Part I

Dr. P. P. Narayanaswami

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Kutcheri, Raga, Tala, Sahitya
Artistes, Composers, Lyrics
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Dance, Harikatha, Folk Music


Among the 700 or so k.rtis of Saint TyAgarAja that are currently in vogue, a majority is devoted to singing the Glory of Lord  shrI rAma through the medium of  nAma japa (divine chanting) and  bhakti (devotion). These include his major k.rtis popularly heard in concerts, the divyanAma sa"nkIrtanams, and the utsava saMpradAya kIrtanams. Since his compositions are steeped with an intense devotion to Lord rAma, and there is a wealth of  rAma nAma mahima sprinkled throughout his songs, several harikathA exponents have successfully conducted rAmAyaNa kathA prasa”ngams employing solely his compositions to illustrate the essence of this epic story.

Though he was an advocate of  rAma nAma tAraka mantram,  TyAgarAja has taken time out to deviate from this theme, to compose several beautiful k.rtis in praise of other Gods and Goddesses of the South Indian Hindu Pantheon. Unlike MuttusvAmi DIkSitar, he was not a zealous pilgrim, but he had traveled to some nearby shrines in places like ShrIra”ngam, LalguDi, Tirupati, KOvUr, TiruvoTToyUr, NAgapaTTaNam, SOli"ngapuram, and Chennai, to mention a few places. Also, besides Lord rAma, he has composed and sung in praise of gaNEsha, shiva, viSNu, pArvati (in several forms), and even the sacred river  kAvEri, in addition to a large number of songs glorifying  nAda brahmam, the medium of  sapta svara through which he expressed his feelings toward God.  In this small note, I shall try to point out the various TyAgarAja k.rtis that are not related to the theme of  rAma brahmam.

K.rtis on gaNesha

On Lord  gaNEsha, TyAgarAja sang the k.rtigirirAjasutA tanayA sadayA'' in the  rAgam  ba”ngaLa.  This composition is in simple Sanskrit, and there are numerous compositions of TyAgarAja in Sanskrit (for example, sAmajavaragamana (hindOLAm), nadatanumani"sam (cittara~njani), jagadAnandakaraka (nATa),  niravadhisukhada (ravicandrika), and so on).  Another k.rti on gaNEsha, again in Sanskrit, “shrI gaNanAtham bhajAmyaham'' in the  rAgam kanakA”ngi  (the first mELam) is also attributed to TyAgarAja, but strangely, it incorporates the  mudra (signature) of both TyAgarAja, as well as MuttusvAmi DIkSitar (in the phrase  “guruguha''),  but the style resembles more  to  that of DIkSitar.  The more famous TyAgarAja k.rti on gaNapati is, of course,  "shrI ganapatini sEviMparArE" in rAgam saurASTram.  This k.rti belongs to "prahLAda bhakti vijayam" opera, where it serves as an invocative song for this dance drama.

The sacred river kAvEri

The geographical location of the TiruvauyAru temple on the banks of KavEri has inspired TyAgarAja to sing in praise of this sacred river, or to refer to it in many songs. In the k.rti  “sAri VeDalina'' in  rAgam asAvEri, TyAgarAja describes  the flow of the sacred river kAvEri ---  "the river, which gloriously going towards her husband's house, fulfilling the desires of all devotees, and after paying obeisance to the feet of  Lord  shrI Ra”nganAtha, comes to Pa~ncanadIshvara, who is the life of the fourteen  lOkas". In the  mukhAri rAga piece, "muripEmu galigEgadA'', he further echoes: “Oh  rAmA! are you not happy that you have secured the abode of  Pa~ncanada kSEtra in  cOLa dEsham, a place so beautiful, and worthy of being coveted by Lord  shiva himself, situated on the banks of the holy river kAvEri?"  In the song, "ennADO rakSi~ncitE" in rAgam saurASTram, he again echoes --- "to delight the hearts of  all good people who, feeling the want of water, eagerly look along the river-bed for it, and to assure them that she would really bless them, does not kavEri, sharing their concern, send in advance the western wind and start the spring?"

