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.
“SRI RAMA JAYA RAMA JAYA JAYA RAMA!”
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