Many of these articles were written by scholars in Carnatic Music - Sri T.S.Parthasarathy,
Dr. R. Krishnaswamy (populalry known as Dr.R. K. - founder and President of Sadguru Sangeetha
This short bio is only for the benefit of those not familiar with the details of Thyagaraja Swami's life story. He was born on the 4th of May 1767 and died on January 7th, 1847. Thanks to our imprecise recording of history, there is doubt about the place in which he was born. Most people believe he was born in Thiruvaroor. But, one foreign student of Swami doubts this. He points out that it is the custom to name the first born of the family after the presiding deity of the place and if Thyagaraja was indeed been born in Thiruvaroor the eldest son, Panchapakesan, would have been named Thyagaraja. It is also pointed out that Ramanathapuram Srinivasa Iyengar has in his song in praise of Swami says that he was born in Thiruvayyar. We shall however have to leave it there for now.
Thyagaraja Swami had two brothers. Swami's father, Sri Ramabrahmam, trained Swami in ritual worship and taught him the sastras and puranas. Pothana's Bhagavatham was one of the granthas used for daily parayanam. For a short time, Swami learnt music under the court musician Sonti Venkatasubbiah and his son, Sonti Venkatramanayya. No direct descendants of the Swami are now alive. He married twice and had one daughter who died issueless. Both on the father's side and mother's side, there were welll known musicians and Vidwants and it is said that from his grandfather, Giri Raja Kavi, he aquired rare musical treatise, such as the Sangeetha Ratnakara, the Sangraha Choodamani, and the mythical Swararnavam (distinct from the book of that name now available).
There are many legends which attribute quite a few miracles as having been performed by Swami. Such legends are naturally interpolated, at least some of them apocryphical, added over the years but do have their use in presenting an interesting life story of a great individual. It is not this aspect which is of interest to us now. What he preached is what he practiced, i.e., eschewing the emotional and character weaknesses - Kama, kroda, lobha, moha, mada, and matsarya - but, practicing sama, dama, uparati, titiksha, saraddha, and samadana. In other words, he showed us that we must get rid of desire, lust, selfishness, ego, jealousy, hatred, and fear and cultivate self control, equanimity, tranquility, ability to bear suffering and look away from evil. Hence, what we should remember and base ourselves on, are his streadfast determination to stick to the path of truth and virture for "their" own sake and not for fame, comfort, and vanity.
Saint Thyagaraja wrote compositions that included many forms and varieties: Divyanama kritis, Utsava Sampradaya Kritis, The Pancharathnas, and the Operas. These musical forms varied from the simplest to the complicated and allowed the novice to the learned scholar to enjoy his music and musical content. In the variety and forms, Sri Thyagaraja has left a veritable treasure house of musical compositions.
While his compositions ranged from the simplest to the most complicated and included elaborately ornamented compositions, the fundamental message was the same. Music is not an end in itself but a path to bhakthi and Rama was the object of this bhakthi. All compositions led to Rama, his personal God and Savior. Whether you are a novice or a musicologist, if you practiced music without bhakthi, it serves no purpose and it is like decorating a corpse with garlands and smearing it with perfumes.
We will briefly compare the various forms of Saint Thyagaraja’s compositions. Like the music of the natakas or the operas (e.g. Prahlada Bhakthi Vijayam and Nowka Charitham), the musicology of the Uthsava Sampradaya and Divya Nama kirtanas is also simple and capable of being sung by those with an ear for music, without any special training. Nevertheless, the music of these songs is strictly classical and makes no compromise. We do not find the influence of folk music styles such as kavadi chindu, Nondi chindu, Vazhi nadai chindu, themmangu, laavani etc. With the limited range of notes and with no sangatis except for minor variations, these songs are ideally suited for group singing.
The Utsava Sampradaya kirtanas represent the upacharas offered to the Deity in the course of Nithyothsava. The songs cover Hethsarika, Koluvu, Laali, Uyyala, Pavvali, Managalam, and Sobhanam; rituals followed during this process. Of Mangalams and Lalis, there is more than one in each class. In fact, there are two Melkolupus, two haratis, six lalis and so on. It is a wonderful experience listening to the group singing of these melodies.
In content and form, the Divya Nama kirtanas present a wide range from common ragas like Nada Namakriya or Todi to the less common Aandhali, Ahiri, and Gowri. All the common thalas are covered. Like the Lambhaka type, all the Divya Nama Kirtanas have a pallavi followed by a series of charanas. Suitable for the bhajana paddathi, the pallavi can be sung as chorus and each charana sung by the leader of the bhajana. In their content, the Divya nama kirtanas offer simple namavalis, songs describing the qualities of Sri Rama, those bringing out the relationship of Rama to each member of his entourage. For example, in one song, Samkshepa Ramayanam, using synonyms for feet, hands etc. the kirtana takes the story through from Viswamitra Yaga Samrakshanam to Pattabhishekam. The kriti, Rama Jaya Rama in Yadukula Khambhoji starts with Kowsalya petting Sri Rama and through a series of sequential episodes from Ramayana, takes us on to Sits Swayamvara.
One song lists the qualities of a true bhaktha and another, the list of evils that men commit from which liberation is achieved by singing the Ramanama. One song lists the purposelessness of rituals perfunctorily performed. Sri Thyagaraja asks whether monkeys which live in the forest are practicing vanavas and whether the highway robbers who live in caves are practicing ekantha. In all, there are 78 songs in this category, all of which are eminently suitable for group singing.
The Ganaraga Pancharatna kirtanas are a class by themselves. They are not only musical masterpieces but profound in context.Scholars have found material enough in these compositions to write large treatises on them. A professor of English and an Orientalist, gave a five day talk on these, allocating each day for one of the five kirtanas. The Gowla piece is the longest composition among the five. We will discuss the contents of these kritis in another article when discussing the philosophy of Sri Thyagaraja.
The Kshetra kirtanas are the songs Swami is said to have composed on the deities of the place he visited during pilgrimage.Five kirtanas each have been sung at Srirangam, Lalgudi, Thiruvottiyur, and Kovur. Two each in Tirupathi, Kancheepuram, Nagapattinam, Sholingur and one in Sirkali. Some of these songs are masterpieces with wide ranging sangatis.Darini Telusukonti, Mahita Pravrudha Srimathi are examples and considering the fact that these kirtanas were composed when Swami was over sixty years of age, one can understand the voice range of Swami and how easily he has created these complicated compositions with full of sangatis at every stage.
As the term "Utsava Sampradaya" indicates, these are songs to aid ritualistic worship. In every Hindu temple, a daily program of rituals is followed by singing to the deity; beginning with "waking Him up; for blessing the world; and, ending with letting his rest at night", after which the temple is closed. Every temple has a "massotsava" or some minor celebration on occassions like Poornima (full moon), pakshotsava or fortnightly festival like Pradhosha and samvatsarotsava or annual festival like the Bharmotsvam and Rathotsavam, etc. In simple by lilting and captivating tunes, the Utsava Sampradaya Keertanas provide "upachara" from "melukolpu" or awakening the Lord (Thirupalli Ezhuchi"; inviting the Lord to come to the Kolumantapa; to ascend the steps to the accompaniment of Veena, "Hetsarika"; to announce that the Lord is in Kolu or Darbar and that all devotees may come and workship - Kalayanam, Nalangu, Oonjal, Aarthi, Pavvali and Melukoluppu.
Arranged in this natural and proper order and, sung with devotion, these songs can provide a means of elevating oneself to a suprapersonal level: sangeetha and bhaktha have again and again been stressed as the easiest means of salvation, for one who has no time for complex tirualistic worship. Singing all the important upachara songs takes a little over an hour and, if one can do this at least on every Bahula Panchami day or during Pushna nakshatra (the Sain't birth star), he is bound to experience the beneficial results as time goes on.
Kshetra kirtanas refer to compositions in praise of the deity of a specific town or place. Usually, great composers, when they visit a temple town compose songs in praise of the deity of the temple. Thyagaraja Swami followed a similar practice. Many of Thyagaraja Swami's kshetra kirtanas are very popular and well-known for their musical richness and complexity.
At the invitation of a great savant - Srimad Upanishad Brahmam of Kancheepuram, Swami undertook a pilgrimage. Incidentally, it may be mentioned that Srimad Upanishad Brahmam was a great scholar and saint. He wrote commentaries on the 108 Upanishads. He was also the schoolmate of Thyagaraja Swami's father, Sri Ramabrahmam. Being of old age and unable to travel, Sri Upananishad Brahmam, who was then living in Kancheepuram, asked Thyagaraja to visit him at Kancheepuram At about the same time, Lalgudi Rama Iyer, a disciple of Swami, invited him to visit Lalgudi. Swami consented and visited Lalgudi where he composed and sang what are known as the Lalgudi Pancharathnams. He composed five kritis - two on Saptharisheeswar and three on is divine consort, Srimathi. It is interesting to know that Lalgudi is the only kshetra where he sang both on the Lord and his consort. In the other kshetras, the songs are either on the Lord or only on his consort.
The krits sung at Lalgudi are: Easapahimam (Kalyani); Deva Sri Thapastheertha (Madhyamavati) - both on Sri Sapthareeshswara; Lalithe (Bharivai); Gathineevani (thodi); and Mahitha Pravrutha (Kamboji), all three on Sri Ambal.
Other Kshetra Kritis: From Lalgudi, Swami went to Kancheepuram where he composed three songs: Varadhanavaneeta (Pancharam), Varadaraja Ninnukori (Swarabooshani) and Vinayakuni (Madhyamavati). Then, at the invitation f one Kovur Sundaresa Mudaliar, he visited Kovur (near Madras), where he sang Sambo Mahadeva (Panthurvarali), Sundareswaruni (Sankarabharanam): Nammi Vachina (Kalyani); Eevasudha neevanti (Sahana) and Korisevimparare (Karaharapriya). The last mentioned is one of the two "thana sampradaya" compositions, sung by Thyagaraja. The other is Koluvayyunade (Bhairavi).
Thyagaraja Swami also visited Thirupathi. At Thirupathi, he composed "Thera Theeyakaraada" (Gowlipanthu). Here, he also sang "Venkatesaninnu sevimpa" (Madhyamavati). He later went to Thiruvottiyur, near Madras, where sang on the presiding deities -- "Kannathalli" (Saveri); "Sundarininnu" (Arabhi); "Sundarinee divya roopamu" (Kalyani); Sundari nannindarilo" (Begada) and "Dharini thelusu konti" (Sudha Saveri). At Sirkazhi, Swami sang, "Neevanti Deivamu" (Thodi). At Nagapattinam, he sang "Karmame Balvanthamayenu" (Saveri) and "Evaru theliyapoyaru" (Thodi).
Swami also visited other towns. At Sri Rangam, he sang "Joothamurare" (Arabhi), "Rajuvedala" (Thodi), "Vinradana manavini" (Devagandhari), "Karunajoodumayya" (Saranga) and "O! Rangasayee" (Kamboji). Some scholars include Hetsarikagaraa" (Yadukulakamboji) among the group of Srirangam kritis since the kriti refers to Veena upachara, muthangi seva, etc. But, other scholars believe that is only the "hetsarika" part of the Utsava Sampradaya kirtana, inviting the lord to take his seat in the koluvu that refers to Srirangam and not the entire kriti.
Although Swami lived in Thiruvayaru, he composed several kritis that were in praise of the local deity and describing the town of Thiruvayaru. Some of these compositions include: "Karunajoodavamma" (Thodi); "Parasakthi" (Saveri); "Sivepahimam" (Kalyani); "Amma Dharmasamvardhini" (Atana); Vidhichakradulaku" (Yamunakalyani) "Ehi Thrijagadeesa" (Saranga), "Ilalo pranatharthi" (Atana), "Evarunnaru" (Malavasri), "Machatabrahma" (Madhyamavati), "Parasakthi manuparada" (Saveri), "Neevee brovavale" (Saveri), and "Bale balendu booshani" (Ritigowla). There also other compositions praising the beauty of Thiruvayyaru.
Each of these sthala or Kshetra kritis are gems that continue to shine with utmost brightness.
“I dwell not in Vaikunta, nor in the hearts of great Yogis; Know O: Ye Narada, Where my Devotees sing, There I dwell.”
Of the Nava Vidha Bhakthis or the Nine Paths of Devotion to Godhead, perhaps the best understood, widely practiced and most enjoyed, is KIRTANAM. Singing one’s way to salvation was practiced long before Sri Thyagaraja Swami’s days. The Nayanmars and Alwars, preached and practiced this Marga or path to salvation. We have it on the authority of scholars like Dr. S. Ramanathan that Thevaram and Divya Prabhanda hymns were sung to raga and tala and not merely recited as poetry. To this day, the Oduvars of the Saivite School and the Adhyapakas of the Vaishnavite school, sing the Thevarams and Divya Prabhandams, as part of the temple rituals. Hymns have been composed by various saints and savants, on their Ishta Devathas, songs in praise of Lord Muruga by Arunagirinathaar known as Thiruppugazh, in praise of the Lord of the Seven Hills by Annamacharya, in praise of Purandaravittala by Purandara Dasa, in praise of Lord Rama by Bhadrachala Ramadasa and in praise of Lord Krishna by Narayana Thirtha continue to be part of any bhajans; all of them composed before the time of Sri Thyagaraja Swami.
Bhaja means the worshipping of God or praying to God, singing His praise. This form of Bhakthi was an important part of the daily worship by the Bhagavathas. Members of the public joined in at these Bhajans, repeating the verses and singing in chorus, both at the Uncha Vritti on the streets and at the gathering in the temple. One Divya Nama Kirtana of the Sadguru in Yamuna Kalyani describes the Haridasas setting out on their Uncha Vritti Bhajan on the streets. “Watching the Haridasas getting out on their Bhajan fills our heart with delight. With their waist bands tied well, with metallic cymbals in their hands, with the musical gosham of the mridangams, with Gnana, Rama Dhyana and sweet music, surrendering themselves wholeheartedly to the Lord, and watching them go on the streets fills the heart with delight.
Sri Thyagaraja Swami, being a Bhagavatha in the Bhakthi Marga, strongly believed that music and devotion combined, represented the easiest, sweetest and certain path to the attainment of Jeevan Mukthi or liberation from the cycle of birth and death.
On his reasons for composing the Divyanama Keertanas, Thyagaraja Swami, in his kriti, “Raga Ratna Malika” in Ritigowla, says “As the sole means of my salvation, with the authority of all Scriptures, as the path to happiness of all Yogis and for all Bhagavathas to sing together, I composed these songs. Come let us sing these together and attain all Sowbhagya.” Collectively a set of songs composed by Thyagaraja Swami as an expression of bhakthi and bhajana tradition came to be known as Divya Nama Kirtanas.
