(For my friend Shri Kannan Rangachar)
Continued from Part III – Music
In the previous Part (Part III) while discussing about the music of Sri Tyagaraja , we familiarised ourselves with the music- scene that was prevailing in the Cauvery delta just prior to his time, as also with the developments that were taking place during his own time. In that context, we briefly touched upon Prabandha-s, Bhajanavali-s, Divyanama Samkitrana-s and Gita-Geyas inspired by the Nama Siddantha doctrine. And then, we came upon Kriti, the most advanced form of Karnataka Samgita which was perfected by Sri Tyagaraja and his contemporaries – Dikshitar and Shyama Shastry. Let’s now move on to Sangathi-s which is said to be Sri Tyagaraja’s own contribution to music rendering in South India
29.1. The practice of singing Sangathi (lit. putting together) – a set of variations on the shades of a theme, gradually unfolding the melodic (Raga) potential of a phrase (Sahitya) in combination with Swaras – is said to have been introduced by Sri Tyagaraja. Some say that Sri Tyagaraja adopted Sangathi-rendering from dance-music where variations are done for Abhinaya and for bringing out the different shades and interpretations of the basic emotion (Bhava). In any case, this was an outstanding contribution to the advancement of the Kriti format in particular and to the musical performances in general. Sangathi elaboration in Madhyama Kala, in the opening of a Pallavi, has enormously enriched the aesthetic beauty of Raga-bhava during Kriti-presentation in a concert. With that, a Kriti is no longer static; but, it is a vibrant, living entity like language that is wielded with skill and dexterity. Sangathi passages also mark the virtuosity of the performer. Some of Sri Tyagaraja masterpieces open with a cascade of Sangathis (E.g. Chakkani raja margamu; Rama ni samana; O Rangashayi; and Naa Jivadhara.)
29.2. Though Sangathi was fundamentally a feature of Tyagaraja-Kritis, its practice (Sarasa sangathi sandharbhamu, as Tyagaraja calls it) has now spread to the presentation of Kritis of Dikshitar, Shyama Shastry and other composers, though they belong to a different style. Similarly, Madhyama kala that goes with the Sangathi has come to be the principal tempo of Karnataka Samgita [though some of Dikshitar-kritis, in Vainika style, are in slow tempo (Vilamba Kala)].
29.3. Sangathi and Neraval (sahitya vinyasa) – where the Sahitya and its melody is spread out in various ways while keeping intact the original structure of the Pallavi or Charanam – together with Kalpana Swaras, provide depth and expansiveness to Karnataka Samgita. And, Tyagaraja-kritis, in particular, provide ample scope not only for elaboration on various phases and aspects of Raga (manodharma-samgita), but also for improvising fascinating sequences of Sangathi-s, Neraval and Kalpana –Swaras.
30.1. Another endearing feature of Sri Tyagaraja’s music is the Svara- sahitya he built into his major compositions, that is the Ghanaraga Pancharatna kritis which have long sentences, piled one upon another. Here, the Swaras (Notes) flow briskly, as if riding a wave, at even pace, in Madhyama Kala, weaving melody (Raga), rhythm (Taala) and words (Mathu) into grand patterns of beauty and delight. The Kritis are ideally suited for group singing (samuha –gana). Sri Tyagaraja’s poetic gifts in Sanskrit and Telugu too come to fore in these Kritis. The genius of Sri Tyagaraja was to insert Bhava even in a format where Swara and Taala are dominant. One cannot but admire the originality and daring of the Composer.
31.1. Sri Tyagaraja, as most of the other musicians of his time, followed Venkatamakhi’s scheme of 72 Mela-karta classifications of Ragas (from Kanakangi to Rasikapriya). Expanding on Venkatamakhi’s Chaturdandi-Prakasika (ca. 1635), Govindacharya, in his Sangraha Chudamani (late 17th – early 18th century), introduced the Sampoorna Melakarta scheme as well as delineating Lakshanas for 294 janya ragas, many of which were till then unknown . Thus, unlike the musicians of their past generations, Sri Tyagaraja and others had the benefit of a vast store of Ragas.
