Wednesday, December 26, 2007


This commentary, in modified form, was given on All India Radio during the Aradhana by the author
Continued from Part I
Nava Vida Bhakthi
The well-known classification of Bhakthi in major forms occurs in the Bhagavatha. There is a sloka in Bhagavatha
Sravanam keerthanam vishnoho Smaranam PaadasevanamArchanam vandanam Dasyam Sakyam Atma Nivedanam
Thyagaraja, in his long and rich enjoyment of Rama Bhakthi exemplified all these forms. Sravana - the listening to the glory of the Lord comes first. In the song Ramakatha Sudha Rasa Paanamu, he explains the drinking of the rasa of Rama’s story would confer upon one a veritable kingdom. It would give one dharma and all other fruits; it would give one firmness of mind, spiritual bliss, material happiness and destroy all the shackles of Karma and the many ills of Kali. In another song, Sudha madhurya bhashana, Thyagaraja says that his long hunger had been appeased by the story of Rama, to listen to which he had avoided the wicked and resorted to the devotees of the Lord.
The entire life and output of Thyagaraja exemplifies the second form Keerthana. In Yelaavathara (Mukari Raaga) he goes to the extent of saying that the Lord Himself incarnated to draw out Thyagaraja’s Keerthana. In another kriti, Intha saukhyamani (Kaapi Raaga) and Inta Kannananda (Bilahari), he says that there can be no joy greater than that of singing of the Lord and dancing with the praise of the Lord on one’s lips.
The third is Smarana, the constant memory of the Lord and [meditating] upon him Naama Japa was futile if not lighted up all through by the glow of the thought of Rama. In his Nagaswaravali piece, Sri pathe nee pada, he specially mentions chintana and smarana as his very life. He expresses the same in another song Rama Kothanda Rama (Bhairavi). We can give examples like this for this form in many number of songs of His Smarane Sukamu (Janaranjani), Marache vaadanaa (Ketharam).
The fourth Paada Sevanam or the worship of the Lord’s feet in particular is a devotional mode exemplified by Bharatha and the adoration of Rama’s Paduka. Rama’s feet had two great exploits to their credit: the re-creation of Agalya from her accursed stone state and through their sandals ruling over the kingdom of Ayodya. Thyagaraja has two songs to adore both these exploits of Rama’s feet. Both are cast in Ragas of appropriate names, Amrita vahini (Sri Rama Padama), the feet that bring immortality and ambrosial bliss and Ramapriya (Sandeha munu Dirpumayya), Rama’s beloved sandals.
The fifth form of devotional propitiation of the Lord is to do his worship daily and incessantly - Archanam. This form is exemplified by two important factors of Thyagaraja’s life and work – one is Thyagaraja’s daily Pooja of the Rama idol and the other the collection of the songs called Utsava Sampradaya Kirthanas composed for the several items of the celebration of a Rama festival including the songs that he sang for the several stages of his own Pooja and its sixteen kinds of Upacharas offered to the Lord. Some of the songs to be mentioned are Hechcharikaga raara hey ramachandra (Yadukula Kambodi), Raara seethamani manohara (Hindola vasantham), Sethulaara sringara (Bhairavi/Karaharapriya), Thulasi Bilva (Kethara Gowla), Aaragimpa (Thodi), Vidamu Seyave (Karaharapriya), Upachaara mulanu (Bhairavi) etc.
The sixth form Vandana or paying obeisance to the lord is illustrated by the kriti Vandanamu (Sahana) and Dandamu Pettedanu ra (Balahamsa).
Lakshmana, in whose form also the Lord incarnated exemplified the ideal of service as a servant, Kainkarya or Dasya, Thyagaraja while describing Rama mentions Lakshmana also often as attending upon him as the most accomplished servant of Rama who knows Rama’s inner intention and who at the mere glance of Rama would carry out his idea. This is specially referred to in the Kriti Lekana (Asaaveri). Similarly Hanuman’s service to Rama also portrayed in the kritis Pahirama (Vasantha Varaali) and Kalu gunaa pada neeraja (Poorna Lalitha). Thyagaraja also yearns to join this company of Rama’s servants in the kritis Thavada soham and Upachaaramu.
Sakya, the eighth form, besides references in many songs to friends of Rama like Sugreeva and Vibhishana and the devotion, there is a mention in Chelimini Jalajaksha, Sami ki sari and O Rama O Rama as Thyagaraja’s friend, Thyagaraja sakhudu and Thyagarajunimitra.
Now come to the important form called Atma Nivedanaa or surrender of one’s self to the Lord as the Lord’s own. Rama is the incarnation par excellence the supreme [exemplar] of protection of those that surrender unto the Lord. Thyagaraja does not fail to make express mentions of this special feature; In the kriti, sarame gaani (pantuvaraali), he describes Rama as the Lord who has the special title of the protector of those who take refuge under him. When the devotee surrenders, he is to surrender everything he possesses. Thyagaraja explained this in the kriti Kaalaharana (Suddha Saaveri). Similarly Thyagaraja says in his Rama Paahi Mega Shyama (Kaapi) that he had surrendered himself and all his good deeds to the Lord. In Nannu Vidachi (Reeti Gowla) and Enaati Nomu Phalamo (Bhairavi), he declares that he and his body are the Lord’s property. When the devotee declares himself as the complete saranagatha, he used to have no more anxiety for anything; all his burdens have been laid on the Lord and it is for the Lord to come and help and save the [refugee]. Thyagaraja asks Rama in the Kriti Maakelara Vichaaramu (Ravichandrika) "Why should I feel any concern? The anxiety is His." Similar sentiments are revealed in another kriti Nee chittamu Naa Bhagyamayya (Vijaya Vasantham).
Rama’s beauty
There are hundreds of epithets and [vocatives laden] with Rama’s gunaas with which Thyagaraja describes and addresses Rama in his songs; in all these, the personal qualities of Rama are extolled. Foremost among the qualities comes Rupa, the personal charm of Rama’s appearance. When Thyagaraja tells Rama "You are my Ishta Deiva", it is the surpassing beauty of this Shyaama Sundara that made him prefer this form. This is described in his song Shyaama Sundaranga (Danyasi). In another song Intanuchu Varnimpa Tharama (Gundakriya), he says even Brahma, Indra and other gods cannot describe the beauty of your benign look, your charming face, surpassing the moon in splendour. In the kriti, Muddu momu (Suryakantam), he speaks of his captivating beauty which bewitches the sages of the forest when he appears before them. In Endu Kaugilintura (Suddha Desi), he admires that "Every portion of Your body, Oh Rama, is captivating. Which portion shall I embrace? Your speech alone is speech and Your brilliance alone is brilliance." We can add number of kritis which [describe] the beauty of Rama like Lavanya Rama (Rudrapriya), Alakalalla Ladagagani (Madhyamavathi), Sogusu chooda Tharama (Kanada Gowla), Mohana Rama (Mohanam), etc.
Ishta Devatha
Lord Rama is Thyagaraja’s Ishta Devatha. This we found in the song Rama Eva Deivatham (Balahamsa). He says that Rama alone is my god. He is the only destroyer of the mental distress of devotees. In the kriti, Rama nee samaana (Karaharapriya), Thyagaraja says "You are the beloved parrot in the cage of Sita’s Bhakti. You are yourself gentle in speech and have brothers whose words drop with honey. Who is there equal to you?" The above ideas are also expressed in Kaaru Vel pulu (Kalyani), Itara deivamula (Chhaya Tarangini), Madilona Yochana (Kolahalam).

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