There are some 78 kirtanas that are in the group of keertanas called Divyanama Keertanas. These keertanas are meant for group singing. they are generally in the "lambaka" style with one pallavi and a series of charanams with the "dathu" or tune to facilitate repetition on choral singing. In theme and structure, they are varied. The keertanas are composed on a wide variety of popular ragas such as Todi, Sankarabharanam, Karaharapriya and Saveri, and less well known ragas such as Andhali, Ahiri, and Balahamsa. Even in the rarer ragas, these songs have a simple structure and so any one with an ear for music can very quickly learn and join in the singing.
Mostly the divyanama keertana themes are based on the Ramayana but as pointed out earlier, there are also songs on human conduct. All important incidents in Srimad Ramayana are narrated in sequence, from Viswamitra Yagasamarakshna to pattabishekam, in the kirtana “Vinayamunanu” in Sowrashtram. The unique beauty of this composition is its poetic excellence. Parayaya Namas or Synonyms for hands, feet, eyes, etc., is employed to narrate the stories. The translation of the two Charanams to explain this point is given hereunder and it is suggested to interested readers to read the complete song and its translation from a book by Swami’s kirtanas.
“When will I see the feet that marched with Viswamitra, when will I see the feet that brought Vimochana to Ahalya, when do I see the foot that pressed down the Siva Dhanus at the Swayamvara of Sita, when do I see the feet that Janaka washed with milk at his daughter’s wedding, when will I see the hands which tied the mangala sutra to Sita, when will I see the hands which took the strength of Parasurama, when will I see the hands which killed Virada and when will I see the hands which gave abhaya to the rishis in the forest?” In this manner, the story of Ramayana is taken from Bala Kanda to Aranya Kanda using synonyms. The singing of this song will be the singing of the whole of Ramayana and so this song is referred to as Samkahepa Ramayana or condensed Ramayana.
In The kirtana “Pahirama” in Kharaharapriya, each stanza is devoted to one of the members of Rama’s parivara or entourage and we are told how Rama gave happiness to Sita with his words, to Lakshmana with his eyes, to Bharata with his embrace, to Sathrugna with his nod of approval and to Anjaneya with praise. This song is full of raghabhava and bring out, within the limitations of a kirtana without sangatis, the nuances of this rakthi raga.
As an example of this, the Yadukula Kambhoji composition “Sri Rama, Jaya Rama” in khanda chapu may be cited. Starting with Kausalya and wandering what great penance she had performed to earn the privilege of being able to kiss the lovely cheeks of Sri Rama, Dasaratha, Sowmitri, Kowsika, Ahalya, Janaka, Sita and Narada are all mentioned in the same manner, mentioning the joy they got out of Rama. Incidentally, the arrangement of the episodes and characters is such that this composition also narrates Ramayana from Yaga Rakshanam to Sita Kalyanam.
The song “Karuna Jaladhe” in Nadnamakriya lists the qualities of a true bhaktha after mentioning that the experience of a true bhaktha is totally different from the findings of one who does not know Rama. The song lists the various sections of a true bhaktha, which ensure his constant thought of Rama and his presence with the devotee. In the last charana, Swami refers to the advaitic experience, which comes to a devotee practicing for long and Bhakthi marga. “Neevanni teyani Balkudure, Neeve Thannani Kulgukudure.” They (the true devotees) will find and speak of you of you being everything and they themselves being you.” What a worthwhile reward for a waiting bhaktha?
Listing the commonly occurring misconducts and weaknesses of man, in the kirtana “Rama Rama Krishnayanare” in Gowlipanthu, Swami says that even the worst sinners are known to have changed for the better and attained salvation by singing the name of the Lord. “Kaani Panulu Kori Kori, karanguchundu Nannavulu” and “Challani Vakulu Balki Swanthaamanalamaina Varu” meaning that those who hanker for things that are not right and to which are not entitled and those who speak with honey on their tongue but with fire in their hearts, even they will reform and benefit by singing Rama, Rama, Krishna.
One can go on and on giving examples of the beauty, wisdom and music of these priceless gems have to offer. Let us be contented with one final example of Swami’s stress on purity of thought, unselfishness and un-attachment to fruits of worship, by quoting the kirtana “Paripalaya Paripalaya” in Reetigowlai “O: God, my pure body is your temple; my sthira or nischala chithha (unwavering) is the peeta or asana for you; my pure thoughts are Ganga water for your abhisheka; my devotion is the golden cloth for you to wear. The burning away of the fruits of my past evil deeds is the sambrani dhoopam. My happiness which cannot be separated is the thamboolam for you and so on.
The list of such songs and their themes is long and I suggest that those who are interested may go through the textgs and authentic translation for further study. It is for this very purpose of giving the interested student and scholar a more comprehensive coverage; to enable even those not taking part in the singing, to appreciate the superb concepts enshrined in the divyanama keertanas that, for the first time ever, Sri T. S. Parthasarathy has included in his book of Thyagaraja kritis, a word for word translation.
It may be added here that the late Dr. R. Krishnaswami of Glaxo Labs was also, in no mean measure, responsible for the successful publication of this book. In 1967, the 200th Jayanthi Aradhana of Sri Thyagaraja Swami was celebrated all over the country. At this time, Dr. Krishnaswami, a great and ardent devotee of the Saint, was very keen on the publication of an authentic version of the Swami's composition by Sri Sadguru Sangeetha Samajam, Purasawalkam, Chenni. It was greatly due to his tireless endeavors that this publication was brought out, on the Aradhana day in 1967 (First edition). A second edition was brought out in 1972. This information has been added on Dr. R. K's contribution after his passing away in June, 1991.
My request: do not put away to another day the joy or reading, listening to or singing those musical gems. It is impossible to convey the happiness which can come from the singing of these songs. An essay on sugar cannot convey the sweetness of sugar. You have to taste it yourself. In his composition “Anandam Anandamaye” in Bhairavi, the Swami says “Even Brahma, Indira and Siva cannot express in words all the happiness they experience; Who am I, a poor mortal with a very limited vocabulary?”
Like most other saints and sages, Thygaraja Swami tells us that it is primarily the mind that one must ame so that its full potential raises one ultimately to a Supra-personal level. In every one of us, both God and the devil reside - the devil is the "ego", self-centerdness, selfishness, etc As Schopenhauer said, "If you are looking for God outside yourself, you are wasting your time and attempting the impossible. And, Jalaludin Rami says that if one wanted to see the devil one has only to look at a mirror! Therefore, to cconquer the mind and to direct it inwards is the purpose of most rituals. For example, upavasa or fasting was prescribed to learn to resist the temptation of apparently unbearable hunger; ekantha or solitude was prescribed to train the mind to resist descending to subhuman emotions, through avoiding the company of "paamara chelimi" - the ignorant and the wicked - and, "vana vaasa" was prescribed for the same reason; for strengthening of the mind and train us in detachment from desires and bondage.
While speaking of rituals meant for our progress, Thyagaraja Swami also emphasizes that if these rituals become just a matter of routine, without aiming at the purpose for which they are meant, we will be no better than the goat that lives merely on the leaves or a highway robber who lives in caves or, the monkey which lives in forests and eats fruits. Living in a forest alone or in seclusion do not make us a saint or a sage. These, telling examples are from the kriti, "Balamu Kulamu" (Saveri). In this kriti, he further points out that mere rituals are purposeless, however meticuluously performed they may be. Devotion and earnestness are the sine quo non of the path to salvation.
There are also other illustrations in his kritis, some even humorous. (1) "Neeta kaaki meenu munuga niratha mudaya snanama" - the crow and the fish bathe in the water very early, but does that mean that it is taking udaya snanamu? (2) the kokku (Stork or the Crane) closes its eyes and stands near the water for hours. Does this mean that it is in meditation? Thus, it is not empty rituals alone that are important but, more importantly, devotion, sincerity, and humility behind the performance of a ritual.*
Another important precept of the Swami is that egotism and selfishness form the curtain inside us, preventing realization and godliness. Here, I may refer to the anecdote on his visit to Thirumala. The usual pracice in Thirumala, as most of us know, requires that the Sannadhi is closed at specific hours. At this time, public "darshan" is not allowed. It is said that when the Saint visited Thirumala hills to have darshan of the Lord, Thyagaraja, notwithstanding his advanced age and infirmity, climbed the hills fairly quickly. This, it is said, created a feeling of self satisfaction and pride in him. When he got to the Sannadhi, he found to his disappointment and frustration, that the curtain denied him the darshan of Lord Venkateshwara. He immediately realized that what he wanted to see as a vigraha in front of him was not outside him but within him which he failed to see mentally and spiritually because of vanity and pride. Harikatha story tellers say that when Thygaraja swami sang the Gowlipanthu kriti, "Theratheeyakaradha", the curtain fell; thus allowing him full darshan of the Lord. However, a study of the text of the kriti will show that the curtain he refers to is not the one that stood between him and the vigraha of the Lord, but his own feeling of "I", "me" and "mine".
Stories are also told that Thyagaraja lamenting the loss of his idols of Sri Rama, asking where have you gone hiding in the song "Endu Dakkinado" (Thodi); and, in another episode, singing "Mundhu venuka" (Darbar) when his palanquin was waylaid in the Nagalapuram forest by the robbers, on his way back from Kovur. Here again, a study of the text will show that the song has other meaning than those reading them. Thyagaraja pleads to Rama to come soon and save him from bondage and misery and not necessarily save him from the robbers.
About knowledge, Thyagaraja Swami says that it is not worth acquiring knowledge which does not improve the quality of man. A very well read man who has not benefited from his erudition and knowledge is an ass that carries a load of books. Humility and vinaya is essential for spiritual progress.
About which path to tread for enlightenment, he says that all paths of discipline, humility, love of God and environment lead to salvation. The replacement of the six enemies which haunt us are: desire, hatred, miserliness, attachment to ephemeral values, egotism, and acquisitiveness. The six gunas that we must acquire are: sama or equanimity; dharma or self control; titiksha or willingness to bear suffering; uparati or looking away from evil; sradha or dedication; and samadhana or satisfaction. These six gunas help us attain liberation from bondage. The happiness one person derives from taking one kind of food is no better or worse than the happiness of another person eating another kind of food.
All schools of philosophy are good, provided the fundamental qualities of genuine love and dedication, compassion and understanding are practiced. This thought is expressed in Anuragamuleni in Saraswathi. In this kriti, Thyagaraja Swami says that you can acquire all the knowledge in the world. But, if an individual does not have bhakthi, he would not develop good qualities. the peIn "Endaro Mahanubhavalu" Swami mentions the different ways of attaining liberation. "Bhagawata, Ramayana, Geethathi, Sruthi Sastra Puranabu mamula Sivadhi Shanmathamula Gootamula Muppadhi Mukkodi Surandarangamula Bhavamula Neriki Bhavaraga Layadhi Sowkyamulche Jiravuyal Kaliki Niravadhi Sugathmulai". Freely translated, it says that there are several ways to attain knowledge and linberation. By learning the Bhagavatham, Ramayanam, Bhagawath Geetha, the Srutis, and Puranas; by finding out the secrets hidden in the six religions (shanmatha); by finding the inner meaning from the Devas and so on. But, the easiest way to obtain knowledge is bhakthi and sangeetha.
He explains why he chose Rama Nama as Taraka mantram for japam in his kriti, "Saaramegani Anya Marga Vicharamatike" (Panthuvarali). In this kriti, he refers to Sivas advise to Parvathi (familiar to all those who recite Vishnu Sahasharanamam) that by reciting Rama's name thrice, one may attain the benefit of repeating the hymns a thousand times. In the Thodi kriti, Endu DAginado (Rama! Where are you hiding?), he says, "that it has become the practice and play of the Lord to hide himself before saving his devotees and wonders where he is hiding today to save Thyagaraja. Perhaps, he hid behind the seven trees to help and save Sugriva. Perhaps, he hid himself in an iron pillar to save Prahalada (Prahladhu goraku kambamulo palanundagaledha).
Thyagaraja Swami’s compositions are described as poetry set to music. He was the only poet among our composers. He has considerably enriched Telugu literature of the 19th century. He has composed verses of every known kind from simple kanda padyams to the more elaborate and complex varieties. Among the verses, both introductory and invocatory, appearing in the two operas or song dramas are Seesa padyams, Utpalamalas, dwipadis, sardhoola vikruditham and kandapadyam. There are over 160 padyams in all between the two Gaya Natakas – Prahlada Bhakthi Vijayam and Nowka Charitham.
It is said that Swami composed a third natakam by name Seetharama Vijayam. This claim is made by Professor Sambamurthy and others based on a license granted to one Wallajapet Loka Narayana Sastrulu for printing a poetry drama, Seetharama Vijayam at Gnanabhanu Achukootam, Choolai, Madras. Professor Sambamurthy and his team of dedicated students did their best to locate this press but without luck. Either the work was never printed or the manuscript was lost. Professor Sambamurthy and other scholars believe that the kritis, “maa Janaki” in Kamboji and “Varnaja Nayana” in Kedaragowla belong to this opera and that these two songs depict sambandi kelikkai.
The greatness of Swami’s poetic skill is in that all his verses and songs can be read as prose and do not need to be rendered into prose form or anvaya. The lakshanas (attributes) of pure poetry are all there and so they can be read with meter and prosody with equal felicity. Another noteworthy skill is his mastery over dwitiyakshara prasa or prosody based on the second letter of the opening word in each line. Ha, Ksha, and similar dwitiyaksharas are handled with amazing ease and fluency. “Kaddana Variki” (Thodi), “Gruhabalamemi” (Revagupti) and the only Tisra Triputa kriti, Lalgudi Sthala kriti, “Mahita pravruta Sreemathi” (Kamboji) are good examples.
His description of the Yamuna, with the gopis sporting; of the Kaveri as it flows from the hills and dales; his description of Thiruvayyaru” reflect his poetic skill and imagery, both in Telugu and Tamil. His Satodalankara too is marvelous; in creating an onomatopoeic effect. This skill, one could say, he had acquired by his study of Pothana - “Kala kala mukha kala sokkuche palukulolam ruthamu lolikadu swamiki” in Gandhamu Poyyagara (Punnagavarali) and the charana of the Saranga kriti “Emi deva balkuma” creating a battle scene effect.
Swami has used parayayanams or synonyms very skillfully in narrating the Ramayana. Basing the progress of the story on the Lord’s feet, hands, weapons, eyes, etc., the story is told from Viswamitra yoga Samrakshanam to Pattabishekam.
To give an example, the parayayanams “angrulu, kalyu padamulu” and “charanmulu” are used to say “when am I going to see the feet that walked beside Viswamitra; the feet which made Ahalya come back to life; the feet which pressed and broke the Shiva dhanus and the feet which Janaka washed with milk at the wedding. The story then moves from yagasamrakshanam to Sita Swayamvaram (Please also refer to the kriti Vinayamunu in Sowrashtram). Some people use this as daily parayanam of the full Ramayana.