Musicologists who have analyzed Sri Tyagaraja’s collected works say that his 700 odd known kritis feature 212-5 ragas (including about 47 Mela-karta Ragas); and of these , as many as 121 ragas have only one composition each.
31.2. It is also said; Sri Tyagaraja seemed to favour Ragas with Shuddha-madhyama (Ma1). More than a hundred of his Kritis are in groups of Ragas under Kharaharapriya, Harikambhoji and Dhira-Shankarabharana. Then, under Prathi-madhyama (Ma2), there are kritis in: Varali (14); Kalyani (21) and Pantavarali (13).
31.3. The Raga he chose, in each case, is eminently suited to the Kriti. Sri Tyagaraja could express sorrow, turmoil and joy with great musical beauty. His kriti, generally, strikes a good balance between form and structure. It not only captures the essence of the Raga, but also aptly conveys the Bhava, the inner meaning of the kriti. The music of Sri Tyagaraja is, thus, complete in all respects.
31.4. Although Sri Tyagaraja has composed some songs in slow tempo (Vilamba kala), the medium one (Madhyama kala) is said to be his characteristic tempo. The Madhyama Kala goes well with the Sangathi– rendering of his Kritis. That style of singing his Kritis has provided a stable format for musical concerts; and, has come to prevail in the Karnataka music. As a result, even Sri Dikshitar’s Kritis eminently suited to Veena-play (Veena–vadana) in slow tempo, with Gamaka-s (tonal flourishes) as its main adornment, is also, at times, spurred up to the Madhyama or even to Dhruta tempo.
Some of Sri Tyagaraja ‘s Madhyama-kala Kritis commence with Durita-kala (quick tempo) with a very lively, arresting impact on any audience; for instance: ‘Darini Telusukonti’ (Suddha Saveri) and; ‘Dorakuna’ (Bilahari).
There are also Madhyama-kala Kritis with Madhyama or Druta – kala sahitya, as in ‘Emi dova’ (Saranga); ‘Vallagadanaka’ (Harikambhoji); ‘Brochevarevare’ (Sriranjani); and, ‘Koluvaiyunnade’ (Devagandhari
31.5. Sri Tyagaraja is credited with composing Kritis in rare and uncommon Ragas, in each of which there is only one Kriti. Such Kritis are termed as: Eka-raga kritis. And, these are the main source to ascertain the sanchara-s of such Ragas. Sri Tyagaraja is said to have composed about forty such Eka-raga kritis. Some instances of his Eka-raga Kritis are: Ni Chittamu (Vijayavasantam); Varashiki Vahana (in Supradipam); Lilaganu Juche (in Dundubhi); Daya Jucutakidivela (in Ganavaridhi); Vachamagocharame ( in Kaikavasi ); and others.
31.6. There are also a few minor Ragas with limited scope for elaboration; but, have become popular mainly because of his compositions. By composing excellent kritis, Sri Tyagaraja breathed life to these ragas. [E.g. Jayantasena (vinata sutavahana); Kapinarayani (sarasa samadana); and Vijayasri (varanarada)].His initiative paved way for later generation of musicians to elaborate and present substantial pictures of such ‘minor’ Ragas.
[Among the songs of his early period, Giriraja Suta and Ravinchuvarevarura are set to European band tunes, which perhaps he heard at Tanjavuru court. These are similar to Nottu-swara songs of Sri Dikshitar.]
31.7. Sri Tyagaraja is also said to have introduced new (Vinta) Ragas (or the Ragas that were adopted into Kritis for the first time): Vagadeeswari (paramatmudu); Ganavaridhi (daya juchutakidi velara) and Manohari (paritapamu ganiyadina); as also Ragas with only four Notes in Arohana (Vivardhani and Navarasa Kanada). In his Kriiti Muccata brahmadulaku (Madhyamavathi), he refers to Vinta-Ragas (Vinta ragamulna aalapamu seyaga)
In all these cases (including rare and vakra ragas), Sri Tyagaraja in his characteristic manner indicates the scale structure at the very opening lines of the song (Pallavi) and maintains the scale structure further in the Kriti.
