Friday, February 16, 2007

Versatility of Tyagaraja - Part 2

I had earlier written about the various types of song structures given by Tyagaraja. Now let us examine the themes that were dealt with by Tyagaraja.

Basically lot of people feel that Tyagaraja's krithis are mainly 'bhajanais' or that they have a pleading tone. 'Azhugai' as they call in Tamil. This has mainly to do with the fact that many people who listen to Carnatic music dont know Telugu. That Tyagaraja's krithis all portray a similar mood is far from truth. So let us examine the different themes that Tyagaraja dealt with.

First lets look at the krithis of his in which portray the 'karunya rasa'. These are the ones wherein Tyagaraja asks Rama to come and save him, give him moksham etc. A lot of his followers, who became vaggeyakaras later, used this tone often. The beauty of Tyagaraja's krithis was that they were very poetic even when the tone was imploring. You just need to check out the meaning of the krithi 'Nagumomu' in Abheri to know what I mean.

Next we can check out the krithis which are more impersonal. Here is where the description of god is given and adjectives to describe him/her are used. The vaggeyakara here is more an observer and recorder of events. Most of Dikshitar's krithis are in this format. Someone in a bulletin board had pointed out that many of Tyagaraja's Sanskrit krithis fall under this category. The Kambhoji krithi 'Sree Raghuvara Prameya' would fall in this category.

The other deviation from this are those krithis wherein Tyagaraja is describing the beauty of the Lord but he himself is enjoying the description. The way in which the krithi is structured shows Tyagaraja's enjoyment. Some sample krithis in this vein would be 'Meru Samana Dheera' in Mayamalavagowla, 'Nanu Palimpa' in Mohan, 'Koluvayunnade' in Devagandhari. In all these krithis, the charanam is one of great beauty. Similarly there are krithis of great beauty like 'Lekana' in Asaveri and 'Pahi Rama Rama' in Karaharapriya where he shows how people like Sita, Hanuman, Bharata etc have enjoyed the beauty of Rama.

The other type of krithis are those wherein he describes some incident from the puranas and does it well !! A example would be the krithi 'Alakalalla' (Madhyamavathi). Here he says that Rama looked at Vishwamitra, who with his eyes gave him the signal to go and break the Siva Danush. 'Entanine' (Mukhari) talks about Sabari and her 'bhagyam' for having served Rama. In 'Na Moralagimpa' (Devagandhari) he recalls how Rama saved Sugriva from Vali. 'Rama Bana' (Saveri) talks about the incident wherein Lakshmana is floored by the arrow of Indrajit. There are any more krithis which talk about incidents from Puranas.

S Ramanathan used to say in his lecture that Tyagaraja was one who spoke about enjoyment in his krithis. This is in total contrast to those krithis where he adopts a pleading tone. S Ramanathan used to cite the krithi 'Kanugonu Sowkyamu' in Nayaki to bolster his case. In this krithi Tyagaraja says that he has discovered such great Sowkyam, which even Brahma wasnt able to obtain. He has written many krithis about Sowkyam. In the famous Kapi krithi 'Inta Sowkhyamani' he says that only Siva, who understand the beauty of Rama Nama knows what Sowkhyam is. Similarly he makes Prahladha talk about his pleasure in 'Enati Nomu Palamo' (Bhairavi). Another song in the same vein is 'Inta Bhagyamu' in Saranga.

Lets turn to another subject which was close to Tyagaraja's heart. No prizes for guessing. Music. He probably was the only composer who had composed krithis on music itself. The famous ones include 'Sogasuga Mridanga Talamu' in Sriranjani, 'Naada Suda Rasam' in Aarabhi, 'Nada Tanumanisham' in Siddaranjani, 'Raga Sudha Rasa' in Andholika, "Sangeetha Sastra Gnanamu' in Mukahri, 'Sitavara Sangita Gnanamu' in Devaghandari, etc. These krithis give an idea of what Tyagaraja felt about music. All these krithis are beautiful and it would take a genius immersed in music to come up with such krithis. Infact he says that only with 'Nadopasana' (Begada) did Vishu, Brahma and Siva become great. In the other great Shankarabaranam krithi, 'Swara Raga Sudha' he says that finding the exact places of each swara is the route to moksham.