Swami has used words and combination of words of his own creation. This needs some examination to be fully understood. For example, in the divyanama kirtana “Manasa Sancharare” (Punnagavarali), he uses the word “bharye” to mean Chandra. This is derived from “ba” Nakshartram and “arya” or leader or the great one; meaning “sreshta” indicating here the moon. Hence “mukhajita bharye” for mukhajita soma or Chandra. In the adamantine kriti “RamanSalaam Brova”, he uses the expressions, yantha, bantha, nishantha – to mean Ramachandra. This is arrived at by “yantha" or the letter after "ya" that is "ra" in bhantha; the letter after "bha" is "na" and "nisantha" meaning dispeller of darkness (the moon). This explanation was provided by His Holiness the Paramacharya of Kanchi Mutt when his clarification was sought. He explained that Swami was well versed in mantra sastra also where such techniques are employed to guard the secret and sanctity of the mantras.
Sangeetha and bhakthi should be acquired and practiced with humility. Genuine humility brings with it detatchment, suppression or conquest of the baser instincts of Man and, ultimately annihilation of the ego to brring enlightenment. Mere scholarship without humility and music without devotion is according to Thyagaraja Swami, akin to decorating a corpse. In the Sankarabharana kriti, "bhakthi bhiksha meeyavayya," Swami says that the most well sung song, if sung without devotion is like brocades and diamonds on a dead man. In another kriti, "Samayamu thelisi," (Asaveri), he draws another comparison - he who misses an opportunity to do good, performs only an act similar to that of an open, but sightless eye. In the Malavsri kriti, "Enallu thirigethi," he mentions the case of a scholar who, having been invited to lunch by his admirers, neighbours and friends, settled down to a long winded pooja, just to demonstrate his scholarship and erudition, while keeping his hosts waiting.
The emphasis in our music is humility (Vinaya) and devotion, and the giving up of pride and vanity ("showing off" in common parlance", ego projection, etc. In the Mukhari composition, "Sarasseruhasana," he laments that Brahmotsavam has gone in Kaliyuga and that people have taken to neecha karma; they learn the scriptures, not to practice virtues taught by the scriptures but to show off and to make a living out of their learning. The simple path to salvation is forgotten and, little interest is shown towards Truth. For some, their interest is in the relative merits of saguna-nirguna upasana; the secret of the ashta siddhis; the choice among the Shanmathas, etc. Few choose the easy path to moksha or liberation from the cycle of life and death. This is specifically referred to in "nadachi nadachi" (Karaharapriya). In this composition, he refers to the state of Nirvana "puthu chavvu lem thavvu," the place where there is netiehr birth nor death. In the divyanama keertana "Rama Rama Krishnayanere", Thyagaraja lists the common weaknesses of men and women and adds that, to get over the consequences of these sins and to avoid committing them again and again, we need to repeat the nama of the Lord. Then, he also tells us why he chose Rama naama for chanting the name of God. It is relevant to mention here that all schools of bhakthi recommend this path.
We have already seen the dogmatic approach of various mathaas and how Sri Thyagaraja prayed for knowledge or "bedarahita Vedanta" - an approach that can bridge the gulf separting the various schools, with different dogmas. Debate and discussion however erudite, are of no real use if they don't do good to society, as a whole. Naama Sankeerthanam or bahajana which is the basis of the first three forms of "nava vidha bhakthi" mentioned in the Bhagavata, is ideal. In the Kalyani kriti, "Bhajana Seyave", he asks why debate and discuss endlessly; realize that the body is subject to the goodness of saptaswara, pranava naadha; realize bliss through Rama naama bhajana. After advising in many kritis that namabhajana is the easiest marga, he also tells us why he chose Rama as his chosen deity (Ishta Deiva) and, Rama naama, for parayana.
Rama, the perfect man: The kriti, "manivinaalakincha raa dhate" (Nalinakanti), says that at a time when men were reeling under mere rituals of the Karma Khaanda and wandering directionless in the forest of "bhava," rama appeared as a man and taught manking, the conduct that will lead to salvation. "Mummoorthulu" (Atana), "Maakelara vicharamu" and "Rama Rama" (Saveri) are compositions close to this theme.
Here, I may refer to the 5th Prana in the 4th Khanda of the Yajur Veda which contains the sacred Rudram. In Riudram itself, it is namasmarana which is emphasized. The name is stressed in "Namah Sivaya." It is said that namasamarana confers on the devotee, the "panchaswaroopa gnana." These are: Parmatma swaroopa gnana, Jeevatma swaroopa gnana, Upaya swaroopa gnana, Purushartha swaroopa gnana and Vidriti swaroopa gnana. In common parlance, this means that a devotee who recites the name regularly and with devotion, will get knowledge of the ultimate and, before that, of the path to it; the obstacles in the way, and, the benefits or fruits of taking that path.
The Nayanmars too have sung these ideas in their "Devarams;" particularly Appar in his "Aindezhuthu Pathikam" -- Aindezhuthu means fiveletters and they are, na ma si va ya." Also, Thirumangai Azhwar, in his Thiruvaymozhi has stress this - the Vishnumantram - Namo Narayanaya. Thyagaraja combined these two; the Siva mantra and Madhava mantra, to form the "Rama mantra." In "evarani nirnayinchira" (Devemrutavarshini), he s ays that the most important letter is nama sivaya is "ma" and the most important letter in Vishnumantra is "ra". If "ra" and "ma" are removed, both mantras would become meaningless and absurd. So, he combined both these two important jeeva letters to derive the word "Rama."
Thus, he created a common plank for namasankeertana for both the Saivite and Vaishnavite schools. In a light-hearted way, he says that his Rama is superior even to the Hindu trinity - Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva as th ese three Gods, all have some "defect" or other while, his Rama has none: "endunti vedalithiro" (Durbar) lists the weakness of Siva, Vishnu, and Brahma and, praises Rama's virtues (also refer to "emani pogadu thura" (Veera vasantham). To Thyagaraja, Rama is a distinctly superior person: the kritis "eka maata oka bhanamu oka pathni vrathude" (Harikamboji); "Vaadera daivamu manasa" (Pantuvarali) and "Sarmegani anya marga vicharameti ke Oh manasa" (Pantuvarali) etc., he asserts that Rama is the embodiment of virtures and that the Trimurthis worshipped him. Hence, repeating his name in groups, with music, is the surest and most pleasant way to moksha.
Here, a note of caution in interpreting the Swami's approach and attitude to other gods - the Trinity - is warranted. Scholars say that such comparisons and extolling only Rama may be due to the fact that he might have been somewhat fanatical in his earlier years, like any one of us, lesser people; and , it may also be that in his exhuberant devotion to his chosen Deity, he spoke (rather humourosly) highly one of his Rama. In this conflict, we may also cite kririts such as "Laavanya Rama kanu lara joodave - nee manasu, nee sogasu mee dinusu vere - thaamasa matha daiva mele, etc. (Poorna shadjam). On the other hand, it was at a very ater stage of his life that he composed songs like "Paramathmudu velige" (Vagadeeshwari) in which he stresses the immanence and universality of God in everything, the animate and the inanimate, by whatever name we may choose to call Him. To stress this, he explains these further in the charana of the kriti. This kriti is well worth reading several times and understanding fully.
In the kriti "Ragaratna malikache" (Ritigowla), he says that the Lord will be pleased with the garland of a hundred gems which have been created as the sole means for Thyagaraja's salvation. Thsese gems of compositions have been created from the truths propounded in the scriptures and of the kind that yogis see and experience - Ananda. Many such songs are meant for singing in chrosus by the devotees. Hence, even though elaborately ornamented compositions of the Swami are there for the virtuouso to demonstrate his voice range and quality, and artistic skill, it is the songs composed for goup singing which will elevate the common man higher to planes of divine experience. In "melu melu Rama nama" (Sourashtram), Swami explains the ananada experiences at every level i.e. physical, emotional, intellectural and spiritual, by singing Rama nama.
The last few kritis: It is said that when Swami felt that his mission on earth was completed, he sang the Ganavardini kriti "Daya choochutakidi vela " meaning that it is time for you to take me into you, oh Lord, as I have completed diligently and with devotion, the mission with which you charged me on this planet." Aftert this, Swami had a vision of Sri Rama with the entourage (Giripainelakonna - Sahana). In this song he says that he surely saw Sri Rama who assured him that he would nbe absorbed in Him in ten days time. Swami then entered snayasarama. When nothing happened as assured by the Lord, on the tenth day, he sang a reminder - the kriti "Parithapamu Kaniyadina" (Manohari).
Mr. Shyama Rao, one time thasildar of Thiruvayaru, records that after Swami sang this kriti, an Omkara Naadha was heard and a jytoi was seen to emanate from the head of Swami and travelled upward. Swami then slumpted on the thambura he was holding, and become one with the Lord.
Om Tat Sat
Nadopasana is bhakthi, worship, and devotion through music. As the article on Thyagaraja’s musical plays pointed out, Sri Thyagaraja Swami used his compositions to energize our inner spiritual forces or nadopasana to attain moksha or salvation in this life. There are several references to nadopasana in Indian musicology, philosophy, and epics. For example, in The Sangita Rathnakara, the opening slokas explain how nada and Kundalini1 are interrelated and how this comprehension is necessary for salvation. Sri Thyagaraja Swami took the first three slokas and composed the following kritis, Nada Thanum Anisam, Sobhillu Saptha Swara, and Nadopasana, using the first, second, and third sloka respectively.
According to Hindu sastras, Naabhi, Hrith, Kanta, Rasana, and Naasa are the sources of sound which originate from the Mooladhara or the inner soul. The recognition of this Mooladharaja Naada is itself moksha says Sri Thyagaraja in the Sankarabharanam kriti, Swara Raga Sudharasa. In this connection, it is interesting to note that Sir John Sparrow, in his book titled, Serpent Power, equates Kundalini with endogenous sound. The identification of the correct srutis as the home of the swaras is also important for experiencing moksha or liberation “Saptha Swarmula Grhuhamula gruthe mohamuta.” The worship of pure sound emanating from within you and identifying yourself with it and being in consonance with it is liberation or moksha.
Sri Thyagaraja Swami no only stresses the importance of recognizing and developing the ability to experience Mooladhara nada, but also more specifically asks the votaries to Sangitopasana as a means and prelude to enjoying nadopasana. In his composition, Sripapriya in Atana, he conjures up visions of swaras taking as the area of Gods sanchara - “Sapthaswara Chaari” and melodic ragas manifesting themselves in delightful forms - “Ranjimpa cheya ragambulu, majulamagunavatarambulethi.” He stresses other and nearer terrestrial benefits of sangita gana - “Prema Bhakthi, Sujana Vathsalyamu, Srimath Ramaa vara Katakshamu, Nema Nishta Yasodhanamu” as the rewards of acquiring Sangita Sastra gnana.
These discussions on nadopasana thus point out how Sri Thyagaraja was not only an excellent musicologist conforming to the traditional sastras but who, through simple songs with pristine purity, taught us the nature and purpose of music. Indeed , through sangita he urged us to acquire the wisdom of perceiving Brahman, the intelligence to analyze and experience Him; the diligence to seek Him; and the patience to wait for enlightenment. He described his Rama as an embodiment of Nada. No other composer has in such a simple and appealing ways taught music as art, science, philosophy and ultimately, as a means to salvation.
1According to Yoga sastras, we humans, are a microcosmic image of the universe. This universal energy that each human carries within oneself is the Kundalini. The Kundalini lies dormant until awakened. The object of certain forms of yoga is to awaken this dormant force and to let it lead us to the path of salvation. Liberation, therefore, is unity with the universe from which we originated; the individual spirit become part of the universal spirit. It is the highest experience that a yogi to a saint to an ordinary individual is striving to reach. One of the yogic approaches that awakens the Kundalini is the nada or nadopasana or devotion through music.
Of Thyagayyar or Thyagaraja of Tanjore (early 19th century) more is known. He was revered by his contemporaries as a perfectly sincere and selfless man; he was an ascetic in the original sense of the word, one who ‘prepared’ his heart for the reception of truth. In Mudaliar Chinnaswami’s Oriental Music sixty of his songs (kritis) are printed in staff notation, accompanied by adequate indications of scale, time, and tempo. There is also a list of eight hundred more and this is probably not exhaustive. They are all in Telugu, the most musical language of the South, as Bengali is to the North. They exhibit considerable sense of balance, as may be seen from the structure of the songs. They refrain from abusing the ear with excessive compass and eschew cheap contrasts, both of which are to be found in the compositions of less able musicians. He signs his songs; that is to say he ends them with words such as “This is the last counsel of Thyagaraja” or “You who are the treasure of Thygagaraja’s heart.”
This is common practice in the mediaeval songs of Germany and may be compared with Dufay’s signature “Karissime Dufay vous en prye”, and with Palestrina’s incorporation of the titles of the 119th Psalm into his Lamentations. Two of the syllables of Thyagaraja’s name (ga-ra) would have admitted of the same treatment: but there is no instance of his adopting it. It was also a practice of his time to set the syllables of the song to the notes which they name as in the example quoted by Day ad the Indian form of “Ut queant laxis” is (These are called Swarakshara or note syllables).
But the practice does not appear to have attractions for Thyagaraja; he resists them. Neither does he seem to be particularly in love with Swaras. Swara, in the South, Sargam in the North means a rapid passage in which the notes are sung to the sol-fa names instead of the words as an amazing feat of skill. It takes the place of our cadenza and like thalt, was occasionally added by another hand. Swaras occur in only four of his sixty songs.
There is a pretty story about Thyagaraja’s meeting with ‘Shatkala’ Govinda Marar, a fine musician of Travancore. Shatkala means six-time and time is here used in the sense of ‘diminutions’ i.e. that a piece that had been in crotchets was now sung in quavars; and the point is that he could diminish six times over, i.e. begin with his theme in semibreves and end with it in semi-demi-semi-quavers. He used to sing to a Tambura with seven strings – the ordinary Tambura has only four; and this instrument seems to have been a sort of bow of Ulysses to inferior singers; in token of which apparently, it was adorned with a flag. They met at Thyagaraja’s house at Thiruvayaru in 1843, where the greet man was sitting with his disciples. Marar after listening to the disciples expressed a wish to hear Thyagaraja himself. “Who is the man, asked Thyagaraja in Telugu “that can ask me to sing?” Apparently the audience were to hear him only when he sang of his own record. One of his disciples pointed to Marar, sitting with a flagged Tampura in his hand, and was told that Marar could sing a little. A Pallavi was then sung around and when it came to Govinda Marar’s turn, the other instruments had to be laid aside and his Tampura only used, so high was the pitch of the music. He sang it in Shatkala and Thyagaraja recognized the caliber of Marar. Immediately, Thyagaraja improvised on the spot a song in the Sri Ragam which is the Ragam sung at the close of performance of which the burden was, “There are many great men in the world and I respect them all.” This contrast well with the many stories there are of professional jealousy which are too unlovely to repeat here.
