Saint Tyagaraja had led the life of a grihastha before taking up sanyasa in his last days. He was fully aware of the travails of a common householder and the paths that would lead them to bliss. His compositions provide enough material in this regard.
His kritis offer his thoughts and advice to the laymen and suggestions on how to lead a righteous life. Many a kriti of the bard offers guidance to those who face a dilemma, caught between theist and atheist thoughts.
The author of these volumes under review, S. V. Krishnamurthy, is a steadfast devotee of Tyagaraja and one can equate the writer's devotion to that of Tyagaraja's towards Lord Rama. Being well versed in the nuances of Carnatic music and in the Telugu language, the author is able to bring out in a crisp and clear manner, the meanings of the compositions which are in Telugu and Sanskrit. Rendering of these songs after having assimilated their meanings will certainly add lustre and finesse to the presentation by vocalists and instrumentalists.
The first volume introduces the composer as a messenger of Rama and proceeds to dealing with ‘The Baagyam of Sabari,’ ‘The story of Sita,’ ‘Sri Rama’s valour’ and the greatness of Lakshmana and Bharata among other chapters on similar subjects. The second part of the initial volume has word to word meanings of the five Ghana raga kritis, popularly known as the Pancharatnas, while 74 other compositions have been given meanings in an easy-to-grasp style.
For some of the kritis such as ‘Dharini Telusukonti’ (Suddha Saveri ) and others, the author has chosen only the charanams, which are popular in the concert arena.
The second volume deals with, among other topics, the secret of Tyagaraja’s avatar as well. That Tyagaraja considered himself a messenger of Rama to enunciate profound truths, is well elucidated in this chapter. The meanings of 58 compositions find a place in the second part of this volume.
The third volume has an interesting chapter in which the author has painstakingly selected compositions of the saint such as ‘Padavini’ (Salakabhairavi), ‘Tulasidala’ (Mayamalavagowla) and ‘Madilona’ (Kolahalam) to substantiate incidents from the Valmiki Ramayana. Crisp and lucid explanations to the slokas are worth reading. Meanings of 98 kritis constitute the second part of this volume.
The final volume (fourth) has many interesting chapters which reflect the author's views on many aspects of the current day Carnatic music scenario.
He also subtly touches upon how earlier stalwarts never diluted their classical approach, yet were capable of drawing huge turnouts for their performances.
The suggestions offered need to be given a serious thought by organisers. That organisations in a particular locality may collectively celebrate the aradhana of Tyagaraja is welcome and hopefully the major and minor sabhas will take cognisance of this suggestion. Yet another 98 songs with their lyrics and meanings are featured in this volume.
These four volumes will be worthy additions in the libraries of institutions imparting training in Carnatic music.