Sri Tyagaraja (శ్రీ త్యాగరాజ) (17??-1848), an ardent devotee of Sri Ramachandra, was one of the principal composers of Carnatic music, and is also regarded as the most important of the trinity of composers. Born in a Telugu Vaidika Brahmin family, Tyagaraja lived in Thiruvaiyaru, near Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu.
Life and work
Education and purposeTyagaraja started his musical training under Sri Sonti Venkataramanayya at an early age. Tyagaraja regarded music as a way to experience the love of God. His objective while performing music was to repeat the name of God and contemplate on His pastimes, thereby reducing the vices of the mind, not to display his mastery over Raga and Tala. He had to struggle quite a bit to compose music in which Bhava, that is, emotion, was crowned. (He always felt that Bhava was not to be compromised for Raga and Tala.) But then, as the legend goes, he was supposedly blessed by the divine sage Narada with great musical knowledge. With these blessings, Tyagaraja gained mastery of music. He is said to have sung Sadhinchane, the third of Pancharatna Kritis, on this occasion.
CareerAs a 13 year old, he composed Namo Namo Raghava in Desikathodi. Venkataramanayya wanted to listen to Tyagaraja's new talent and so invited him to perform at his house in Thanjavur. Tyagaraja then sang Endaro Mahaanubhavulu(ఎందరో మహానుభావులు), the fifth of the Pancharatna Krithis.
Venkataramanayya, intensely pleased with Tyagaraja's song, told the king about the genius of Tyagaraja. The king sent an invitation to his court along with much wealth and gifts. Tyagaraja cleared his dilemma by composing and singing Nidhi Chala Sukhama and rejected the offer.
Angered at his rejection of the royal offer, Tyagaraja's brother took revenge by throwing his idols of Rama Pattabhisheka in the adjacent River Cauvery. Tyagaraja, unable to bear the separation with his Lord, made a pilgrimage to all the major temples in South India and composed many more songs in praise of those temple deities. He is said to have finally found the idols with the help of Rama himself. Tyagaraja attained Moksha on a Vaikunta Ekadasi.
Remembrance and celebrationHaving composed an innumerable number of keerthanas (songs) that explored all the possibilities within the rules of the Carnatic music tradition, Tyagaraja is truly regarded as the cornerstone of Carnatic music.
To this day, a commemorative music festival called the Tyagaraja Aaradhana is held at Thiruvaiyaru in the months of January to February every year. In the US, there is a Cleveland Tyagaraja Aradhana held in Cleveland, Ohio every April. Usually, dozens of Carnatic musicians preside and perform in this festival. With the large influx of Indians in the United States in the late 20th and early 21st century, many other cities in the USA with large Telugu/Tamil/Kannada populations now regularly hold the Tyagaraja Aradhana festivals every year.