Category Archives: Kritis of Saint Tyagaraja

Naadayogi Sri Tyagaraja Swami

Sri Tyagabrahma or Sri Tyagaraja Swami (1767-1847AD) is one among the Music Trinity of Carnatic Music. He was born to a pious couple in Tiruvarur in Tamil Nadu. Along with the study of Sastras, he learnt music from the well known Vidwan, Sonti Venkataramanaiah. He was an ardent devotee of Lord Rama, and started composing keerthans at a very young age. To him the idol of Sri Rama was a living presence. Tyagaraja associated simple daily activities like waking up, taking a bath, eating food, sleeping, etc., with the Lord and composed keerthans for all these occasions. He studied the Naradeeyam, a treatise on music. He considered Sage Narada as his Guru and consistently meditated on him. Sage Narada appeared before him and bestowed on him the knowledge of music. 

Tyagaraja was initiated into the Sri Rama mantra. When he completed chanting the mantra ninety six crore times, he heard a knock on the front door. When he opened the door, he was blessed with the vision of Lord Rama accompanied by his consort, Seeta. An overjoyed Tyagaraja sang in praise of his divine parents: Devi Seeta and Sri Rama. 

After his marriage, Tyagaraja led an extremely simple life of a householder. To him, Sri Rama was his wealth. Rama Bhakti was his kingdom. When the king heard of the great musician, he extended a royal invitation to Tyagaraja to become the court musician. He sent royal gifts in the form of silken apparel, gem-studded ornaments and gold coins. Tyagaraja politely declined both – the royal gifts and the glory of becoming a court musician. He composed a beautiful krithi: “O Mind, tell me the truth. What gives you real happiness – material wealth or Lord Rama’s divine association?” The royal attendants went back. 

Tyagaraja’s elder brother was very unhappy and annoyed that his brother had rejected the seat of Asthana Vidwan. He blamed it all on Lord Rama who had become the heart and soul of his brother. At night Tyagaraja’s brother secretly took the idol of Lord Rama from the puja-room and tossed it into the Kaveri river. In the morning, when Tyagaraja went into the prayer room for his regular worship, he found the idol missing. Overwhelmed with grief, without food and sleep, he searched for Rama everywhere. He went on a pilgrimage, and at every pilgrimage centre, Tyagaraja composed beautiful keerthans on the presiding deity of the temple. After a long, arduous search, the Lord appeared in his dream and told him that he was on the river-bed of Kaveri. Extremely happy, Tyagaraja retrieved the idol of Sri Rama and with all festive celebrations reinstalled it back in his prayer room. His brother realized his mistake as well as the great devotion that Tyagaraja had for the Lord. 

It was the marriage function of Tyagaraja’s daughter. One of his disciples brought a beautiful portrait of Lord Rama and Seeta as a gift for the newly-wed. From a distance, Tyagaraja saw his disciple walking and coming with the gift. To Tyagaraja, it was not a portrait. It was the Lord accompanied by Seeta walking towards him. With a joyous heart overflowing with devotion, he sang, “O Lord of my life, knowing that the sole purpose and fulfillment of my life is to have your glorious darshan, you have walked all the way and come along with Mother Janaki to bestow upon me your grace and blessings!”

Once Tyagaraja went to witness a program by a touring groupe. The artists performed to a song in raga Ananda Bhairavi:”Mathura nagarilo”. The sequence was the Gopis asking Krishna who had blocked their path, to give them way to go to Mathura to sell milk. Tyagaraja was overjoyed at the beautiful performance of the artists. He immensely praised and wholeheartedly blessed them. They were overwhelmed to receive such appreciation from the great Musician-Saint. The head of the troupe offered his salutations and made a strange request. He asked for Ananda Bhairavi Raga as a gift from Tyagaraja! Everyone including Tyagaraja was surprised. Tyagaraja asked him for the reason. He said, “in the years to come, people will hear and read of your greatness as a devotee of Lord Rama and a Musician-Composer par excellence. People will then read and hear about this event where you gave away Ananda Bhairavi Raga as a gift to a small insignificant musical troupe like ours. Along with your immortal glories, we will also be remembered and become immortal! Our lives will become blessed and fulfilled!!  Tyagaraja was stunned at his sweet innocence, and gave away his rights over the raga to them. Hence only three krithis written earlier to this event by Tyagaraja in Ananda Bhairavi Raga are available. 
Tyagaraja continued to teach music to all those who reached him. He composed around 24,000 keerthans, but only around 700 are available. His krithis are simple, but full of devotion. They contain the essence of the scriptures. Tyagaraja chose music as his path to God realization: NAADOPAASANA. His Pancharatna Krithis are well known and every year during Sri Tyagaraja Aradhana, these krithis are sung by musicians who gather there for the celebrations. When Tyagaraja knew that his time to leave his physical body was approaching, he took the vows of sanyasa. Lord Rama appeared in his dream, and told him that he would be bestowed with mukti or liberation after ten days, which Tyagaraja has recorded in his keerthan. On the sacred Pushya bahula panchami, Tyagaraja Swami attained samadhi and merged with Sri Rama.