[For more, please check the analysis made by Prabhakar Chitrapu in his The Musical Works of Thyagaraja at http://www.sruti.org/sruti/srutiArticleDetails.asp?ArticleId=4 ]
32.1. Sri Tyagaraja was not only a poet, a composer but was also a performer par excellence. This is another testimony to Sri Tyagaraja’s multitalented musical genius. His creative contribution in enriching Karnataka Samgita, in scope, content and excellence in its presentation , is truly immense.
[ Manasollasa (also called Abhjilashitarta Chintamani) ascribed to the Kalyana Chalukya King Someshwara III (1127-1139 AD) is an encyclopedic work, written in Sanskrit, covering a wide range of subjects. Its Chapter Three: Prakirnaka: deals with topics such as: Guna–Dosha (merits and de-merits) of Vak-geya-kara (composers who set songs to music). The text grades the composers (Vak-geya-kara) into three classes. According to its classification, the lowest is the lyricist; the second is one who sets to tune the songs written by others; and, the highest is one who is the Dhatu Mathu Kriyakari – who writes the lyrics (Mathu), sets them to music (Dhatu) and ably presents (Kriyakari) his compositions.
The sublime trinity of Karnataka Sangita : Sri Tyagaraja; Sri Dikshitar and Sri Shyama Shastry were indeed Vak-geya-karas of the highest order.]
33.1. As regards the Taala (rhythmic counterpoints), nearly half his compositions are set in symmetric Di-Taala of eight counts (matra). There are nearly a hundred each in Chapu, Desati and Rupaka Taalas.
: – Sanskrit
34.1. Telugu is mainly the language of Tyagaraja-kritis. However, out of his 700 and odd Kritis that are known, about 50 are in Sanskrit [E.g. Jagadānanda kārakā (Naata); Śhambhō mahādēva (Pantuvarali); Īśā pāhimāṃ jagadīśha (Kalyani); Lalitē śrī pravr̥ddhē śrīmati lāvaṇya nidhimati (Bhairavi); Vara-līla gāna-lōla sura-pāla (Shankarabharanam) and many others]. It is said; for the purpose of his daily worship, Sri Tyagaraja wrote Divya-nama-sankirtanas as also Namavalis in Sanskrit. Besides, in two of his plays –Naukacharitram and Prahlada Bhakt Vijayam – some slokas are in Sanskrit. All his Telugu songs are replete with Sanskrit words and phrases.
34.2. His early education was in Sanskrit. He seemed to have learnt it well; and he used his learning with flair. His first (!) composition Namo Namo Raghavaya (Desikatodi), which is inscribed on the walls of his house, is in Sanskrit. The song celebrates the glory of the Lord in brisk series of His sacred–names (Divya-nama); and also pays tributes to the Valmiki who composed the most wonderful Ramayana epic (Satatha paalita adbhuta kavye).
34.3. His Sanskrit compositions enriched with skill and grace are spread over a wide range. There are some sweet-sounding songs that are meant for beginners. There are also elaborate and Grand (Pancha-ratna) Kritis with long winding sentences flowing out in brisk sequence.
34.4. And in his Sanskrit compositions, Sri Tyagaraja shows his literary skill and command over the language. The songs are adorned with alliteration or word-play (pada-jala), rhymes (prasa), expressions that could be understood in two different ways (shlesha) and other literary devices. (For instance: Pada jala – gruha-anugruha-vigraha-navagraha –nigraha; Vidulaku-Koviduluku; and, Dehi tava paada Vaidehi. Shlesha: Janakaja-matha/Janka-jamatha; Palaya/Krupalaya; Taradhisha vadana/Taradhisha-damana)
He also plays with usage of rare words, some having obscure meaning; and compounds words coined by him by bringing together classical and colloquial words prevalent at that time.
