Tyagaraja’s compositions were unravelled aesthetically by T.S. Satyavathi in a recent lecdem

A lecture demonstration by T.S. Sathyavathi on ‘Musical Excellence in Compositions of Thyagaraja’ was hosted recently by MES Kalavedi, Bangalore, as part of Sri Saragur Narasimha Murthy Endowment Programme. The accompanying artistes for the evening were T.S. Krishnamurthy (violin), and Maruthy Prasad and Anjana P. Rao (vocal support).

The introductory remarks stressed the seamless coalescence of the dhatu and matu, the predominance of bhava and the variety in the content of Thyagaraja krithis, which were subsequently categorised under several different headings. While some compositions are simple enough to be sung by groups, others are complex and heavy and meant for solo exposition. The use of a single dhatu as in the Utsava Sampradaya krithis, of two dhatus as in “Namo Namo Raghavaya” in Desya Todi, and of multiple dhatus as in “Brochevarevare” in Sriranjini and in the Pancharatna krithis constituted another category. In other krithis, the pattern of a pallavi, usually in the madhya sthayi, an anupallavi in the thara sthayi and a charana in the madhya sthayi followed by a repetition of the anupallavi tune is followed. The speaker drew attention to the fact that generally Thyagaraja was disinclined towards the inclusion of chittaswaras and that many chittaswaras in vogue today were added on later. It was also explained that the composer used madhyamakala sahithya sparingly, with “Eesa Pahimam” in Kalyani being a rare example.

Thyagaraja’s use of sangathis to develop the raga systematically and aesthetically within the framework of the krithi was illustrated through “Devi Sri Thulasamma” in Mayamalavagoula. The use of rakthi ragas and the multiple krthis in Todi, each of which contains different aspects embodying the essence of the raga, was touched upon. The large number of compositions in rare ragas such as Bindumalini, Chandrajyothi, and Supradeepa was cited and demonstrated as further instances of his genius. It was also pointed out that while Thyagaraja was not prolific with vivadi ragas, he did compose in several of them.

Adi tala was mentioned as the most frequently used thala, followed by rupaka and mishra chapu, “Dasukovalena” in Todi being an uncommon example of mishra jhampa, and “Mahitha Pravriddha” in Kamboji of tishra triputa. Desadi tala was mentioned as occurring frequently, “Teliyaleru Rama” in Dhenuka being a case in point. The tone and tenor of the sahithya, it was elucidated, ranged from the devotional to the reformist and self-deprecatory, the Pancharatna krithi in Goula being the prime illustration of the last. The greatness of music itself and its lofty purpose, it was emphasised, form the subject matter of several pieces including “Nadopasana” in Begada and “Ragasudharasa” in Andholika. The krithis use Telugu and Sanskrit to telling effect, and are replete with rhyme, assonance and alliteration, with certain lines lending themselves effortlessly to neraval expansion. The importance of the ideal tempo that would reveal the intrinsic beauty of each piece was stressed. On the whole, the deposition bore testimony not only to the unparalleled brilliance of Thyagaraja, but also to the vast erudition and experience of the lead artiste.