Devotion Each devotee has a unique way of connecting with the Almighty. Some of the kritis of Tyagaraja explain the poet's empathy with Rama. Padma Narayanan
T he Hindu devotee's God is endowed with all beauty. He is a paragon of all qualities ever conceived by the imperfect human mind and yet He is in some special way part of the devotee's psyche. If a devotee occasionally forgets all mores of propriety and sees the divine form as someone dearer than anyone or anything else, that very closeness making all apparent inequalities disappear; and if all kinds of liberties are taken with that God, can that familiarity be faulted? Would it amount to sacrilege or blasphemy to bless God Himself or take Him to task for not coming to the devotee in his/her time of need? Our poetry is rich with any number of songs that, under the veil of ridicule adore our Gods and Goddesses, display a unique intimacy. Do we not have a Vaishnavite saint losing himself in the beauty of the Lord that he breaks out spontaneously with verses blessing the Lord that He may live for many years?
We have an entire treasure of songs and poems belonging to this unique genre. We have devotees who chide their Gods for being indifferent to their needs, so much so that they ask for the intervention of the Lord's consort to advocate their cases before Her husband. ‘When He is alone with you, happy in your company, will you remind Him of his obligation to protect me?' sings Ramadas (‘Nannu Brovamani Cheppave').
Saint Tyagaraja's His language is always direct and conversational. His identification with the Lord is so complete that now and then the dividing line between the master and the servant disappears. This servant of Rama has known his master so well and for so long that he indulges in certain leniencies in the way he communicates with Him.
Very often, there is a tone of impatient mockery in Tyagaraja's voice that is so endearing. The saint-poet wonders in one of his songs if Rama is indifferent towards him heeding the advice of someone. “Who did you listen to and so will not come to my help? Or are you not here?” (‘Evarimata' - Khambodi). In another song the saint makes a bold attempt to ask the Lord, “Have you not yet considered coming to my protection? At this time of my agony, how can you bring yourself to sport merrily with your wife?'” (‘Mathilo Yochan' - Kolahalam). The devotee-divinity relationship is so personal and intimate that the devotee is able to question the implied indifference that the Lord displays towards His bhakta. Wondering what could have caused such indifference, Tyagaraja questions, “Are you scared you'll lose your wealth if you appear before me?” (‘Ethita Nilachite,' - Sankarabharanam) and “Perhaps your grace will fall on me only if I own elephants and wealth?” (‘Tharithapu Lekha' - Saveri).
“Remember you owe all your grandeur to having married our Janaki.” (‘Maa Janaki' - Khambodi) reminds Tyagaraja. In another song he even doubts if Rama has lost all control over his subordinates: he asks, “Has your mount, the bird-king Garuda, refused to bring you to my side saying that the earth is too far from the celestial skies?” (‘Nagumomu' - Abheri.) “Rama! Has anyone who asked you for happiness ever got it? … Surpanaka expressed her desire for you and had her nose chopped off. Durvasa came expecting a sumptuous meal and felt full even before he had eaten,” cries the poet in despair.
Sri Rama is even accused of being a cheat! “O, yes! He preaches well. But his fame as one who grants boons and protects his devotees are all empty words.” (‘Varijanayanuda' - Kedaragowla). And more directly, “You say so many contradictory things. What can I do? You are like the one who rocks the baby and pinches it as well!” (‘Atla Palukuthu' – Atana). There are many more such gems in the ocean of Tyagaraja's songs that bring a smile to one's lips.
The devotee is in such total communion with His chosen Lord and like a fond mother, loving wife and intimate friend does not see the need to have any reservation in expressing his emotions of the moment. The devotee-God relationship is as much sacred as it is personal. Such is the texture of a Hindu devotee's love for his personal God that they are almost one.
Is this kind of uninhibited love, a prerequisite for the ultimate realisation of one being divinity itself, affirming an Advaitic state?