SRI TYAGARAJA (1767 – 1847) – PART III – Music

22 Feb

 (For my friend Shri Kannan Rangachar)

Continued from  Part II –  Life


Many- splendored genius

19.1. Sri Tyagaraja was a many-splendored genius. He was a musician, poet, philosopher and Saint combined in one. In him music, poetry and spirituality reside in sublime harmony; and, find spontaneous expression in every note of his music (Samgita) and every phrase of his poetry (Sahitya).

There are some who regard him as a divinity , a saint; and venerate his kritis as sacred literature. There are also those who are in awe of the inspiring music, the lucid poetic expressions and philosophical insights that abound in his Kritis. The ardent devotees of Sri Rama revere his poetry as an outpouring of Rama-Bhakthi. For them, Sri Thyagaraja’s music is a means to attain God’s Grace, Moksha – Sadhana.  And, to most other music lovers, Tyagaraja and Karnataka Samgita are the two names of the same entity that is pure and enjoyable.

19.2. For successive generations of musicians and music lovers in South India, Sri Tyagaraja’s Kritis-kirtanas have been the treasure house of education, enlightenment and enjoyment. Here, they get to admire the sparkling expressions that shine forth in a simple language they can relate to; the effortless ease with which words (Matu) and Music (Dhatua) blend into each other; and, the graceful   movements of his smooth flowing music that makes singing a great pleasure (gana-anukula), a tranquil delight (sukhanubhava).

19.3. It is said; music bestows bliss instantaneously; but, poetry on contemplation. But, for Tyagaraja composing the song and singing (Samgita and Sahitya) followed each other and flowed out at once.



20.1. The farther in time we go from him, it is his saintliness that seems to sparkle and take over. But, what is lost sight is the human aspect of Tyagaraja. Perhaps, not many, now, look at him as a person; an individual who lived amidst his fellow beings enduring the pains of a common householder.

He did suffer from poverty; frustrations; sense of insecurity; pain caused by cruel jibes mocking at his indifference towards things that matter in life; his Uncha-Vritti seeking alms while singing along the streets, which normally would dent ones’ self-esteem. He was utterly helplessness against envy and hatred of neighbors and relatives.

But, at the same time; he also did enjoy moments of bliss, joy and fulfillment, derived through his Rama-bhakthi in which he was firmly rooted.

That indeed was the essence of his life encased in a tough shell.  All such varied phases of his life-experiences gained explicit form in his poetry and music.

20.2. Perhaps one cannot truly appreciate the intrinsic merit of his songs without taking into account Tyagaraja the person; the persons who moulded his  life; the events that influenced his outlook and also the ways of his living and feeling; the values in life that he held very high ; and, his intense devotion  (Bhakthi) and dedication towards his Supreme Ideal (paramartha-Sadhana).

21.1. He gave vent to his sorrows, disappointments, frustrations, agony, disgust or mock-anger, hurt and pain, and above all his joy in adoring Sri Rama, by sublimating those emotions into soulful songs that gushed forth spontaneously.

For instance; in his Nadupai balikeru (Madhyamavati) he complains of the local gossip blaming him for the partition of his family home; his Vararagalayajnulu (Chenchu Kambhoji) speaks of his disappointment with his fellow musicians; in his Nayeda vanchana and Etula gadapudavo he refers to confrontation with his cousins (daayadi).

And, there are many other songs through which he pours out bitterness and sorrow. He preferred to compose his pains and pleasures into songs, addressing them to his Sri Rama instead of complaining to mortals. He even points out, in mild sarcasm, the deception that the Lord indulges in (Sadhinchane).

There are of course, countless songs that gushed out in pure ecstasy and delight calling out to Sri Rama.

22.2. Perhaps, he did not wait to search for words or for a Raga to suit the mood or the song. Each followed the other naturally. He improvised his songs and music on the spot to express his emotions with ease. Sri Tyagaraja is, thus, truly matchless for his creative genius.