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Sri Vidya Upasaka: Dikshitar

Muthuswami Dikshitar (1775 – 1835) was one of the greatest Musician-Saints and is one among the Carnatic Music Trinity, the other two being Saint Thyagaraja and Shyama Sastri.

Dikshitar’s father was Ramaswami Dikshitar who was a Sanskrit scholar and an accomplished musician living in Tiruvarur in Tamilnadu. When Dikshitar turned twenty five, the great Chidambaranatha Yogi of Varanasi visited their house and requested Ramaswami to send Dikshitar with him for further education. His father agreed and Dikshitar went to Varanasi. He was initiated into “Sri Vidya Upasana”, and his Guru told him to constantly worship Sri Annapurneswari, the Bestower of material needs (Bhukti) as well as liberation (Mukti). He mastered the scriptures, the science of mantras, astrology, music, and was an expert in playing the veena. He came under the influence of Hindustani classical music and Western band music.

After a few years, the teacher told him that it was time for him to go back home because he had learnt all that had to be learnt. The young disciple asked the teacher what was the proof that he had learnt everything. The teacher asked him to go to Mother Ganges and take a dip. If his learning was complete, She would reward him. He went to the Ganges, took a dip and invoked Her. Mother Ganges was there in front of him with a beautiful veena in Her hand. She handed it over to him. It had “RAMA” inscribed on it and was different from the normal veenas. The tail end of the veena which is called ‘yaalimukha’ is turned upwards. In normal veenas it is turned downwards. This veena that Dikshitar used is even now preserved in their ancestral home.

With the blessings of his teacher and with this unique veena gifted to him by the Mother of Knowledge, Dikshitar travelled back. He arrived at Tiruttani, one of the famous six abodes of Kartikeya in Tamilnadu. Dikshitar was sitting and meditating on the Lord on the steps of the temple, when Lord Kartikeya came in the disguise of an elderly man, asked him to open his mouth and put sugar candy into his mouth and disappeared. At that very moment, he composed a beautiful kriti on Kartikeya with the mudra (signature) GURU-GUHA. Kartikeya also known as GUHA had come to him as his GURU.

He has composed songs on almost all deities, all pilgrimage centres and brought into the kritis the uniqueness and speciality of them all. Along with Sangeeta sastra, he incorporated the “mantra sastra” into his songs and therefore to render them with correct pronunciation and bhava, with a little understanding of its meaning will bring all prosperity to the singer as well as the listener – singing of his keerthans is equivalent to chanting the mantras.

Instances of Dikshitar bringing relief and solace to individuals as well as to the community through his keerthans are many. With a Kriti in raga Amruthavarshini, he brought the rains down on the parched land of Ettayyapuram (Tamil Nadu). He also brought health back to his disciple Tambiyappan by warding off the evil effects (graha dosha) of Jupiter, by composing a kriti on that planet. 

