Saint Tyagaraja : The last word in carnatic music

Radhika KrishnaSaint Tyagaraja is the most popular figure among the trinities of carnatic music. The composer of more than 2500 krithis (Songs set to carnatic music), Saint Tyagaraja's fame still exists among the carnatic music lovers. We cannot even imagine a concert with out any one of Saint Tyagaraja's compositions. His life span was from 1767 to 1847. Saint Tyagaraja was gifted to be born in a family that can claim a long musical tradition. His grand father, Giriraja Brahman was a poet and a composer and was one among the court poets to the king of Tanjore. Both of his parents, Ramabrahman and Seethamma had a deep knowledge in music. When came to know about his ardent love for music, he began his musical training under the guidance of Guru Sounthi Venkataramanaiah. At the age of eight he composed ‘Namo Namo Raghava Anisham' in raga Desika Thodi . All his compositions are the treasure houses of bhakthi (devotion). For him singing is an easy way to reach God. Most of his work praises Lord Rama. In one of his krithi, ‘Sangeetha Gyanamu Bhakthi Vina' in Ragam Dhanyasi he says, musical knowledge without bhakthi bhava is a sheer waste. He considers music as synonymous with bhakthi bhava.

Some of his musical compositions deals with the questions related to dharma. In his composition, Mokshamugalada in raga Saramathi , he asks the lord that anyone in this world could achieve salvation? Whenever his disciples makes a mistake in their life, he used to compose a krithi by using it as the theme and clarifies the truth to them.

For him, life was not an easy game. He maintained his life by doing Ungcha Vrithi (begging by singing). There were many legends related to his life. It is believed that once Narada maharshi came in disguise and gifted him ‘Swararnava'. He mentioned it in some of his krithis, ‘Sree Narada nada saraseeruha' (Kanada) and ‘Narada guru swamy' (Darbar)

He gave life to many ragas, Arabhi, Nalinakanthi, Nabhomany etc…were considered as his compositions. Saint Tyagaraja's most popular is none other than Pancharatna Krithis, the famous five compositions composed in the form of Varna . They are considered as the five jewels of south Indian classical music. It raises different philosophical questions related to life.

Saint Tyagaraja invented the form of music called the Krithi, which has a comprised and rich Sahithya (The text) and give room for the singers to elaborate on the depth of that particular raga. He introduced the style of singing the same Sahithya, but different Sangathis which also helps to enhance the raga bhava.

Most of his works are composed in simple Telugu and Sanskrit. Once Shadkala Govinda Marar from Travancore visited him. By identifying marar's ability to sing in six different kalams, he composed the krithi ‘Endaro mahanu bhavulu' in return.

His disciple inline varies from Veena Kuppaiyar, Subbaraya Sastri, Venkataramana Bhagavatar, Umayalpuram Krishna Bhagavatar, Umayalpuram Sundara Bhagavathar etc…

Saint Tyagaraja can be considered as the father of modern carnatic music. His krithis and fame will last for ever in the carnatic music world. As sudhananda Bharathi says, “he is Meera in motion, a Kabir in devotion, a Purandaradasa in music and a Nammalvar in vision.” His gifted life came to an end in the year 1847 on the day of Bahula panchamy. Pancharatna keerthanapanam is being held every year at Tanjore on Bahula panchamy day, to commemorate Tyagaraja the greatest name ever in the world of carnatic music.

Radhika Krishna
Associate Editor & Senior Consultant


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