Shishya parampara

23.1. Sri Tyagaraja, today, is recognized more by his music than by his life-events or by his poetry. He himself was aware of the high quality of his music and songs that made him famous even in distant lands (Dura Deshana). [In his song Dasharathi, he says: How can I ever forget you O Rama / you have made me known in far-off lands..!]. And, after his departure, his fame multiplied and spread far and wide beyond the shores of India.

23.2. In that regard, Sri Tyagaraja   was fortunate to have had around him a line of devoted disciples (Shishya parampara) who were eager to learn. It is said; Sri Tyagaraja, as a teacher, was a strict disciplinarian. He ensured that his students learnt and practiced the right and authentic style of singing his Kritis, without flawing its text (Patantara) or the grammar and diction of the Raga. He would not tolerate deviations from the poetry and music that he created with great earnestness.

24.1. His disciples, even as they left Tanjavuru in search of patronage, elsewhere, carried with them the Kritis, the music and the tradition of their Master, at the heart of which was Rama Bhakthi, with reverence and gratitude. They, in turn, were followed by their descendents and pupils (Shishya parampara) who made their life-mission to preserve and carry forward their precious inheritance. That has helped in maintaining the continuity of Sri Tyagaraja-musical –tradition (Sampradaya) over the generations in its pristine form, in keeping it alive and in spreading it far and wide.

 Tyagaraja linage

24.2. The music of Sri Tyagaraja has come down to us in three main Schools (Sampradayas); the Tillaisthalam (Rama Iyengar); the Umayalpuram (brothers Krishna and Sundara Bhagavathar-s); and, the Walajapet (Venkataramana Bhagavathar and his son Krishnaswamy Bhagavatar) Sampradaya-s.

Among the other important disciples of Sri Thyagaraja  were:  Tiruvottiyur Veena Kuppayyar who wrote down many songs of his teacher (he was also a composer of varnams and kritis); Tanjavuru Rama Rao who served as the manager of Tyagaraja’s household and kept notes of his life-events; and, Manambuchavadi Venkatasubbaiyer (composer of Kritis and Ragamalikas).

We have to be grateful to all these and other savants who served their teacher and his music; and, also enriched our lives.

 [ Before we proceed further lets for a while dwell on Sri Venkataramana Bhagavatar:

walajpet Venkataramana Bhagavathar

Sri Venkataramana Bhagavathar (1781-1874) was the principal disciple of Sri Tyagaraja. He served his Guru for almost twenty-six years with great devotion; learning music, assisting the Guru in his daily worship, and rendering services needed for the day to day life of his Guru.  Venkataramana, in his, beautiful, clear, print-like handwriting, noted down and preserved the Sahitya of the Kriti-s composed by his Guru. But for his ceaseless effort, the precious works of Sri Tyagaraja would not have come down to us in their purity. We all owe him a debt of deep gratitude.

Venkataramana was born on 18 Feb 1781, at Ariyaloor in Thirucirapalli District, as the son of Nannuswamy and the grandson of Kuppaiah Bhagavatar. They came from a family of hereditary priests and scholars, belonging to the immigrant Saurastra Brahmin community of Dadhichi Gotra. Later, when the family moved to Ayyampet (Ramachandrapura), just about seven miles from Thiruvaiyaru, where Sri Tyagaraja lived, the boy Venkataramana who had developed abiding interest in Music, came under the influence of Sri Tyagaraja; and, eventually became his disciple.

After staying with his Guru for about twenty-six years, Venkataramana, at the behest of his father and the Guru, got married, at the age of 41.  Even thereafter, Venkataramana and his wife Muthulakshmi continued to stay at Ayyampettai. They had three children – two sons and a daughter. The elder son was named Krishnaswamy (after the Ista-devata of Venkataramana); the second son was named Ramaswamy (after the Ista-devata of his Guru Sri Tyagaraja); and, the daughter was named as Tulasamma.

When he was of fifty-three years of age, in the year 1834, Venkataramana with his family moved to Walajapet (or Balajipeta) , at the invitation of Raja of Karveti Nagar. Venkataramana renowned for his Guru-bhakthi carried with him the Padukas and the Tambura that were gifted to him by his Guru Sri Tyagaraja. There at Walajapet, he led his life as a cloth merchant.

