Harikatha on Thyagaraja by TNS on 19-2-2009 at Asthika samajam, Thiruvanmiyur
TNS was accompanied by Shertalai Sivakumar on violin and B. Ganpathiraman on mrdhangam.
Of the usual preliminary verses and songs, the sloka I hameer kalyani that preceded song ‘rathnakachitha simhasana,’ deserves special mention as TNS sang the two madhyamas beautifully in the word ‘mama hrdhaya vimanam.’
TNS started by extolling the namasankeerthana which takes the predominant place among the forms of worship in kaliyuga as thapa, dhyana etc were in the other yugas. Among the eight forms of worship , namely, Sravanam, keerthanam, smaranam, paadhasevanam, archanam , vandhanam and dhaasyam, keerthanam occupies a exalted place because it twice blessed with respect to one who sings and one who receives, giving joy to both.
TNS said that the Lord must have created Thyagaraja to show to the world the easy way to salvation through music. He was the real sadguru , meaning the one who dispelled the darkness due to ignorance and showed the path to attain immortality. The word guru is split as two syllables ‘gu’ and ‘ru,’ meaning , “one who dispels the darkness. Perhaps Rama Himself came down as Thyagaraja, said TNS, as He had promised that He will incarnate in all ages, ‘sambavami yuge yuge,’ to illustrated the way to live, as He did in Ramavathara in which he lived as an ideal son, ideal brother, ideal king etc., because Thyagaraja was the beacon of bhakthi marga through namasankeerthana, the easies of all the paths to attain immortality.
It is said that to be born in Thiruvarur is the way to mukthi and there were three saint composers, Diksjithar, Syamasastri and Thyagarja., who were born there illustrating sangeetha as mukthimarga.
TNS then traced the lineage of Thyagraja briefly and said that the very names of his parents as Ramabrahmama and Shantha depicts their character and to such a pious and good couple Thyagaraja as born and inherited ramabhakthi from his father, who was also great devotee who lived by unchavrtthi.
Thyagaraja was equal to Anjaneya, Prahlada and Narada in his devotion and music but in raamaamrthapaanam he excelled even the best one so far known, namely Lord Siva, who used to talk about Ramanama always which could be seen in his upadesa to Parvati, ‘sreeraamaraamethi rame raame manorame sahsranaama thaththulayam raamanaama varanane,’ that the rama nama is equal to 1000 namas of Lord Narayana. The mathematics is given like this, said TNS, ‘ra’ =2 and ‘ma’ =5 and Siva said the nama three times . Hence 2times times 5 is equal to 10 times 10 times 10 is 1000.
Thyagaraja says in his krthi ‘hecchrigagaa raaraa, in yadhukula kambhodhi, that the parrot in the hand of Goddess Meenakshi who came to see Rama was praising Ramanama because it has heard Siva talking to Parvathi about it. Here TNS remarked in a lighter vein that Lord Siva could be found always talking , of course about Ramanama, and Parvathi would be listening whereas Lord Vishnu would recline on His bed of Sesha with His eyes closed all the time listening to Lakshmi , who would be talking!. Of course the divine mother would be talking to Him only to show mercy on all of us, her children, as she always did , said TNS.
Similarly Thyagaraja also wanted all to obtain the grace of Rama, as he calls all to come and see the Lord in his krthis,’ rajuvedalachoothaamuraare,’in thodi, ‘choothaamuraare,’ in arabhi etc.
The daily routine of Thyagaraja was to get up in the braahmahuhurtha, that is early hours, and take bath in cauveri and did bajanai doing unchavrtthi.. It was wrong to think that he was poor and could not make both ends meet etc., said TNS, though he was not desirous of earning money. He used to do bhagavatha kainkarya feeding the bhagavathas everyday After food he will compose krthis and teach his disciples. He worshipped Rama by doing all upacharas to Him like offering milk, betelnuts etc. TNS said that Thyagaraja offeres milk to Rama saying that it was purified by the touch of the hand of Seetha.in his krthi ‘aarakimopavE in thodi. The milk should be in the right temperature, said TNS, and that is why Thygaraja says that it was akin to that given by Seetha as he must have offered it by cooling it to the right padham. Similarly he offers the thambula to Rama, saying that He should accept it as though offered by Seetha and in the krthi ‘videmu sEyavE,’ in karaharapriya, Thyagraja shows how to offer thaambula, said TNS, which is a proof that he was not a half-starved mendicant! He says in that krthi, the thaambula must contain jathikkai, Elakkai , jaathipathri, betelnut and betel leaves.
But that Thyagaraja had no desire for money was true as could be seen from the incident when the thieves surrounded his palanquin and his disciples informed about the money given by his friend from Kovur for conducting festival for Rama, and Thyagraja said that if the money belonged to Rama He will take care of it. And Rama andLakshman came as soldiers with n bow and arrow and drove out the thieves. TNS sang the pallavi and anupallavi of the krthi, mundhuvenuga, which was supposed to have been composed at that time and sang the charanam as a viruttham..
