SrI thyAgarAja sathgurubhyO namaha
It is very thrilling that a day after the jayanthi of the jagathguru we are celebrating the jayanthi of the sangIta jagathguru! If we manage to look a little beyond the bow wielding frame of SrIrAma, we see that both SrI Sankara and SrI thyAgarAja swami conveyed the same message. Both uplifted the soul and redeemed it. The works of Sankara and His claim to the title of jagathguru is probably a bit more widely known (although we can do better there); let us dwell into what makes sathguru thyAgaraja swami, the sangIta jagathguru.
For someone uninitiated into any form of music formally, my attraction to sathguru was through his sAhityam. Being in a spiritually inclined family I did hear some of the kritis during my childhood and enjoyed the group singing during the thyAgarAja ArAdhana utsavams being telecast in DD. It was a passer by admiration. it all changed one pushya evening a few years ago when Ranjani Fine Arts conducted the pancharatna sEva on the evening of the annual vAggEyakara utsavam in our neighborhood. The tunes of the pancharatnAs were very familiar having heard them often rendered by the gandharva Sri Bala Murali Krishna garu from the cassette. Those tunes were deeply imprinted even if not to the smallest sangathi. Here when I was helped into the sAhityam through pamphlets that were so thoughfully distributed that the circuit completed and current started flowing!! I spent that night lamenting at what I have been missing all these decades!! After all we relate so much to the lyrics of duDukugalka, endarO mahAnubhAvulu in our reflective moments. I think after that great day a few years ago I never heard any other music other than thyAgarAja sangItam!
A famous orator in Telugu once said even if you don't enjoy sangItam you can simply read thyAgarAja sAhityam and feel equally thrilled. I found this to be very true. There are several kritis that I have never heard but connect so well purely through the sentiment expressed therein. After all, thyAgarAja swAmi has a kriti for every mood, feel, thought and fear of the seeker!! He touches you when you are thrilled about SrIrAma through mOhana rAma, when you fear that injustice is being done to you through anyAyamu sEyakurA, in moments of dejection we remember the lines alugavaddanenE, veda kalgitE tALUkommanene from the Arabhi pancharatna and pick ourselves up or simply when ecstatic we can be humming SrIrAma jayarAma sringAra rAmayani chintiparAda O manasa in yadukulakAmbhOji. It would be impossible to enumerate the moods and shades of feelings that sathguru has enlisted in his vast works. Arguably these sentiments endear sathguru to seekers who are not musically inclined to begin with. This is because of the upanishadic truths that have been presented so simply and lucidly as one liners. When the sAhityam reflects the eternal truth it becomes eternal as well. In short, thyAgarAja sAhityam is one approach to the thyAgarAja hridayam.
Now let us move down south where swAmivAru was setup in an increasing concentration of Tamil speaking populace. The fact that he flourished in a land where majority didn't speak the language of his composition speaks volumes about his work. This is exactly where his sangItam came in. Generations of Tamil speaking people have been enthralled by the thyAgarAja sangItam, often not knowing what the 'accompanying' words mean!! The Telugu as a language that has repeated prayOgam of vowels perhaps more than any other language meant it was the perfect foil for the gamakas and swaras of our sangItam. thyAgarAja swami exploited this to the hilt and here you have his four liner kritis that can be sung for hours together employing subtle variations in each repetition. This has captured the imagination of several sangIta vidwAns who were not native speakers of the language. They didn't have to be. Just devotion and horripilation at the very name thyAgarAja swAmi was enough. They approached SrIrAma from the rAga aspect. The earlier lot approached rAga from the SrIrAma aspect.
Now comes the interesting climax. In thyAgarAja swami's book both rAma and rAga aspects converge and they are but One - nAdabrahmam. This is what he tells us in the Arabhi kriti nAdasudharasambilanu narakriti Aye - the nAda brahmam has assumed human Form and that is SrIrAma.
This synthesis of the sAhityam and sangItam is what makes our sathguru, the sangIta jagathguru. We are blessed to be lost in his music. Let us pray that it is ever the case and take it to more people.