Harikatha or Katha kalakshepa is an Indian storytelling art form. The raconteur enlivens an oral tale with song, philosophy, scripture, and humor, creating a world of story around the audience.

Our stories explore ancient Indian traditions, trespass into ancient Greece, bring Carnatic ragams to life, and dip into folklore. 

Click on a YouTube video to watch a performance, or a recording to listen to a story. You can also follow Urban Harikatha on Facebook and watch short clips there.

Urban Harikatha team: Aditi Sriram & Shiv Subramaniam

Our latest harikatha was followed by a discussion about ending the cycle of violence that perpetuates itself in humanity. It begins at 57:57 and features South Asian American Policy & Research Institute, Chicago Desi Youth Rising, Apna Ghar, Indian American Muslim Council, and Her Voice Inc.

"The Footsteps of Loyalty"

This story is half words, half song. It takes place half in India, half in Lanka. Its characters are half human, half animal. And its themes are half ancient, half contemporary. This story unites all the halves in the world, to make one whole: the Ramayana.

The three stories in "Ahimsa: An End to Violence":

The House of Atreus suffered generations of violence and betrayal before Goddess Athena intervened. Using her wisdom and patience, Athena created a system of justice that absorbed the city’s fury and hunger for vengeance. In acquitting young Orestes, who had killed his own mother, she advocated “[O]nly peace—blessings, rising up from the earth and the heaving sea.

But sometimes the heaving sea throws up more than just blessings. When Captain Ahab convinced his crew aboard the Pequod to relentlessly chase after a white whale named Moby Dick, he craved pure, fatal revenge. In losing his leg to Moby Dick, the captain had lost his balance, too. But how does a man measure up to something three times his size, and who has no leg to lose? Is there a role for justice in the middle of the ocean?

From legs and oceans to fingers and forests. In north-east India, a once studious young man had become a murderer. He even wore his victims’ fingers around his neck, a rattling, rotting garland that gave him the name Angulimala. What evil drove him to this? And could the old monk passing him by—an easy target for another finger—could that old man curb his vengeful appetite?

"The Spirals of Shiva"

Lord Shiva's temper is as flaming as his cosmic dance. His hair is as knotted as the snakes around his neck, and his sense of humor as toxic as the poison stored in his throat. His third eye sees the world's deepest secrets.


"Goddess Devi"

It takes nine days and nights to celebrate goddess Shakti and the universe's feminine divinity. She is demon-slayer and life-giver, who protects the universe on her tiger.

"Rules of the Underworld"

If storytelling brings adventures to life, what kind of story brings adventures to Death? 

Hear from the Underworld's Hades and Yama directly, as they remember their wards Orpheus and Eurydice; and Savitri and Satyavan.


"The Story of the Sideways Bun"

In 8th century South India, as the year draws to a close, a girl named Andal falls in love with Lord Vishnu and swears she will only marry him.