Bard of Thiruvaiyuru

The month of January this year marks the one hundred and sixty third death anniversary of the Saint Composer Thyagaraja. It was on the fifth day of the bright half of the fortnight in the month of Pushya (January) that this great soul decided to move on to the abode of Lord Rama, his cherished God.

A life completely devoted to the actual realisation of the ideals espoused by the Vedas, Thyagaraja's chosen deity was that epitome of righteousness, Lord Rama. And the medium he chose to express his devotion was Music.

Music that is not just a compilation of verses from an accomplished poet, but that which is an outpouring of devotion from one who had realised the futility of a life of material pursuits. The banks of the river Cauvery in Thiruvaiyaru in the present Thanjavur district of Tamilnadu is the place sanctified by the divine presence of Lord Panchanadisha and Goddess Dharmasamvardhini. It was this place that saw the advent of another divine soul, that of Saint Thyagaraja.  Thyagaraja's life is a saga of raga's that waft the perfume of his lyrics. Whether displaying a childlike innocence in beseeching Lord Rama to appear before him, or the petulance of a beloved ignored by her lord, or the maternal implorings of a harassed mother or the studied seriousness of an erudite scholar, each of Thyagaraja’s compositions is a lesson by itself .

Lord Rama may have been his favourite deity, but true to the Upanishadic dictum "Ishavasyam Idam Sarvam" , he saw Lord Rama in all of creation and all the various Gods and Goddesses were but a manifestation of the Supreme power. The most profound truths and ideals expressed in the most lyrical and moving words are the characteristic features of Thyagaraja's songs. In the song "Etula Brotuvo" in Telugu in Ragam Chakravakam, he regrets having spent his life like a lazy buffalo with no controlling master, eating and sleeping, aimlessly drifting .

A gentle dig at lesser mortals immersed in a life of pleasures, with no thought of the real purpose of this life ! In another composition "Eti Janma " in Telugu in Ragam Varali, he asks "what is this life without devotion to you, Lord Rama" ? He scoffs at people arising at dawn, bathing in holy rivers, adorning themselves with all sacred marks and paraphernalia and uttering prayers, but without true love and sincerity in their hearts and wonders why people search for God in places of worship, when he is right there in their own hearts, in his song " Nadachi Nadachi" in Ragam Kharaharapriya.

Music as a means of Salvation is exemplified by the life of this divine soul.

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