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Thyagaraja Aradhana

The contribution of Saint Tyagaraja, one of the Trinities of Carnatic music, has been immense not only through his compositions but also through his Sishya Parampara, who have preserved and enriched the true tradition of classical music.

Saint Tyagaraja is seen as an Avatharapurusha, who came to this world to savour the souls that suffer in this world. In fact, he is considered an avathara of Saint Valmiki. Tyagaraja's compositions are rich in devotional and philosophical content. They are noted for their superior structure, superb handling of ragalakshanas and apt choice of raga and words. The world of Carnatic music owes a lot to Saint Tyagaraja for the treasure that he is bestowed on them.

As a mark of respect and thanksgiving to the saint, Carnatic musicians from all over the globe get together and pay their reverence to the Saint by singing the Pancharatna kritis on the Pushya Bahula Panchami (the day the saint attained Samadhi) day. Vocalists and instrumentalists of various banis come to Thiruvaiyaru on the banks of the river Cauvery and take part in the aradhana festival which is celebrated every year. As is the case with many great men, Tyagaraja's greatness came to be known only after his demise. Though he composed a lot and taught many students, his compositions spread wide only after his days. After Tyagaraja's demise, his sishyas performed pooja at his Samadhi. But the Samadhi could not be maintained properly due to poor patronage. It was Bangalore Nagarathnammal, a musician and staunch devotee of Tyagaraja, who dedicated her self and wealth to renovate and maintain the Samadhi. The credit for celebrating the Aradhana at the Saint's Samadhi itself goes to her.

Every year, coinciding with the thidhi of the saints demise, there is week long festival, when musicians pay their homage to the Saint by singing his compositions. On the Aradhana Day the Pancharatna (five gems) kritis are rendered in unison by all the artistes, in the ragas Nattai, Gowlai, Arabhi, Varali and Sri. All the five are Ghana ragas. On the Pushya Bahula Panchami day, the musicians go on an Unchavrithi ( walking down the streets singing songs and collecting rice from people), for Tyagaraja had followed this during his lifetime.

After this, they go to the Samadhi and perform before the idol of the Saint. The nadhaswaram artistes start off the festival - followed by veena, venu (flute) - and violin. After this, all artistes (vocalists and instrumentalists) perform in unison. They start with Sree Ganapathini in Sourashtram and Guruleka Etuvanti in Gowri Manohari followed by the Pancharatna kritis. Simultaneously, abhishekam is performed to the Saint's idol. At the conclusion of the krithis, mahaarthi is performed to the Saint's idol. This year the Pushya Bahula Panchami falls on the 6th of January.

Tyagaraja has left behind the immense wealth of his compositions and it is the duty of every musician and rasikas to pay their homage to the great Saint by rendering his compositions with bhava with an understanding of the meaning of the compositions.

Saint Tyagaraja; 'Fragrant Gold of Carnatic Music' from A Garland by Shri.N. Rajagopalan

The Pancharatna Kritis

from Another Garland by Shri.N.Rajagopalan

Tyagaraja Illustration by Shri.S.Rajam