Galaxy of composers
TYAGARAJA (1767 - 1847) - PART 2
- Dr. V Raghavan
A further remarkable feature of Tyagaraja's compositions is their poetic excellence and spiritual value. When an impossible combination happily comes about, they say in Sanskrit that gold has acquired fragrance, Hemnah param amodah. Gold is great by its own high value; fragrance is something wonderful, but only real flowers have it; flower-like ornaments of gold cannot emit flowers fragrance, but if they should, then it is a miracle indeed. This consummation or fragrant gold has indeed been achieved in the creations of some composers like Jayadeva, Purandara, Kshetragna and Tyagaraja. Evening after evening we sit and listen to our artistes rendering pieces of Tyagaraja; neither the artistes nor we have any idea of the wealth of precious fancy, thought and feeling that lie hidden in the many familiar lines, catching turns and exhilarating effects to which our musical hunger makes us return again and again! It is as if the dazzling charms of a lady's beauty should blind us to, or makes us never curious about her infinite qualities of head and heart; it is as if, revelling in the joys of a poet's masterly style and diction, we care not for the noble thoughts in the poem; it is as if, stunned by the grandeur of a Gopura soaring tier upon tier, we are gazing, missing the evening service at the sanctum of the Deity. But were one to resist or renounce the overwhelming joys of the sangeeta of Tyagaraja, were one to boldly get to the sahitya, he would come across a treasure of thought, the contemplation of which would make him forget about his music. Poetic fancies, learned allusions, moral precepts, enunciation of doctrines, high Upanishadic truths, condemnation of sham, hypocrisy, false paths, show and shortcuts, happy smiles, worldly wisdom, popular sayings, and above all every share and mood of religious, devotional and spiritual experience, renunciation of worldly good and flattery of the rich, prayer, plaintive pleading, yearning, anguish, remonstrance, sportive rebuke, despair, and dejection, self-depreciation, faith, hope, exhilaration, ecstasy of realisation, endearment, joy of service, surrender and dedication, satisfaction at his own devout life, gratitude, make his songs an endless epic record of the mind of a great bhakta which was, till the end, erupting like a ceaseless volcano.
Tyagaraja's pilgrimage extended from Tirupati in the North to Srirangam in the South, as the deities and shrines praised by him show. His songs on Goddess Tripurasundari at Tiruvottriyur, the place of Vina Kuppier, his pupil, show that he stayed in this place for some time; similarly he went to Kovur, another place in Madras, and sang five pieces in praise of God Sundaresa there; it is said that the people of Madras honoured Tyagaraja, and we in Madras have legitimate claim to great musical associations in this and other respects too.
However, a vociferous section of the public, probably somewhat numerous too, was ill-disposed towards him and reviling him both in respect of his religion and his music; this is clear from the extreme anguish in which he cries to Rama in some of his songs and asks him why he allows his devotee to be thus humiliated among his compeers. To trouble from his own elder brother, there is express mention in a song, Anyayamu Seyakura in Kapi and it is well known that the account handed down through Sampradaya says that his elder brother, Japyesa, did not like Tyagaraja, his Unchavriti, Bhajana, Rama puja etc. and that he partitioned the family belongings. But no critical scholar need subscribe to the story that Tyagaraja's song Nenendu vedagudura was sung by composer in connection with the loss of his wicked brother; for even Tertadiyakarada in Gowlipantu composed in Tirupati, has only the high reference to philosophy, and not the lower reference of historical detail.
When he sang that Rama the Brahman was his father, Sri Ramudu ma tanri, he meant it doubly, for his father's name was also Rama Brahma; twice in the introductory portion and once at the end in the Phalasruti, Tyagaraja mentions himself as the son of Rama Brahmam in his Prahlada Bhakta Vijaya; the initial reference here to his father as God Rama himself shows that Rama Brahman was a person of high spiritual attainment. While it is generally said that Tyagaraja's mother was Santamma, the Walajapet account would, in perfect consonance with the song "Seetamma Mayamma" call his mother Seetamma.
Girirajakavi is said to have been his paternal grandfather and some see a reference to this fact in Tyagaraja's Ganesa song in Bangala, Giriraja suta tanaya; but if we respect grammar as much as pious tradition, this reference makes Giriraja the maternal grandfather, Matamaha, of Tyagaraja (son of the daughter of Giriraja). It is said that the family that was living at Tiruvarur migrated later to Tiruvadi while Tyagaraja was still young. Tyagaraja was born at Tiruvarur and named after the deity at the place, God Tyagaraja, the ishtadevata of the Tanjavur Court too; music, dance and literature had a glorious growth. If Giriraja was really Tyagaraja's maternal grandfather, it is but natural that Tyagaraja's mother was confined at her father's place and Tyagaraja's own father was already there, for Tyagaraja's father is shown by that fact that the elder brother of Tyagaraja was named Japyesa after the deity at Tiruvadi. Tyagaraja belonged to a Telugu Vaidika Muriginadu community of Bharadwaja gotra. In the fifth introductory verse of his Nowkacharitra, Tyagaraja mentions his house-name (inti-nama) as Kakaria. In the Tanjavur Library, among the Telugu manuscripts, we have operas and poems of a Giriraja Kavi of Shahaji's Court, who was a musician too; his inti-nama was Garbha and his gotra too was different from Tyagaraja's; he being the maternal grandfather. Tyagaraja was born in Sarvajit, Chaitra, 27th, Monday, Sukla Saptami, Pushya, 4th May 1767, according to the Walajapet account, but in 1769 according to others.
Posted on February 25, 2002