TiruvaiyAru Compositions

Since TyAgarAja spent a major portion of his time in the temple city of TiruvaiyAru (Pa~ncanadi -- the bank of five rivers), we find a number of compositions dedicated to the presiding deity of the temple at TiruvaiyAru, Lord  praNatArttihara (shiva), and the Divine consort dharmasamvarddhani. The following k.rtis are all composed at this sacred place.

K.rtis on pa~ncanadIsha

illalO praNatArttihara  




Ehi trijagadIsha  


muccaTa brahmAdulaku  


darshanamu sEya  


shiva shiva yena  


dEvAdi dEva sadAshiva  


In the madhyamAvati piece, "muccaTa brahmadulaku", TyAgarAja imagines Lord shiva in a form that is completely different from the usual description we are used to. The Lord, with his white captivating from, bedecked with jewels and rich flower garlands, is seated in an ornamented palanquin, with royal paraphernalia, carried by men of celestial bearings and with praises being sung by real devotees.

In the more popular "shiva shivayenarAdA" in rAgam pantuvarALi, TyAgarAja says --- "chanting the vEdas extols the Lord.  Avoid all the fruitless talks and in the company of noble devotees, indulge in chanting the name of the Lord and singing his glory.  Knowing that shiva is the Lord whom TyAgarAja bows down, chant the name of shiva eternally".

K.rtis on dharmasamvarddhani



 parAshakti manuparAda


 nIvu brOvavalE  


 bAlE bAlEndu  


 amma dharmasamvarddhani


 vidhi shakrAdulaku  


 shivE pAhi mAm  



dEshya tODi

 nannu kanna talli  


 amba ninnu nammiti 



In the above collection, the k.rti "nanu kanna talli" is listed in most books as in the rAgam kEsari (janyam of mELam 28, harikAMbhOji)  and in dEshAdi tALam.  This particular k.,rti has been  rendered in a vinyl LP album by M. Balamuralikrishna, and the sleeve notes mentions  the rAgam  as sindukannaDa.  It is quite possible that the two are identical.  Professor S. R. Janakiraman's book,  "Ragas at a Glance" employs the terminology, sindukannaDa (ArOhaNam: s m g m p s; avarOhaNam: s n d p m g r s), that is, a Ri, Ni varjya vakra ArOhaNam and sampUrNa avarOhaNam.  He adds that it is also known as kEsari in some quarters.  However the classical work, "saMgraha cUDAmaNi"  lists kEsari as a janyam of mELam 25, mArara~njani) with the scale (s m g m g r g m p d s; s d n d p m g r s).  This particular rAgam is one that qualifies as an "Eka k.rti rAgam" (only one song exists in that particular  rAgam).



At the request of Saint UpaniSad Brahmam, a head of the  maTham, and a close friend of his father, TyAgarAja visited the ancient city of KA~ncIpuram, renouned for its numerous shiva and viSNu temples. Two k.rtis on Lord  varadarAja, in the rare  rAgams rAgapa~njaram (mELam 28 -  s r m p d n d s; s n d m r s) and  svarabhUSaNi (mELam 22 -  s g m p d n s; s n p m g m r s) and one in  madhyamAvati on Goddess  kAmAkSi are available to us.  While this number is much smaller than the number of k.rtis shyAma shAstri or muttusvAmi dIksitar has composed on kA~ncIpuram deities, they have not composed any songs in these two rare rAgams.  There is another k.rti of TyAgarAja in rAgapa~njaram ("sArvabhauma") on rAma, but it is not related to kA~ncipuram.  The k.rtis on  varadarAjasvAmi  are: (i) varada navanItAsha pAhi  (rAgam rAgapa~njaram) , and (ii)  varadarAja ninnukOri (rAgam  svarabhUSaNi).