Venkataramana Bhagavatar lived in Walajapet for as many as forty years (1834-1874). And, because of his long association with that town, he gained renown as Walajapet Venkataramana Bhagavatar.

At Walajapet, Venkataramana Bhagavatar caused to build a temple for Sri Rama and Sita, worshipped by Sri Tyagaraja; as also for his own Ista-devata Sri Prasanna Rajagopalaswami. He also built a Bhajana Mandir for the benefit of the town’s devotees.

Walajahpet bhajana mandiram

Thanks to Sri V Sriram 

Venkataramana Bhagavatar devoted the rest of his life to pious activities such as Pujas, Bhajans, teaching Music and composing Kritis, in the tradition of his Guru assuming the Mudra’ ‘Ramachandrapura vara Venkataramana’. He also composed, in verse, a brief biography of Sri Tyagaraja.

After living a highly praiseworthy and blemish-less life, Sri Venkataramana Bhagavatar, an icon of Guru-bhakthi, merged with his Ista-daiva, at the grand old age of 93, on 15 Dec 1874. His Jayanti is celebrated at Ayyampettai, every year (Suddha Saptami; Margasira masa), by the linage of his disciples, admirers and lovers of Music.

venkataramana b hagavatar firsrday cover

Sri Venkataramana Bhagavatar was a reputed musician and a composer in his own right. His output, in Sanskrit and Telugu, was not only prolific but was also varied. Besides the well known Ragas, he was adept in handling rare Ragas like: Saraswathi, Kamala-manohari, Nama-narayani, Jyothi-svarupini and Suvarnangi. Please Check the article here.

It is said; more than about 150 of his compositions have been traced. Apart from Kritis, his works include Tana Varnams, Pada Varnams, Svarajatis, and Tillanas,   cast in different moulds. Most of his compositions are in praise of Krishna, his chosen deity, and on his Guru Sri Tyagaraja. In one of his Svarajatis, composed in Sanskrit, – Mama Guru Rupa – (Kedaragoula), he describes Lord Rama as a form of his Guru Sri Tyagaraja. And, in another Kriti – Vada rasane Guru prabhavam ( Purvi Kalyani) , he calls upon his tongue to keep singing the glory his Guru who is filled with the Amrita of Rama Nama and Nada. (For more on his Music – please click here)

And, Here is a Sloka composed by Sri Venkataramana Bhagavatar on his Guru:

vyāso naigama carcayā mrdugirā valmīka janmā muni
vairāgye śuka eva bhaktivisaye prahlāda eva svayam |
brahmā nārada eva cāpratimayos sāhitya sa!gītayo
yo rāmāmrta pāna nirjita śivas ta” tyāgarājam bhaje ||

A Vyasa in Vedic learning, a Valmiki in his poetic language, Suka in his detachment, a Prahlada in his devotion, a Brahma and a Narada in his lyrics and his music, he rivals Siva in drinking in the nectar of Rama’s name; I salute that Tyagaraja.

One can experience the fragrance of Bhakthi, Rama-nama and Vedanta, as in the Kritis of Sri Thyagaraja. For instance; the environment of Bhakti-marga, Bhajana-sampradaya, and Nama-siddantha form the theme of his Kritis _ ‘Sri Rama Bramhudu’ (Begada) and ‘Rama bhakthi (Begada). And, in his Kritis, Anandamaya manave (Jothisvarupini); and, ‘Tattvamu teliya’ (Kambhoji), he sings of the Vedanta ideals of Jnana, Kaivalya and the supreme bliss of Svanubhava.


And, from the point of view of the history of Karnataka –sangita and the details of Sri Thyagaraja’s life, the contribution of Sri Venkataramana Bhagavathar is priceless. He not only preserved in writing and handed down the largest number of Tyagaraja-kritis, but also carried forward his Guru’s tradition. His palm-leaf manuscripts, artefacts, and other items ; and,   his  notes on many of the incidents concerning Sri Thyagaraja’s life, work, art  etc., form a large collection , which is named ‘Walajapet Manuscripts’ . It is said; the collection holds many unpublished songs of Sri Tyagaraja.  These  collections have been of immense value, serving as source material, for the later scholars in their study of the life and works of Sri Tyagaraja. For more on this, please click here ( see pages 30-47).

