Tyagaraja Sankeerthanopsana - The Pious Path for Moksha Sadhana
Article by Ms. Subbalakshmi
Music has no language .Every language has music in it. Music is rhythm of nature. Blowing wind, flowing
wind has music in it. All sounds have music imbibed in it. Music brings harmony around. It brings
harmony into lives of people.
In Sanskrit music is known as NADAM .Every word has got Nadam (music) in it. It is the way you
pronounce it brings life to Nada. The Omkara which is also called as the Pranava Nada is the sound of
the infinite symbolizing the energy of the divinity.
In Hindu Mythology Lord Brahma is the Creator of this universe. If Brahma is the creator of this world.
Saint Tyagaraja who is also popularly known as Tyagabrahma can be called Nadabrahma as he is the
creator of that pious, sacred melodious, spiritual world of Music.
There have been innumerable composers in the field of carnatic music who had done many valuable
works, and are still doing but Tyagabrahma is undoubtedly the only composer who composed kritis that
can be construed with every single move that we make in our daily life.
In fact he had shown in his krithis how to lead a noble, simple and ye t pious life and aim at the
ultimate only one i.e the Moksha or Liberation which can only be achieved only through the realization
of that omnipotent Divine power.
Hinduism believes in God's omnipresence and speaks of the presence of divinity in every human being.
At any given point of time Divinity is equally present in all but not equally manifest. This Divinity ismanifested in saint Tyagaraja at its highest and that's why all his krithis are filled with that omnipotent
power and hence his krithis are the noble paths for Moksha Sadhana.
In kaliyuga one need not perform Yagna or Yaga only Nama Smarana i.e just uttering the name of God
can give salvation and Saint Tyagaraja's life is a perfect example to support this. His songs are filled with
an intimate devotion to Rama as he was a great devotee of Lord Sri Rama.
Sri Tyagaraja, the most adored carnatic music lived to the full extent that realization of God is best
achieved through ‘Nadopasana’ (music with devotion).
Birth and Parents
Though it is known to this world that he is a descendant from the Kakarla family (Kakarla is a village in
the Kurnool District of Andhra Pradesh) and Kakarla Ramabrahmam, Seetamma as his parents in one of
his songs, Tyagaraja sings, “Seetamma mayamma, Sri Ramudu ma tandri” – Seeta is my mother and Sri
Rama is my father.
He was born in the Hindu lunar year Sarvajit on Chaitra Sukla Sapthami, the 7th day of the bright half of
the Hindu month of Chaitra, under the Pushyami nakshatram(star) that is on May 4, 1767. The boy was
named Tyagaraja, after Lord Thyagaraja, the presiding deity of Thiruvaiyaru.
Thiruvaiyaru in the Tanjavur district of South India is a small hamlet, it is small in size, but has great
sanctity hallowed by the memory of the three composers, the Trinity of Carnatic music.
Musical career and his Guru
Tyagaraja started his musical training under Sri Sonti Venkataramanayya at an early age. Tyagaraja
regarded music as a way to experience the love of God. His objective while performing music was to
repeat the name of God and thereby reducing the vices of the mind but not to display his mastery over
raga and tala. In all of his kritis bhava, that is, emotion, was crowned. (He always felt that bhava was not
to be compromised for raga and tala).
The legend goes that he was blessed by the divine sage Narada with great musical knowledge. He is said
to have sung “Sri Naarada Mouni”, a song in praise of Narada, on this occasion.
As a 13-year-old, he composed “Namo Namo Raghava” in Desikathodi. Much later in life, his guru, Sonti
Venkataramanayya, wanted to listen to Tyagaraja and invited him to perform at his house in Tanjavur.
On that occasion, Tyagaraja presented “ Endaro Mahaanubhavulu”, (There are many great men and I
salute all of them. This was meant for the audience listening to him) the fifth of the Pancharatna Krithis.
Intensely pleased with Tyagaraja’s song, Sonti Venkataramanayya told the king about the genius of
Tyagaraja. The king sent an invitation, along with ,as was traditional, many valuable gifts, to Tyagaraja,
inviting him to grace the royal court. Tyagaraja, clearly had no inclination for a career at the king’s court
rejected the king’s invitation outright, composed another gem of a kriti, “Nidhi Chala Sukhama” on this
occasion. “Is wealth (nidhi) the source of happiness or is the proximity (sannidhi) of Rama a source of
At 18 years of age, Tyagaraja married Parvati, who died when he was only 23. He then married
Kamalamba (sister of Parvati). They had a daughter named Sitamahalakshmi.
