The universe within

Thursday, January 19, 2006


Today is Thyagaraja Aradhana.
In probably a few hours from now, on the idyllic banks of kAvery, hundreds of musicians and rasikAs would be paying homage to one of the most prolific composers that carnatic music has ever seen. My views on group singing of pancharatna kritis may sound rather caustic, but in my opinion, it requires a lot of rehearsal and orchestration to get it right and the spectacle that we see on our TV sets is pitiable to say the least. But let me not get into a tirade on this very auspicious day.
I started learning carnatic music when I was around ten years old. After the basic lessons, I started on some simple krithis - thyAgarAja krithis were obviously among the first few krithis that I learnt...manavyAlakincha....girirAjasuthA...thuLasidaLamulachey...and so on.
As time passed by and I started taking music seriously, I must confess that thyAgarAja krithis were not my first love!! I was more enraptured by muthuswami dikshitar's long, sedate and gamaka-laden krithis...but as I started performing and expanded by repertoire, it suddenly dawned on me!!!!
It dawned on me that any work of art which is very profound, usually appears very simple to the naked eye. Dikshitar's kritis are an exception because they require a wholly different mindset to learn, sing or appreciate. But as I started learning more thyAgarAja krithis, I realised that they were sheer musical delights!!!! The simple phrasings maturing into complex raga statements were a joy to sing. I am now a thyAgarajA addict :-)
Many scholars have studied his krithis - from every angle it musical, lyrical or philosophical. As far as I am concerned, he was a musician - and i believe that he tried to see his God through his music. I feel that Thyagaraja krithis need to be studied only musically - because, at the end of the day, he was a very enlightened composer in whom music flowed naturally!!! Unlike Purandaradasa, who has a place in Kannada literature (apart from music), thyagaraja's works have never found a place in Telugu literature...they are known mainly for their musical values and not for their lyrical beauty. Ofcourse, several of thyagaraja's krithis are in very beautiful prose but if one wants to really get value of it, one has to see all his krithis only from the musical perspective.
To me, nothing sets the concert tempo and mood like a thyagaraja krithi. I am not too much in favor of beginning concerts with a Ganesha-krithi, I feel that it is a self-imposed restriction which has more of a religious reasoning than a musical one. What better way to start a concert than with those innumerable "one-kalai" adi tala krithis of thyagaraja...rama neepai...theliyaleru rama....makelara vicharamu...manavyalakinchara...the list is endless. Thyagaraja was the undisputed master of these "one-kalai" krithis - and if we take a deeper look, we realise that a sizeable number of them are usually in janya ragas of harikambhoji, kharaharapriya or shankarabharanam. His penchant for these janya ragas is very well known and these krithis usually serve for very racy pieces in the middle of a concert (like nenarunchinaanu, niravathisukhada, vidajaladura or patti viduvaradu).
Apart from these racy krithis, there are innumerable vilamba-kala krithis where we see intricate raga phrases and nuances. My favorites among these are seethavara (devagandhari), ksheenamai (mukhari), shantamuleka (sama), geetarthamu (surutti), hechcharikaga rara (yadukulakambhoji), o rangasayee (kambhoji) and the countless todi kritis including koluvamaregada, kaddanu variki, dasarathey....
An analysis of him and his works is beyond my reach - I am just a student and a rasika.
One thing I must is said that some of his compositions which were composed towards the end of his life were real musical edifices!! Mokhamugalada, dasarathey, giripai, paramathmudu veligey and others fall into this category.
I dont believe and I dont care about the many miracles that thyagaraja is supposed to have bringing back a dead man...the tirupati episode and so on....for all you know, these could be latter-day "reconstructions" by many of his disciples...
To me, each and every thyagaraja krithi is a miracle..because every time I listen to it, I realise a new dimension, a new raga statement and a new emotion. Something tells me, that is the real legacy that thyagaraja would have wanted to leave behind.