A Review of Jātika Geetha Sangrahaya: A Compendium of Songs on the Jātaka Stories

Hemantha Situge, courtesy of The Aloysian

Dr_D._V._J._Harischandra_(1938-2013)Dr. D.V.J. Harischandra needs no introduction to the Sri Lankans. He is a well acclaimed psychiatrist by profession for well-nigh five decades who has rendered yeoman services to the nation. His first book entitled “Psychology Aspects of the Buddhist Jathaka Stories” published 2000 was an analytical study which penetrated into the inner aspects of the Buddhist Jathatha Stories – which is almost synonymous with the Sri Lankan Buddhists – hitherto no one has delved into. His book was well accepted by a wide array of readership. This book won the then State Literary Award.“No one has delved with such a consummate insight on the workings of the human mind” wrote Julius Ketzer the translator of the Russian novel Fyodor Dostoyeveky’s Crime and Punishement, Raduga edition, on the said novelist. Harischandra with his rare uncanny, whirlwind romance in psychiatry and classical Hindi music has left an indelible imprint by releasing an audio CD which contains twenty songs “…….. with such a consummate insight on the workings of the human mind”. For all these songs lyrics has been written by him culled from the Jathaka Stories for twenty Hindi enchanting tunes of well-known Hindi musicians. Eleven of them belong to celebrated Noushad Ali’s immortal hits. The audio CD is accompanied by a book which spans into 122 pages in which each Jathaka story is provided with a captivating colour painting portraying the Jathaka story drawn by Nimal Dharmasiri the teacher of Art’s of the Mahanama College. The cover of the audio CD and the book is adorned with a magnificent scene from the Ummagga Jathakaya is an excellent work executed by an artist who deserves more recognition and hails from Ambalangoda namely Nishan Jayalath Wijerathna more known for his pandal drawings for Buddhist celebrations.

This audio CD accompanied by a book is the first to a series of such audio CD’s and accompanied books that would be released in the future. Releasing of the audio CD accompanied by a book of lyrics on the Jathaka stories is the novel concept or theme to the Sri Lankan Buddhists. Songs based on Jathaka stories were known to Sri Lankan Buddhists mostly through Vesak and Poson pandals. This audio CD and the book of lyrics entitled “Jathaka Geetha Sangrahaya” will undoubtedly be sense of solace to the people of all walks of life in our country.

 The most remarkable feature of this audio CD is that a host of amateur artists who are non professional singers have come into light by this rare work of art.  The only shortcoming that I see which should be corrected at least in a future edition of the book is some of the psychiatric Sinhalese glossary terms used in the author’s preface without the Sinhalese meaning or the English term being used at least in brackets. Some words of the preface would not reach the layman who is clueless to this medical jargon or terminology.

 It was Alexander Pope who wrote: “One science shall one genius fit so vast is art and so narrow is human wit”. Harischandra is an exception to these words of Pope.

Dr. Harischandra introduces a splendid audio CD accompanied with a book entitled the “Jathaka Geetha Sangrahaya” – a compendium of songs on Buddhist Jathaka stories, is indeed a panacea for all illnesses, physical and mental alike. It is a prescription sine qua non for mens sana in corpore sano – healthy mind in healthy body. All Sri Lankan Buddhists would treasure in possessing and listening to Harischandra’s mellifluous words on the Jathaka stories that has regaled them from their childhood with irresistible sense of nostalgia and fund of memories……….hemantha.situge@gmail.com

Compendium of Songs on Jathaka Stories was published by Vijitha Yapa Publications in 2012


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