The Capital witnessed a number of festivals paying tribute to Saint Tyagaraja, enchanting one and all.

It is nothing new to hear of the memory of the great saint composer of Carnatic music, Tyagaraja, being celebrated in this season. The date known as Pushya Bahula Panchami of the lunar calendar is observed as the day when the 19th Century musical ascetic gave up the mortal coil. This falls in January or February of the western calendar. Across India and other countries, patrons and practitioners of Carnatic music organise festivals known as the Tyagaraja Aradhana. At Thiruvaiyaru where Tyagaraja lived and where his samadhi (burial place) is located, a thrilling spectacle of musicians gathering by the hundreds to pay their homage through group singing of his five famous ‘Pancharatna’ kritis is one of the highlights of the musical calendar. Delhi with its sizeable population of Carnatic music enthusiasts is no stranger to Tyagaraja kritis. But for those teaching this art form to young children in the Capital, it would be difficult to conjure up the atmosphere of this annual event just be telling them. Thus it is heartening to see that the trend of celebrating Tyagaraja Aradhana is only getting stronger by the year.

That Tyagaraja occupies a special place in the hearts of Delhi’s Carnatic musicians, students, devotees, music lovers and organisers came to the fore recently. The Tyagaraja Aradhana festivals have been taking place continuously in different parts of the Capital and the National Capital Region since the aradhana day of Tyagaraja, which fell this year on January 21. Sarojini Nagar, Vasundhara Enclave, R.K. Puram, Dwaraka, Noida, Vikaspuri, Mayur Vihar Phase I, II and III and Rohini were some of the areas where the festival was celebrated. In central Delhi, for the first time, the Aradhana was held on the lawns of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA), on Janpath. The beautiful, sprawling lawns provided an aesthetic backdrop to the festivity. The Centre’s desire to hold the festival in the coming years with a large number of musicians and music lovers is laudable.

At most places where Tyagaraja Aradhana was organised, it was heartening to see young students too being given a platform to sing a few kritis of Tyagaraja, and many did sing admirably well. These festivals invariably culminated with group singing of the Pancharatna kritis. Another noteworthy feature is that a large number of students are being trained by Delhi-based gurus to sing the Pancharatna kritis in a synchronised manner.

Apart from organising the Tyagaraja Aradhana in collaboration with the IGNCA, the Shanmukhananda Sangeetha Sabha presented their eagerly awaited Tyagaraja Music and Dance Festival 2014, last week. (It was another matter that there was not a single dance recital in the three-day event). In all, there were four Carnatic music concerts and one Harikatha in this festival which was held at the auditorium of the Andhra Pradesh Bhavan. Usually, the Sabha publicises the event widely, but this year it was not so. The list of featured artists too was disappointing and not surprisingly, did not attract the kind of crowd the festival usually attracts. The Sabha had also set up a tradition of giving away awards to musicians and dancers for their contribution to the art form, but this aspect too was missing this year.

On the opening day of the festival, the renowned vocalist Madurai T.N. Seshagopalan was featured, not in a Carnatic music concert but in a Harikatha. Though Seshagopalan’s presentation was punctuated with humour and aesthetic rendering of Carnatic songs and phrases, his poor delivery made the Harikatha a dull event. Chennai-based A.G. Venkatsubramaniam on the violin and Delhi-based M.V. Chandrasekhar on the mridangam provided support.