Certain words that are rare in Sanskrit poetic usage have gained currency mainly because of his compositions. For instance: Samaja (elephant); Vivaha (one riding a bird, here Vi stands for bird. Vivaha, otherwise, commonly means ‘marriage’); Rakabja-mukha (One who is moon faced, here Abja stands for moon while it’s common usage is for lotus); Vanidhi (sea, here Va stands for water while Vana generally means forest)
35.1. The Telugu of Sri Tyagaraja-kritis, simple and graceful, is nearer to spoken language. It is the sort of Telugu that is commonly spoken by emigrant Mulakanadu community. There is a certain felicity and homeliness to his lines. And, it is not the high-pitched classic Telugu of court poetry. Yet, it is elegant and ornamented with terms and expressions derived from Sanskrit.
35.2. There is a touch of realism in the similes, proverbs and expressions which he picks up from day-to-day life. That vouches for his keen observation of the life around him. The humour, mock-anger, sarcasm and nuggets of worldly-wisdom enliven his Kritis.
35.3. In a large number of songs , Sri Tyagaraja outlines the character of true devotion and of a true devotee; the futility of mere observing rites and rituals (Vratas); the meaninglessness of sacred baths and Puja without having either the moral qualities, or the purity of mind or devotion in ones heart (Manasu nilpa saktilekapote..). His kritis were as much a pleadings to the Lord as to the fellow beings asking them to delight in Bhakthi and to give up attachment to lesser things. The ways in which he conveys his message are rather fascinating.
Sri Tyagaraja very often employs conversation style lyrics (samvada-gati) in his Kritis as though he is carrying on dialogues with Sri Rama in different moods. Sri Tyagaraja was perhaps influenced by the Kirtana of Bhadrachala Ramadasa. He questions Rama about his unjust attitude, treating him like a stranger – ‘Anyayamu seyakura rama, nannu anyuniga judakura’ (Kapi); taunts Rama : ‘have you no sense of shame’-Manamuleda’ (Hamirkalyani).
There are some interesting expressions of mocking: naivety of a vessel trying to know the taste of milk it holds (Dutta palu ruchi dehyu samyame enta muddo); or foolishness of one holding a lump of butter in his hand and yet worrying about ghee (Vennaiyunda netikevvarama vyasana padura); or the futility of dressing up and decorating a corpse (Pranamulenidaniki bangaru baga chutti).
There are also expressions of humour: laughing at a woman rocking the baby with one hand and pinching it with another (Totla narbhakula nutuvu, tochinattu gilliduvu); or like trusting on fidelity of a ‘purchased wife’ (Rukalosagi konna sati— gara vimpa rada); or the restlessness of one going after money like the grams bouncing up and down on a frying pan .
There are some wisecracks that suggest saying that one’s merits and miseries in life are ones own making. There is not much sense in blaming others for your plight. He points out: “if the gold is not entirely pure why blame the goldsmith? If your daughter cannot bear the labour pains why blame the son-in-law? If you did no good in your past birth why blame the gods for your miserable lot? O Rama, my troubles are my own; I surely do hot blame you for that. (Mi valla guna dosha memi Sri Rama? Na valla ne gani Nalina-dala-nayan…).
There are many un-characteristic sharp jibes taking a dig at hypocrisy and fake – rituals: as that of a Somayaji performing havan while his wife is busy eloping with her lover; as that of a scholar who employs his learning to earn some money, like the one prostituting his mother; or to those who slave their devotion to a mortal just as a sex worker does.
Another type of Kriti which was not tried out by Sri Dikshitar and Sri Shyama Sastry was the Ninda –stuti, taking the Lord to task in mock anger. These again are the shades of Ramadasa. Sri Tyagaraja taunts Sri Rama: what is the point in calling you savior of the world and remover of difficulties (Pranatartihara) if you do not come to my rescue despite countless appeals I made to you: Ilalo pranatartiharudanu’ (Atana); you became a famous king merely because Sita married you , and a hero because Sita did not burn Ravana into ashes by her angry looks : Ma Janaki chabattaga Maharaju vaithivayya (Kambhoji); and , he then takes Sita to task for marrying a good looking but a heartless person : ‘Sari evvare’ (Sriranjani).
