P. Sreenivasan

Kshetra kirtanas refer to compositions in praise of the deity of a specific town or place. Usually, great composers, when they visit a temple town compose songs in praise of the deity of the temple. Thyagaraja Swami followed a similar practice. Many of Thyagaraja Swami’s kshetra kirtanas are very popular and well-known for their musical richness and complexity.

At the invitation of a great savant – Srimad Upanishad Brahmam of Kancheepuram, Swami undertook a pilgrimage. Incidentally, it may be mentioned that Srimad Upanishad Brahmam was a great scholar and saint. He wrote commentaries on the 108 Upanishads. He was also the schoolmate of Thyagaraja Swami’s father, Sri Ramabrahmam. Being of old age and unable to travel, Sri Upananishad Brahmam, who was then living in Kancheepuram, asked Thyagaraja to visit him at Kancheepuram At about the same time, Lalgudi Rama Iyer, a disciple of Swami, invited him to visit Lalgudi. Swami consented and visited Lalgudi where he composed and sang what are known as the Lalgudi Pancharathnams. He composed five kritis – two on Saptharisheeswar and three on is divine consort, Srimathi. It is interesting to know that Lalgudi is the only kshetra where he sang both on the Lord and his consort. In the other kshetras, the songs are either on the Lord or only on his consort.

The krits sung at Lalgudi are: Easapahimam (Kalyani); Deva Sri Thapastheertha (Madhyamavati) – both on Sri Sapthareeshswara; Lalithe (Bharivai); Gathineevani (thodi); and Mahitha Pravrutha (Kamboji), all three on Sri Ambal.

Other Kshetra Kritis: From Lalgudi, Swami went to Kancheepuram where he composed three songs: Varadhanavaneeta (Pancharam), Varadaraja Ninnukori (Swarabooshani) and Vinayakuni (Madhyamavati). Then, at the invitation f one Kovur Sundaresa Mudaliar, he visited Kovur (near Madras), where he sang Sambo Mahadeva (Panthurvarali), Sundareswaruni (Sankarabharanam): Nammi Vachina (Kalyani); Eevasudha neevanti (Sahana) and Korisevimparare (Karaharapriya). The last mentioned is one of the two “thana sampradaya” compositions, sung by Thyagaraja. The other is Koluvayyunade (Bhairavi).

Thyagaraja Swami also visited Thirupathi. At Thirupathi, he composed “Thera Theeyakaraada” (Gowlipanthu). Here, he also sang “Venkatesaninnu sevimpa” (Madhyamavati). He later went to Thiruvottiyur, near Madras, where sang on the presiding deities — “Kannathalli” (Saveri); “Sundarininnu” (Arabhi); “Sundarinee divya roopamu” (Kalyani); Sundari nannindarilo” (Begada) and ” “Dharini thelusu konti” (Sudha Saveri). At Sirkazhi, Swami sang, “Neevanti Deivamu” (Thodi). At Nagapattinam, he sang “Karmame Balvanthamayenu” (Saveri) and “Evaru theliyapoyaru” (Thodi).

Swami also visited other towns. At Sri Rangam, he sang “Joothamurare” (Arabhi), “Rajuvedala” (Thodi), “Vinradana manavini” (Devagandhari), “Karunajoodumayya” (Saranga) and “O! Rangasayee” (Kamboji). Some scholars include Hetsarikagaraa” (Yadukulakamboji) among the group of Srirangam kritis since the kriti refers to Veena upachara, muthangi seva, etc. But, other scholars believe that is only the “hetsarika” part of the Utsava Sampradaya kirtana, inviting the lord to take his seat in the koluvu that refers to Srirangam and not the entire kriti.

Although Swami lived in Thiruvayaru, he composed several kritis that were in praise of the local deity and describing the town of Thiruvayaru. Some of these compositions include: “Karunajoodavamma” (Thodi); “Parasakthi” (Saveri); “Sivepahimam” (Kalyani); “Amma Dharmasamvardhini” (Atana); Vidhichakradulaku” (Yamunakalyani) “Ehi Thrijagadeesa” (Saranga), “Ilalo pranatharthi” (Atana), “Evarunnaru” (Malavasri), “Machatabrahma” (Madhyamavati), “Parasakthi manuparada” (Saveri), “Neevee brovavale” (Saveri), and “Bale balendu booshani” (Ritigowla). There also other compositions praising the beauty of Thiruvayyaru.

Each of these sthala or Kshetra kritis are gems that continue to shine with utmost brightness.

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