Kakarla Tyagabrahmam (May 4, 1767–January 6, 1847), colloquially known as Tyagaraja and Tyagayya, was one of the greatest composers of Carnatic music or classical South Indian music. He, along with his contemporaries Muthuswami Dikshitar and Shyama Shastry, forms the Trinity of Carnatic music. He was a prolific composer and highly influential in the development of the South Indian classical music tradition. Tyagaraja composed thousands of devotional compositions, most of them in praise of Lord Rama — most of which remain very popular even today. Of special mention are five of his compositions called the Pancharatna Krithis (English: 'five gems'), which are often sung in programs in his honor.
Personal life and background
Tyagaraja was born in 1767 in Tiruvarur, Tiruvarur district, Tamil Nadu, to Kakarla Ramabrahmam and Sitamma in a Telugu Brahmin family of the Mulukanadu subsect. He was named Tyagaraja, after Lord Tyagaraja, the presiding deity of the temple at Tiruvarur. Tyagaraja was born at his maternal grandfather Giriraja Kavi's house. Giriraja Kavi was a poet-composer in the court of the king of Thanjavur.
Tyagaraja began his musical training under Sri Sonthi Ramanayya, 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.
After some years, Sri Sonthi Ramanayya invited Tyagaraja to perform at his house in Thanjavur. On that occasion, Tyagaraja sang Endaro Mahaanubhavulu, the fifth of the Pancharatna Krithis. Pleased with Tyagaraja's composition,Sri Sonthi Ramanayya informed the King of Thanjavur about Tyagaraja's genius. The king sent an invitation, along with many rich gifts, inviting Tyagaraja to attend the royal court. Tyagaraja, 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 Tyagaraja's rejection of the royal offer, his brother threw the statues of Rama Tyagaraja used in his prayers into the nearby Kaveri river. Tyagaraja, 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.
Tyagaraja, who was totally immersed in his devotion to Lord Rama and led the most spartan way of life without bothering in the least for the comforts of the world, did not take any steps to systematically codify his vast musical output. The late Rangaramanuja Iyengar, a leading researcher on Carnatic music, in his work Kriti Manimalai, has described the situation prevailing at the time of death of Tyagaraja. It is said that a major portion of his incomaparable musical work was lost to the world due to natural and man-made calamities. Usually Tyagaraja used to sing his compositions sitting before idols of Lord Rama, and his disciples noted down the details of his compositions in palm leaves. After his death, these palm leaves came in the possession of the disciples, and to several families descending from the disciples. Thus a definitive edition of Thyagaraja's songs did not exist.
Due to the painstaking labour of these musicians and researchers, there now exists a stable and definitive collection of Thyagaraja's music. Out of 24,000 thousand songs said to be composed by Tyagaraja, around 700 songs have survived.
In addition to nearly 700 compositions (kritis), Tyagaraja 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 Tyagaraja's operas, and is a creation of the composer's own imagination and has no basis in the Bhagavata Purana.
it is the fact that Tyagaraja's works are some of the best and most beautiful literary expressions in Telugu language,which every telugu person who is blessed to know the kritis agrees. Valmiki composed the Ramayana, the story of Rama, with 24,000 verses, and coincidentally Tyagaraja, too, composed 24,000 kritis in praise of the Lord.
K.V. Ramachandran, a well-known 20th-century Indian music critic, wrote: "Tyagaraja is an indefatigable interpreter of the past... but if with one eye he looks backward, with the other he looks forward as well. Like Prajapati, he creates his own media, and adores his Rama not alone with jewel-words newly fashioned, but also with jewel-[like]-music newly created. It is this facet of Thyagaraja that distinguishes him from his illustrious contemporaries." In other words, while Tyagaraja's contemporaries were primarily concerned with bringing to audiences the music of the past, Tyagaraja, apart from doing the same, also pioneered new musical concepts at the same time.
Sarvalaghu is the heart of Tyagraja's music. Tyagaraja's music is melody and rhythm personified. It is easy for children, a challenge for the learned, and a wonder for the genius.
(adapted from Wikipedia)