Learnings from Thyagaraja Charitram



An evening charged with bliss, pure devotion was experienced by one and all at the eloquent Kathakalakshepam on ‘Thyagaraja Charitam’ by Smt Vishaka Hari in Singapore on 28th Feb 2016.

She brought to life Thyagaraja Swamigal and his devotion towards his Ishta Devata Lord Rama. Her rendering rekindled the flame of devotion in me; reminding me again to seek out the meaning and purpose of my life. Saint Tyagaraja’s devotion to Lord Rama from infancy inherited from his father Sri Ramabrahma and with the almighty’s grace; saw the little boy composing astounding kritis by the age of 13. It was not a mere composition of a child’s fantasy but rather was perfect in every aspect of music including not only the bhava, raga, tala but the very essence of music which is bhakti or devotion through which one can attain the Lord.

Some of instances which was shared in the upanyasam yesterday left a deep impact in me.

  1. Sangathis: In Carnatic music, the artists sing ‘Sangathi’ for the kritis. As per the Carnatic form of music; Sangathi is simply adding beauty to an existing line. Sangathis are different ways of singing a particular line to bring out the beauty of a raga. Sangathis are said to have been introduced by Saint Thyagaraja . First sangathi is singing a line plain. Adding a sangathi means singing the line is different ways within the raga and tala limit. This is the explanation given in the texts. But Vishakaji brought out the actual feeling and bhakti behind the purpose of the sangathis. It is actually pleading the Lord to show His presence first with love, then with devotion, then deep yearning, then soulfully and finally taking full liberty with Him and almost commanding Him to come. Her explanation along with the demonstration of each sangathi brought out the exact description of how a devotee yearns for a mere glance of his Lord.
  2. Grace: His mind being fully engrossed only in the Lord; Saint Tyagaraja didn’t care for the material world. So he was always in poverty (materially) and dependent on his brother for food and shelter; who threw him out of his house and the only thing the Saint asked was the one possession he had; the idol of Lord ‘Rama’ and walked away with it without any regrets from his brother’s place. One of his father’s friends an astrologer saw Thyagayya’s plight and said he would see his horoscope and tell how he can overcome the difficulties in his life. On seeing his horoscope, he told Tyagayaa that his planetary positions ie the Navagraha positions were not well disposed for him and he would have to undergo lot of suffering. With a smile on his face; Thyagayya simply replied to the stunned astrologer that he has to just replace the ‘Nava’ by ‘Anu’ before the word ‘graha’ ie Anugraha (grace) instead of Nava graha (9 planets)and that is what he has in abundance. When he has such immense grace of his Lord Rama what could the planetary position do to him? Such was his love and faith towards his Lord Rama.
  3. Satsang: When Tyagaraja was told that he was left orphan by his parents and discarded by his brothers; the response given by Tygaraja was that Lord Rama was verily his father and Sitamma his mother; Lakshmana, Bharata, Shatrughana and Hanuman his brothers. All the rishis, munis and devotees were his relatives and friends; then how could he be an orphan? The learning for us is that the company of the truly good people ie satsangis who are engaged in doing good and talk about the Lord’s glory and lead us in a spiritual path which gives us real happiness are our true friends. Happiness or ‘Saukhyam’ cannot guarantee peace but ‘Shanti’ or peace can guarantee happiness. We look for happiness in external and material world and forget that it is actually within us. Satsangs help us realise this. We need constant reminders as we are deeply engrossed in this world where we need to fulfil our responsibilities while always keeping in mind the ultimate goal of our life.
  4. Rama nama japam: There was only one desire of St Tyagaraja; ie to see his Lord Rama in His actual form as described in the scriptures. His father Sri Rama Brahmam told him that if he would chant Lord Rama’s name a 100 crore times he could have His darshan. Tyagayya took his father’s words to heart and kept on chanting the Lord’s name with every breath of his. At last one day he just pleaded to the Lord; I am have been yearning for You so much why don’t You come? I am pleading with You; please come. At that instant there was a knock at his door and Lord Rama appeared in His beautiful form along with Sita Devi, Lakshmana, Bharata, Shatrughna, Hanuman to bless His most ardent devotee. It is said that the time Lord Rama had blessed this humble devotee with His darshan; Thyagayya had completed only 96 crore times of chanting the Lord’s name. 4 crore less than what his father had told him and the beautiful explanation for this was that Lord couldn’t wait any more to meet His devotee. He was more anxious to meet the one who loved Him so dearly. What a beautiful story of love of the Lord and His devotee.


I am indeed blessed to take part of this nectarine upanyasam and still reeling in the joy recounting the stories. I take back myself to the 16th century when this noble soul graced the earth and in what bliss, joy, faith and surrender he would have lived his life. Will I ever be able to learn and put into practise atleast 1% of his devotion to the Lord? Why does it become so difficult for us to remember God? Why do we get easily tired of chanting His name just to get more and more engrossed in this material world? Perhaps we have many vasanas to exhaust till we start realising the real purpose of our lives. Such satsangs can definitely make us start thinking the meaning of our existence and enhance our love and yearning towards our ultimate goal ie self-realisation.




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