All the world’s a stage and all of us are actors enacting our roles directed by Him. All actions are ordained by the Almighty. He is the cause and effect, source, path and the deciding authority of our destiny. Lord has a plan for all His subjects. He had a plan for Thyagaraja’s intense devotion to be revealed to all at Srirangam.
Legend has it that Thyagaraja came to Srirangam as part of his pilgrimage during the Chithirai Utsavam. It is the day when Lord Ranganatha comes riding on His golden horse (Kudhirai Vahanam). The Lord was receiving special religious reception from each household; aarthi was performed. Musical instruments were being played and dancers were dancing in front of the procession.
Thyagaraja sings the first among the Srirangam Pancharatna “Raju Vedale Jutaamu rare” in the raga Thodi. He was enchanted by the Lord’s beauty in the “Theevatti Velicham” (hand torches) while watching the procession outside his friend’s house in Chithirai Veedhi. On seeing the deity coming in procession, everybody was transported back in time. They thought they were watching Sri Ramachandra, the Emperor coming in a procession on the streets of Ayodhya.
On the Rathothsava day he wanted to get closer to have a better view of his beloved deity but could not move due to the crowd. He was heart broken. The Lord may test the patience of His devotees but does not like to see them sad. Wonder of wonders! The temple car stopped suddenly and wouldn’t move any further. The Lord ordered, in the form of ‘aavesham’, through the senior priest, to bring Thyagaraja closer to Him. The saint was ecstatic. Devagandhari raga devatha entered the saint through the kriti “Vinaraadha Naa Manavi”. In this song, the saint asks “Kaveri Ranga, Can’t You listen to my appeal? Oh golden hued one! When lovelorn damsels are inviting You, can’t You listen to my appeal?”
After the rathothsava incident, Thyagaraja’s bhakthi was well recognised to such an extent that he had an opportunity of worshipping Ekanta Seva of Sri Ranganatha at the temple. He pours out his heart to the Lord about the mean mindedness of fellow human beings and seeks relief.
The emotion-laden ‘O Rangasayee’ in Kambhoji is a musical masterpiece. In this song Thyagaraja demands “When I address You as ‘Oh Rangashayee’ and call You earnestly, can’t You respond by uttering “O”?. You seem to regard Srirangam as your supreme abode Vaikuntam itself and lost yourself in the enjoyment of the company of your consort Sri Devi. When will there be an end to my sufferings in the midst of mean men who cannot stand the prosperity of others? I seek solace and relief from my hapless situation”.
During the Ekanta Seva, Thyagaraja was being honoured with other dignitaries while ordinary devotees were being sidelined. The saint wanted all devotees , especially women, to be treated equally, in front of the Lord. That was when the fourth pancharatna “Chootamu Raare” in Aarabhi was born. We see the reformist in this song when he sings “O Ladies! Come along and join in to see Rangapathi. Aadhi kavi Valmiki says that Sri Ranganatha was worshipped by Sri Ramachandra. He is the Parama Purushan celebrated and saluted by the Vedas and Upanishads as the Sarvadharan, Jagadanandhakan and Jagathrakshakan. He confers the bliss of happiness on His devotees. Oh ladies! Please come forward and enjoy the beauty of this Lord of Sri Rangam.
In the fifth Pancharatna “Karuna Judavayya” in Saaranga, he pleads not for riches but for the Lord’s unfathomable grace at all times. He pleads for compassion and begs the Lord to shower his benevolence on him.
As in all kritis of Thyagaraja, in Sri Ranga Pancharatna too, we find an underlying message - namely ‘bhakti’. The speciality lies in the fact that Lord Ranganatha Himself revels in the presence of His true devotee, wants to listen to Thyagaraja during his utsavam and hence chooses to invite him only to reveal to the world his immense bhakti.
This episode announces, yet again, to the world the child-like glee, He possesses to shower his special blessings on His chosen devotees. We find the Srirangam Pancharatna kritis inscribed on the walls of Ranga Ranga gopuram at Srirangam temple as in the hearts of His devotees.