Practically, every school of philosophy has claimed Swami as its votary. Citing Swami's later day kritis such as Gnanamosoga rada in Poorvikalyani and Paramatmudu in Vagadheeswari, the dvaitis claim him." The Visishtaadvatis claim him citing kritis such as Bhuvini Dasudane in Sriranjani, where the Sri Vedanta Desikan's Panchanga Prapatti is virtually reproduced. The Marjara Nyaya school quote the Bhairavi kriti, Tananayuni Brova to support of their claim. Sri Swami himself has been asked the question, whether he follows one or the other margas; but, Swami, never answered it. E dari sancharintura in Kanthamani and Dwaitamu Sukhama in Riti Gowla clearly tell us that the answer to the question is not easy. Indeed, he has clearly mentioned that the pathway to Godhead is a matter of individual preference and the label is inconsequential. "Vaga Vadaja bujaiyinche variki tripthiaoureethi saguna dhyanamu paini sowkhyamu."
To Sri Thygaraja, labels and nomenclatures did not matter, as by themselves, they matter little in helping the spiritual growth of man and his endeavor to experience godhood. Like the satisfaction after a meal is wholly an individual affair and no one meal being the cause of universal satisfaction, philosophical path is a matter of personal choice and preference. His main stress is on morals and ethics, humility and non-attachment or un attachment or Thyaga.
When Thyagaraja Swami interprets the puranas, he constantly emphasizes that one has no right to be vain, selfish, and egoistic just because one is learned in the scriptures or is in high status and power. One may possess all the virtues in the world and yet be led only by selfishness and egoism, ultimately losing all the benefits of the virtues he possesses as a gift or boon from God. Take for example, Hiranya Kasipu and Ravaana who were great tapasvans and had got boons for indestructibility. Yet, all their power came to naught due to their wrong doings and they were annihilated. Seetha, the Gopis, Narada, Durvasa, and others are mentioned as example of those who sought and got boons but did not benefit from such boons. However, thoughtfully and comprehensively received, unless one behaves, God has a way of making that boon useless. God always gives a boon with a hidden catch and while one may believe that I could do anything and get away with it, one cannot.
In "Adigi Sukhamu" (Madhyamavati), he stresses the futility of asking for a boon and getting them in self-interest. (As Aldous Huxley says "Supplication") - where one asks God for something and expressing gratitude by fulfilling a vow such as breaking coconuts or other prasadams or monetary contributions as a quid pro quo. Instead, one should surrender to the will of God and the faith and confidence that God will bestow only what is good for us. In order that we may enjoy not only the humor but the pithiness, let us look at a free translation of Adigi sukhamulu. O! Rama! Who has benefited ultimately from your boons? Sita had to to go the forest for having asked for a boon; Soorpanaka lost her nose for just expressing her desires; Durvasa lost his appetite the moment he asked for food; Devaki wanted you to be born her child and it was Yasoda who had the good fortune of bringing you up. Narada became a woman as soon as he asked for a boon; the Gopis desired you and lost their husbands. What is this Maya? I shall hence surrender and leave it to you to give me what is good for me. In Varalandu Kommani (Gujjari), Swami asks rama, "Why do you want to be cruel to me by conferring boons? What have I done to deserve it? "Like Nachiketas, neither do I want nor would I accept anything less than liberation, moksha."
Thyagaraja Swami, in his compositions, often uses words and proverbs which are not strictly in accordance with the Telugu language or its grammar. This often bring criticism of Swami's grammar. For example, he uses the expression, "Tholi Nenu Jeyu Pooja," instead of Toli Nenu Jesina Pooja" instead of using the words, "Toli nenu jesina Pooja." He uses Kechana, where Kachin has to be used (Yochana, Durbar). But, using these expressions with much effect on the entire song or verse is the privilege of great poets. If Shakespeare is allowed mexed metaphors and double superlatives, why not Swami be allowed these minor transgressions in grammar?
Many more examples of Swami's poetic skill can be pointed out to highlight the point that he not only composed songs on deities but on nature and its beauty as well. Apart from the two kritis mentioned earlier in the context of his description of the Yamuna theera in Nowka Charitram and his choornika with Vaikunta varana in Prahlada Bhakthi Vijayam, we can also mention Anupama Gunambhudi Kanakapala dhara nannu gana kapata mela, etc. He however is seems to rhyme Sudha with Katha, Dasaratha with Dayasradha, the tha dha rhyming being a common fallacy noticeable in colloquial Telugu.
Emotions: To jusitfy his being hailed as one of the foremost poets of his time, Swami has brilliantly captured all rasas in his compositions. Many people think that studying Swami's kritis means only listening to long faced and serious aphorisms and homilies. Few know that he has used Sringara (Romance), Soka (Sorrow), Saantha (Tranquil, Peace), and Haasya (Humor)with equal felicity. Before him and indeed even after his time, Mukhari was used only for the sokha rasa; but Swami proved that this need not be so, by using Mukhari to produce Haasya in the kriti, Chinthisthunaade Yamudu, whhose dhathu, Sri Gopalakrishna Bharathi adopted for his chidambara darisanam. The description of the dowwarika in the music drama, Prahlada Bhakthi Vijayam, is full of hasya. "Mati Mariki meesamu duvvi, manmatha roopudu thanani krovvi, dati dati paduchuna" is hilarious. One scholar studying the Nowka charithram and in particular the criticism by some purists about the excessively sringara rasa ra in this drama, says that Sri Swami has walked the razor edge in keeping strictly in ethical and moral values and his srungara rasa, unlike that of Jayadeva, has not stepped outside the canons of decency. Whatever the rasa employed, the ultimate objective is Bhakthi and rasas have been employed only to emphasise the need for Bhakthi.
Philosophy: Practically, every school of philosophy has claimed Swami as its votary. Citing Swami's later day kritis such as Gnanamosoga rada in Poorvikalyani and Paramatmudu in Vagadheeswari, the "dvaitis claim his." The Vvisishtaadvatis claim him citing kritis such as Bhuvini dasudane in Sriranjani, where the Sri Vedanta Desikan's Panchanga Prapatti is virtually reproduced. The Marjara Nyaya school quote the Bhairavi kriti, Tananayuni Brova in support of their claiming Swami as one of them. Sri Swami himself has been asked the question, whether he should follow one or the other margas; but, Swami, never answered it. E dari sancharintur in Kanthamani and Dwaitamu Sukhama in Riti Gowla clearly tell us that the answer to the question is not easy. Indeed, he has clearly mentioned that the pathway to Godhead is a matter of individual preference and the label is inconsequential. "Vaga Vadaja buja iyinche variki tripthiaoureethi saguna dhyanamu paini sowkhyamu." Like the satisfaction after a meal is wholly an individual affair and no one meal being the cause of universal satisfaction, philosophical path is a matter of personal choice and preference. His main stress is on morals and ethics, humility and non-attachement or unattachment or Thyaga.
We Hindus, do not believe in one prophet for all time or one book for all time. We believe, that from time to time, there appear among us, Avatara Purushas, who interpret the gospel to fit in with contemporaneous needs of the society. Men are only teachable; a genius is born one in several generations.
Sri Thyagaraja Swami emphasizes again and again, the need for high values and consistency in living upto those values. One is reminded of the saying that if men are measured in miles, there will be no difference between man and man. Only because we apply small and truly inconsequential criteria such as caste, religion, education, wealth, and color, we find men different from each other. Education, for example, reduces itself often to just academic education and not an improvement in the quality of the person. A highly educated person, is often unaffected or rather uninfluenced by what he has learnt. He remains ignorant though well read and one savant called this kind of person an ass that arrives with a load of books. There is hardly any one among us, who would like the whole truth be known about him. We tend to think, speak and act, in private, in a manner which would make us ashamed to admit these thoughts and words and actions in public.
We talk about God being always present in us and yet will not want God to see us when we are doing unacceptable things. We want God to see us only when we are doing unacceptable things. We want God to see us only when we are praying or doing something that we feel society will approve or applaud. How many of us pray for the suffering people of the world, the millions who have no food, no security and no peace? Floods in the Godavari renders homeless and starving thousands of people, thousands of fertile land, hundreds of homes lost and millions worth of personal belongings washed away. How many of us wept for the victims, leave alone doing something special to make their life worth living? We read such harrowing headlines and express a word of sympathy and go on to the next items on the newspaper. It makes no impact on us.; only because it does not personally affect us. If however, they are our people in the affected area, we are moved and feel pretty bad. Selfishness dominates our lives. Thousands killed in Bhopal is just bad news but just one cat of ours killed in an accident is tragedy and subject matter of lugubrious discussions for days on end. The near human qualities of the cat are discussed with feeling. All because the tragedy of Bhopal is beyond conception and the cat story is nearer you and yours. We tend to see the weaknesses of others and only the virtue of themselves and our off-springs and those we like. We do not pray that we should become better persons, free of the weakness which taint our lives. We do not pray and ask for the strength to speak the truth only and for the strength to think, speak and act in unison, what we call trikarna suddhi. We pray to partition God for favors, justifiable and otherwise. We pray that our mistakes and crimes should be unnoticed or if noticed, unpunished. We ask for things we are not entitled.
We contract with God that if such and such favor is conferred, we shall fulfill such and such prarthana We learn from early childhood that prayaschithas can absolve us of wrong doings, however often repeated. Mental control, patience, tolerance, compassion, or equanimity, we do not feel like praying for, as we feeld they are just academic qualities of no practical value. We forget that our enemies are not from outside but from within. "Kama Kridhamoha lobhamcha Dehe thishtathi thaskarah, gnana ratna apaharena." It is essential that one gets ride of these six weaknesses, i.e. kama, kroda, moha, mada, and mathsarya and replace them with Sama, Dhama, Uparathi, Thithiksha, Sradha, and Samadhana. Tranquility, forbearance, looking away from evil, ability to bear suffering willingly, understanding and dedication. Man, who is in a temper, a man who is deeply in love, one who is jealous, one who is in fear - each f them lose common sense and act unwisely. Therefore, man is his own enemy or friend. "Eduru thnane inkithamberigi," realizing that you are your friend or yur enemy is very important. The worst of these kayajathi or body-born enemies is Ego and then, possessiveness rathe or acquisitiveness and desire. These cause endless sorrow. The weak man who succumbs t temptatins harms himself but the man wh wears his virtue next t his skin and goes about with an air of superiority inflicts himself on others, showing off his virtues and thus lets his ego do him much harm.
Sri Thyagaraja Swami's contribution to music or sangitopasana and the esoteric nadopasana is unique. No other composer has sung about the grammar and mystic significance of sanginta in such terms as Swami has. Arranged in the order of their subject matter, the songs on sangeetha and nada make a textbook on the subject by themselves. He has either created or popularized quite a few ragas which he calls "vintha ragamulu" or new ragas.
Professor Sambamoorthy says that no fewer than 78 ragas owe their identify to Thyagaraja kirtanas. One scholar says that before Swami's time there were so few ragas that all the songs could be classified under a small number of lakshana definitions. In this connection he refers to a lakshana and lakshya work by Sahaji Maharaja, some sixty years before Sri Thyagaraja Swami was born. Sahaji Maharaja lists only 31 ragas which represented practically all the known ragas of that time. It may also be mentioned that there were no songs in Harikamboji or Kharaharapriya before Swami's time. It is not an exaggeration to say that these two ragas were Swami's gift to Carnatic music. Swami has handled some 210 ragas derived from 43 melakartas. Also, he did not handle many pratimadyama ragas and this, some scholars claim, is due to the fact that not all Pratimadyama ragas have their individual swaroopa.
Some notable features of Swami's compositions are obvious when he employs a new raga; its arohana and avarohona are indicated in the opening phrase itself e.g. Siddhasena. The kriti in this raga gives the complex arohana and avarohana (derived from the mela Dhenuka, Sa ri ga ri pa ma pa da sa pa ma ri ga ri sa. To cite another example, the opening phrase of the Bahudari kiriti - pa da ni pa ma ga is a marvel for there can be no better opening. Some composers have tried variations without the s ame melodic effect.
Where two very common and popular ragas are combined in the purvanga or uttaranga, for example in Charukesi or its inverse raga, Kokilapriya, by subtly introducing the note from the poorvanga or uttaranga to give the raga its flavor, the identity of the combination as an artistic form of its own is established. In "Adamodi galada," the Suddha Daivatam is introduced in the opening phrase and in Dasarathe (Kokilapriya), the kaakonisheda is introduced.
Where a vivadi swara is involved, it will always be found in the opening phrase for if this is not done, the identity of the raga cannot be established. for example, if only the swara from ga ma to ni sa are sung in Nasikabhooshani, only Vachaspathi will be heard. Thus, only if the Shatsruthi rishaba is included will Nasikabhooshani be heard.
For sheer musical excellence, composition such as "Enduku Peddala" and "Emi Nerama", both in Sankarabharanam and "Evarimata" and "Mari Mari Ninne" both in Khomboji and his large number of creations in thodi, in which raga there are no fewer than 36 kritis, no two is alike and his ganaraga pancharathnams cannot be excelled. The Kshetra kirtanas, the nalangu songs for the soorthradhari (a sort of compere) to sing, the divyanama kritis for ritualistic worship are all a treasure Swami has left for us.
Swami was the first to introduce the desadi thala and also to introduce sangatis in his connotations. The sangatis were introduced to bring out the melodic and rhythmic intricacies, the raga lakshanas and quite often, to bring out the purpose of the song, e.g. Chetulara in Bhairavi and "Thappi Brathiki Brova" in Todi, where all the sangatis are based on the words "singaramu jesi joothunu" in the first case and "brathiki brova tarama" in the second case. Kritis such as "Dorakuna" "Mari Mari Ninne" "O! Ranga Sayee" "Dharini Telusukonti" and others (numerous to list) are examples of sangatis used to create an intrinsically and exquisitely conceived ornamentation of marvelous musical architecture.
Sangeetha and Nada: Another example of Sri Thyagaraja Swami's genius can be found in his handling of sangeetha and nada. The study of sastras relating to sangeetha are supposedly derived from divine sources and when used for devotional purposes, could lead to the conferment of many blessings. There were clear texts on the origin of our music, its structure and purposes.
The five octaves, madhya, mandaram, anumandara, tara, and anutara were derived from the five forces of Shiva - Satyajata, aghora, eesana, tatpurusha and vamadeva. The structured music is based on the Sruthis, a unique concept and the purpose of music is only one: to praise the Almighty. In other words, it is only devotion for which sangeetha should be employed and not for any other purpose such as mere artistic pleasure. These concepts are derived from the first three slokas of Sangita Ratnakara.
