Of hymns across time

Thiruppugazh Guruji A.S. Raghavan, who started a movement in the Capital in 1958 to spread the message of love, avirodham , self-discipline, unity and brotherhood through the ancient Thiruppugazh hymns, passed away last Friday in Chennai. Born in 1928, “Guruji”, as he was reverently called by his disciples, followers and others, spearheaded the movement that later came to be known as the “Thiruppugazh Anbargal”, when he started teaching the Thiruppugazh hymns to two of his students. He had been propagating the Thiruppugazh ever since, for more than five decades.

Saint Arunagirinadar, who lived in South India about 600 years ago, composed thousands of such hymns, of which only 1,400 are extant. The hymns are a treasure house of rhythmic intricacies and succinct presentation in the Tamil language and occupy a unique place in the sacred music of Tamil.

Guruji not only compiled in one work the available hymns of Saint Arunagirinadar and titled it “Thiruppugazh Madani”, he also set to tune more than 500 of these in more than 100 ragas to melodious music and precise tala, matching the chhanda (meter) of these hymns. He also evolved a pattern from the verses of Thiruppugazh for conducting an elaborate ‘wedding function’ titled “Valli Kalyanam”, which signifies the finality of life in the unification of “atma” with “paramatma”.

Besides Thiruppugazh, Guruji had also set to music the “Abhirami Andhadhi” and “Abhirami Padigam”, the verses on goddess Shakti.

When increasing numbers of people started joining the classes, which hitherto were conducted only at one place in the Capital, more and more centres too came into operation.

Guruji commanded instant respect and was a source of inspiration to hundreds of disciples and followers. People who did not have any knowledge of music, too, started joining the group. When his disciples assembled for a bhajan session, they came not for a performance but for a community prayer in which the entire audience would participate.

Some of Guruji’s disciples started migrating to other parts of the country and even to foreign countries. They took upon themselves the task of spreading Thiruppugazh by conducting classes in the places where they resided.

Thus, the “Raghavan School of Thiruppugazh singing” spread and became well established in India as well as in places like Hong Kong, Malaysia, Canada, Singapore and the U.S. Guruji’s efforts had blossomed into a large “Anbargal” family which accepted the principles enshrined in Thiruppugazh as a way of life.

Guruji shifted from the Capital to Chennai about eight years ago.

But his disciples in Delhi even today continue to perform the Thiruppugazh “Isai Vazipadu”, which strives for world peace through the medium of mass prayer, at various places in the Capital.

Apart from the regular monthly Shashti and Kirtigai bhajans that are organised in a number of localities in the Capital, the “Padivizha”, conducted on the first Sunday of January every year, and the “Saint Arunagirinadar Ninaivu Vizha” organised on October 2 every year, at New Delhi’s Malai Mandir, are most looked forward to.

While Guruji’s movement has risen to great heights, it is reassuring that the Thiruppugazh IsaiVazhipadu tradition evolved by the late A.S. Raghavan, too, will transcend generations.

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Printable version | May 16, 2022 4:32:43 am |