The Musical Genius
Sri Thyagaraja Swami’s contribution to music or sangitopasana and the esoteric nadopasana is unique. No other composer has sung about the grammar and mystic significance of sangita in such terms as Swami has. Arranged in the order of their subject matter, the songs on sangeetha and nada make a textbook on the subject by themselves. He has either created or popularized quite a few ragas, which he calls “vintha ragamulu” or new ragas.
Professor Sambamoorthy says that no fewer than 78 ragas owe their identity to Thyagaraja kirtanas. One scholar says that before Swami’s time there were so few ragas that all the songs could be classified under a small number of lakshana definitions. In this connection he refers to a lakshana and lakshya work by Sahaji Maharaja, some sixty years before Sri Thyagaraja Swami was born. Sahaji Maharaja lists only 31 ragas, which represented practically all the known ragas of that time. It may also be mentioned that there were no songs in Harikamboji or Karharapriya before Swami’s time. It is not an exaggeration to say that these two ragas were Swami’s gift to Carnatic music. Swami has handled some 210 ragas derived from 43 melakartas. Also, he did not handle many pratimadyama ragas and this, some scholars claim, is because not all Pratimadyama ragas have their individual swaroopa.
Some notable features of Swami’s compositions are obvious when he employs a new raga; its arohana and avarohona are indicated in the opening phrase itself, e.g. Siddhasena. The kriti in this raga gives the complex arohana and avarohana (derived from the mela Dhenuka, Sa ri ga ri pa ma pa da sa pa ma ri ga ri sa. To cite another example, the opening phrase of the Bahudari kriiti – pa da ni pa ma ga is a marvel, for there can be no better opening. Some composers have tried variations without the same melodic effect.
Where two very common and popular ragas are combined in the purvanga or uttaranga, for example in Charukesi or its inverse raga, Kokilapriya, by subtly introducing the note from the poorvanga or uttaranga to give the raga its flavor, the identity of the combination as an artistic form of its own is established. In “Adamodi galada,” the Suddha Daivatam is introduced in the opening phrase, and in Dasarathe (Kokilapriya), the kaakonisheda is introduced.
Where a vivadi swara is involved, it will always be found in the opening phrase, for if this is not done, the identity of the raga cannot be established. For example, if only the swara from ga ma to ni sa are sung in Nasikabhooshani, only Vachaspathi will be heard. Thus, only if the Shatsruthi rishaba is included will Nasikabhooshani be heard.
For sheer musical excellence, composition such as “Enduku Peddala” and “Emi Nerama”, both in Sankarabharanam and “Evarimata” and “Mari Mari Ninne” both in Khomboji and his large number of creations in thodi, in which raga there are no fewer than 36 kritis, no two is alike and his ganaraga pancharathnams cannot be excelled. The Kshetra kirtanas, the nalangu songs for the soorthradhari (a sort of compeer ) to sing, the divyanama kritis for ritualistic worship are all a treasure Swami has left for us.
Swami was the first to introduce the desadi thala and also to introduce sangatis in his connotations. The sangatis were introduced to bring out the melodic and rhythmic intricacies, the raga lakshanas and quite often, to bring out the purpose of the song, e.g. Chetulara in Bhairavi and “Thappi Brathiki Brova” in Todi, where all the sangatis are based on the words “singaramu jesi joothunu” in the first case and “brathiki brova tarama” in the second case. Kritis such as “Dorakuna” “Mari Mari Ninne” “O! Ranga Sayee” “Dharini Telusukonti” and others (numerous to list) are examples of sangatis used to create an intrinsically and exquisitely conceived ornamentation of marvelous musical architecture.
Sangeetha and Nada: Another example of Sri Thyagaraja Swami’s genius can be found in his handling of sangeetha and nada. The study of sastras relating to sangeetha is supposedly derived from divine sources and, when used for devotional purposes, could lead to the conferment of many blessings. There were clear texts on the origin of our music, its structure, and its purposes.
The five octaves, madhya, mandaram, anumandara, tara, and anutara were derived from the five forces of Shiva – Satyajata, aghora, eesana, tatpurusha, and vamadeva. The structured music is based on the Sruthis, a unique concept and the purpose of music is only one: to praise the Almighty. In other words, it is only devotion for which sangeetha should be employed and not for any other purpose such as mere artistic pleasure. These concepts are derived from the first three slokas of Sangita Ratnakara.
In dealing with sangeetha or physical aspects of music, Sri Thyagaraja Swami has taken the first three slokas and composed the following three songs, almost word for word: 1. Naada Thanumanisam Sankaram (Chittaranjani); 2. Sobhillu Sapthaswara (Jaganmohini); and 3. Nadopasana (Begada). At this point, there is a clear distinction made between sangeetha or the physical and aesthetic aspects from nadopasana or the mystic, esoteric aspects or naada yoga. These are discussed in the article on Nadopasana.
The practice of sangeetha, based on the sastras , is referred to in “Ananda Sagara” (Garudadwani) and “Sangita Sastra Gnanamu” (Mukhari). As fruits of the practice of sangeethopasana, mention is made of the “Ocean of Bliss – Sangeetha Sastramagu Brahmananda Sagara” and again, mention is made of other such fruits of nadopasana in the Mukhari kriti as “Prema bhakthi sujana vatsalya” and “Srimad Rama vara katakshamu.” In the kriti “Sripapriya sangeethopasana seyave O Manasa,” he refers o the ragas which take pleasing forms. The practice of the art of sangeetha will bring to its practitioner Sarropya or attainment of good form; Galokya or being in the same realm as God; Sarropya or being close to the Lord; Aroopya or attaining the form of the ista devata and Sayjuya or merging with the god – the forms of heavenly bliss. The origins of our music are divine, its structure melodic and its purpose – the devout worship of God. Sri Thyagaraja Swami, through his musical genius, brought us all these treasures.
Dr. R. Krishnaswami and P. Sreenivasan
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