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A composer of musical dramas too

G.Srinivasan
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Peerless:Thyagaraja’s dramas are known for their rich poetry.—file photo
Peerless:Thyagaraja’s dramas are known for their rich poetry.—file photo

Apart from the thousands of kritis glorifying Lord Rama, gods and other goddesses, saint composer Thyagaraja has composed two music dramas. They are “Prahalada Bhakthi Vijayam” and “Nauka Charithram”. Both are known for their rich poetry, robust imagery, and the imperial melody of Thyagaraja. Tradition of poets and composers scripting music dramas prevailed during the days of Thyagaraja. They were called “Yaksha Gana” in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, “Bhagavata Mela” in Tamil Nadu, “Yatra” in West Bengal, and “Bhavana” in Assam. Kuravanji dramas in Tamil Nadu and Gopalakrishna Bharathi’s Nandanar Charithram belong to the music-drama category. Melattur Venkatrama Sastrigal, a contemporary of Thyagaraja, who wrote Bhagavata Mela Natakams, Sahaji Maharaja of Thanjavur, Mahapurusha Shankara Devar of Assam, and Jitendra Yogi of Andhra Pradesh, were some of the famous writers of the genre.  Saint composer Thyagaraja stands out in one specific aspect. He gave importance to imagination rather than sticking to originals when he composed ‘Prahalada Bhakthi Vijayam’ and ‘Nauka Charithram’.

In ‘Prahalada Bhakthi Vijayam’, he portrayed vividly the deep devotion of Prahalada without any sequence about Lord Narasimha annihilating Hiranya Kasibu. The intense bhakthi of Prahalada is portrayed. ‘Prahalada Bhakthi Vijayam’ consists of five chapters, 48 kritis composed in 28 ragas. A few kritis “Sri Ganapathy”, “Vasudevayani” and “Vaarithi Neehu” are very popular . In ‘Nauka Charithram’, the saint composer describes a boat ride by Gopikas in Yamuna River. Nauka Charithram portrays the “surrender of human beings to Lord”. Lord Krishna saves the Gopikas when the boat gets rocked by cyclone. Thyagaraja who imagined Lord Rama as a child, warrior, friend, mother, father, and mentor, sang many kritis keeping Him in the position of Kausalya , Dasaratha, Sri Sita, Lakshman, and Lord Hanuman.