35.4. But, essentially Sri Tyagaraja was a Rama-bhaktha who was also a gifted poet and musician. He might have drawn comparisons from ordinary life, collective memory and common wisdom, perhaps to be accessible to the people of the world. But, inwardly he was a mystic yearning for liberation. Sri Tyagaraja sang not merely for himself but for the liberation of all his fellow beings.
36.1. The varieties of forms, vast spread of contents and sheer volume of his creative works is truly amazing.
We have in Sri Tyagaraja an extraordinary collection of verities of musical forms and compositions, ranging from Divya-nama-samkirtanam and Utsava-sampradaya songs suited for group singing; musical dance-dramas such as Nauka-Charitam and Prahlada Bhakti Vijayam; Kirtanas beseeching the Lord for help , kindness and love; and above all liberation; songs bursting out in sheer joy and ecstasy ; songs in playful mood , mocking Rama in jest and half-anger; and , there are , of course , the Grand Compositions grouped as Pancha-rathna-kritis representing the highest form of art music performed in formal classical concerts.
It is the spread in the variety of his creations that marks Sri Tyagaraja among his illustrious contemporaries. The range of his music stretching from simple well set songs of melody, ease and grace that children love to sing , to edifying flood of Grand music is a testimony to Sri Tyagaraja’s manifold musical genius.
36.2. As regards the numbers, the exact number of Kritis/Kirtanas that Sri Tyagaraja created is still a matter of debate among the scholars. Some claim that he wrote as many as 22,400 songs, which number matches with the number of Slokas in Valmiki- Ramayana. That might be an overstatement. According to the researcher Prabhakar Chitrapu, the known and authentic kritis/kirtanas of Sri Tyagaraja is 729 (www.thyagaraja.org ).
His Utsava-sampradaya-kirtanas, a group of songs rich in melody and lyrics, number about 27. And, the Divya-Nama-samkirtanam– that celebrate the glory of the Lord and his name are about 72.
In addition, Sri Tyagaraja composed three musical plays in Telugu, of which two are available: Prahalada Bhakti Vijayam and Nauka Charitam. The Prahlada Bhakti Vijayam is in five acts with 45 kritis set in 28 ragas and 138 verses, in different metres in Telugu. The Nauka Charitam is a shorter play in one act with 21 kritis set in 13 ragas and 43 verses. The latter is more popular.
37.1. Chronology is yet another issue with Sri Tyagaraja’s works. The dates or the sequence of his various compositions are much debated. There is no definite information in that regard. His disciples Walajapet Venkataramana Bhagavatar and Tanjavuru Rama Rao who served their Master for long years, did make efforts to preserve the texts of his songs. We all have to be grateful to them for the service they rendered. They wrote down the songs on loose sheets of paper or on palm leaves, without however mentioning the date or the year of their composition.
All that is surmised is: either his Sanskrit song in praise of Sri Rama Namo Namo Raghavaya ( Desikatodi) or his Telugu song on Ganesha , Giriraja suta tanaya (Bangala) is his first composition. Some explain it away by saying that while the former is his first Kriti in Sanskrit, the latter is his first Kriti in Telugu.
