Sri Embar Vijayaraghavachariar (herein after Embar for the sake of simplicity) was born in Chidambaram to Embar Srirangachariar and Pundareega Ammal who hailed from a family whose members had shed luster on the twin disciplines of Scholarships and Harikatha - A discourse given on a sacred theme to the accompaniment of music.The appellation .Embar. dignifies the descent of the family from Embar, a cousin of Sri Bhagavad Ramanuja,the acharya who popularised the tenents of Sri Vaishnavism, whose original name was Govinda.
Embar's grandfather was the illustrious Embar Varadachariar who learnt Shastras from his uncle Mahamahopadhyaya Nadadur Sadagopachariar. SrI Varadachariyar had an excellent voice and was proficient in singing in Tamil, Sanskrit and Telugu. He was popularly known as .Ramayana Iyengar.. Born in Thirunagari, the birth place of Thirumangai Alwar, Varadachariar studied at Kumbakonam and settled down at Chidambaram. Gopalakrisna Bharathi of .Nandanar Charitram. fame was his close associate and used to get his compositions approved by the later.
Embar grew up till his 21st year under the fostering care of his illustrious grandfather. His father Embar Srirangachariar was a distinguished Harikatha exponent of his times and a scholar of rare merit in Tamil, Sanskrit and Telugu. His vocal support singers were Vidwans like Ramachandra Iyer and Subramanya Iyer who belonged to the Sishya Parampara of Saint Thyagaraja.
Embar studied up to Matriculation and then joined .the College of Oriental arts. at Chidambaram affiliated to the Meenakshi College which later gave birth to Annamalai University. He was the favorite student of Sri Dandapani Dikshitar and became a .Double Sironmani. in Vedanta and Sahithya. He also acquired a degree in Tamil grammar and Literature. Concurrently, he studied Music and Harikatha under his father and learnt Telugu and Marathi, indispensable for a Harikatha artiste. He also learnt Hindi. After nearly a quarter of a century of tutelage, he embarked upon his career as Harikatha exponent. His father, Srirangachariar, who watched his son.s first performance from the last row was said to have stated that the young Vijayaraghavan seemed to be doing .Ok . with his presentation.
For over 60 years, Embar (as Vijayaraghavan was now called), enthralled audiences all over India and abroad where Tamils lived in large numbers. He donated the entire proceeds from, his first trip to Singapore for the renovation of the temple car and the Tank (Kamalalayam) at Thiruvaroor. He has made large donations to the Murugan Temple at PetalingJaya , Malaysia and for other charitable causes during his lifetime.
He was one of the earliest Bhagavathars to perform a Harikatha for five days on the life of Saint Thyagarajar. Although a vaishnavite , he had made extensive studies of texts on Saivisam, Saktham and Kaumaram and was able to perform Harikatha on the deities and saints of those philosophies. Pravachanas on the lives of Ramanuja and Vedanta Desika were his specialties. Early in life he commenced giving musical discourses on the lives of composers like Muthuswmai Dikshitar and Shyama Shastrigal and on spiritual personages like Bhagavan Ramana Maharishi, Ramakrishna Paramahansar, Saradamani Devi and national leaders like Mahatma Gandhi. His Harikatha on Nandanar deserves special mention as it was an inheritance from his father Chidambaram Srirangachariar whose Nandanar Charithram still remains unexcelled.
The distinctive features of Embar.s performances included sound knowledge of Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu , Marathi and Hindi, his erudition in Hindu sacred lore , a fabulous memory and unsurpassed powers of exposition. He had the uncommon ability to establish rapport with his audiences and keep them glued to their seats. He had a sparkling sense of humor, which however, was never allowed to detract from the high intellectual level of his discourses. He had the fine power of story telling and waving a fascinating Harikatha from common place themes. His language was always marked by elegance and refined gracefulness. He could bring abstruse philosophical truths within the ken of the average listener.
Embar had a sound knowledge of music and was an excellent singer himself. He was supported vocally by his younger brother Embar Raghunathan and his youngest brother Sri. Lakshmi Narasimhan was often seen to accompany him on the Mridangam. He was an authority on the origin and evolution of Harikatha as an art form and his two articles on .the History of Harikatha. and .Musical forms handled in Harikatha. published in the Journal of the MusicAcademy, Madras, represent a treasure trove to musicologists and researchers. No wonder that Sri Embar has won many awards and received honours. In this web page we present some of his discourses for the pleasure of your listening.