A Note on the life of Saint Thyagaraja
Though the modernization of musical form of Carnatic Music started much before sage Purandara Dasa , who is called as the grandfather of Carnatic music , It was he who laid foundation to the real systematization of how to teach the Carnatic music to novices. This was further refined by Venkata Mahi who enunciated classification of Ragas based on Mela Karthas and over this foundation the three great composers Saint Thyagaraja, Muthuswami Deekshithar and Shyama SAstri erected the palace of Carnatic music. All of them lived almost at the same time in the village of Thiruvayyaru . Though all of them composed music in either Telugu or Sanskrit , the greatest composer among them was definitely Saint Thyagaraja. He is said to have composed about 20 thousand Krithis which included three dance dramas , out of which only 675 Krithis and two dance Dramas are available to us.
The great grand father of Saint Thyagaraja was called as Pancha nadha Brahmam. He belonged to the Kakarla village of the present day Andhra Pradesh . He belonged to Bharadwaja Gothram. He was a Vaidiki Brahmin of the Mulakanadu sect. Around the year 1600AD , he migrated to present day Tamiul Nadu and took up his residence in Thiruvarur village .His fifth son was called Sri Giriraja Kavi and his son was Sri Rama Brahmam , He got married top Seethamma the daughter of Veena Kalahasthi iyer. Sri Rama Brahmam was an expert in giving lectures on Ramayana. He also regularly worshipped God Rama and celebrated Sri Rama Navami in a great way. Recognizing his scholarship the king of Tanjore gave him one house in Thirumanjana street of Thiruvayyaru . He had three sons and Thyagaraja was one of them. Sri Rama Brahmam along with his family shifted his residence to Thiruvayyaru. Thyagaraja learnt the Keerthanas of Ramadasa and Padams of Purandara dasa from his father . It seems when he was a boy he composed his first Krithi “Namo namo Raghavaya” set in Desiya Thodi Ragam. So Rama Brahmam Sent Thyagaraja to learn music from Sri Sonti Venkatramayya , Who was the chief musician of The King of Thanjavur and who was also living in their village. Within a year Thyagaraja had won great expertise in few musical instruments as well as music. After sacred thread ceremony Of Thyagaraja , Rama Brahmam gave him Upadesha in Rama Manthram., When Thyagraja was only fourteen both his parents died. After some time Ramakrishnanda Swami of Kanchipuram taught the Rama Sadakshari manthra and told him that whosoever chants that 96 crores times, would be able to see Rama with their own eyes. From that time Thyagaraja went obn chanting that Manthra ceaselessly. At the age of 18 , Thyagraja married to a girl called Parvathi . But she died after living with him for five years.. Then he married her younger sister Kamalambal. By that time Thyagaraja had mastered the musical theory by reading several musical books inherited by him from his maternal grand father ., He eked out his living by Uncha Vruthi ( accepting alms for food from Brahmin houses) One day a sage came and met him with deep desire to hear him singing. Thyagaraja entertained that sage and said , he should take food with him. That sage gave him a book for safe keep and went to bath but never returned back. Thyagaraja searched for the guest but could not find him. That night when he was sleeping that sage appeared in his dream and told him that he was sage Narada himself and the book given by him was a rare classic called Swararnavam(golden waves) ., He advised Thyagaraja to master that book and start composing krithis.. Thyagaraja composed one Krithi “Vara Narada , Sri Narada” in honour of that sage , By that time he had chanted the Rama Manthra 96 crores times., Rama appeared before him in the form in which he and Lakshmana were accompanying sage Viswamithra, and he immediately disappeared . Thyagaraja composed the Krithi “Yela nee Dhaya Radhu”. From then on he started composing great Krithis incessantly.Many disciples joined round him. It was these disciples who have written down all the compositions of Thyagaraja.Among his disciples were Iya Bhagawathar, Valajapettai Venkatramana Bhagawathar, Manambu chavadi Venkatasubba iyer, Neikara patti Subba iyer, Umayalpuram Krishna Bhagawathar , Sundara BHagawathar , Sojiri Seetharama Iyer, Nangavaram Neelakanda Iyer, Veenai Kuppu Iyer ,Lalgudi Ganesa Iyer and so on. It was at this time that the king of Thanjavur sent some very costly presents , which were refused by Thyagaraja .At that time he sung the Krithi “Nithi Chala Sukhama” . It seems the king became angry and immediately he started suffering from a severe stomach ache ,When no body could cure it, his scholars advised him to approach Thyagaraja. Just by sipping the sacred water sent by Thyagaraja , the jking was completely cured.
His elder brother who was very jealous of Thyagaraja once took away the Idol of Rama which was being worshipped by Thyagaraja and threw it in the river Cauvery. Thyagaraja was greatly upset and sang “Ye papamu Jesithiraa (What sin I have done), Brochevarevarura , Adhya Sri Raghu vara and so on , Lord Rama appeared in his dream and indicated him , the place in river Cauvery where he was lying. Thyagaraja ran there recovered the idol hugged it and sang , “Kanu kondini(I found out)”. “Ra ra Ma intiki (come , come to my home) .” and several other Krithis.
Thyagaraja gave in marriage his only daughter to Kuppuswami iyer , who was living near THiruvayyaru .His disciples joined together and conducted the marriage in a very great way.. Valajapettai Venkatramana Bhagawather presented him a greay painting of Kodandarama , which occupied the pooja room of Thyagaraja. Several great musicians like Shadkala Govinda Marar from Kerala and RamaDasa from Benares and heard the songs of Thyagaraja and were enthralled by it. It was at this time that Thyagaraja composed the Krithi “Entharo Mahanubhavulu (so many great persons)“ and realizing that it was God Rama who sent them , composed “Dasaratha , nee runamu theerpa naa tharamaa (Oh son of Dasaratha , would I be able to repay your loan)”
Thyagaraja attained old age and his wife preceded him. Thyagaraja was greatly upset and requested Rama to give him salvation.Lord Rama came in his dream and told him that he will attain Sidhi after ten months. Ten days before his death , it is believed that Lord Rama came personally and gave him Sanyasa, People believe that when he died a flame of light left his body and joined the Rama Idol , he was worshipping. His Samadhi was built on the banks of river Cauvery in Thiruvayyaru . Every year on his Samadhi day , huge crowd of experts in Carnatic music assemble near his Samadhi and sing the Pancha Rathna Krithis composed by him.
Among the compositions of of Thyagaraja The Pancha Rathna Keerthanas , Divya Nama Keerthanas , Prahladha Bhaktha Vijaya Keerthanas and Nauka Charithra Keerthanas are more famous. They are called KOthu(bunch) Keerthanas,
Scholars say that “Thyagochishtam Sangeetha Jagat Sarvam” meaning Whatever has been tasted and left by Thyagaraja is the music of the world.