In dealing with sangeetha or physical aspects of music, Sri Thyagaraja Swami has taken the first three slokas and composed the following three songs, almost word for word: 1. Naada Thanumanisam Sankaram (Chittaranjani); 2. Sobhillu Sapthaswara (Jaganmohini); and 3. Nadopasana (Begada). At this point, there is a clear distinction made between sangeetha or the physical and aesthetic aspects from nadopasana or the mystic, esoteric aspects or naada yoga. These are discussed in the article on Nadopasana.
The practice of sangeetha, based on the sastras , is referred to in "Ananda Sagara" (Garudadwani) and "Sangita Sastra Gnanamu" (Muhari). As fruits of the practice of sangeethopasana, mention is made of the "Ocean of Bliss - Sangeetha Sastramagu Brahmananda Sagara" and again, mention is made of other such fruits of nadopasana in the Mukhari kriti as "Prema bhakthi sujana vatsalya" and "Srimad Rama vara katakshamu." In the kriti "Sripapriya sangeethopasana seyave O Manasa", he refers o the ragas which take pleasing forms. The practice of the art of sangeetha will bring to its practitioner Sarropya or attainment of good form; Galokya or being in the same realm as God; Sarropya or being close to the Lord; Aroopya or attaining the form of the ista devata and Sayjuya or merging with the god - the forms of heavenly bliss. The origins of our music is divine, its structure melodic and its purpose - the devout worship of God. Sri Thyagaraja Swami, through his musical genius, brought us all these treasures.
Aldoux Huxley classified prayer into petition, intecession, mediatation, and contemplation. Of these, petition, he said, was the lowest form of prayer; intercession the next best; mediation still higher and contemplation, the ideal. This closely follows Sri Thyagaraja Swami's views on prayer. In the kriti, "Mari Mari Ninne" in Kamboji, he refers to the bhakthis of Gajendra, Druva, and Prahalada. Gajendra merely wanted to be physically saved (tamasika bhakthi). Druva wanted a boon which was almost asking for revenge or taunt his step mother and weak father - Rajasika bhakthi. Prahlada who merely wanted his father to know the omni presence of God Stavika bhakthi. In the Devamanohari kriti, "Kanni thandri Naapai, " Swami says people will just continue to do what they have been doing day in day out without realizing that man is his own friend or foe; the friendship and strength being derived from control of the senses, thereby stressing the point that the human mind is a very powerful instrument which if tame and properly utilized, can lift man up from sorrow. He tells us that all rituals are directed towards this sure method of obtaining control of the mind but that such control can only come from concentrating on the purpose of the ritual.
Perfunctory performance of ritual will give no benefit. Two kritis explain this. In "Telisi Rama Chinthanatho" (Poorna Ravichandrika), he draws attention to the dual meanings of words and says that what the mind is meditating on is more important than words itself. Rama means woman and also Brahman; Arka means the sun god and a poisonous plant and Aja means Brahma or goat. So, just chanting Rama nama without at the same time benefiting your mind with the right image in your thoughts is of no use.
Another important ingredient of prayer is love of God and fellow human beings. In "Rama Neeyeda" (Karaharapriya) and "Smarane Sukhamu" in Janaranjani, he stresses this point. In the pancharathna kriti, "Sadinchene" in Arabhi, he refers to this and says "boidnchina sanmarga vachana mulu bonku chesi" meaning that God falsified his own teaching which means that he falsified what you believed was an invulnerable situation for yourself.
Emotions: To justify his being hailed as one of the foremost poets of his time, Thyagaraja Swami has brilliantly captured all rasas in his compositions. Many people think that studying Swami's kritis means only listening to long faced and serious aphorisms and homilies. Few know that he has used Sringara (Romance), Soka (Sorrow), Saantha (Tranquil, Peace), and Haasya (Humor)with equal felicity.
Before him and indeed even after his time, Mukhari was used only for the sokha rasa; but Swami proved that this need not be so, by using Mukhari to produce Haasya or humor in the kriti, Chinthisthunaade Yamudu. The description of the dowwarika in the music drama, Prahlada Bhakthi Vijayam, is full of hasya. In the kriti, "Vasudevayani Vedalani" (Kalyani), while describing the entry of the dowarika, he says "Mati Matikini Meesamu duvvi, manmatha roopudu thanani krovvi, dati dati paduchuna" is hilarious. Translated, it shows the ridiculuous behavior of the Dwarapalaka. He is walking here and there, twirling his moustache, posing as if he is Manmata (the God of Love and Beauty), jumping here and there and talking and laughing to himself posing like a handsome guy.
One of the scholars studying the Nowka charithram, responding to the criticism of Thyagaraja by some purists about the excessively sringara rasa ra in this drama, says that Sri Swami has walked the razor edge in keeping strictly in ethical and moral values and his srungara rasa. Unlike Jayadeva, Thyagaraja did not step outside the canons of decency. Whatever the rasa employed, the ultimate objective is bakthi and rasas have been employed only to emphasis the need for Bhakthi.
Proverbs: Thyagaraja Swami also uses a number of proverbs in his compositions to emphasize the underlying meaning in his compositions. Here are two examples:
These are a few example of many such proverbs that Thyagaraja Swami uses in his kriti to bring forth his true emotions and purpose behind a composition.
Of the several factors that have contributed to the greatness and exceptionality of Carnatic Music, the variety and richness of compositions stand foremost. It’s a recognised fact that Carnatic Music is predominantly composition based and all the improvisations like rāga ālapana, neraval and swara kalpana are made to the chosen composition that is presented. The main emphasis is on vocal music; most compositions are written to be sung, and even when played on instruments, they are meant to be performed in a singing style (known as gāyaki). And one of the added specialities of the wealth of Carnatic compositions is the Samudāya Kritis or Group Compositions. Many vāggeyakāras have composed samudāya kritis or a series of songs based on particular themes. The greatest masters in this arena are Sri Thyāgarāja, Sri Muttuswāmi Dikshitar, Sri Shyāma Shāstri and Mahāraja Swāti Tirunāl. It is noteworthy that Sri Oothukkādu Venkatakavi (1700-65), whose period was before that of the above mentioned composers, has composed the Kāmākshi Navāvaranams, Ānjaneya Pancharatnams and Saptaratna Kritis. Since one does not find any prior instances of such group kritis by any composer, we can say that Oothukkādu was probably the poineer in composing Samudāya kritis and thereby set an example for later vāggeyakāras.
The Saptaratna Kritis of Oothukkādu are one of the most precious gems in the crown of Carnatic Compositions. Equally scholarly, profound and elegant, but more popular are the evergreen Ghana Rāga Panchartna Kritis of Thyāgaraja.
While Thyāgarāja has employed ghana rāgas Gowlai(Dudukugala), Ārabhi(Sādhinchene), Sri(Endaro mahānubhāvulu), Oothukkādu has weighty and light. His choice of ragas seems like Nāttai(Jagadānandakāraka), Varāli(Kanakanaruchira) and used ragas rare and popular; more instinctive and based onnatural inclination rather than compliance to any theme. Oothukkādu’s seven ratnas are made up of the following ragas.
All the songs of the Saptaratna and Pancharatna are set to Ādi tala and more or less have the same format consisting of a pallavi, anupallavi and several charanams to be sung with swara and sāhityam alternately. The charanams generally compraise of madhyamakāla sāhityam. A few of the kritis have an anchor charanam (a charanam from which each swara and sahitya of the secondary charanams would take off and land, rather than from the pallavi). The 3rd of the Panchartnas and the 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th and 7th of the Saptaratnas have anchor charanams.
One of the Pancharatnas is composed in Samskritam (i.e., “Jagadānandakāraka”) and the rest are in Telugu. Whereas, Oothukkādu has chosen Tamil for the Paras Kriti “Ālāvadennālo” and Samskritam for the other six.
While all his kritis are soulful, Sri Thyāgarāja has outclassed himself in his Pancharatnas where he is at his greatest and perhaps touched the pinnacle of Carnatic music. Jagadānandakāraka is a kriti with various descriptions and attributes of Lord Rama. In Dudukugala, Thyagaraja puts himself in the place of a sinner and finally takes refuge in Lord Rama. Sādhinchene has been carved out in a language full of liberty, teasing tone, metaphor and simile and brings out the greatness of the Lord in a lucid manner most enthusiastically. In Kanakanaruchira, the composer brings out the story of Dhruva, Hanuman and several other bhaktas and describes the sweetness of the Lord’s grace on them. And lastly he describes the greatness of the devotees through the ages and pays his salutations in “Endaro mahānubhāvulu”. While the theme of Thyagaraja’s Pancharatnas mostly revolves around Lord Rāma (with an exception of “Endaro mahānubhāvulu”), Oothukkādu has offered incredible variety and colour in his Saptaratnas. He has composed no two songs with the same theme. The first pays tribute to great devotees, mythological and historical personalities such as Ānjaneya, Prahlāda, Nandi, Sanaka, Sanandana, Sugreeva, Mārkandeya, Vishnavaite Azhwārs, Shaivaite Nayanmārs, Arunagirināthar, Purandaradāsa and Tulasidāsa. (The theme of this kriti is similar to that of “Endaro” of Thyagaraja.) The sencond ratna is an outstanding piece on Lord Vishnu. The third is a unique and special composition on Rādha, the beloved of Lord Krishna. The beauty and charm of Krishna and his music is the theme of the fouth ratna. The fifth kriti has Lord Shiva as its theme and describes the five faces of Shiva, his instruments and his several epical episodes. While the sixth brings to light the heroes of “Periya Purānam” i.e., the 63 nayanmārs (this being the only composition in Indian Music that salutes each of the 63 saints by name), in the seventh, Oothukkādu describes Lord Krishna and gives him the eight offerings such as arghyam, pādyam, deepam, dhoopam, etc, in each of the charanams.
These Saptaratnas and Panchartnas put together are classic masterpieces which the world of Carnatic Music will cherish for the generations to come. With their unmatched grandeur, they bring in a mood of meditative devotion of sublime nature which transcends words and feelings. Thus, it appropriate to call them “Dwādasha Ratnas” of Carnatic Music.
Thyagaraja Swami had made significant contributions to raga lakshana, raga lakshya, and raga swaroopa, or in general, to the development of musicology. A support for this claim is provided to us by Sri A. Vasudeva Sastry of the Saraswathi Mahal Library, in a book titled “Ragas”. The Ragas study examines the manuscripts of Sahaji, who died in 1710, about sixty years before Swami was born. After analyzing the work of Sahaji and all the materials available on raga lakshanas, Sri Vasudeva Sastri concludes that thirty of the 72 melakarta ragas were given a raga swarupa and acquired their ranking solely from Saint Thyagaraja Swami giving them these qualities. Quoting from Madikeswara Samhita, a work on srutis of which only extracts are now available, Sastry points out that 12 swara moorchanas were in existence and Swami used it to give Karaharapriya great charm in his composition, Rama Nee Samana mevaru. Quoting the sangatis of this composition in great detail, Sri Vasudeva Sastry points out that the “closed curve” melodic effect which can be got by the vadi-samvadi usage.
As it is believed, Swami created many new ragas. Many scholars however believe that he activated or unearthed many ragas which has been labeled and were lying dormant because their lakshanas or characteristics were not defined in clear terms. However, the fact that only one composition exists in a certain ragas and these compositions have been composed in these ragas only Sri Thyagaraja Swami lends credence to the claim that ragas like Pratapa Varali, Nabhomani, Jaya Narayani and many others, were Swami’s creations.
Similarly, sangatis or usages that enrich the musical context of a kriti, are mostly found in Swami’s compositions. Although some schoars point out that sangatis are as old as music itself and were known under the name prayaogas. However, since they became widely used only through the kritis of Swami, it will not be wrong to assume that sangatis were Swami’s innovations. He used sangatis to bring out the raga bhava or their fundamental characteristics.
Mrs. Vidya, in an excellent paper presented to the centenary session of the Madras Music Academy (Swami’s death centenary), has used a number of examples to illustrate how Swami used sangatis to highlight the use of right srutis. He used these also in kritis intended for children so that they can learn the sruti values early and by understanding the proper imitation of the instrument or voice teaching them. Let me point out one example provided by Mrs. Vidya. In the kriti, Mariadagadura (Sankarabharanam), she points to the numerous sangatis used in the pallavi and shows how the tri-sruti gandhara of Sankarabharanam is deftly handled by Swami. Both Sankarabharana and Kalyani have the same gandharas in their structure but Kalyani use the Chatursruthi and the note clings to the Madhyama. She also points out how the sahitya splits perfectly into the right tisra syllables and how the visesha prayoga, Sa Da, Pa in the sangatis just preceding the complete avaroha brings out the bhava.
Mrs. Vidya also says that by using a deerga daivata, Swami has skillfully managed to bring out the raga bhava of Kambhjoji in Evari Mata, although he uses only the swaras common to Sankarabharanam and Khamboji. The commencement of the charana of this song also brings out the value of Khamboji’s deerga daivata prayogam.
Often, when using a new raga, Swami employs the arohana and avarohana in the opening phrase itself. For example in Binna Shadjam, raga derived from the ninth mela, Dhenuka, the opening words Sari Varilona, fit in with Sa Ri Ga Ri Pa Ma Pa Da Sa Da Pa Ma Ri Ga Ri Sa. The opening phrase in Evaraina lera peddalu (Raga: Siddha Sena), the notes are Sa Ga Ri Ga Ma. Take Bahudari, is there a more appropriate characteristic phrase than Pa Da Ni Pa Ma Ga?
When employing vivadi swaras, Swamiji makes sure that the vivadis occur in the opening phrase itself, e.g. Paramatmudu in Vagadheeswari; Evare Ramayya in Gangeya Bhushani. Even for an ancient and well known raga like Bhairavi, he uses common swaras to great effect. For example, in the short rupaka tala kriti, Upacharama Jese Varu, he opens with Ri Ma Ga without the slightest trace of Karaharapriya. The chatsruthi rishabha of Karaharapriya is aligned to the Madhyama, a fact so well demonstrated. Karaharapriya and Hari Kambhoji are Swami’s gifts to Carnatic music. The Tana Sampradaya Kirtanas and indeed even the simple rhythmic ones teach the ease with which all or most of Swami’s songs fall into the sarva laghu ,in addition to demonstrating the scope of the raga alapana, swara singing paddathi and neraval. Koluvayyunnade in Bhairavi and Kori Sevimparare in Karaharapriya are examples.
Other examples of where Swami had used sangatis to bring out the raga bhava 'include: Najeevadhara, Chetulara Srungaramu, Thappi Brathiki Brova Tharama; in these compositions, the sangatis are in the passage containing the message of the kriti. In the Pratapa Varali song, Vinanasa Koniyannanu, the phrase Da Pa Sa is used for Aa Aa in words to emphasize that Swami wants to not only have sweet words, but to also as he says “Madhuramaina Palukulu,” the sweet words that Vathathmaju ( Anjayaney) and Bharatha heard.