It was from the Walajapet collections – preserved at Sourashtra Sabha Museum- that the existence of three Geya-natakas (operas) – Prahlada Bhakti Vijayam; Nauka Charitram; and, Sitarama Vijayam – came to light  . While the texts of the first two operas have been published, the text of Sita Rama Vijayam is yet to be traced fully.

Among the disciples of Venkataramana Bhagavathar, the more prominent were Tiruvottiyur Ramaswami Iyer and Mysore Sadashiva Rao, a Vidwan in the court of the Maharaja of Mysore..

It is said; when Sri Tyagaraja visited Walajapet, on his way to Tirupathi, he stayed with his disciple Venkataramana Bhagavathar for about 12 days. While he was taken in, procession, Venkataramana Bhagavathar’s disciple, Mysore Sadashiva Rao composed the kriti ‘‘Tyagaraja-swami vedalina” in Todi Raga; and, ‘sang it in the immediate presence of the great saint and earned his blessings’.

The linage (Shishya Parampara) of Sri Tyagaraja was famously carried forward through -Walajapet Venkataramana Bhagavatar – Mysore Sadasiva Rao- Veena Subbanna R.K. Venkatarama Sastry- R.K. Srikantan; Tiruvottiyur S.A.Ramaswami Iyer . It is alive and vibrant.]



As Sri Tyagaraja, today, is recognized by many, more as a musician let’s talk of his music before coming to other aspects of his works.

Music culture

25.1. The period of Sri Tyagaraja that stretched from the late 18th to mid 19th century, was perhaps the brightest epoch in the history of Karnataka Music. It is hailed as the golden age which witnessed a virtual explosion of new formats of musical forms and compositions of sparkling beauty and charm; as the invigorating phase that ushered in innovation and elaboration of fresh Ragas following the 72 melakarta scheme that was beginning to take root; and as the turning point (parva kala) that gave a new sense of direction, vigour and identity to the music of South India. And above all, it was the period that was adorned by extraordinarily brilliant music composers, musicologists and singers. The wealth of the musical genius of Karnataka music flowered and flourished during this period when every branch of music and music related art-forms got enriched.


25.2. Until the time of Sri Tyagaraja, the music- scene of South India was dominated by a song-format known as Prabandha which played an important role in the development of music as also of dance-drama. Prabandha, essentially, is a tightly structured (Nibaddha Samgita) musical composition that is governed by a set of rules. Venkatamakhin (son of Govindacharya a Kannada speaking scholar and musicologist who migrated from Mysore to Thanjavur) in his landmark work Chaturdandi Prakasika (ca. 1635) made a systematic classification of Mela or Melakarta Ragas (parent scales) based on combination of varying Swaras (notes).

Chaturdandi Prakasika, as the name denotes, gathered various music-forms under a fourfold system (Chaturdandi) comprising Gita, Prabandha, Thaya and Alapa. Here, Prabandha denotes a composition having specific characteristics; and, that which is well composed – ‘prabandhayeti Prabandha’. However, the definition was narrowed down to include only those compositions which are made up of Six Angas (birudu, pada, tenaka, pāta and tāla) and Four Dhatus (Udgrāha, Melāpaka, Dhruva and Abhoga).

The structure of a Prabandha, by its very nature, had to adhere to a prescribed format. In general, the emphasis appeared to be more on the text than on the musical content. The faithfulness to the form was, at times, carried to its limits. And, the Prabandha form, in due course, grew rather rigid.

And, Prabandha, naturally, had to give place to improvised, easier and innovative (manodharma samgita) forms of music having distinctive features of their own. Yet; it is the basic elements of Prabandha that provide guidelines even to the modern composers of classical music.

prabandha (1)

[Most of the medieval Prabandha-s eventually disappeared because of the stiffness of their musical construction. Yet; it should also be mentioned that Prabandha helped the Karnataka music, enormously, in ensuring continuity of its ancient tradition.]

