Kakarla Tyagabrahmam (May 4, 1767 – January 6, 1847), colloquially known as Tyagaraja was one of the greatest composers of Carnatic music or classical South Indian music. He, along with his contemporaries Muthuswami Dikshitar and Shyama Shastry, forms the Trinity of Carnatic music. He was a prolific composer and highly influential in the development of the South Indian classical music tradition. Tyagaraja composed thousands of devotional compositions, most of them in praise of Lord Rama. His compositions remain very popular even today. Of special mention are five of his compositions called the Pancharatna Krithis (English: ‘five gems’), which are often sung in programs in his honour.
The Tyagaraja Aradhanai is celebrated by carnatic musicians around the world around the time of the anniversary of his Samadhi to pay respects and offer homage to this great composer.
Sugam Karnatica marked this important occasion on 19th January 2013 at 7.00 p.m. The evening started off with a short explanation on history of Saint Tyagaraja, followed by the singing of Abhishta Varadha Sri in ragam Hamsadwani. This was followed by the singing of the five Pancharatna Kritis, namely:
1. Jagadhanandhakaraka (Ragam: Nattai)
2. Dhudukugala (Ragam: Gowlai)
3. Saadhinchane (Ragam: Arabhi)
4. Kanakana ruchira (Ragam: Varaali)
5. Endharo mahanubhaavulu (Ragam: Sri)
The event continued with the singing of Jo Jo Jo Rama, Nagumo and Mangala mavani sudha, all compositions of Saint Tyagaraja, and concluded with arathi. The programme was attended by about 40 people who were treated to sumptuous prasada after the event.
Pic 1: Singing of the Pancharatna Krithis
Pic 2: Pakkavathiyam thanks to Master Suresh on the mridangam and Master Hari Chandran on the tabla.
Pic 3: Arathi
Historical Background of Tyagaraja Aradhanai
The Aradhana in its present format is not even a hundred years old. Tyagaraja died in 1847. A few days before his death, he had renounced everything and had become a sanyasi. When he passed on, his mortal remains were buried on the banks of the river Kaveri and a small memorial was built at the spot. His disciples returned to their respective villages and observed his death anniversary at their own homes. The memorial was soon forgotten and it was not until around 1903 that Tyagaraja’s last surviving disciples, Umayalpuram Krishna Bhagavatar and Sundara Bhagavatar returned to Tiruvayyaru, identified the place and had it renovated.
From the next year, efforts were made by musical stalwarts to observe the anniversary at Tiruvayyaru itself. In 1905 they conducted the ceremony in style complete with feeding of the poor and worship at the memorial as per Vedic tenets. By next year, the Tillaisthanam brothers (who were the motivating force) fell out of favour with each other and each began conducting a parallel Aradhana. Musicians aligned themselves with one or the other brother and soon two rival factions came into being. Narasimha Bhagavatar, being the elder, his group came to be called the Periya Katchi and Panju Bhagavatar’s was called the Chinna Katchi. With the passing of the Tillaisthanam brothers, the Periya Katchi came under the control of the ace violinist Malaikottai Govindasami Pillai, while the Chinna Katchi had as its moving spirit, Soolamangalam Vaidyanatha Bhagavatar, noted Harikatha exponent. The Chinna Katchi’s celebrations began five days before the Aradhana and concluded on the Aradhana day. The Periya Katchi’s began on Aradhana day and continued for four days after that. Both groups organised music performances and feeding of the poor and so the public was the real beneficiary during the nine days. On one count, both groups were united. They did not allow women to perform during the Aradhana. They also did not permit nadaswaram performances.
In 1921, Bangalore Nagarathnamma, a rich temple dancer, who was then residing in Madras, decided to dedicate her life’s earnings to perpetuating Tyagaraja’s memory. Seeing the rampant factionalism and discrimination against women, she decided to take action. In 1925, she bought the land on which the memorial stood and soon began the construction of a temple over the memorial. She also had an idol of Tyagaraja sculpted and installed in front of the memorial. The consecration of the temple took place in early 1926. But the two rival groups while not interfering with all this, refused to let her perform her Harikatha in front of the deity she herself had installed. They cited several instances from Tyagaraja’s songs where he had complained about women in general. Undeterred, Nagarathnammal began a third front which conducted its own music programs at the rear of the shrine.
This featured many women artistes and soon began eating into the popularity of the events hosted by the two Katchis. The doughty lady also filed suits in the local courts demanding the prevention of the Katchis from entering the temple as it belonged to her by right. She lost the case, but the hours of worship were laid down by the courts, dividing the Aradhana day equally between the two Katchis and her own group. Matters continued this way till 1940, when SY Krishnaswami, ICS convinced the groups to unite and it was in 1941 that the Aradhana as we know of it was first conducted. Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavatar selected the five pancharatnas as being best suited for group rendering so that a common homage by all musicians became possible. This idea was adopted and the choral rendition of the five songs was made an integral feature of the Aradhana.
Bangalore Nagarathnammal spent the rest of her days in Tiruvayyaru and bequeathed all her wealth to the Tyagaraja memorial, with the stipulation that women be allowed to pay their homage without any hindrance. When she died in 1952, she was buried close to Tyagaraja’s memorial and a statue was erected on the spot. The statue directly gazes on Tyagaraja’s memorial.
Year 2013 marks the 166th festival in Thiruvayyaru.