37.2. As regards his end-years, his wife Kamalamba passed away in the year 1845. A year after her death, on the night of Prabhava – Pushya shukla –Ekadashi (Dec 1846), Sri Tyagaraja had a dream. Immediately on waking up, Sri Tyagaraja burst into, the now famous, Kriti Giripai nelakonna (in Sahana Raga) wherein he declares with great joy that in his dream he did see Sri Rama, residing on hilltop ; and, he did promise him Moksha within ten days (putlu). [Here, putlu could mean either a day or part of a day]
37.3. On 5 Jan 1847, Sri Tyagaraja, at the age of eighty, renounced the world and entered into Sanyasa assuming the name Nadabrahmananda. On the next day, that is on 6 Jan 1847, – Pushya Bahula Panchami (the fifth day after the full moon in the dark-half of the month of Pushya) of Prabhava-nama-samvathsara in the Kali-year 4948 – after offering his daily worship to his Ista-devata Sri Rama installed in his house , he called on his disciples attending him to chant Rama-nama. Then, it is said, he burst into his last song Paritapamu ganiyadina (in Manohari Raga). Thereafter, Saint Sri Tyagaraja entered into Samadhi merging with the Para Brahman.
Thus, Giripai nelakonna and Paritapamu ganiyadina seem to be his last two Kritis.
Nadopasana and Rama Bhakthi
38.1. In many of his songs Sri Tyagaraja describes Nadopasana the practice of music (Samgita Sadhana) as an aid to cultivate devotion and contemplation. He says, neither mere talk nor modesty will help. Sadhana, ceaseless practice, with dedication will alone save you. For Tyagaraja, music was the means to salvation; and, he practised it with great sincerity.
38.2. He explains the seven notes (sapta-svara) that are the foundations of music as having emanated from the Pranava Nada (Aum). Here, he visualizes Nada the subtle and sacred vibration as the manifestation of Para Brahman, the Supreme Reality. He narrates his experience of deep absorption in the joy (Ananda) of Nada. He declares: ‘the joy of music (Nada ) is itself the bliss of Brahman (Brahmananda) that the Vedanta speaks of’; and says ‘he who delights in Nada attains the bliss of Brahman’. He, thus, upholds the highest spiritual ideal of music that is permeated with Bhakthi.
[For example: Sangita-jnanamu; Nadatanuma; Gitarthamu; Nadopasanace; Nadaloluni; Mokshamugalada and Svara-raga-sudha etc]
39.1. Ramayana was a huge influence in the life and outlook of Sri Tyagaraja. He not only revered the text deeply but also imbibed several of its episodes into his Kritis. In hundreds of his songs he celebrates the powers, the glory and the virtues of Sri Rama. He calls out to Sri Rama in countless ways. And, some of the epithets he employs are related to music, addressing Sri Rama as: ‘Samagana-lola’; ‘Raga-rasika’; ’Sapta-swara-sanchari’; ‘Samgita–sampradayakudu’ and such others. It is the Rama bhakthi permeating his Kritis that elevates his music to spiritual heights.
39.2. For Tyagaraja, Sri Rama his Ista-devata whose glory he celebrates in most of his songs is none other than Para Brahman, the Supreme Being. He repeatedly declares that Sri Rama is his favourite deity (Ista daivamu neve); Rama alone is his God (Vadera daivamu; Rama eva daivatam); there is none equal to Rama (Rama nee samanam evaru); he takes refuge in Rama (Ninne nera nammi nanu ) and so on.
For him, Rama is beyond the Trinity, Tri-murthy (Sri Rama Rama Jagadatma Rama; Manasa Sri Ramachandruni); Rama is Para Brahman. Rama is another name for Brahman- Raamaayani brahmamunaku peru (Its Sanskrit equivalent is: Rama padena asau param Brahma abhidhiyate). Therefore, he counsels, submit to Rama with Love (prematho) and true devotion (nija bhakthi); surrender to Rama in absolute faith; and, be immersed in Rama-bhakthi. And, he avers that such real Bhakthi alone is the right royal way to salvation (Chakkani raja margamu).
39.3. Thus, Music (Samgita Sadhana), absorption in the joy of melody graced with bhakthi, was for Sri Tyagaraja the Nadopasana the worship of Nada which is the very embodiment of Brahman.
Continued in Part V- Visit to Kanchipuram
Sources and references
Manaku Teliyana Tyagaraju: http://eemaata.com/em/issues/200809/1337.html
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