The compositions of Sri Thyagaraja Swami make the largest contribution to our knowledge of Carnatic music today. In volume and variety, no other composer has given us so much material covering so wide a range of ragas, their lakshanas, that allows singing even by those with limited voice range and limited music knowledge. Examples are: Jaya Jaya Sri Raghu Rama, in Mangala Kaisiki which any one can sing (even little children), Naa Jeevadhara, Endhu Daakinado, and Mari Mari Ninne, that demand excellent voice qualities and sangita gnana or musical knowledge.
Thyagaraja was the greatest among the music composers of South India and one of the musical prodigies of all time. His works are of delicate spirituality, full of melodic beauty and in the highest sense, artistic. He exerted the greatest influence upon musical art in South India during the 18th and 19th centuries and revolutionized the very nature of Carnatic music. His songs are accepted today as the only adequate interpretation of classical Carnatic music from both the music and the sahitya points of view.
The group of five kritis, known as the “Pancha Rathna” or five gems, in Nata, Gaula, Arabhi, Varali, and Sri Raga, is the most representative of Thyagaraja’s art as a composer. He appears to have, in these kritis, consciously summed up his musical genius in a quintessential form. They are not stray pieces composed at random but constitute a deliberate scheme of melody, rhythms and words into which he has painstakingly fitted in every aspect of the classical forms in Carnatic music. The swaras come in waves with an originality and daring that are breathtaking. All the five are in the Adi tala but the “sarvalaghu” dances merrily both in the brisk and the sedate pieces. Thyagaraja’s poetic gifts in Sanskrit and Telugu are also in full play and the kritis are literally poems set to music.
Various reasons have been advanced as to why these five ragas have been called “Ghana ragas.” They were known as “Ghana raga panchakam” in the Vina sampradaya and it has been the practice for Vainikas to acquire expertise in playing tanam in them. One reason is that of the subtle sruti and prayogas of Carnatic music figure in them. Nata contains the Shatsruthi Rishbha and Shatsruti Dhaivata; Gaula has the Ekasruti Rishaba, which is lower then Suddha Rishabha; Arabhi contains the alpa prayogas of Gandhara and Nishada, and Varali has a particularly sharp prati madhyama known as the Varali Madhyama. Sriraga is considered to be an auspicious raga. From the ettugada swara development in the five kritis, it is clear that Thyagaraja was fully familiar with the Vina sampradaya and was perhaps a good Vainika himself. Venkatamukhi mentions eight ragas as Ghana ragas with the addition of Bauli, Malavasri, and Ritigowla. There is also a second series of Ghana Ragas comprising of Kedaram, Narayanagaula, and Salanganata.
There is a rationale behind the order in which Thyagaraja has arranged the sahita of the Pancha rathna. “Jagadanandakaraka” follows the Thodyamangalam pattern in which the first song starts with “Jaya” and in wholly Sanksrit. Instead of “Janaki Ramana”, we have “Janaki prana nayaka.” The opening line stresses the Upanishadic truth that the Lord is the source of all joy, “Ananda” and the rest of the kriti is a beautiful namavali. The mudra of Thyagaraja is found in three places.
The remaining four kritis are in Sanskritized Telugu. In “Duduku gala” in Gaula, the composer passes into a mood of introspection and self-reproach. After the manner of the earlier saints, Thyagaraja exclaims, “Which Lord will save an incorrigible sinner like me?” Couched in chaste Telugu, the kriti proceeds to catalogue sins of commission and omission like the teaching of music to undeserving dancers, gallants, and women, wasting one’s life in useless arguments and for acquiring wealth.
“Sadinchane” is a bold “ninde stuti” in which Thyagaraja accuses the Lord as being a cunning God who belied his own teachings and achieved his own ends. A unique feature of this kriti is that Thyagaraja alternates between Rama and Krishna, praising Rama for his virtues and reserving his sarcasm for Krishna. The charanam summarizes the Lord’s advice to Thyagaraja, “do not grieve; but take the rough with the smooth.”
In “Kana Kana Ruchira” in Varali, the composer proceeds to describe the divine beauty of the Lord which grows “more and more as one look at him.” Thyagaraja cites a long list of witnesses who has feasted their eyes upon that divine splendor.
“Endaro Mahanubhavulu” in Sri raga comprises Thyagaraja’s salutations to a galaxy of preceptors and purvacharyas of yore, who include nada yogis, mystics, bhagavatas and those who had mastered the mysteries of scriptures. This grand piece rounds off the Pancha ratna group on a soothing note and with a benediction. A continuous rendering of the group in chorus ushers in an atmosphere of peace, tranquility and devotional rapture.
These five major works of art and philosophy have now, by popular usage, become an essential part of the Thyagaraja Aradhana celebrations wherever they are held. They are sung by a group of devotees and any one who knows the songs may participate. Some scholars maintain that these songs were not sung in a particular sequence while others say that they are major set of compositions to be sung in the Veena Sampradaya order - i.e. starting with Nattai and ending with Sri Raga. However, one thing is certain: these songs provide a continuous subject matter for the spiritual aspirant.
The Nattai composition is a list of 108 names of the Lord (an astothra satha namavali); gleaned from both the Ramayana and the Bhagavatha. The song is full of phrases and composite words, so well ornamented to fit in with the rhythm. In fact, as far as the laya is concerned, once can write a "sollukattu" for each charana, to fit in with the words and, at the same time, make a laya vinyasa of it. The Sanskrit words, both those of a straight forward nature and those of samarasas and derivation are simply exquisite. "Jaathadipayodi vas harana" and " nigama neerjamruta poshaka" are two examples of the kind of literary beauty which have been woven into the song. One of the Upanyasakartas says that it was composed to help in performing a musical ashtothra archana. A scholar in Andhra Pradesh had constructed a thesis on the assumption that the Pancharathana Kritis are based on the Pancha Kosas in which the soul is enclosed (The pancha kosas are - anna, prana, mana, vignana and ananda). Freely interpreted, they may be termed the physical, emotional, intellectual , spiritual and blissful.
The Gowla Keerthana: "Dudukugala" is a list of man's foibles which bring him sorrow and misery. A long list of "don'ts" which, if not avoided are bound to bring sorrow. The list of weaknesses and bad actions has been given as though the Swami himself was guilty of committing those "don'ts." This composition which speaks of several of such undesirable thoughts and actions of the majority of us, reminds us of the conversation on another aspect of the Swami's teachings (if at all he meant to preach or pontificate). Some of my friends are of the view that Swami, as in this kriti, mostly addresses either his Lord or admonishes his own self, and sometimes pleads on behalf of others. Broadly, this view seems to bee all right. As examples of his plea to the Lord, we may cite just one example - "nee bhajana gana rasikula" (Nayaki) and as examples of admonishing himself or addressing his own mind, we may cite "manasa etulordune" (Malayamarutham) - the words "nijamuga paluku manasa" in Nidichalasukhama (Kalyani) and "Vinave Oh Manasa" (Vivardani).
What a contrast with most of us, lesser mortals, who are only too ready to criticize or offer advise, invited or uninvited, irrespective of his own qualifications to advice.
Arabhi: The composition "Sadinchane" points out that none else but I am responsible both for my happiness and sorrow. When one fails to do the right things and finds oneself in trouble - the words of God in the scriptures seem falsified - "bodinchina sanmarga vachanamula bonku jesi." On the contrary, if one will carefully study the advice of the Lord (in this song) one will know that one is asked to bear the pain or suffering when it comes and refrain from bad deeds. In other words, we should learn to acquire the six righteous qualities of sama, dhana, titeeksha, uparati, sraddha and samadana - the ability to look away from the temptation; to do no evil; practice self-control; bear suffering without complaint and so on. Volumes have been written on the composition by scholars far more qualified and so, I shall leave it to them to add further comment on this composition.
Varali: Many old timers question the authenticity of this composition whether Thyagaraja composed it at all. Their argument is that the kriti alone (within this group) is in "rendu kalai." Over the years, it has been accepted as one of the Ganaraga pancharathnas and widely learnt and sung: "the paatam" has been standardized and, it is a pleasure to listen to the singing by a large group of men and women, in unison, on the basis of an accepted standard paatanthram, authentic or not. The subject matter of the song is that His divine presence is more and more enjoyable as you see Him as did the Devas and sages of yore.
Sri Ragam: This is the crowning jewel of the group of songs and lists the various paths to Ananda. Each of the charanams lists one or more paths by which great souls have attained salvation (moksha, Godhood, etc.). The five yamas and the five niyamas are covered by direct mention and indirect reference as surest way to salvation. The emphasis on singing the first and last charanas makes it amply clear that music and devotion are, together, the supreme marga or path to Bliss.
Nadopasana is bhakthi, worship, and devotion through music. As the article on Thyagaraja’s musical plays pointed out, Sri Thyagaraja Swami used his compositions to energize our inner spiritual forces or nadopasana to attain moksha or salvation in this life. There are several references to nadopasana in Indian musicology, philosophy, and epics. For example, in The Sangita Rathnakara, the opening slokas explain how nada and Kundalini1 are interrelated and how this comprehension is necessary for salvation. Sri Thyagaraja Swami took the first three slokas and composed the following kritis, Nada Thanum Anisam, Sobhillu Saptha Swara, and Nadopasana, using the first, second, and third sloka respectively.
According to Hindu sastras, Naabhi, Hrith, Kanta, Rasana, and Naasa are the sources of sound which originate from the Mooladhara or the inner soul. The recognition of this Mooladharaja naada is itself moksha says Sri Thyagaraja in the Sankarabharanam kriti, Swara Raga Sudharasa. Thyagaraja Swami says "Mooladaraja" naada "Merungutaye mudamagu mokshamura"; the realization of the existence and experience of the sound generated at the base of the spine is itself blissful heaven. Again, in the same kriti, he reiterated this again, "kolahala saptaswaramula gruhamula guruthe mokshamura."
In this connection, it is interesting to note that Sir John Sparrow, in his book titled, Serpent Power, equates Kund alini with endogenous sound. The identification of the correct srutis as the home of the swaras is also important for experiencing moksha or liberation “Saptha Swarmula Grhuhamula guruthe mokshamura.” The worship of pure sound emanating from within you and identifying yourself with it and being in consonance with it is liberation or moksha. This is Nada Yoga.2
Sri Thyagaraja Swami not only stresses the importance of recognizing and developing the ability to experience Mooladhara nada, but also more specifically asks the votaries to practice sangitopasana as a means and prelude to enjoying nadopasana. In his composition, Sribapriya Sangeethopasana in Atana, he conjures up visions of the mind traveling in the swaras - “Sapthaswara Chaari” and melodic ragas manifesting themselves in delightful forms - “Ranjimpa Jesedu ragambulu, manjulamagu navatarambulethi.” He stresses other and nearer terrestrial benefits of sangita gana - “Prema Bhakthi, Sujana Vathsalyamu, Srimath Ramaa vara Katakshamu, Nema Nishta Yasodhanamu” as the rewards of acquiring Sangita Sastra gnana.
These discussions on nadopasana thus point to how Sri Thyagaraja was not only an excellent musicologist conforming to the traditional sastras but who, through simple songs with pristine purity, taught us the nature and purpose of music. Indeed , through sangita he urged us to acquire the wisdom of perceiving Brahman, the intelligence to analyze and experience Him; the diligence to seek Him; and the patience to wait for enlightenment. He described his Rama as an embodiment of Nada. No other composer has in such a simple and appealing ways taught music as art, science, philosophy and ultimately, as a means to salvation.
1 According to Yoga sastras, we humans are a microcosmic image of the universe. This universal energy that each human carries within oneself is the Kundalini. The Kundalini lies dormant until awakened. The object of certain forms of yoga is to awaken this dormant force and to let it lead us to the path of salvation. Liberation, therefore, is unity with the universe from which we originated; the individual spirit becomes part of the universal spirit. It is the highest experience that a yogi to a saint to an ordinary individual is striving to reach. One of the yogic approaches that awakens the Kundalini is the nada or nadopasana or devotion through music.
2 Kritis such as Mokshamu Galada (Sarmathi) and Swara Raga Sudha rasa (Sankarabharanam), Raga Sudha Rasa (Andolika) and Sitavara (Devagandhari) deal with the subject of nada yoga. It is believed that the root of our spinal column, there is a chakra or stahanam (place/location). Starting from here and going up to the crown of a person's head, Prana, passes through knots or granthis. There are three knots, Mooladhara Kshetra, Manipoora or Vishnu Granthi and Agnya chakra or Rudra granthi. The path, sound takes through these granthas is called srotha. And, the practice of taking the sound to the prana and achieving liberation is called nada yoga.
This is a reprint of the article that appeared under Culture in Chandamama, U.S. and Canada Edition
I hope our past discussions on music, dance, and other arts have been exciting and fascinating to you. This month I want to share two stories from Hindu mythology. Mythology contains interesting and fictional stories about Gods, people, their beliefs, and traditions. The Ramayana and the Mahabharatha, for example, talk about ordinary people and every day events. These stories teach people that knowledge of our mythology and accomplishments in music are important, while illustrating at the same time, that it is even more important to live our lives with decency and honor. While these are stories of the past, we can relate to them even today and find great meaning in them.
The general belief among Indians is that music is divine and life like. Even Gods are pleased by music. Even today, it is common to recite mantras and other hymns in praise of Gods during Hindu religious ceremonies. Often, these mantras and hymns are recited musically because they are very pleasing to those who are present in the congregation. Also, many of our culture's stories describe some of the Gods and saints as gifted musicians, excellent dancers and learned scholars. For example, Krishna is a flute maestro. Goddess Saraswathi is a Veena player, while Nandi is an accomplished drummer. Shiva and his wife, Parvathi are great dancers. Brahma and Saraswathi are learned, wise scholars. In fact, Saraswathi is also personified as the goddess of wisdom, learning and knowledge. The Gods and saints are not described as musicians or scholars simply to make them appear interesting, however. Through the narrations of reading about the life of these accomplished individuals, we discover the qualities that made them great but also the weaknesses that made them fail.
For example, take the story of Saint Narada. Narada, when translated into English, means knowledge giver -- Nara is the word for knowledge and Da means giver. Saint Narada is most known for creating mischief and quarrels between people (although the quarrels always lead to good things and makes everyone happy). Apart from his mischief making, however, Narada is also well known for his supreme musical talents - according to Hindu mythology, he introduced people to the gift of music. Narada always appears with a Veena in his hands and constantly chants the name of Lord Narayana. Even today, In India, when a religious discourse or a Yakshagana (a type of dance-drama or an opera) is held, the programs begin after invoking the name of Narada.