Nama Siddhanta


25.3. By about the same time, there arose in the Thanjavur Cauvery delta the doctrine of Nama Siddhanta founded on immense faith in the power of  chanting Lord’s name.  Nama Siddhanta averred that Nama-kirtana is the most effective and the easiest path leading to liberation, in the present age.  This movement ushered in   a tradition of singing devotional hymns and songs in chorus. The Bhajana Sampradaya popularised by Sri Bodhendra, Ayyaval , Sadguru Swami and others gave birth to series of free-flowing, sweet sounding soulful songs of devotion and melody that could be sung by all in a group with ease and delight. This new form of unstructured innovative songs gushed out in the form of hundreds of BhajansDivyanama Kirtanas, Utsava sampradaya kirtanas and Namavalis. The Groups also enacted dance dramas adorned with splendid poetry and tuneful songs of various forms. All these were regarded as a mellow and sweet worship form of the Lord, Madhura-Bhakthi.


Sri Tyagaraja and Nama Siddhanta


26.1. Sri Tyagaraja in his younger days was surrounded by an environment that was charged with the fervour of Nama Siddhanta. He, naturally, was nurtured on the Bhajana Sampradaya, which was at its height in the Cauvery delta at that time.  He took part in the Bhajana-s conducted by groups at homes or in special halls (Bhajana mandira) , where they celebrated with great enthusiasm the festivals such as the wedding of Sri Rama and Seetha (Seetha Kalyanam); as also of Rukmini (Rukmini Kalyanam).

26.2. Sri Tyagaraja was a follower of the Nama Siddhanta tradition and of the larger path of devotion (Bhakti-marga). A significant number of his songs are about the greatness of the Lord’s name and the doctrine relating to its recitation. They seem to have been composed, especially, for singing during the Bhajana and Kirtana sessions. Among these, a set of about twenty-four songs, based on Shodasa Upachara (sixteen modes of worship offered to the deity), grouped under Utsava-sampradaya–kirtanas are simpler in structure but rich in melody and literary quality. In addition, he composed about seventy-eight songs (Divya-nama-sankeerthanam) for congregational singing as also for his daily worship of Sri Rama, his Ista-daiva.

Utsava Sampradaya Kirtanas have three or more charanas and are mostly set to slow tempo. These types of kritis are ideal for devotional congregation and chorus singing on account of the multiple charanas having identical dhatus. Some examples are ‘Rama Rama Rama Sri lali Sri Rama’ (Sahana) with as many as sixteen charanas; ‘Dina janavana’ (Bhupalam); ‘Karuna jalade’ (Nadanamakriya); ‘Bhaja Ramam’ (Huseni); ‘Ramabhirama’ (Darbar).  The other well-known Utsava Sampradaya kritis include ‘Hecharikaga rara’ (Yadukula Kamboji) and ‘Nagumomu’ (Madhyamavati).

sri rama durbar

Geya Nataka

27.1. He is also said to have composed three musical dramas (Geya Nataka). Of these, only two namely: Prahlada Bhakti Vijayam and Nauka Charitam are available. But, the third – Sita Rama Vijayam – is sadly lost.

27.2. The main theme of his Prahlada Bhakti Vijayam is not the mere story of Prahlada; but, it is about several aspects of Bhakthi. The unwavering devotion of Prahlada towards his God Sri Hari made a deep imprint in the heart of Sri Tyagaraja. And, he sought to immortalize his admiration of the boy’s Bhakthi through his songs and music.  Here, the treatment of Prahlada’s Bhakti is again characterized by Sri Thyagaraja’s own attitude. In the play, Prahlada addresses his songs to Sri Rama pleading for help, kindness and Love.  Here, Rama is none other than Para Brahman, the Supreme Reality. Sri Tyagaraja’s mentor, Sri Upanishad Brahmendra Yogin had earlier taught him that RA-MA* is indeed the essence of both the Ashtakshari Narayana–mantra and the Panchakshari Shiva–mantra.  Musically, Prahlada Bhakti Vijayam is richly filled with Kirtanas, many of which in rare (Apoorva) Ragas such as ‘Parasu’ and ‘Naga-gandhari’ are popular even to this day.