The very popular composition in madhyamAvati "vinAyaku ni valenu" is the only available composition of TyAgarAja on Goddess kAmAkSi.   In an old LP recording, "kAmAkSi suprabhAtam", Smt M. S. Subbalakshmi has soulfully rendered this composition. 

TiruvoTTyUr pa~ncaratnam

VINa Kuppayyar was a prominent disciple of TyAgarAja, and at his request, TyAgarAja visited the town of TiruvoTTiyUr (also known as Adipuram).  Here, he composed five beautiful k.rtis on Goddess Tripurasundari, collectively known as  TiruvoTTiyUr pa~ncaratnams.  These songs are given below.

kanna talli  


sundari ninnu


sundari nannindarilO  


sundari nI divya 


dhArinI telusukonti  


The last one in this series, in the rAgam shuddhasAvEri,  is a very popular song, included in many present-day in concert repertoire.  M. Balamuralikrishna has a recording of the kalyANi song "sundari n divyarUpamuI" in an old LP. Bombay Sisters have a 45 minute recording  (Sangeetha  4ECDB 7308)  of all the five songs in this group.

KOvUr pa~ncaratnam

Sundara Mudaliar of KOvur, a rich Landlord, and a sincere devotee of TyAgarAja, invited  him  to visit his home town and the shrine of Lord  SundarEshvara of KOvUr.  Here, TyAgarAja composed five beautiful songs on Lord shiva, which are at present  known as  KOvUr Pa~ncaratnams.  These songs are: 

I vasudhA  


kOri sEvimpavE  


shambhO MahAdEva  


nammi vaccina  




Bombay sisters have n audio recording of the kOvUR pa~ncaratnam group in Sangeetha ECDB 472.

shrIra”ngam pa~ncaratnam

In the soul-stirring and weighty kAmbhOji composition,  “Oh ra”ngashAyI” (rAgam kAmbhOji), TyAgarAja refers to the shrine at shrIra”ngam as “bhUlOka vaiku”nTha midiyani niloma nIve yuppo"ngi” (you seem to regard shrIra"ngam as the vaikuNTha, your Supreme Abode itself and loose yourself in the enjoyment of your Ra"nganAtha at shrIra"nagm!).  This k.rti, which is often chosen as a major item in concerts these days, and which captures all the essential nuances of the majestic rAgam kAmbhOji, belongs to a set of five gems, known as  “shrIra”ngam pa~ncaratnam   (listed below).

jUtA murArE  


Oh ra”ngashAyI


karuNa jUtumayyA  






This is a masterful collection of five k.rtis on Lord  ra”nganAtha at shrIra"ngam.. All   these k.rtis are extremely popular and heard regularly in concerts.  A 45 minute audio cassette (Sangeetha 4ECDB 7289) of the shrIra"ngam pa~ncaratham is commercially available.

LAlguDi pa~ncaratnam

TyAgarAja had several disciples from the town of Tiruttavatturai, also known as LalguDi, the home and birthplace of the violin maestro Lalgudi G. Jayaraman. At their request. he spend some time in the small town of LAlguDi, worshipping the presiding deities, Lord  Sapta.rSIshvara (also known as  shrI TapastIrtha dEva, and Goddess  prav.rddha shrImati. While at LalguDi, he is believed to have stayed at house of the parents of LalguDi G. Jayaraman. (The name  "shrImati'' is often a household name for women hailing from this village).  The five songs he composed here are known as  “LAlguDi pa~ncaratnam”. 

gati nIvE  


lalitE shrI 


dEva shrI  


mahita prav.rddha  


Isha pAhi mAm  


LAlguDi Jayaraman and his disciples (G.J.R. Krishnan, J. Vijayalakshmi, Bombay Jayashri, vINai, Jayanthi, and S. P.Ramh)  have beautifully rendered all these five k.rtis in chorus, in a one hour cassette (AVM audio 60B 491).  Also, Bombay Sisters have given a 45 minute rendition of these five gems in an audio cassette (Sangeetha 4ECDB 7272).

To be Continued


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