D Uma Maheshwari, Harikatha exponent from Andhra Pradesh, was conferred the Padma Shri award on Friday, January 26 in recognition of her efforts to preserve the art form.
Harikatha, which is prevalent in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Karnataka is a form of storytelling using music, dance and poetry as tools based on a specific theme told through the eyes of a poet or a saint from an Indian epic.
Uma Maheshwari, born in a well-known family of artists from Krishna district, is the first female Harikatha performer to present various ragas on a global scale. Her father was a Nadaswaram artist at Vemulawada temple in Karimnagar. She has given 800 performances in Telugu and about 600 in Sanskrit, and is a recipient of Rashtrapati Award.
In one of her interviews given to a YouTube channel, Uma Maheshwari said she was drawn towards the art form at an age of fourteen while accompanying her family to the Harikatha performances in the town. A local zamindar recognised her talent and admitted her into a Harikatha group where she began her formal training.
Meanwhile, veteran actor Chiranjeevi Konidela was awarded the Padma Vibhushan. He appeared in 160 Telugu, Hindi, Tamil, and Kannada films. After receiving the Padma Bhushan in 2006, this is his second Padma Award. The actor, also the founder of the Praja Rajyam party in 2009, which was later merged with the Congress party in 2011. Along with establishing a charitable trust, Chiranjeevi is known for his philanthropic efforts that include founding an eye bank and blood bank.
Former President Venkaiah Naidu, who hails from Andhra Pradesh, was awarded the Padma Vibhushan for his outstanding political service. Naidu, a well-known BJP figure, has held a number of important roles within the organisation. He served as a Rajya Sabha member from Karnataka for three terms between 1998 and 2016, and also from Rajasthan for a brief period of one year. He was elected as the Vice President of the country succeeding Hamid Ansari in 2017 and served till 2022.