Saturday, January 26, 2008

Sri Tyagaraja Aradhana

The contribution of Saint Tyagaraja, one of the Trinities of Carnatic music, has been immense not only through his compositions but also through his Sishya Parampara, who have preserved and enriched the true tradition of classical music.

Saint Tyagaraja is seen as an Avatharapurusha, who came to this world to savour the souls that suffer in this world. In fact, he is considered an avathara (incarnation) of Saint Valmiki. Tyagaraja’s compositions are rich in devotional and philosophical content. They are noted for their superior structure, superb handling of ragalakshanas and apt choice of raga and words. The world of Carnatic music owes a lot to Saint Tyagaraja for the treasure that he is bestowed on them

Every year on ‘pushya-bahula panchami’ day (incidentally today), thousands of musicians throng the sanctum sanctorum of Saint Tyagaraja at Tiruvaiyaru on the banks of the river Cauvery to offer their musical tributes to the great composer. Saint Tyagaraja is believed to have reached the abode of his favourite diety Sri Rama on this day, in the year 1847. Since then, the ‘Tyagaraja Aradhana’ is commemorated on this day every year.

It is believed that Saint Tyagaraja was born on the 4th of May 1767 at Tiruvaroor. (The life-history of Tyagaraja as we now know, is only from the palm-leaf document of his disciple Sri Venkatramana Baghavathar and from the notoebooks of Sri Krishnaswami Baghavathar (son of Venkatrama Baghavathar)). Tyagaraja was born as the third son to Sri Ramabrahmam and Smt. Seethamma. Sri Ramabrahmam was patronised by the Tanjore prince Thulajaji II. Sri Ramabrahmam earned his living by giving discourses in Ramayana and singing bhajans. Tyagaraja actively participated in the religious activities of his father. Once, during one of the daily ‘poojas’, Tyagaraja sang ‘Namo Namo Raghavaaya Anisam’ in the raga ‘Desiya Thodi’, a krithi which he composed spontaneously.

Upon hearing this krithi, Sri Ramabrahmam brought Tyagaraja under the tutelage of Sri Sonti Venkataramayya for advanced musical training. Then on, Saint Tyagaraja composed hundreds of krithis wherein he extolled his favourite diety as a brave warrior, a King, a Hero. Krithis praising Sri Rama’s eloquance, gait, skill in archery were also composed during this period. Saint Tyagaraja is said to have had a glimpse of Sage Narada through his immense devotion. Sage Narada is supposed to have had gifted the musical treatise ‘Swararnavam’ and Tyagaraja’s krithis ‘Sri Narada’ and ‘Vara Narada’ express his gratitude to the Great Sage.

The Five Keerthanas known as ‘Pancha Ratna Krithis’ sung during the Aradhana are Jagadananda (Nata), Dudukugala (Gowla), Sadinchanae (Arabhi), Kana kana Ruchira (Varali) and Endharo Mahanu Bhavulu (Sri). These krithis are like epics in size and content.

A word about his devotion and love of God. Like a doting child to its mother or the suckling calf to the cow, he runs to his Rama to report, explain, complain, appeal, solicit, beg, weep or to protest and get angry with. Rama was the warp and woof of his very existence.