Sri Tyagaraja – A short biography

Tyagaraja was a genius and he lived from 1767 AD to 1847 AD

Tyagaraja was one among the top composers of carnatic music.His music is divine and purely devotional. The listener is transported to another world, where nothing but devotion exists. Tyagaraja is one among the Trinity of carnatic classical music, the other two being Shyama Sastri and Muthuswami Dikshitar.

Tyagaraja was born in the Telugu Smartha Brahmin, Mulakanadu community. He was born in the town of Tiruvarur to the couple – RamaBrahma and Seetamma. Since there is a temple of Lord Tyagaraja in Tiruvarur. During childhood at the early age of five, he became well versed with Ramayana. Lord Rama had already made way into his heart. Tyagaaja proved to be a child prodigy by composing songs at an early age of 10. He also performed on stage. He was the student of Sonti Venkataramaiah, a great scholar himsef, and became well versed with languages Telugu, Sanskrit, astrology, maths and Mantras.

Tyagaraja Samadhi

Tyagaraja married Parvati, at the age of eighteen. She died issueless. He later married her sister, Kanakamba. A daughter, Seetalakshmi, was born to them. She was given in marriage to Kuppuswami. They had a boy who was named Tyagaraja . Unfortunately the grandson died issueless putting an end to the direct lineage of Tyagaraja.

During his life Tyagaraja wrote many many songs in praise of Lord Rama. Songs referred to as Kritis and Keerthanas were written in telugu language and some in Sanskrit. The songs were full of devotion. There are some catchy phrases that are notable in the songs, which shows his poetic abilities. Tyagaraja wrote with the pen name of Tyagaraja,which means that every song composed by Tyagaraja has the word Tyagaraja incorporated towards the end of the song.

Some of the most famous compositions of Tyagaraja are –

1. Samaja Varagamana

2. Yetula Brotuvo

3. Marugelara O Raghava

4. Pancharatna Kritis –

5. Chakkani Raja Margamu

6. Mokshamu Galada

7. Nagumomu

Most of the songs sound simple to the listener. The Kritis have one or two catchy lines that are repeated with different patterns. This kind of elaboration is referred to as Sangati. The credit of introducing Sangati to Carnatic music goes purely Tyagaaja. His songs had simple rhythms which gave way to improvising to complex swara patterns. Tyagaraja elaborated several new Raagas, which were then unknown to people.

Tyagaraja not only composed Kritis but also composed Utsava Sampradaya Keerthanas and Bhakti Sampradaya Keerthana. A Utsava Sampradaya Keerthana is sung during some of kind of  festival. It is a simple song, which is meant to involve common man. Eg: SeetaKalyana Vaibhoga Me. This is a wedding related song, which in simple words talks about the wedding of Lord Raama and Seeta. In addition to nearly 600 songs (kritis), Tyagaraja composed two musical plays (dramas) in Telugu, the Prahalada Bhakti Vijayam and the Nauca Charitam.