(Small digression : One of the krithis most misused is 'Mokshamu Galada' in Saramati. This actually talks about people not getting Moksha if they dont have 'sangita gnanam' and 'sadbhakthi'. This is a krithi dealing with the greatness of music. Just because it starts as 'Mokshamu Galada' they play it DD everytime a national leader dies !! A most inappropriate krithi to be played then since Tyagaraja is not talking about death and most of our politicians are tone deaf to music anyway !! In a way DD is saying that these people will never get moksham!!)

Another subject very close to Tyagaraja's heart was the hypocrisy of people and lack of morals. He was very vehement in his krithis when it came to talking about these subjects. In 'Teliyaleru Rama' (Denuka) he says that people have no clue on bhakthi and just put on a facade. Similarly in 'Manasu Vishaya' (Natakurunji) he says that if you let yourself be ruled by the five sense when will you ever obtain the grace of Rama. In 'Dudukugala' (Gowla) and 'Etula Brothuvo' (Chakravaham) he lists the various sins that a person can commit. There are many songs of this nature by Tyagaraja. Some more examples would be 'Yagnadulu' (Jayamanohari), 'Manasu Nilpa shakthi' (Abhogi). There also krithis wherein he gives good advice and says how we should live. Some examples would be the Shankarabharam krithi, 'Manasu Swadhinamaina', 'Chakkani Raja Margamu' in Kharaharapriya, 'Nidhi Chala Sukama' in Kalyani. Balamurali has given a recording which has only the philosophical krithis of Tyagaraja !! Some other krithis that come to mind are 'Chede Buddi Manura' (Atana) and 'Buddhi Radu' (Shankarabharanam)

Tyagaraja used to be with his Rama the whole day. So in his Utsava Sampradaya krithis you see that he has associated himself with Rama throughout the day. Starting from waking him up with a 'melukolupu', 'Meluko Rama' (Bowli), 'Meluko Dayanidhe' (Sourashtram), giving him something to eat, 'Aaragimpave' (Todi), asking him to come in carefully, 'Hecharikaga rara' Yadhukula Kambhoji, making him sit on the swing and gently pushing the swing, 'Uyyala Ugavayya' (Nilambari), describing his marriage to Sita, 'Sita Kalyana' (Kurunji), asking him to sleep 'Badalika Theera' (Ritigowla). The Utsava Sampradhaya krithis, to me, are the most personal and poetic of Tyagaraja works and I enjoy these very much.

The poetic nature of Tyagaraja comes to the fore when he describes nature in krithis like 'Muripemu Kalige' (Mukhari), where is talks about the beauty of Tiruvaiyaru. In the krithi 'Choodare Chelulara' (Pantuvarali) is wonderfully describes the beauty of Yamuna.

If you thought that Tyagaraja was always praising Rama, you would be right most of the time but there have been 'nindastutis' which he has composed. The famous Kambhoji kriti, 'Maa Jananki' tells Rama not to feel too proud of himself and that his fame was due to Sita. He says that Sita could have burnt Ravana with just a look but she refrained doing so since she wanted Rama to get all the fame !!!

We will not normally associate Sringara rasam with someone like Tyagaraja but he has composed songs in this rasa as well. In the 'Geya Natakam' Nouka Charitram, he has composed the krithi, 'Odanu Jaripe' (Saranga). Here he describes the beauty of the gopikas. Similarly, from the same 'Geya Natakam' we have the krithi, 'Evaru Manaku Samanamu' in Devagandhari. Here the gopikas are very proud of their beauty and tell how the trimurthis are slaves to their beauty.

This brings me to the Geya Natakas. Geya Natakas mean dance dramas. Tyagaraja is supposed to have composed three Geya Natakas, 'Prahlada Bhakti Vijayam', 'Nouka Charitram' and 'Sita Kalyanam'. We dont have the krithis of 'Sita Kalyanam' but luckily we have the krithis of 'Prahlada Bhakti Vijayam (PBV)' and 'Nouka Charitram (NC)' with us. Tyagaraja not only wrote the krithis but also the gadyam and padyams for these dramas. (Padayams and Gadyams are the poetry and prose pieces). These are generally sung by the characters before the krithis start. They are wonderful to hear.