A life which vastly was uncompromising was not at all to the liking of his elder brother, Japesa, as he
fondly hoped that the great art and learning of his younger brother could be put to financial advantage,
which the saint would not agree to. Angered at his rejection of the royal offer, Tyagaraja’s brother took
revenge by throwing his idols of Rama Pattabhisheka in the nearby Kaveri river. The sorrow of the
devotee cannot even be imagined. He sang "Endu daagi naado" begging the Lord to come back to him.
Lord appeared in his dream and told him where to find the idol. Then he sang "Kanugontini
sreeramuni" in bilahari.
Tyagaraja, unable to bear the separation with his Lord, undertook an extensive pilgrimage of the sacred
places of South India. Wherever he went he sang of the deity of the place. There is the famous incident
of his visit to the Lord Venkateswara temple at Tirupati. He goes into the temple to have darsan (vision)
of the Lord but the entrance of the sanctum sanctorum was covered with a curtain which prevents him
from seeing the idol. The priests refused to open the curtain. In great sorrow he sang, “Thera Theeyaga
rada (Will you not remove the curtain?)” …and characteristically adds, “The curtain of vanity and
jealousy in my mind”. The curtain miraculously slides aside by itself and he was face to face with the
God. He sang "Venkatesa ninu sevimpa" in his happiness at seeing the Lord.
Nature of his compositions
Being a great devotee of Lord Rama, the only things that mattered to Tyagaraja were Music and Bhakti.
In fact, they were synonymous to him. His strong belief was "Is there a sacred path than music and bhakti?".It is crystal clear from his compositions that his knowledge of music lead him to unite with the
Lord". Music was to him the meditation on the Primordial Sound.
Sri Tyagaraja's life is an illustration to the fact that music and devotion combined make the best path to
the understanding of the Supreme Brahmam.
The dimensions of his music include not only sangatis or usages that enrich the musical context of a
kriti, but also contain a core of spirituality. It is because of this great quality that his compositions are
still existing today and will live till humanity believes in spirituality.
The fusion of lyrics and melody, the fusion of bhakti and music form the very essence of his songs.
Through the lyrics of his songs, the depth of his bhakti is revealed. The inspirational potentialities of his
kirtanas to lead a simple life in the bhakti marga are infinite.
The divine words that came vibrating from his soul and were described as kirtanas would be superficial
for his utterances, but are authentic revelations of what he directly experienced. They comprehend the
one and only purpose of music, that is, moksha sadhana.
Honours and wealth could have been his, if only he had asked for them but he would not ask, his goal is
intrinsic, to lay one’s soul at the feet of Sri Rama.
While a lot of compositions are in praise of Rama and a few on other deities, there are numerous songs
on ethics and morals, worldly wisdom, mental control etc his kritis like naada tanumanisam, sobhillu
saptaswara can be exemplified for these instances.
In his krithi "Manasa etulothune" in malayamarutham " he says "dinakara kula bhooshanuni,
deenudavai bhajana cheesi, dinamu gadupa manina neevu vinavadela o manasa" means "oh my soul
why don't you listen my plea to only worship lord Rama rather than getting interested in the worldly
The greatness of Sri Tyagaraja is the way he linked the human to the divine. The sublime relations
between the human and the divine, which lie beyond our comprehension find an eternal place in his
While all his kirtanas are soulful, Sri Tyagaraja has outclassed himself in his Pancharatnas where he is at
his greatest and perhaps touched the pinnacle of Carnatic music. The glory of carnatic music is
presented in all the ghana raaga pancharatnas. The outward form and inner meaning is so well meshed
that the kirtanas remain unexcelled.