The spiritual search of a guru by Thyagaraja began, though Sonti Venkataramanayya, . the son of Venkatamahi was his guru for music, who openly proclaimed that the disciple was far higher than the guru in musical talent. TNS said that a guru seeks a fitting disciple more than a disciple seeking a proper guru. Though Dasaratha wanted a son, it was the Lord, who was seeking for a deserving father , who chose Dasratha. Simlarly , said TNS it was Rama who chose Thyagaraja to give upadesa to the people through music. Thus a sannyasi came to him and told Thyagaraja to have Rama as his upasanamurthi and to have ananaya bhakthi towards SriRama.
Thyagaraja became a sathguru, advising all to do Ramadhyana. TNS sang the krthi ‘dhyaaname varamaina,’ in dhanyasi and ‘namaiyum theemaiyum ,’ from Kamban in hamsanandi. TNS quipped that Thyagraja has said that ramanama could be chanted anytime even in the afternoon , through this krthi because in singing the line ‘dhyanaame varamaina gangasnaname mansaa raama, ’ if the word raama is sung with elongated sangathi in ‘raa,’ the ‘ma’ will be joined with ‘dhyanamE’ to sound like ‘madhyanamE.!’
Thyagaraja has said in his krthi ‘smaraNesukhamu,’ in janranjani, that if one cannot sing, even thinking on ramanama is enough, said TNS, and sung the krthi of Purandaradasa ‘ramamanthrava japiso.’ in jonpuri., meaning that ramamanthra is enough and the best. TNS also sang some lines from ‘telisi rama, ‘ distinguishing the meaning of each word..
Then TNS described the darsan of Rama to Thyagaraja who was yearning for it. Rama with Lakshmana appeared to him as Janaka saw them. Janaka described them as Saardhoolavrshbhopamou, looking like tiger and a bull but at the same time dhrshtichitthaapahaariNou, stealing the eyes and he heart by their attractive forms. Also Thyagaraja saw Rama in the role of the protector of the yaga of Visvamithra. This is evident from the words of the krthi ‘elaneedhayaraadhu,’ in ataana which was sung by Thyagaraja on that occasion. He describes Rama as ‘balaa kanakamaya chela,’ a youth , ‘oona shodasavarsha, ‘ not even 16 years of age as Dasaratha mentioned when Visvamithra asked for him, and clad in golden hued garment. He was ‘sujanaparipala.,’ protector of the good, by being ‘vidhrtha Sarajaala,’ sending out a shower of arrows.
Thyagaraja wished that everyone should have the darsan which he had, and hence asks Rama to have mercy , ‘Ela nee dhayaraadhu,’ said TNS, singing the lines ra ra devadhi devaa,ra ra mahanubhaava ,ra ra rajeevanethra,’ with beautiful bhava as Thyagaraja would have welcomed Rama with love. Then he explained the epithet rajeeva nethra, lotus-eyed, which shows that Thygaraja must have seen Rama in his role of yaga samrakshana, because it reflects the words of Dasaratha who referred to Rama as raajeevalochana, Dasaratha meant that Rama was in his lotus-like heart and hence asking him was like taking away his heart. Also Rama being young , will close his lotus-like eyes even before night fall and how could he face the demons who come only in the night. Here TNS became Dasaratha in expressing the anguish in sending his child, who comes from his play goes to sleep even while he was being fed, very beautifully.
This is what makes the harikatha of TNS special. He becomes the character whom he describes., whether it is Thyagaraja, Dasaratha, Seetha or even surpanakha or Ravana!
Thyagarja has traced he whole Ramayana in many of his krthis including the above-mentioned one. He calls Rama sakala Sruthidhara, which is reminiscent of the sloka ‘vedhavedhye pare pumsi jaathe dhasarathaathmaje,’ the supreme being known only through the Vedas becoming the son of Dasaratha.
TNS then said it is commented by some that there is no such thing as Thyagrajaramayana, but all the krthis of Thyagraja are nothing but Ramayana. Moreover there is evidence that Thygarja was acquainted with not only Valmiki but also Kamban. What Valmiki mentioned at the time of the birth of Rama .was Kousalya gave birth to Rama who was ‘dhivyalakshana yutham,’ with all divine signs, which is complete by itself. But Kamban elucidated by saying ‘thiruvuRap payandhanaL thirmpadu kosalai.’ The adjective ‘thirampadu ,’ very skilled , given to Kosalai was due to the fact that she bore the one, who slept on a banyan leaf with he whole universe inside Him, within her for twelve months. This one verse of Kamban serves as the stamp for his being a kavichakaravarthi, an emperor of poets, said TNS. Thyagaraja .says ,’ sree vasudeva andakotla kutchi neeunchukoledha,’ which reflects the words of Kamban, ‘oru pagal ulagu ellam udharatthuL podhindhu arumaRaikku uNarvu tharum avanai. ‘
Then TNS referred to the incident when the King called him to court which made him feel that something was defective in his devotion to create even the thought in others that he would go to court when called. TNS sang the krthi ‘dhunmaragacharaadhamulanu,’ in full and explained and also the krthi ‘nidhisalasukhama,’ where Thygaraja examines his own mind to see whether there is any desire for money.