The krithis of 'PBV' are quite popular and many people have enjoyed the krithis without knowing that the krithis are from PBV. Some of the popular krithis from PBV are, 'Sree Ganapatini' (Saurashtram), 'Vasudevayani' (Kalyani), 'Vandanamu Raghunandana' (Sahana), 'Nannu Vidachi' (Reetigowla), 'Eti Janmam' (Varali), 'Narada Muni' (Panthuvarali), 'Enati Nomu Palamu'(Bhairavi) etc. In PBV, there is no Hiranyakashipu. The whole drama portrays the love and devotion of Prahlada towards Vishnu (by extension to Rama). The NC krithis are not very popular and very few musicians sing it.

When he has dealt with so many subjects, wouldnt Tyagaraja pay homage to his gurus and the great men before him? There are many krithis in which he pays his tributes to them. The most famous of them is 'Endaro Mahanubhavulu' (Sri). Similarly he pays his tribute to a whole list of people in 'Vidulaku Mrokkeda' (Mayamalavagowla). He says that you cant learn anything is you dont have a guru in another famous piece of his, 'Guru Lekha' (GowriManohari). He used to consider Narada as his guru and he has written many krithis on Narada. 'Sree Narada Mouni' (Bhairavi), 'Sree Narada Nada' (Kanada), 'Narada Guruswamy' (Darbar) are some of those krithis. In the famous Shankarabharam krithi, 'Enduku Peddala', he asks the lord to give him the qualities of great men.

Other than Rama/Vishnu, he has sung on other deities as well. He has sung 5 krithis, called Kovur Pancharatnam, on Lord Sundareshwara at Kovur. The krithi, 'Sambho Mahadeva' (Pantuvarali) is the most popular of the lot. He has also sung 5 krithis on Tripurasundari at Tiruvottriyur, near Chennai. These are more popular with 'Sundari Ni Diva Rupam' (Kalyani) and "Darini Telusukonti' (SuddhaSaveri) being the most popular. He has sung 5 krithis on the deities at Lalgudi. These are called as Lalgudi Pancharatnam. 'Eesa Pahimam' (Kalyani) used to be famous but I dont find too many people singing it now. He has also a Pancharatnam on Srirangam. The krithis in this pancharatnam are more often heard. 'O Rangasayi' being the most famous. 'Chootamu Rare'(Arabhi) used to be a favourite of Santhanam while Semangudi was partial to 'Vinaradha Na Manavi' (Devagandhar) and Ariyakudi took a liking to 'Raju Vedale'(Todi). The one sung rarely is 'Karuna chuda vayya' (Saranga). S Ramanathan used to sing it. He also has many krithis on the deities at Tiruvaiyaru, 'Pranatharthiharan' and 'Dharmasamvardhini'. 'Ilalo' (Atana) is a famous krithis from this set of krithis.

I hope this has given an idea of the various subjects that Tyagaja dealt with and his versatality.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Versatility of Tyagaraja - Part 1

Let me start my music blog by writing about one of the greatest composers of all time, Tyagaraja.

Tyagaraja holds the pride of place in Carnatic Music. In this post I will try to illustrate the reasons why he is held in such high esteem. V.Raghavan, T S Parthasarathy and lot more people have written about the greatness of Tyagaraja. Many of these are scholarly works. What I am about to write is my own experience with the krithis of Tyagaraja.

The first reason I feel Tyagaraja is so popular is due to the variety of song structures that he has given. I will try and give examples of those.

1. Divya Nama Sankirthanam - This is probably the most simple song structure. Here the pallavi is set to a tune. Usually this is of one or two lines. After that you get multiple charanams, all with the same tune but with different words. This would be very much suited for bhajan type of singing. The tune is also is quite simple and charming. An example of this would be a Divyanama Sankirthanam like 'tava dAsoham' in Punnagavarali and 'karunajaladhe dasarathe' in Nadanamakriya.