[*That was by taking RA from Om namo naRAyanaya and MA from Om naMAh shivaya.]

Prahlada Bhakti Vijayam

Prahlada Bhakti Vijayam is richly filled with soulful prayers of Prahlada to Lord Hari. There are also songs sung by the sage Narada and devas in praise of Narayana as he appears  with Lakshmi. Narada also described the conversation between Sri  Hari and Sri Mahalakshmi (lakshmi-hari samvadam) . The opera has forty five kirtanas set in twenty eight ragas, one hundred twenty nine verses, a churnika, a dandaka and one hundred thirty two prose narrations, in Telugu and eleven shlokas in Sanskrit. There are  also mangala– songs at the end of three chapters or scenes. Songs from this opera are set in all tempos – Vilamba, Madhya and Druta kala-s. Many songs from Prahlada Bhakti Vijayam are regularly sung in concerts; for instance: Vasudevayani ‘(Kalyani); ‘Eti janma’ (Varali) ;‘Rara-mayintidaka’ (Asaveri);  ‘Naradamuni’ (Pantuvarali);Sri Ganapathy ni’ (Saurashtram); and the Mangalam – ‘Ni nama rupa mulaku’ (Saurashtram).

27.3. And, the story of Nauka Charitam, spun around the Gopis beseeching Krishna for help, is mostly a product of Sri Thyagaraja’s imagination, improvising on an incident briefly mentioned in Srimad Bhagavatam. Its theme extols the virtue of selfless absolute surrender to the Lord with Love and devotion. Interestingly, many of the songs in the play are composed to folk tunes.


The ‘Nauka Charitram comprises twenty one Darus (songs with a pallavi, followed by an optional Anu-pallavi and several charanas) set in thirteen ragas and forty seven padyas (poetic verses set to different meters) , besides fifty- one vachanas (prose passages that set the sequence and provide narration). The songs are mostly set in Madhyama kala; only some are in Druta, while Vilamba kala was not used at all. Some songs from ‘Nauka Charitram’ are often sung in the concerts; e.g.  ‘Sringarichukani’ (Surati) and   ‘Odanu Jaripe’ (Saranga)

Thyagaraja sadguru


28.1. One of Sri Thyagaraja’s significant contribution to Karnataka music is the perfection of a composition-form called Kriti (sometimes  called Kirtana though there are subtle differences between the two), which was, at that time, evolving out of the older Prabandha and its immediate predecessor Pada. Amazingly, Sri Tyagaraja as also Sri Dikshitar and Syama Sastri, independent of each other, all contributed to the development of Kriti form, although they do not seem to have met or corresponded.

Ramamatya (Svara-mela-kalanidhi,1550 CE) mentions the Chaturdandi  components of Gita,Thaya, Alapa and Prabandha as the best and the most accomplished format of rendering a musical composition set to a superior variety ((uttamottama) of Raga. And, Venkatamakhin (1660) , in his Raga-prakarana 107-108 , while illustrating  the standard composition-forms, states that the Gita, Thaya and Prabandha of Thanappa and other eminent musicians are available for most of the Ragas , though some of the Desi Ragas like Kalyani and Pantuvarali were not suitable for rendering in that format.  Further,  even up to the time of Raghunatha Nayaka of Tanjavur , such four-fold exposition of a Raga, in that sequence, appears to have been the main stay of the musical performances. The tradition of performing these compositions with a view to illustrate the structure of the Raga continued till the time Shahaji and Tulaja Maharajah

But, within about a century after Venkatamakhin, such forms of rendering a song became obsolete; and, was replaced by the Kriti format, set to a Raga (modal scale) and Tala ( beat cycle of a fixed number of counts organized in a specific pattern), having three segments (Anga)  – Pallavi, Anupallavi and Charanam – each being proportionally longer than the previous one (e.g. Pallavi = 2 Taala cycles; Anu-pallavi = 3 or 4 Taala cycles etc.,) The Pallavi is the refrain of the composition (Kriti).

