The pilgrimage to Tiruvaiyaru

For musicians and music lovers, a visit to Tiruvaiyaru during the Tyagaraja Aradhana is a pilgrimage. What it means to the people of the place? As a person raised in this atmosphere, I go down memory lane. I have a lot of anecdotes and personalities of the past rushing into my mind. Tiruvaiyaru is neither a town nor a village. It suddenly wakes up during the Aradhana festival. It was mentioned as ‘Iyerwal Utsavam’ or ‘Tyagaraja Utsavam’. When I was a child of seven or eight years of age, a huge thatched pandal, the lights and lines of cars and music lovers from across India especially from ‘Pattanam’ (Chennai) besides the programme, marked the Aradhana celebrations. Every house used to be overflowing with guests. Womenfolk of the households had to be busy with preparing food, serving, packing them and taking care of the visitors. I had no memory of my mother ever visiting the pandal. In those days, staying at hotels was very rare. Almost all the stalwarts stayed either at the Kalyana Mahal or with their local friends. We felt proud and happy to show our hospitality to the visitors especially the ‘Pattanathu manusha’ (people from Chennai). We were allowed to go to pandal with elders only. As a child learning music, I enjoyed the fanfare and kutcheries alike. Besides the visitors, the audience comprised all age groups. Even the children could appreciate or critically comment a performance. Such was the taste and music experience of the people of Tiruvaiyaru.

When I was at high school, my repertoire has grown and I could follow the songs with much familiarity even requesting my teacher to teach some of them. Then I joined the music college, Tiruvaiyaru, and became a serious listener. With more than a dozen college mates, I used to sit at a particular place near the dais around a bamboo post. Saradamma (K.P. Sivanandam), our veena lecturer used to ask us to listen to all the performances and choose the right path as there might be something to learn even from a junior most performer. When the ‘alapana’ began, we would start guessing the compositions that would be sung following it. Alapana of any raga was not the same for all the compositions of the same raga. It would be woven around the phrases in the composition that would be sung. During my final year in college, we became more serious learners appreciating musicians such as Brindamma and M.D. Ramanthan though we enjoyed all the musicians. Even now I can hear ‘Tulasidala’ of Ariyakudi, ‘Nanu palimpa’ of Maharajapuram, ‘ Mariyadagadayya’ of Chittoor, ‘Namakusuma’ of Brindamma and ‘Giripai’ of MDR to mention a few. All the programmes were education for us. We also looked upon with wonder (envy?) the musicians of our age group like Lokanatha Sharma accompanying Chittoor and Vegavahini accompanying Brindamma.

In those days, there were no fixed list of programmes or time schedule or two platforms. It would go on past midnight. The pandal would be full with a human wall around it. The Harikatha programme of Annaswami Bhagavatar, Banni Bai and Embar made the audience wait even after midnight. Banni Bai used to mention Amma (Bangalore Nagaratnamma) with a choked voice which moved the audience too. Another noteworthy feature I remember is the presence of senior musicians attending the performances of their counterparts. Such was their respect for one another. Last but not the least, about a personality, a man of few words, calm and unassuming who could command respect and affection from the people. He is none other than G.K. Moopanar, the president of the Sabha. We music students had just studied about Ghanam Krishnayyar and the patronage that he received from the ancestors of Moopanar. Our respect towards him became much more.

Another unforgettable aspect is our return back to our village Tillaisthanam which is one mile away in groups by walk under the moon light. The experience of walking barefoot on the chill mud road discussing the programme that was heard on that day cannot be explained in words. Nowadays the festivals conducted in other places is suffixed or prefixed with the word ‘Tiruvaiyauru’. Can they bring the gentle breeze of the Cauvery and the serene atmosphere of the samadhi in those places?

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Printable version | Jan 29, 2022 12:41:57 AM |

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