Saint Narada, wasn't without flaws, however. He was proud of his musical skills, but looked down on others who were less skilled than he was. Once he went to the kingdom of Lord Krishna. Krishna knew of Narada's arrogance and wanted to teach him a lesson on modesty and respect for others. Krishna asked Narada to play his Veena before an assembled audience in his court. Narada played the Veena brilliantly and delighted the audience with his music. At the end of his performance, Narada turned to Krishna and waited for the God to express his appreciation of Narada's music. Krishna, instead, turned to Hanuman, the monkey God, who was sitting in the audience, and asked him what he thought of Narada's music. Narada, unaware of Hanuman's divine status, was very unhappy that Krishna, instead of expressing his appreciation, sought the opinion of a mere monkey. "What does a monkey know about music?" Narada thought.
Krishna reading the mind of Narada said, "Oh Narada, I understand your concern, but first, let us find out if this monkey really knows anything about music. Give him your Veena and let him play it." Narada became even angrier because musicians consider their musical instruments sacred. Narada didn't want to share his Veena with anyone, especially not a monkey. He couldn't refuse Krishna's request however, and reluctantly handed the Veena to Hanuman. Hanuman began to play the Veena and sang beautiful hymns in praise of Lord Rama. The Monkey God's singing and playing was so sincere and so devoted that the entire audience was mesmerized. Even the great musical genius Narada was compelled to appreciate Hanuman's music. Being a person of enormous wisdom, Narada began to realize the lesson that Krishna was teaching him. Narada asked Krishna's forgiveness for not respecting the greatness of Hanuman and for underestimating Hanuman because he was a monkey.
Like the story of Narada, the myth of Ravana also illustrates the importance of good conduct and morality over mere accomplishments in music or education. Ravana, the mighty demon king of Lanka is one of the principal characters from the Ramayana. Like Narada, Ravana was very talented in music and also very learned and knowledgeable in the Vedas and the scriptures. He was an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva and enchanted Shiva with his music (Shiva is called "Gana Priya", one who is pleased by music). One day, delighted by the demon king's music, Lord Shiva granted him a wish: Ravana desired that his life could only be ended by Shiva and by no other Gods. As the years passed, Ravana acquired enormous powers through his penance and through the wish granted by Shiva. But, instead of using his powers and his knowledge of music and the Vedas to benefit the world, Ravana used them to only benefit himself. He became very proud, conceited, and even immoral.
According to the Ramayana, Ravana kidnapped Sita, Rama's wife and tried to take her for his own. To rescue his wife from Ravana, Rama, invaded Lanka. But Ravana was unconcerned, confident that he was too powerful to be killed by Rama. Alas, he didn't realize that Shiva only exempted him from being killed by Gods, but not human beings. Since Rama was a human incarnation of Vishnu, Shiva's boon could not save Ravana. He died at Rama's hands.
We can learn a great deal from the stories of Narada and Ravana. The Narada story shows that even great saints and learned scholars occasionally make mistakes or act foolish. Regardless of one's accomplishments in music, art, or education, one must be modest and simple and never underestimate the talents of others. More importantly, we must learn, like Narada, that no one, not even great Saints, can judge people based on their color, appearance, or origin. Finally, even great saints can admit when they are wrong.
Ravana's story tells us that having musical talents or knowledge of scriptures isn't adequate. We must also live a life of austerity and simplicity. We must not always pursue our own interests, but must also work toward the welfare of the community and world in which we live. Like Ravana, we must learn that a person does not become powerful because of birth, wealth, or possessions. Even the most powerful will become powerless if they violate ethics and morals.
Hindu mythology is intended to help us see ourselves more clearly by depicting the lives of Gods and Saints in everyday situations. By reading their stories, we can learn from the mistakes made by these characters as well as the lessons that they learn from them. In this way, we can use these stories as a way to examine our own lives and see how we can make our world and ourselves better.
Hindus believe that from time to time there are born among us, persons known as "Avatara Purushas" who interpret religion and gospels in terms relevance to contemporary needs. While the scriptures are by their very nature relevant for all times, the practices which have grown out of the beliefs may need fresh interpretation. For example, "Sathyam Vadha Dharmamchara" etc. are absolute and not capable of being treated as re-interpretable. However, what constitutes "Dharma" at a given age, for a given caste or class or ashrama may not be relevant to a later day or different age. And, from time to time, to our good fortune, great men "Avatara Purushas", such as Sri Thyagaraja Swami, are born among us to lead us to kindly light; show us the way, interpreting, laying emphasis on, and teaching us the age old dharma, in the light of the needs of the times in which they are born.
Thyagaraja Swami was born in a society which had fanatic divisions; a society which made rituals an end in itself. Thyagaraja Swami, to awaken his people, interpreted the srutis and puranas and highlighted to the people that the moral and ethical content of religious practices are more important than the rituals; that the human mind is an all powerful tool and we humans, by using the mind intelligently, could achieve liberation from bondage and even in this world, could become a "Jeevan Muktha" or a liberated soul.
It is this philosophy that distinguished Sri Thyagarajaswamy from others. While there were many composers before him and while many of them have left us a treasure house of compositions and musical forms, their contributions were mostly in the form of namavalis (praise of God's name) or were pleadings to their personal god for protection. Unlike these composers, Sri Thygagaraja Swami dealt with Man - his problems, society's ills and the belief in wrong values. Thyagaraja Swami took these issues and undertook to write in his compositions messages that were ecumenical and catholic He criticized the warring factions, each claiming the validity of his own religion and belief, while belittling others' religion and beliefs, professing the superiority of its chosen deity over others. Thyagaraja Swami conveyed his message not be mere preaching but also by showing his beliefs through his own life; by living a simple and pure life. He demonstrated to the world that the purpose of education and erudition was to mould character. He illustrated this concept by comparing an educated man who has not learnt from his education to live an ethical life, to a donkey that carries a load of books. The donkey does not become any wiser for carrying those books.
Thyagaraja Swami stressed again and again that humanity is not simply following the rituals of a religion but humanity is faithfulness, compassion to fellow creatures and understanding and accepting of others. These qualities are what makes one charitable and one religious and pious; not mere rituals without understanding. "Thiaga" that is part of our rituals is not just giving or donating but it means unattachment . It is messages such as these that made Sri Thyagaraja Swami a legend during his own life time. No other composer has been praised so highly by so many generations of other composers and admired by so many people in the world. It is because of these attributes that Thyagaraja Swami is the only composer for whom there is an Aradhana celebration in many parts of the world.
Some of the following episodes and writings exemplify the great admiration other scholars had for Saint Thyagaraja. Thomu Narasimha Das, a great scholar, says that he visited Thyagaraja Swami in Madras. Narasimha Das says that he greatly benefited from this meeting. "Kesavananada Sankeerthanavali Vinti, bakthulu shishyulu kalasi koluva kanti, vang maadhuri vaibhavambu kanti, vinaya sathsampanna vivekambu kanti." In simpler words, Narasimha Das says that he saw a man of devotion and discipline, a person of wisdom and intellect and in a nutshell, a divine presence. Narasimha Das concludes his statement with the words, "Ajuniki AntharAni anubhavamunu kanti - premanoka saari pilichithe Ramudu Oyanuchu mArubalkunanta" or when Swami called Lord Sri Rama responds with "Oh!" (Thygaraja, did you call me?). Thomu Narasimha Das says that his meeting with Sri Thyagaraja was an experience that even the creator of the world, Brahma could not have experienced.
You can also read the admiration expressed by a Westerner, Fox Strangaways in the article The Music of Hindostan. Most importantly, let us read what Thyagaraja Swami's own gurun said about him. After hearing Thyagaraja Swami sing to an audience of scholars the kriti "Dorakuna Itu Vanti Seva" (Raga: Bilahari), when translated means, "Can anyone get this kind of blessing, to sing in the august presence of my guru? Even the Devas (the angels) are not so blessed as I (Thyagaraja)." In response, Guru Sonti Venkatramaniah exclaimed, "Doraguna Iduvamdi Sishyudu" (Can anyone be more blessed than I to get a disciple such as Thyagaraja?" This shows the admiration Sonti Venkatramaniah had for his disciple.
These episodes, while illustrating the admiration others had for Saint Ghyagaraja, does not fully answer, "Why all this praise for this one composer?" The simple answer is, Thyagaraja did not merely compose songs; he gave us a philosophy; showed us that through nadhopasana or worship through music, one can achieve everlasting happiness. Above all else, he showed us that temptations can be reduced by living a simple life, rejecting offers of wealth and possession even from Royalty. He is the only composer who taught us that music is "sulabhumuga kadatheranu soochana" (Manasaetulordune - Malayamarudham) or an easy means to salvation. He appealed to scholars and the naive individual alike.
He had something to give to each one of us. Like the great ocean that interest the marine biologist and the marine chemist pursing scholarly scientific investigations or the merchant shipmen who want to navigage the seas, the fisherman looking for fish, or the ordinary individual admiring its depth and beauty and enjoying its breeze, Thyagaraja Swami's songs satisfied the intellectual curiosity of the musicologist; answered the questions of the religious scholar; and pleased the musical novice with melodgy.
The contribution of Thyagaraja is not merely his compositions and the melody that it provided but the values that he preached and also practicsed. He asked us to eschew kaama, krodha, lobha, moha, madha and matsarya and instead, cultivate sama, dama, uparati, titiksha, shraddha and samadhana. Freely translated, it means get rid of desires, lust, selfishness, ego, jealousy, hatred, and fear. instead, cultiave self control, equanimity, tranquility, ability to bear suffering and ability to look away from evil.
The Haridasa movement in Karnataka has presented to the world a galaxy of pure and pious souls who struggled and strove for the love of Hari. It was a devotional movement based on mystical experience, which spread to all classes of the society and touched all hearts. The Haridasa literature was perfectly 'Vaidika' in tone and in its tenets, and was perhaps the greatest interpreter of the abstract metaphysics and sublimity of sentiment of Vedic and Upanishadic teaching. Besides, it conveyed great and sacred truths in Kannada in a very simple and clear style so as to be understood by the common people. With immeasurable compositions in the form of Keertanas (or Devaranamas), Ugabhogas, Suladis, Vruttanamas and many more, the Haridasas made distinctive contribution to Kannada literature as well as Traditional South Indian Music. To the Haridasa, poetry and music were twin-born and one would not exist without the other.
One of the striking features of Haridasa compositions is the use of Shabdalankaras in the form of Prasa (Rhyme) and Anuprasa (Alliteration) which, like ornamental elements, have enhanced the lyrical and musical value of those songs. Prasa and Anuprasa are literary or rhetorical stylistic devices which are employed in literature to beautify and embellish the lyrical passages. Prasa is rhyme which consists of identical or similar sounds placed at the ends of lines or at predictable locations within lines . This is normally of 3 types namely adiprasa (first syllable of each line rhyming), dviteeyakshara prasa (second syllable of each line rhyming), and antyaprasa (final syllable of each line rhyming). Anuprasa is alliteration that refers to repeating the same consonant sound at the beginning of several words in close succession. It is like a jingle of the same letter or letters happening at the beginning of each word.
Karnataka Sangeeta Pitamaha, the king among Haridasas, Purandara Dasa, in one of his most popular compositions ‘bhAgyada lakShmi bAramma...’, has brilliantly used in each charana, the dviteeyakshara prasa.
“hejjeya.....gejjeya...sajjana...majjige...” – jj as the second syllable in every line.
“attittagalade...nittya mahOtsava...sattyake tOruva...chittadi poLeyuva...” – tt as the second syllable in every line.
“sakkare tuppada....shukravArada....akkareyuLLa....chokka purandara viThalana rAni....” – kk as the second syllable in every line.
A similar approach can be seen in a familiar composition of Kanaka Dasa, ‘nammamma shArade...’ which also has dviteeyakshara prasa in all its charanas.
“nammamma shArade...... nimmoLagiha..... kammagollana..... hemmeya gaNanAthane...” – mm as the second syllable in every line.
“uTTadaTTiyu....diTTatAnivanyAramma....paTTada rANi..... hoTTeya gaNanAthane...” – TT as the second syllable in every line.
“rAshi vidyeya balla....bhAShiganivanyaramma....lEsAgi janara....kEshavadAsa kanE...”- sh or s as the second syllable in every line.
The dviteeyakshara prasa is the most used in Haridasa literature. ‘rAma kRuShnaru manege bandaru...’, ‘Enu maDidarEnu....’ of Purandara Dasa, ‘samsAravEmba sAgara...’ of Kanaka Dasa, ‘Gajamukhane...’ of Saint Vyasaraya are a few instances.
We find beautiful prasas in Sripadaraja’s ‘bAro namma manegE...’
“gollabAlakaranu – nillisi hegalEri – gullu mADade mosa – rella savida kRuShna” – Here we find ‘ll’ used with a, i, and u kAras as the second syllable.
“anganeyara vrata – bhangava mADida – ranga viTThala bhava – bandha pariharisO” – Here the composer has used the Adi prasa where the first syllable of every line is used with an anuswAra.
Saint Vadiraja, in his ‘bArO murAri....’, has used small delightful phrases with antya prasa.
“bArO murAri – bAlaka shouri – sAravichAri – santOShakAri
Ata sAkELO – maiyella dhULO – UTamADELO – kRuShnA kRupALO
vEnkaTaramaNa – sankaTaharaNa – kinkarAmaragaNA – vandita charaNA
aravinda nayana – sharadEndu vadana – vara yadusadana – siri hayavadana”
In Purandara Dasa’s ‘innu daya bAradE...’ we come across a simple and attractive illustration of anuprasa –
“nAnA dEshagaLalli nAnA kAlagaLalli nAnA yOnigaLalli nalidu puTTi
nAnu nannadu emba narakadoLage biddu neenE gati endu nambida dAsana mEle”
Here we see a successive repetition of words beginning with the consonant ‘na’ throughout this charana.
In a devaranama by Gopala Dasa, we come across anuprasa in the form of recurrence of the word ‘vishwa’ in quick succession throughout.
“vishwatOmukha neenE vishwatashchakShu neenE
vishwatObAhu neenE vishwatO hasta neenE
vishwataH shravana neenE vishwAdhAraka neenE
vishwavyApaka sarvavishwamayanu neenE
vishwanAmakahari gOpAla viTThala
vishwAsa koDu ninna vishwacharaNadali”
Mahipati Dasa, great but unnoticed, has been a master in the use of Shabdalankaras. A repeated occurrence of the syllable ‘tta’ in this composition of his makes it a feast to the ears. Furthermore, the antya prasa is also noteworthy.
