of the audience and in the process of face to face
communication, gauge the impact of the message on them. If the impact is
adverse, he is free to change or disband the course through smooth switch-over
to the old stories.
other characteristic is its secular nature. It should be clearly said 'Harikatha'
is non-ritualistic and may be staged on any occasion, religious or social. The
theme is varied but it is usually centered on spiritual values and stories from
Epics like Ramayana and the Mahabharata and Puranas or the Bible.