“Oh mind, attain eternal bliss in music by revelling in Naadha, the millions of ragas, swaras and the experience of supreme joy and ecstasy…
(Naadha Loludai Brahmaanandha Mandhave Manasa...)
Thus sang Saint Tyagaraja in his Kalyana Vasantham composition with a divine message to the world. As we celebrate the 250th birth anniversary of the saint-composer, we prostrate at the feet of Goddess Saraswati for giving us Him (the saint), and the gift and treasure of listening, enjoying and internalising the magical beauty of the swaras and sahitya created by him.
It is only once in a millennium, out of human consciousness and spirit that such a great soul takes Avatar to sanctify Bhoologam, our lives and souls. Saint Tygaraja who through strife, abandon and surrender bequeathed to us, a beauty which he carried from his past births, has given eternal values for a changing world.
A life of worship and service, his offerings through kirtanas convey profound truth with absolute simplicity in a melodic and all-pervading style, the fulcrum being Rama Bhakti — supreme surrender to Lord Rama. His kritis are artistic creations that soothe the mind and show the way to eternal spiritual bliss.
Tyagaraja kritis lend themselves in myriad ways — the Nagaswaram at the wedding, the Namasankirtana at a temple, the choral singing on Bahula Panchami at Tiruvaiyaru — it is his kriti that reverberates everywhere.
As we celebrate his birth anniversary, we recount the story of the child, born under Pushyami Star in the year 1767 in the month of May, to Raamabramham and Seethamma. Named after the presiding deity of his birth place Tiruvarur, Tyagaraja was initiated into Sanskrit verses and the Ramayana by his father, and learnt from his mother the compositions of sages, including Purandaradasa, Kshethragna and Bhadrachala Ramdas. This divine parental guidance paved the way for Bhakti Marga on which he continued his journey throughout his life.
His life resembles the sacred elegance of River Cauvery, portrayed in his Asaveri raga composition, ‘Sarivedalina,’ one of the 16 songs known as Tiruvaiyaru Kshetra Kritis, dedicated to the holy place.
We visualise the river meandering to her final abode — the Sea (The Lord ), fulfilling the wishes of all along her route, twisting and turning, fast or gently, always gracefully, touching many shrines, even as the cuckoos are singing on the banks. Men and women worship her with flowers and extoll her. Cauvery, the noble jewel, epitomises Tyagaraja and his Creations. The River, here is the Saint himself, whose samrajyam was Rama Bhakti.
Ocean of Swaras
The crowning glory in Tyagaraja’s life was when Sage Narada revealed himself and gifted him the Swaraarnava (Ocean of Swaras). Tyagaraja refers to this incident in his kriti ‘Swara Raga Sudha.’ “The devotion associated with swara and raga is that of Heaven and Moksha and it is the secret of the Swaraarnava, caringly whispered by Lord Siva into the ear of His Consort Parvati.”
Tyagaraja encapsulates the essence of the Ramayana in his kriti — ‘Sri Rama Jaya Rama’ (Yadukulakhambodi).
He exclaims what tapas Kausalya must have done to kiss the lustrous cheeks of her child Sri Rama and what tapas Dasaratha must have performed to lovingly call out to his son Sri Rama (The Almighty).
Also, he wonders about the tapas of Lakshmana, who was blessed to be with his brother Rama, that of Ahalya to be touched by the lotus feet of Rama and given a new lease of life, the tapas of Janaka, who offered as Kanya Dhan, Devi Seetha to Kodanda Rama, and the tapas of Sage Narada, who praised Rama as one dear to Saint Tyagaraja.
To every person who listens to his kritis, the bhava sharpens the mind like the flowing Cauvery smoothens the stone, and prepares one for spiritual attainment. Everyone who hears, hums or sings his kriti will be transported to the mystical world of swaras and sahitya to be enveloped by Bhakti. The world opens up opportunities to serve through song, to offer that experience of sublime thoughts to each musician who sings his kritis.
Every corner of the world has a sabha named after the bard and everywhere Tyagaraja aradhana is organised. Every music lover’s dream is to participate in the Tiruvaiyaru Aradhana.
The Divya Nama kritis are so simple, a child can sing them. The Utsava Sampradaya kritis are for a festive mood, and the Kshetra kritis for the sacred temples.
In the Pancharatna kritis, Rama Himself dwells as a Jewel, as he dwells in the heart of Tyagaraja, as He dwells in the heart of Hanuman.
“The soul that does not float on the ocean of the ineffable Bliss of Brahman called Music is a burden to the Earth” — Saint Tyagaraja in ‘Ananda Sagara’