Embodiment of devotion

Embodiment of devotion

Mirle Karthik, January 27

“You may rise early, dip in the holy waters, bedeck yourselves with all religious symbols and flaunt your orthodoxy and religiosity. But with the dirt and muck of greed, jealousy, arrogance, vanity and lust, do you think your worship will impress the Lord?”

Thus spake Saint Thyagaraja. One of the most affluent men of his times, affluent not in worldly riches, but in his devotion to Lord Rama. His was a life of simplicity and frugality, with no other distractions but his beloved Rama. And the medium to express his devotion was music.  A combination of lyrics, grammar and philosophical insights that is unique to Indian spiritual thought. The most profound thoughts found expression in the simplest of terms, which he set to music in the most enchanting tunes and which even today form the corpus of Indian classical carnatic music.

Lord Rama was Thyagaraja’s chosen deity, but as he has explicitly stated in many songs, it was that one supreme power appearing in innumerable forms and not the deity that is important, but the underlying sincerity and devotion. It would not be wrong to say that his songs are a musical form of the Upanishads. That he was a scholar in the traditional disciplines of Sanskrit, Vedic studies and epics gave a unique flavour to his compositions.

“Why do you embark on pilgrimages and indulge in expensive rituals, often borrowing from others when you have not cared to see the God who lives in your heart? All the holy rivers are in that cave of your heart. Enshrine him there and be a pilgrim forever.”

Living on the banks of the river Cauvery at Thiruvaiyaru in the present Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu, Thyagaraja created a legacy for mankind that will never diminish in value and relevance. Heeding to the call of the Lord who blessed him with his vision and promise of freedom from earthly bondage, this blessed soul attained immortal bliss on the fifth day after the full moon in January 1847.