On the eve of Deepavali in 1835, after he had finished Devi Puja, he had a vision of Sri Annapurneswari and sang “Ehi Annapurne” – his last kriti. He remembered what his Guru had told him and knew it was time for him to leave his body. He asked his disciples who had gathered there to sing his composition “Meenakshi me mudam dehi” (Meenakshi bestow upon me Your grace) in the Raga Gamakakriya. When they sang the lines: “meena lochani pasha mochani” (O! Fish-eyed One, who cuts asunder the knots of bondage), he asked them to repeat these phrases once more. As they were repeating them, Dikshitar uttered “Shive pahi, Shive pahi, Shive pahi” and left his physical body to merge eternally with the Mother of the Universe whom he invoked and worshipped all his life. 
His compositions called “Kamalamba Nava-avarana” Krithis which are full of mystic significance are rendered even today with great religious fervour during the Navaratri festival.

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Gopis and their ‘Nauka Vihara’

Naukacharita 1

It was a beautiful and pleasant day in Vrindavan. River Yamuna was flowing gently, the breeze was blowing softly, the cuckoo birds were warbling sweet notes. The Gopis, all of them in the best of their attire had all assembled on the river bank narrating to each other the pranks of Krishna. They decided on a “Nauka Vihara” – a pleasure-trip in a boat on the Yamuna. At that time, Krishna came there and he also wished to accompany them in their boat-ride. However, the Gopis who had decided that it was going to be an exclusive trip all for themselves, and by themselves refused to take him along with them. In their vanity they thought that they can manage everything all by themselves, including rowing and steering the boat. Krishna knowingly smiled at their arrogance. He told them that it was not safe to venture into the river all by themselves and he should be allowed to accompany them. They teased him saying that he was after all only a child and he has no knowledge of rowing and managing the boat; but when he insisted on going with them, they agreed to take him.

All of them got into the boat. They began to feel very important because they were the ones rowing the boat. They sang and danced along with Krishna. He acknowledged each one of them and made them feel very special. The Gopis started becoming egoistic and vain that not only they were the most beautiful ones, but were also extremely privileged to have earned Krishna’s full attention. And above all these, He was obliged to them for the boat-ride! They thought nobody could be compared to them. The Lord knowingly smiled and within a fraction of a second He created a storm. The boat got caught in the storm and it dangerously tossed up and down. The Gopis were now terrified. The boat was damaged and water started to fill into the boat through holes created by the storm.

Then, they all surrendered and pleaded with Krishna to save them. He said there was only one way out and that was to plug the holes of the boat with their dupattas. They were reluctant to forgo their beautiful attire, but with no other alternative left they listened to Krishna.  With faith in Him, they tried to block the holes of the boat with their dupattas. They were totally and visibly shaken up. They looked absolutely helpless and tearfully surrendered on to the Lord leaving aside all their ego and vanity. The moment they unconditionally surrendered unto the Lord, the storm miraculously subsided and they found themselves all safe on the banks of the Yamuna. To the Gopis the “Nauka Vihara” was a lesson of unquestionable faith, total surrender and unconditional bhakti.

This beautiful incident is called Nauka Charitam” – a Musical Opera (Music drama) composed in various ragas by the great Musician-Saint Sri Tyagaraja.
[PS: I request all to please forward and share these value based stories rich in our culture and tradition to elders, youth and children]
Refuse to worry. Develop titiksha. Surrender all your worries at His Feet. Let Him be the helmsman to your boat-of-life. Have faith in Him. Surrender and sit back. You will find your life being lifted into quieter routes. Smoothly sailing forward, let His favourable wind ever court your sails. Sri Achyuthan is a great Boatsman. - Swami Chinmayananda

Anuraagamule – Saraswati – Tyagaraja

There are a number of compositions by Saint composers like Tyagaraja, Purandaradasa and others extolling the importance of Bhakti – devotion. In this composition Saint Tyagaraja talks about Divine Love – Anuraaga. Without Devotion, one remains deprived of true Knowledge and Wisdom. It is Bhakti which helps us to shift our focus from leading a pure materialistic life to a life filled with purpose (wisdom). The PURPOSE of human life is not to just earn money and enjoy a high “standard of living”. The STANDARD of LIFE should be taken care of with the help of Right Knowledge, Positive Values and Right Actions.


anuraagamu lEni manasuna sujnaanamu raadu


ghanulaina antar jnyaanulaku eruka gaani


vaga vagagaa bhujiyincEvaariki truptow reeti
saguNa dhyaanamu* paini sowkhyamu tyaagaraajanuta