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(1767 - 1847 CE)

Sri Thyagaraja

Sri Thyagaraja

(A) Life of Thyagaraja:

1. Birth: Thyagaraja was born in 1759 in Tiruvarur in the Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu. His parents were Kakarla Ramabrahmam and Sitamma who belonged to a Telugu Brahmin family of the Mulukanadu subsect. He was named Thyagaraja, after Lord Thyagaraja, the presiding deity of the temple at Tiruvarur. Thyagaraja was born at the house of his maternal grandfather, Giriraja Kavi. Giriraja Kavi was a poet-composer in the court of the king of Thanjavur.

2. Marriage: Thyagaraja was married at a young age to Parvatamma, who died shortly afterwards. He then married Kamalamba and they had a daughter named Sitalakshmi.

3. Musical training: Thyagaraja began his musical training under Sonti Venkataramanayya, a noted music scholar, at an early age. He regarded music as a way to experience God's love. His objective while practising music was purely devotional, as opposed to focusing on the technicalities of classical music. He also showed a flair for composing music, and in his teens, composed his first song Namo Namo Raghavayya in the Desika Todi ragam, and inscribed it on the walls of the house.

4. Turning point: A few years later, Sonti Venkataramanayya invited Thyagaraja to perform at his house in Thanjavur. On that occasion, Thyagaraja sang Endaro Mahaanubhavulu, the fifth of the Pancharatna Krithis. Pleased with Thyagaraja's composition, Sonti Venkataramanayya informed the King of Thanajavur about Thyagaraja's genius. The king sent an invitation, along with many rich gifts, inviting Thyagaraja to attend the royal court. Thyagaraja, however was not inclined towards a career at the court, and rejected the invitation outright, composing another gem of a kriti, Nidhi Chala Sukhama (English: Does wealth bring happiness?) on this occasion. Angered at Thyagaraja's rejection of the royal offer, his brother threw the statues of Rama, which Thyagaraja used in his prayers, into the nearby Kaveri river. Thyagaraja, unable to bear the separation with his Lord, went on pilgrimages to all the major temples in South India and composed many songs in praise of the deities of those temples.

Thyagaraja died on January 6, 1847.

(B) Compositions of Thyagaraja:

In addition to nearly 600 compositions (kritis), Thyagaraja composed two musical plays in Telugu, the Prahalada Bhakti Vijayam and the Nauka Charitam. Prahlada Bhakti Vijayam is in five acts with 45 kritis set in 28 ragas and 138 verses, in different metres in Telugu. Nauka Charitam is a shorter play in one act with 21 kritis set in 13 ragas and 43 verses. The latter is the most popular of Thyagaraja's operas, and is a creation of the composer's own imagination and has no basis in the Bhagavata Purana.

Thyagaraja's works are some of the best and most beautiful literary expressions in Telugu language. Valmiki composed the Ramayana, the story of Rama, with 24,000 verses and incidentally Thyagaraja also composed 24,000 kritis in praise of the lord.

The kirthanas of Thyagaraja are direct, simple and inspiring, full of wisdom and entire surrender to the Almighty.

He, along with his contemporaries Muthuswami Dikshitar and Shyama Shastry, forms the Trinity of Carnatic music.


Meditations on Earth, Life and Dharma: >>

Om, May there be Peace in Heaven,
May there be Peace in the Sky,
May there be Peace in the Earth,

(Shanti Mantra of Upanishad)

Preserve Nature,
And Nature will preserve Us,
Simplify Life,
And help Nature thrive,
Plant Trees,
And make our planet Green.

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Green Message: The Evergreen Messages of Spirituality, Sanskrit and Nature

Last updated on Mar-2024

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