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Retracing roots of Tyagaraja

RANEE KUMAR
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In focus Kakarla, the ancestral place of Saint Tyagaraja in Prakasam district, was a forgotten hamlet. Thanks to Ganna Venkataswami’s efforts, the place has seen a revival in music RANEE KUMAR

Tucked away in a remote corner of Prakasam district in Andhra Pradesh, a hamlet has reawakened to its priceless possession and now takes pride in being the ancestral place of Tyagaraja, the doyen among the Carnatic musical trinity. It’s common knowledge that the prolific composer came from Telugu roots since a major chunk of his compositions were scripted in Telugu. He was actually born in Tiruvarur (Tamil Nadu) in the Kakarla family that hailed from the village by the same name (now in Khambam taluk), going by the existing revenue records.

It is said that Tyagaraja’s affluent grandfather, who was a scholar and poet, abandoned his native hometown and moved to Thanjavur and then perhaps to Tiruvarur where the royal patronage was extended to all literary scholars and artists of repute. In course of time, Kakarla was forgotten. It was only in the recent awakening of interest in our Trinity and pre-Trinity composers that the hamlet once again drew the attention of a generous soul deeply interested in revival of music in this place which is associated with the great composer-musician. And the person behind this ambitious programme is Ganna Venkataswami who carved out a chunk of land (10 acres) from his property to form a trust in the name of the composer.

“Today, Sri Thyagarajaswami Peetam stands on its own registered trust land of five acres, though the entire area is a 10-acre plot. We have constructed two auditoriums with government funding, one at Kakarla and one at Khambam. The Zilla Parishad of Prakasam district has given a matching grant of one lakh that is lying in the bank unused for quite some time. There is a lot more to be done if my dreams are to come true. The trust has music stalwarts such as Sripada Pinakapani and K.J. Yesudas, apart from some local bigwigs interested in the propagation of music, on its board. Tyagaraja inspired me to do my bit and things, so far, just fell into place with his blessing. I have a feeling that the rest will also happen in due course,” his voice is suffused with veneration.

As of now, the trust is carrying on with a yearly celebration of Tyagaraja’s jayanthi that falls in May (Chaitra-Vaisaka) on the Pushya nakshatram (birth star) day. The veteran architect of this movement has something very interesting to reveal.

“If Tyagaraja hailed from Kakarla, Shyama Sastri, the third in the Trinity, belonged to Khambam, just seven kilomentres from Kakarla. His jayanthi is celebrated coinciding with his birth star Krittika. Tyagaraja’s birth star is just seven days away from that of Shyama Sastri. Hence we celebrate a ‘Saptaham’ (week-long) music festival where, so far, we have invited two musicians from Andhra Pradesh, two from Tamil Nadu, one each from Kerala and Karnataka and one Carnatic musician from northern India to go with the number seven. All renowned musicians have so far performed here with due respect to these two great composers. The first three days are devoted to Shyama Sastri, a day for Dikshitar and the last three days for Tyagaraja.’’

Kakarla is a fertile belt in that area and lies on the route leading towards Kurnool. “We pool in public service rather than financial donations for our annual festival. We need to construct a compound wall to demarcate the area to avoid encroachments in future. We also want to put up a statue of Tyagaraja in place of just a picture of his that we have as of now. We also want the place to pulsate with musical activity round the year and not lie idle. All this requires voluntary services and private funding. In short, God-willing we want to turn this place into a Tiruvarur of sorts and draw the musically inclined to perform, promote and make it a place of pride for the state,” he says wistfully. So far, this one-man show has been able to carry on the onerous task with missionary zeal. Now it requires a few more hands to strengthen the cause with similar dedication.


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