Saturday, May 2, 2015

A Note on the life of Saint Thyagaraja

                                            A Note   on  the life   of Saint Thyagaraja  
                                                                 Compiled by
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. 

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