When The idol of Rama was thrown into cauveri river the naguish of Thyagraja gave rise to many krthis, which may be the reason Rama was waiting inside the river so long very comfortably as though inside AC room, said TNS, before he made himself known to Thyagraja by appearing in his dream.
When Thyagraja found Rama he was elated and sang ‘kanukontint, ‘ in bilahari which TNS sang in full, with wonderful bava, displaying the exact emotion Thyagaraja would have felt then. He said that after Thyagraja brought the idol home he performed all utsavams in a single day to show his joy.
It as Thyagaraja, said TNS, who gave prestige to music. It is said that one can attain moksha through music but Thyagaraj went one step ahead, said TNS, and asked whether any one can attain mukthi without music, sathbhakthisangeethajnanaviheenulaku mokshamugakladha.’ TNS explained the words ‘veenaavaadhanaloludou sivamanovidha merugaru,’ as the veena mentioned in the krthi is the human being who himself becomes a veena, when the pranava becomes the sapthasvaras and flows through the heart strings which is the veena tuned by devotion. in his krthi ‘mokshamugaladha,’ in saramathi. TNS sang the anupallavi ‘saakshaathkaara nee,’ in such a way that one could feel as though there was brahma sakshathkaara right in front.. No words can describe it because one should hear it to feel the ecstasy with which it was sung.
In another krthi ‘padhavinisadhbhakthiyu,’ Thyagaraja says that the real power and positon is to be the devotee of Rama. and all the other things sought after in this world are worthless. Explaining this with his usual subtle humour .said that nowadays padhavi means pa+thavi( pa =money, panam, spending which for the padhavi, one become anxious(thavippu).
Thyagaraja shows how to sing in his krthi ‘sogasugamrdhangathalamu,’ in sriranjni, which TNS explained where at the end Thyagaraja asks Rama whether he is qualified to sing about Him in this manner. TNS at this juncture referred to the changes people do in music in modern times .and said that any change ‘maattRam,’ must be to the better, ‘EttRam,’ as otherwise it would be a disappointment ‘EmaattRam,’ displaying a little bit of his wit and play on words.
Then TNS illustrated how to sing the utsavasampradhaya krthi ‘sopane,’ saying that sopane means the practice at the end of marriage and other auspicious functions when the sumangalis rotate a big basin containing the arathi and it should be sung with visranthi and slowly as the basin would be slowly rolled with a sweeping gesture. He actually showed how it is done! TNS sang the sopana krthi ‘vadhana dhyuthi jitha soma,’ as beautifully as he always does. TNS also mentioned about the krthi ‘Seetha kalyana vaibhogame,’ and said that Thyagaraja brought Anjaneya to the marriage of Rama by placing him at the beginning as ‘pavanaja sthuthi paathra,’ and also at the end he placed Siva whose amsa Anjaneya was. as ‘paramesa nutha geetha.’ TNS said that Anjaneya was praised as ‘asaaDhya saaDhaka ,’ and Thyagaraja also deserves to be called such as he made Anjaneya present in the marriage of Rama while Rama meets Anjaneya only much later!
Thysagaraja gave a title to Rama Himself . said TNS , in his thodi raga krthi ‘dhaasarathee nee RNamu theerppa naavasamaa,’ as the rasika siromani. TNS said that God’s grace is required not only for singing but also to be a rasika, who absorbs the music and the divine presence in the musician expressed through the music within himself and becomes one with the music along with the singer. Rama , says Thyagraja was the embodiment of music in his krthi in arabhi ‘praNava naadhasudhaarasambilanu naraakrthiyaaya,’ the music that flows from the Omkaara itself became Rama, who not only gave the music to Thyagaraja and also became a rasika of it Himself.
Thyagraja has done kainkaryam to Rama and enjoyed Him in all the possible roles, as Dasaratha, as Kousalya, as Seetha etc., said TNS, and to expound all that is like diving into the ocean to extract the pearls, which, the more one searches the more one gets. The same thing can be said about the talents of TNS also, as a musician, as an instrumentalist, as a researcher, as a speaker and as a harikatha exponent , all this being only the portion of the ocean that can be seen while the major portion lies underneath.