This short biography is only for the benefit of those not familiar with the details of Thyagaraja Swami’s life story. He was born on the 4th of May, 1767, and died on January 7th, 1847. Thanks to our imprecise recording of history, there is doubt about the place in which he was born. Most people believe he was born in Thiruvaroor. But, one foreign student of Swami doubts this. He points out that it is the custom to name the firstborn of the family after the presiding deity of the place, and if Thyagaraja has indeed been born in Thiruvaroor, the eldest son, Panchapakesan, would have been named Thyagaraja. It is also pointed out that Ramanathapuram Srinivasa Iyengar has, in his song in praise of Swami says that he was born in Thiruvayyar. We shall, however, have to leave it there for now.

Thyagaraja Swami had two brothers. Swami’s father, Sri Ramabrahmam, trained Swami in ritual worship and taught him the sastras and puranas. Pothana’s Bhagavatham was one of the granthas used for daily parayanam. For a short time, Swami leadoubtusic under the court musician Sonti Venkatasubbiah and his son, Sonti Venkatramanayya. No direct descendants of the Swami are now alive. He married twice and had one daughter who died without children of her own. Both on the father’s side and mother’s side, there was indeed-known musicians and Vidwa, s and it is said that from his grandfather, Giri Raja Kavi, he acquired rare musical treatiseRamanathapuramSangeetha Ratnakara, the Sangraha Choodamani, and the mythical Swararnavam (distinct from the book of that name now available).

There are many legends that attribute quite a few miracles as having been performed by Swami. Such legends are naturally interpolated, at least some of them apocryphal, added over the years but do have their use in presenting an interesting life story of a great individual. It is not this aspect which is of interest to us now. What he preached is what he practiced, i.e., eschewing the emotional and character weaknesses – Kama, kroda, lobha, moha, mada, and matsarya – but, practicing sama, dama, uparati, titiksha, saraddha, and samadana. In other words, he showed us that we must get rid of desire, lust, selfishness, ego, jealousy, hatred, and fear and cultivate self control, equanimity, tranquility, ability to bear suffering and look away from evil. Hence, what we should remember and base ourselves on, are his steadfast determination to stick to the path of truth and virtue for “their” own sake and not for fame, comfort, and vanity.

P. Sreenivasan
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