The Kriti and its adoption as the song-form par excellence came into prominence; and, was accepted as the heart of the concert repertoire . This was primarily due to the prolific and innovative creations by the Trinity of Karnataka samgita

[Prior to the time of Sri Tyagaraja (say, 17th century) composers of great reputation such as Muthu Thandavar and Margadarsi Sesha Ayyangar had experimented with the Kriti format. And, it was the celebrated Trinity of Karnataka Samgita that, later, perfected it. ]

28.2. A Kriti is explained as that which is constructed (yat krtam tat kritih). It is primarily a pre-composed music (kalpitha Samgita), which aims to delineate the true nature of a Raga in all its vibrant colours.  The performer is not expected to deviate from the structure laid down by the composer. And yet; a Kriti provides ample scope to the performer to draw out her/his creative (Mano-dharma), innovative expressions in Raga and Laya. A Kriti can also be sung with or without Niraval. Because, it is said, a Kriti should essentially be beautiful by itself; and, should sound sweet even without elaborations.

28.3. In Karnataka Samgita, a Kriti comprising pallavi; anu-pallavi; and, charanams, set to appropriate Taala is the most advanced form of musical composition.

Sri Tyagaraja kritis use very well the three Angas:  Pallavi to introduce and briefly outlines theme of the song; the charanam to elaborate upon on it in detail; and, the anupallavi, a little more expansive than Pallavi, to bridge the Pallavi with the charanam. Thus, developing the theme of the Kriti, progressively – in stages.  Some scholars, employing the textual analogy, have described Sri Tyagaraja’s Pallavi as Sutra; Anu-pallavi as Vritti; and Charanas as Bhashya. 

[In the traditional texts , the term Sutra denotes a collection  highly condensed pellets of references ; Vritti attempts to slightly expand on the Sutra to bring some clarity; and Bhashya is a detailed , commentary  on the subjects dealt with by  the Sutra and the Vritti. ; and it  is primarily based on the Sutra.]

28.4. Sri Tyagaraja also tried out variations in their arrangement of the Pallavi, Anu-pallavi and Charanam. Some of his Kritis commence with Anu-pallavi; for instance:  ‘Soumitri bhagyame’ (Kharaharapriya) starts with the anupallavi ‘Chitra ratna maya’’; ‘Ela nee daya raadu‘ (Atana) starts with ‘Balakanakamaya chela’; and, ‘Mokshamu galada’ (Saramati) starts with ‘Saakshat karanee’.

 Some of Sri Tyagaraja kritis have a Pallavi and Anupallavi of equal rhythmic length ; and  a Charana that has the combined length of the Pallavi and Anupallavi ; for e.g. ‘Enta nerchina’ (Suddha Dhanyasi); ‘Chakkani raja margamulu’ (Kharaharapriya).

 The other variation on the standard format is where the Pallavi is half the length  of the Anu-pallavi;  for e.g. ‘Marugelara’ (Jayanthasri); ‘Raju vedala’ (Todi).

There are also kritis where the Charana is four times the size of the Anupallavi;  for e.g. ‘Raga Ratna malikache’ (Ritigaula); ‘Tulasidalamula’ (Mayamalavagaula).

An additional variation is introduced in some Kritis where the  tempo of the charanam is faster than that of the rest of the Kriti ; for e.g. ‘Enduko nee manasu’ (Kalyani; ‘Emi dova’ (Saranga) ; and,  ‘Enduko baga teliyadu’ (Mohanam).  

There are Kritis with single Charana,  as also many with multiple Charanas, starting with Anu-pallavi; and some  with  swara sahitya  built into Charanas,  as in the case of his  Pancharatnas.

28.5 . Sri Tyagaraja in his song Sogasuga mridanga talamu (in Raga Sriranjani) provides an outline of how a Kriti should be, in its form and in its content. In this song, he says that a  Kriti should be couched in words ( nija vākkulatō ) conveying the pure spirit of the Upanishads (nigama siro-arthamu) ; should have correctness of musical notes (swara śhuddhamutō)  of the ragas in which they are set; should have pleasant (sokkajeya) rhythm that is enjoyable (Sogasuga mridanga talamu); should be marked by beauties of alliterations and successive increases and decreases of notes and syllables , as also pauses (Yati Visrama) ; it’s  literary expressions should nurture  cultivation of true devotion (Sadbhakti) and dispassion (virati ); and, it  should be adorned with  grace and simplicity embodying  all the nine (nava) Rasas or aesthetic moods.