In his one more composition "Teliyaledu rama bhakthi margamu" in dhenuka raga he says in anupallavi"veega lechi neeta munigi bhoothi poosi baaga paikamarjana loolurai..." here he makes us feel that for
us bhakthi and upasana are two different things thats the reason we perform pooja as a duty or just like
any other work we do, as he said we get up early take our bath put the holy ash (vibhoothi) on us finish
of the pooja and go out to earn money.That is we always struggle for our existence but a true
understanding of Sri Tyagaraja’s kirtanas serves to deepen the purpose of our existence.He struggled to
reveal the existence of lord rama through his bhatkthi marga.The only purpose of his life was to
experience in every breath the bliss of Rama bhakti.
Also in his composition sangeetha gyanamu bhakthi vina sanmargamu galade manasa..... he
emphasizes the importance of bhakthi or devotion in each and every individual without which he cannot
excel in his life even if he has the best knowledge on various aspects. This krithi is the best counselor for
every student today because these days students have profound knowledge on many things but what
they lack is wisdom and they are unaware that wisdom is attained only by bhakthi. The term bhakthi in
his krithi can be compared with the word wisdom with which an individual will travel in a path
(sanmarga) that is sacred and pious in due course of his life's journey.
It is impossible for any individual to analyze all the 24,000 krithis composed by him. As every krithi is a
master piece and every song breathes the fragrance of one aspect or other of the nava vidha bhakti.
in addition to his compositions Saint Tyagaraja’s contribution to music includes, the Uthsava
Sampradaya kirtanas and the Divyanama kirtanas. These two are examples of classical Carnatic music
in their pristine purity.
The Musical Plays
Saint Tyagaraja also created two musical plays, Prahlada Bhakthi Vijaya and Nowka Charitha,these
plays has songs and many padyas and gadya passages. HIs poetic genius is brought out vividly in these
Saint Tyagaraja’s life and kirtanas are the heritage of Indian culture expressed in classical Carnatic music.
The compositions of Sri Tyagaraja Swami make the largest contribution to our knowledge of Carnatic
music today. In volume and variety, no other composer has given us so much material covering so wide
a range of ragas, their lakshanas, that allows singing even by those with limited voice range and limited
The last few Kritis
It is said that when Swami felt that his mission on earth was completed, he sang the Ganavardini kriti"Daya choochutakidi vela " meaning that it is time for you to take me into you, oh Lord, as I have
completed diligently and with devotion, the mission with which you charged me on this planet."After
this, Swami had a vision of Sri Rama with the entourage (Giripainelakonna - Sahana). In this song he says
that he surely saw Sri Rama who assured him that he would be absorbed in Him in ten days time. Swami
then entered snayasarama. When nothing happened as assured by the Lord, on the tenth day, he sang a
reminder - the kriti "Parithapamu Kaniyadina" (Manohari).In the charanam of the krithi he says
"varamagu bangaru vodanu merayuhcu padi putalapai karuninchedananucu kre-kanula Tyagarajuni"
which means "Have You forgotten the words You uttered, while shining in the nice golden boat, looking
with side glance at the pitiable state of me that you would show grace after ten days?"
After Tyagaraja sang this kriti, an Omkara Naadha was heard and a jyoti was seen to emanate from the
head of Swami and travelled upward. He then fell on the thambura he was holding, and become one
with the Lord. Tyagaraaja thus became a hermit. In 1847 ,Hindu lunar year prabhava on January 6th
,Pushya bahula panchami he died in the presence of his disciples at the age of 80.
He had a daughter named Sitamahalakshmi, through whom he had a grandson. Seetalakshmi's only
child, also named Tyagaraja, died at a young age with that, the line of direct descent from Tyagaraja
came to an end. But, his tradition is kept alive by his musical disciples and their followers.
Having composed an innumerable number of Keerthanas (songs) that explored all the possibilities within
the rules of the Carnatic music tradition Tyagaraja is truly regarded as the cornerstone of Carnatic music.
To this day, a remembrance music festival called the Tyagaraja Aaradhana is held at Thiruvaiyaru in the
months of January to February every year. Usually hundreds of Carnatic musicians perform in this
festival. The participation of classical musicians in this festival is considered to be very prestigious for
them .In recent years Tyagaraja birth anniversary is also celebrated by Tirumla tirupathi devasthanams
and Hindu dharma prachara parishad.
Youth should especially participate in these celebrations and should sow the seeds of bhathi in them so
that it transforms them into wise individuals.
Article by Ms.