2. Some krithis from the 'Geya Natakas' - There are some krithis from Prahalada Bhaktha Vijayam and Nauka Charitram which follow the very similar pallavi-charanam structure of Divya Nama sankirthanams but the tune is a bit more complex than the Divya Nama sankirthanams. Examples of these are songs like 'Eti Janmam edi' and 'Vandanamu Raghunandana'. While the Divya Nama Sankirthanams can be sung as bhajans, the krithis mentioned above are not very amenable to bhajan singing.

3. One line or two line krithis !! - Actually these are not one line krithis. Here the pallavi has one of two lines, anu pallavi has one or two lines and there are multiple charanams with one or two lines each. The difference from Divya Nama sankirthanam songs is that each line he is set to a different tune whereas the tune is same for every charanam in the Divya Nama Sankirthanam. An famous example of this is the Harikambhoji krithi 'Enduku Nirdaya'. Here 'Enduku Niradaya' has a different tune compared to the charanam line 'Satrula Mitrula', which in turn has a tune which is different from the charanam line 'udata bhakthi'.

4. The famous Krithi structure - Tyagaraja made this form, which I shall describe, very famous. Here we have a one or a two line pallavi, followed by a two line anupallavi and a four line charanam. Here the last two lines of the charanam will have exactly the same tune as the two lines of the anupallavi. Infact in many music books, where notation for these sort krithis is given, for the last two lines of the charanam, they simply say, 'sing as the anupallavi'. Tons and tons of krithis of Tyagaraja have this structure. Let me take two of them and illustrate. If you take the song 'Samaja Varagamana', the last two lines of the charanam starting with 'yadava kula murali' is same as the anupallavi 'sama nigmaja sudha maya'. Similarly the last two lines of the charanam, 'jagamele paramatma' are the same as the anupallavi 'nagaraja dhara'.

5. Charanam with more then 4 lines - Tyagaraja in many krithis departs from the above mentioned structure. Here the number of lines in the charanam are more than four and the last two lines need not be the same as the anupallavi. Many of his Tiruvaiyaru and Tiruvottiyur kshetra krithis follow this structure. Some examples are 'Vidulaku Mrokeda' in Mayamalavagowla, the famous 'Sudari Ni Diya Roopamu' in Kalyani, the Suddha Saveri krithi 'Darini Telusukonti', the Kambhoji krithi 'O Ranga Sayee', the Mohan krithi 'Mohana Rama' etc

6. Charanam with Madhyamakalam - The ending of the charanam in such krithis is in madhyamakalam, i.e. in a speed which is more than the one in which the charanam is sung. Dikshitar employed this technique in most of his songs, which end in a madhyamakalam. You can understand what madhyamakalam is if you sing the lines 'karankusha pasa' in the Dikshitar krithi Vatapi (Hamsadhwani). Tyagaraja has given such endings in some of his krithis. A prime example would be the Bilahari krithi 'Dorakuna'. Every charanam ends with a madhyamakalam. I particularly like the madhyamakalam on the last charanam, 'ramuni jagadhodhruni suraripu bhimuni triguna deedhuni ...'

7. Charanam as Madhyamakalam - Here the whole charanam is sung in madhyamakalam, not just the last lines. A couple of songs in this format which I love are 'Eesa pahimam' in Kalyani. Lalgudi and his disciples sing it very well. The other song is 'Koluvaiyunnade' in Devagandhari. The madhyamakalam here is a wonderful description of the seva done to Rama. 'udu raja mukudu ..' is the charnam and the madhyamakalam

8. Pancharatna krithis - I am sure all of us are very conversant with this. He there is a pallavi, anupallavi and multiple charanams. The charanams keep increasing in length. For all the charanams the swara as well as the sahitya are sung.

The different types of song structures, each with a different complexity, gives the musician a lot of variety to choose from. He has the flexibility of choosing any of these based on where he/she is singing, who are the audience etc. Even within a concert it gives them the sort of choice that they would want to make the concert a non monotonous one.

These are some of the song structures that I could remember. I will write about the different subjects handled by Tyagaraja in my next post.

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