Music

“We owe our existence to Tyagaraja”

Musicians render the Pancharatna kritis and pay homage to Tyagaraja at his samadhi on the banks of the Cauvery at in Tiruvaiyaru in January 2012. Photo: M. Srinath   | Photo Credit: M_SRINATH

About 165 years ago, saint composer, Sadguru Tyagaraja attained samadhi on the banks of the Cauvery river in Tiruvaiyaru on Pushya Bahula Panchami. The fifth day from full moon of the month of Pausham under the Chaandramanam system is celebrated as Tygaraja Aradhana day at his samadhi. Abhishekam is performed to his idol in the morning as vedic scholars chant verses from the Vedas. Simultaneously, vidwans and vidushis and violin, veena and flute artistes render the ghana raga Pancharatnam with mridangam, ghatam and kanjira vidwans accompanying them. This is preceded by a performance of select kritis of the saint by a large group of nagaswaram-tavil vidwans.

In 1941, Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavatar selected five songs or the ghana raga pancharatnam to be rendered by musicians who gathered at the samadhi. Since then, the system has been in vogue. The Aradhana is still attended by vidwans and vidushis in large numbers. Although the number of participants has been on the increase, only a handful are constant attendees and they are artistes one can easily recognise during the Pancharatnam Goshti Ganam.

What draws these musicians to Tiruvaiyaru, year after year? Talking to a cross-section of the participants, one could see that visiting this holy spot has become a habit for many.

“I started to come for the Tyagaraja Aradhana since when I was a young boy and my father made it a must that I should attend the festival, “ says Mridanga vidwan Srimushnam Raja Rao.

“We belong to a family of Bhagavatas. Thus going there is only natural; to pay our obeisance to the saint composer. I was a mere onlooker for many years and it was during the tenure of Palghat Mani Iyer as Secretary did I start assisting him alongside Tanjavur Upendran. Late Tiruvengadu Jayaraman is another vidwan who never missed the aradhana for he felt he owed his musicianship to Tyagaraja. I came to be recognised as a mridanga vidwan only by my regular participation in several “24-hour akhanda gaanam”. Sankaranarayanan and Venkatasubramaniam, my disciples, got their grades with the All India Radio within a year of their playing at the aradhana which is a record of sorts. This they firmly believe is owing to Tyagaraja's blessings”.

Eighty eight-year old Manakkal Rangarajan has been attending the aradhana since he was 15 years-old, without a break sometimes, despite failing health. “We musicians owe our very existence to Tyagaraja. Is it not our duty to show our gratitude to him by participating in the Aradhana celebrations? The peace and joy that I derive at his samadhi is something inexplicable. One has to experience this on his own to realise it. My son Sriram, a mridanga vidwan had his arangetram at the aradhana. Noticing his prowess, Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavatar had him play for him at his concert. I have performed with my whole family as a team, my wife Padma as vocal support, my daughter Banumathi Hariharan on the violin and my son Sriram on the mridangam, something exceptional due to the Saint's blessings.

Sudha Ragunathan is another vidushi who regularly visits Tiruvaiyaru. “The yearly sojourn started about 30 years ago and it is still going on. The urge is becoming stronger as every year passes by. The annual pilgrimage has been on almost without a break except when my daughter Malavika was born. Getting to know the dates well ahead, I plan my concert schedules so that I never miss the aradhana. I visit here for the sheer ‘atma tripti' it gives me and it is something very personal. Tyagaraja's songs are simple yet oozing with the raga. With a sound knowledge of Telugu, I am able to relate to each of his song with its inner meaning and this has only taken me closer to him and his compositions. My guru M.L. Vasanthakumari has strongly advised me not to miss a Tyagaraja kriti in my concerts unless it is a thematic one. This probably has made an impact at a very early age. Once I had to perform at the Theatre De Ville, France (something akin to our Music Academy) and the Aradhana was to follow in two days at Tiruvaiyaru. I air dashed from France to Chennai and rushed to Tiruvaiyaru by road and reached on time to join the goshti gaanam,” Sudha Ragunathan says.

Attending the aradhana is a sentimental issue for N.C. Soundaravalli She attaches great importance to it and traces it back to her college days at QMC, Chennai.

“I have a firm belief in Tyagaraja as the guiding spirit behind my music and hence, rain or shine, I make it to Tiruvaiyaru to be there throughout the celebrations listening to a galaxy of vidwans and then singing in the goshti ganam. The Pancharatnam at his samadhi is a unique experience. With the ethereal vibrations prevalent there, you get a feeling of being possessed and this according to me is His soul's blessings. This apart, the crowd in thousands conglomerating add to the festive atmosphere. I never miss the concerts of vidwans, particularly from Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, for the only reason that they always have a bag of surprises every year singing many rare kritis. Above all, my going there year after year is to do more with the saanidhyam of His sannidhi.

Sabhas may conveniently forget him for a slot in their December season, but come January this man is the most sought after, by all organisations for they need his gigantic presence to successfully conduct the Pancharatna goshti gaanam orgainsed by them. The karma yogi in K.R. Saranathan for whom Tyagaraja is the ultimate in music and is yet another vidwan whom you can never miss at the main aradhana what with his imposing presence. “My music is because of him and if I don't go there will not my conscience prick me. Kunnakudy Vaidyanathan till his passing away was managing the affairs for so many years and he advised me never to miss the aradhana under any circumstances. He always insisted that one should set foot in Tiruvaiyaru at least on the aradhana day to seek the Saint's blessings and for the past 28 years I have been keenly following his advice.”


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Printable version | Jan 23, 2022 3:00:17 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/music/we-owe-our-existence-to-tyagaraja/article2795748.ece

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