“datta dattenalu hatti tA bAhanu
chittadoLagAguva matte shAshvatanu
datta uLLavana hattilE ihanu
vRutti ondAdare hastaguDuvanu
etta nODidare mottanAgiha tA
uttamOttamaranettuva tAyi tA
attalittAgade hattile sUsuta
muttinantihanu nettili bhAsuta”
The compositions of haridasas are poetically so rich that we hardly come across a composition without the employment of these Shabdalankaras. In addition, various kinds of Arthalankaras in the form of Upama (simili), Roopaka (metaphor), (personification), Uthpreksha (hyperbole), Virodhabhasa (paradox), Nidarshana (irony) also adorn these compositions with all their charm. Besides, the songs are perfectly metrical confirming to the rules of Chandas Shastra. Thus, the Haridasas produced musical literature in Kannada which are scholarly, yet intelligible and have been an integral part of the treasure of Carnatic Music compositions over the centuries.
Ganapati, also known as Ganesha, Gajanana, Gananatha, Vinayaka and Pillaiyar, is one of the best-known and most worshipped deities in the Hindu pantheon. His image is found throughout India. All Hindu sects, be it Shaivas, Vaishnavas or Shaktas, worship him regardless of other affiliations. Devotion to Ganapati is widely diffused and extends to Jains, Buddhists, and beyond India. Ganapati is widely revered as the Remover of Obstacles (Vighnesha, Vighneshvara, Vighnaraja) and more generally as Lord of Beginnings and as the patron of arts and sciences. The principal scriptures dedicated to Ganesha are the Ganesha Purana, the Mudgala Purana and the Ganapati Atharvashirsa.
We find references to Ganapati twice in the Rigveda.
“Gananam twa ganapatim havamahe...”(2-23-1)
“ni shu seeda ganapate...”(10-112-9)
But, these references do not tell us about the Ganapati we know. He is neither the son of Lord Shiva, nor the Ganesha born out of the grime of Godess Parvati’s body, nor the Ganesha with an elephant-head. Vedas describe him as the Lord of all the Jeeva Ganas(the living entities) and of the Indriya Ganas(the sense organs).
While Shaivas consider Shiva as the sole almighty and Shaktas worship Godess Parvati as the ultimate deity, a sect of devotees called the Ganapatyas identify Ganapati as the supreme godhead. In reality, these are three different facets of the same divine principle. Shiva is the supreme lord, who is the abode of absolute knowledge (Gnana), bliss (Ananda) and holiness (Mangala Swaroopa). His consort, Parvati or Shakti is nothing but the expansion of his own infinite power. The same divine power creates this universe and, as the master (Niyamaka) of jeevaganas and indriyaganas, manifests as Ganapati.
Why is Ganapati considered as the Lord of obstacles? Why is he both vighnakarta (the creator of obstacles) and vighnaharta (the remover of obstacles)? We all know that this creation is made up of the panchabhootas or five elements namely prithvi, ap, tejo, vayu and akasha. Ganapati is regarded as the devata of the fifth element ‘akashatattva’. Akasha represents space or the absence of any form of barrier or obstruction. Where there is ‘akasha’, there is ‘avakasha’. Hence, Vighneshvara, being the Lord of this element, is the one who can remove obstacles and create ‘avakasha’ for noble deeds and actions, as well as create obstacles for sinful activities. He is the main source of this creation, for which he is honored with the name ‘Vishwambhara’ He is also the adhipathi of ‘Mooladhara’, the first among the 7 spiritual centers in the human body and guides a sadhaka in his spiritual journey through the other centers ultimately leading to the ‘Sahasrarha’.
The form of Ganapati also has immense symbolic significance and conveys messages for the mental and spiritual well-being and upliftment of an individual. While his long penetrating nose represents in-depth and exhaustive study and assessment of any matter; his small eyes stand for microscopic vision (sookshma drushti) and his wide ears are a symbol of an open and broad outlook. His big tummy represents accumulation of knowledge and having ‘mooshika’(mouse) as his vahana symbolises the control of the whimsical human mind. His ‘pasha’ and ‘ankusha’ are indicative of seisure and control of human desires.
Since Ganesha is worshipped as the benefactor of arts, at no time in India were music, dance and literature devoid of Him. All the greatest music composers inclusive of Purandaradasa, Oothukkadu Venkata Kavi, Thyagaraja, Dikshitar, Muthaiah Bhagavathar, etc. have composed numerous compositions on Lord Ganapati. It has been a tradition to start any music concert or a dance recital with a song attributed to Ganapati praying him for the success of the programme. Since the ragas like Nattai, Hamsadhwani, etc.. are sung at the beginning of the concert, there are plenty of songs in these ragas on Lord Ganapati. The credit of composing numerous kritis in Ghana ragas(Nattai, Gowlai,Arabhi, Varali & Sree Ragam) on Lord Ganesha goes to Sri Dikshitar. Undoubtedly his songs again depict the Lord as in the Vedas, Puranas & Upanishads. In addition to these composers, the poets of the Sangam time in Tamil, have composed hymns on Ganapati. We also find several pieces composed on Ganesha in Hindustani Music as well.
Carnatic music compositions on Lord Ganesha have normally described him with these attributes.
Let’s all offer our obeisance to Lord Ganesha and pray that he continues to shower his sacred blessings on all artists. Let's meditate on his lotus feet & get the hurdles removed from the path of attaining self-knowledge, wisdom & salvation.
Ever since the beginning of time, the five basic elements or panchabhootas - earth, water, fire, air and ether have been worshipped by man. The entire creation is made of these elements. Without the functions of these elements, this world would never exist. The five elements make up the physical body of man, permeate his consciousness and are responsible for his various functions. These in turn activate the five subtle elements (tanmatras) of smell, taste, form, touch and sound and the five organs of action (karmendriyas).
The five Shiva kshetras situated in South India are sacred centres of pilgrimage of the Hindus. These holy places represent the five primal elements of nature. Lord Shiva himself manifests as these five elements. Ekamreshwara of Kanchipuram represents Prithvi (earth), Jambukeshwara of Tiruvanaikkaval represents Ap (water), Arunachaleshwara of Tiruvannamalai abides as Tejas (fire), Kalahastishwara symbolises Vayu (air) and Nataraja represents the akasha tatva (ether) at Chidambaram.
Muthuswami Dikshitar, the pilgrim composer, visited all the five shrines during his voyages and composed wonderful kritis on each of them, which besides being extremely rich in devotion to Lord Shiva, are awe-inspiring compositions of unsurpassed melody and lyrical beauty. He has also described the temples and the sthala puranams in a capsulated form in these compositions. Of these, Chidambaram (and the presiding deity Nataraja) have been sung of by innumerable composers in hundreds of songs. But, it is noteworthy that most Carnatic music composers have not sung in praise of the other four deities, excepting of course, Muthuswami Dikshitar. This makes Dikshitar’s Panchalinga Sthala Kritis very significant.
Kanchipuram in North Tamil Nadu is a great seat of religion, culture and education. It is hailed as “Nagareshu Kanchi”, the best among cities. The principal deity of Kanchipuram is Kamakshi and the deities of all the shrines in Kanchipuram face her temple. The Linga which is believed to be made of sand by Goddess Parvathi herself is the prithvi linga – that is the central deity of Ekamreshwara temple here. Ekamreshwara means Lord of the solitary mango, which is the sthala vruksha.
Dikshitar was invited to Kanchipuram by a great yogi, Sri Upanishad Brahmam, and stayed with him for a few years studying Vedanta. This was when he composed the beautiful bhairvi kriti ‘Chintayama kanda mulakandam’ as a tribute to the prithvi linga.
The opening line of the kriti has the word kanda twice (kanda mulakandam). ‘Kanda’ means root, which grows inside the soil and penetrates the earth. Similarly, the anupallavi has the line ‘samrajyaprada’-bestowing empires. The term samrajya or empire is temporal and of the earth. But, when a spiritually evolved person like Dikshitar uses the word samrajya, he most probably means moksha samrajya, the kingdom of liberation, which is the true kingdom to be gained. Nevertheless, the innate ignorance, the sadhana for its elimination and the consequent liberation i.e., moksha is for inhabitants of the earth. Therefore, Dikshitar’s usage of samrajyaprada in the kriti dedicated to the earth element is quite appropriate. Later, the Lord is described as the slayer of death (antaka sudana). Death again is for the inhabitants of the earth. The last line of the charanam refers to the prithvi linga.
Tiruchirappali or Trichy, as it is called now, is at the geographical centre of the state of Tamilnadu and is a great pilgrim centre. Here is situated the temple dedicated to Lord Jambukeshwara and Goddess Akhilandeshwari. A forest of Jambu trees existed near a tank here and Lord Shiva is said to have manifested under one of the trees as a Linga. The sthala vruksha is the jambu tree and hence the name Jambukeshvaram for the place itself. The Puranas say that Goddess Parvati made a linga out of water particles and worshipped it here. Water is always present in the inner shrine of Lord Jambukeshwara even during peak summer testifying to the nature of the element the Lord represents here.
Dikshitar often visited his daughter’s house in Trichy. He composed the ap linga kriti ‘Jambupathe’ in the raga Yamuna Kalyani. The music world is grateful to Dikshitar for giving unto it such a sublime, soulful work, a work of such exquisite aesthetic beauty that it is impossible not to be moved by it. And the way he has utilised a North Indian raga for a major kriti defies description.
The pallavi of the kriti asks the Lord to give the devotee the nectar of true bliss (nijanandamruta bodham). Amruta or nectar is a fluid. The anupallavi begins with a reference to Brahma, seated on a lotus that is born out of water (ambujasanadi). Later, the anupallavi says that the Lord quenches the fires that rage in the heart (hrudayatapopashamana), which is an indirect reference to water, for it is only water that can douse fire. The next line says that the deity is the Lord of the sea and of the rivers Ganga, Kaveri, Yamuna. Dikshitar further says that Shiva is the Lord of Goddess Akhilandeshwari whose throat is akin to conch. (kambu kanti akhilandeshwari ramana). Conch is born out of water. The charana refers to the Lord as ap linga, as an ocean of nectar of compassion (karunasudhasindho) and as one bearing the Ganga in his locks (nityamauli vidhruta gangendo). The raga name itself has an association with rivers. This composition has the maximum number of references to the element in concern among the five and is noted for its alliterative beauty especially in the charanam. The ending words, vibho, prabho, shambho, swayambho, sindho, bandho, bindho, gangendo, etc., testify to Dikshitar’s command of the language as well as his poetic genius.
Arunachala is one of the oldest and most sacred of India’s holy places. Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi, the Sage of Arunachala, declared it to be the heart of the earth, the spiritual centre of the world. Arunachala is called Tiruvannamalai, the hill which cannot be reached, in Tamil. The Shiva linga here is a manifestation of fire. Linga worship is supposed to have begun here. The temple is one of the largest in India. The pradakshina of circumambulation of the hill is considered the most important form of worship to the Lord.
Muthuswami Dikshitar visited Tiruvannamalai of such glory on his way from Kanchipuram to Tiruvarur. ‘Arunachalanatham’ is one of his most important songs and celebrates the Tejolinga.
The opening line refers to the Lord as ‘Arunachalanatham’. ‘Aruna’ is associated with the light of the morning sun. The anupallavi says that the Lord is like a million suns at the dawn (tarunadityakoti). The charanam says the deity is a radiant linga (tejomayalingam). It goes on to say that in his effulgent locks (swapradeepamauli) he holds Ganga and that his brightness excels that of the sun, the moon and fire (swaprakashajita somagnipatangam). Also, among the many meanings of the word‘Saranga’, are two that are relevant to the kriti – camphor (easily inflammable) and light. Interestingly, the letter ‘ra’ refers to agni and there is a lot of usage of ‘ra’ throughout the song.
This is the only panchabhoota kshetra outside Tamil Nadu state. Situate in Andhra Pradesh near Tirupati, Kalahasti is one of the most sacred Shaivite shrines. The vayu linga is housed in a vast temple that abounds in sculptural wealth adjacent to the hill on the banks of the river Swarnamukhi. In the inner sanctum, there is a lamp which keeps flickering signifying the air element.
Dikshitar visited Kalahasti during the time he lived at Manali near Madras and composed ‘Sri Kalahastisha’. For this kriti again, Dikshitar has utilized a raga that does not offer much scope. Nevertheless, the genius that he was, Dikshitar has coaxed the maximum melody from Huseni.
In the pallavi, the Lord is described as a zephyr for those seeking refuge in him (shritajanavanasameerakara). The anupallavi further describes the Lord as the life breath of Indra, Brahma and Vishnu (pakarividhiharipranamayakosha) and as radiating through the five elements (anila akasha bhumi salila agni prakasha).
The confluence of great art, vibrant religion and esoteric philosophy; the meeting point of great artists, poets, sages and the Gods; Chidambaram is the only place on earth that can boast of all this and more. It is one of the very rare shrines where Shiva can be worshipped in human form in the inner sanctum itself and where the moola moorti itself is the utsava moorti too. In all other shrines, Shiva is represented only by the Linga.
The panchaloha idol of Lord Nataraja is a beautifully sculpted piece and is the zenith of art. It reveals the power of the Lord as marvelously as it projects His joyous Ananda Tandava. The symmetry of the arms, legs and body, dancing with perfect rhythm, coupled with the expression of joy, confidence, valour, peace, sublimity and infinite compassion on the face, present a picture of the Greatest Artist and the SupremeDancer. The Chitsabha which is graced by the dancing Nataraja idol is the inmost sanctum of the temple and the Kanakasabha is a mantapa situated just in front of the Chitsabha.
Dikshitar came to Chidambaram on his way from Tiruvannamlai to Tiruvarur and stayed there for a few days. Of the several kritis he composed here, the most important is the one, which specifically refers to the akasha tatva and describes the esoteric significance of the place and the dancing Lord – ‘Ananda Natana prakasham’.
The element here is space or ether which signifies Consciousness, which encompasses all other elements and is the most difficult to comprehend due to its formlessness. The composer treats the subject accordingly. The deity here is the Lord of the Cosmic hall (chitsabhesham). He is dazzling like a million suns (bhanukotisankasham), the sun being a celestial object in space. The Lord is Cosmic Consciousness who grants well- being and salvation (bhuktimuktiprada daharaakasham). The charanam begins with two celestials who occupy the Lord’s matted locks, the moon which is high up in the sky and Ganga who descended from the heavens (sheetamshugangadharam). His whole being is Consciousness (Chidambaram). The entire creation emanated from Consciousness or space and space existed before all creation. The Lord is appropriately described so (vishveshvaram, adyam). Consciousness is ever present (aprameyam) and this pure space is the import of advaitic philosophy (advaita pratipadyam). Space stimulates the remaining elements thereby causing creation (bahutarabhedachodyam).
It is the one and only Lord Shiva who manifests as all the five elements in order to emphasise the ultimate truth that he is the Self in all. Different manifestations are only required to cater to the different perceptions of bhaktas. In this way, Dikshitar, a truly enlightened being and a realised soul, brings out the inherent relationship between Advaita philosophy and polytheistic worship. It is beyond doubt that his Panchalinga Sthala kritis underlie the fact that the essence in all is the same and all are but manifestations of the Supreme Being.