Pallavi  :  sogasuga mrdanga talamu
jata kurchi ninu sokka jeyu dhIrudevvado

Anupallavi :  nigama shirorthamu galgina
nija vakkulato swara shuddhamuto

Charanam :  yati vishrama sad-bhakti virati draksha rasa nava rasa-
yuta krtiche bhajiyinchu yukti Tyagarajuni tarama shrI Rama

28.6. In number of his other songs; he explains how Music is indeed the expression of the primordial Nada; how music originates in mind and body; and, how music should be presented. According to him, enjoying music is Sukhanubhava – a tranquil delight.

Some of the well known Kritis of that genre are : 

  • Nadaloludai (Kalyana Vasantham);
  • Nadopasana (Begada);
  • Nada Tanum (Chittaranjani);
  • Nada Sudha Rasam (Arabhi)
  • Swara Raga Sudha (Sankarabharanam);
  • Vidulaku Mrokkeda (Mayamalavagowla);
  • Ragasudharasa (Andolika);
  • Samajavaragamana (Hindolam);
  • Mokshamu Galada (Saramati) ; and ,
  • Vara Raga Laya (Chenchu Kambhoji).


Continued in Part IV- Music continued

Sources and references

Manaku Teliyana Tyagaraju:

Tyāgarāja and the Renewal of Tradition: Translations and Reflections by William Joseph Jackson

The Power of the Sacred Name: Indian Spirituality Inspired by Mantras by V. Raghavan

Spiritual Heritage of Sri Tyagaraja by Dr. V Raghavan and C. Ramanujachariar

History of Indian Music by Prof. P. Sambamoorthy

A Tribute to Tyagaraja by V.N. Muthukumar and M.V. Ramana

The Musical Works of Thyagaraja by Prabhakar Chitrapu Prabhakar

I acknowledge with thanks the images and other information from his site

All images are by courtesy of Internet


Posted by on February 22, 2015 in Tyagaraja


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

5 responses to “SRI TYAGARAJA (1767 – 1847) – PART III – Music

  1. Seetharam.MK

    January 14, 2018 at 8:21 am

    Very educative information about Sri Thyagaraja.

    • sreenivasaraos

      January 14, 2018 at 12:23 pm

      Thank you Dear Seetharam for the visit and for the appreciation.

      Please do read the other parts in the series; and, the other articles as well

      Sankranthi Greetings


  2. Sarma N Gullapalli

    July 10, 2019 at 12:08 am

    Very exhaustive compendium which must have taken considerable efforts to compile. Please consider publishing it in a PDF book form so readers can download. Thank you.

  3. Hari Kumar

    April 11, 2020 at 12:26 pm

    The notes on Prahlada Bhakti Vijayam and the accompanying image of Narasimha is misleading.
    Tyagaraja was a staunch pacifist. He wanted to put a stop the the endless spiral of violence that internecine wars among sects and religions were plotting against each other: the Lingayath against the Jains and the Buddists, the Vaishnava against the Avaidics and vis a versa.
    In the Opera Prahlada Bhakti Vijayam- Prahlada attains Vaikuntam – without blood and gore =without becoming an accomplice to patricide- there is NO Narasimha Aavatar..

    • sreenivasaraos

      April 11, 2020 at 3:18 pm

      Dear Shri Hari Kumar

      Thank you for the visit; and, for the observation

      Now , the image appearing in relation to Prahlada Bhakthi Vijayam is benign (Saumya).

      As regards my notes on the Bhakthi Vijayam, I find them quite in order. They are Okey.

      In my notes on the Bhaakthi Vijayam , I have not, anywhere mentioned about the violence of Narasimha

      But, your remarks about Lingayats and Buddhists etc., are totally out of context ; and are not relevant to Sri Thyagaraja’s life.
      He did not get into any such conflicts with Buddhists etc..



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: