Friday, 1 February 2013

Inspiring life of Saint Tyagaraja

Srikant Srinivasan

 To appreciate the greatness of Saint Thyagaraja, we must understand his characteristics.  It is well known that Saint Thyagaraja is a great devotee of Lord Rama.  He was also an accomplished astrologer and despite cajoling by his elder brother he took the path of devotional singing.  The saint went around the town singing his devotional kritis.   The citizens, who were deeply inspired by the saint’s soulful songs, offered him dakshina of fruits/food which was brought home and Saint Thyagaraja, his wife, and daughter took as prasadam.  
The saint was asked by his guru to attend a congregation of great singers.  Saint Thyagaraja, who renounced fame obeyed his guru’s instructions and came over to the congregation.  The saint sang “Endaro Mahanubavulu…” which moved the audience beyond anything they heard and made them realize that devotional singing is far superior to only skilful rendering of the song.  They asked the saint to stay back and sing in front of the king.  However, citing he has to do puja to the Rama idol, the saint came back home.   He was admonished by his elder brother for wasting such an opportunity. 
The king who heard this sent costly gifts to Saint Thyagaraja’s house and invited him to come to the royal court.   It must be noted that Thyagaraja was utterly poor and he did not have enough means for the next day’s meals.  However, considering that Lord’s presence is far greater a treasure than the king’s gifts, he politely refused to accept and declined the invitation.   At that point of time he sang the timeless kriti “Nidhi Chala Sukhama…”
For a moment, think about what Saint Thyagaraja did.  It is comparable to the Prime Minister giving you gifts and inviting you for a post and you refuse.   This rejection of the king had two effects: his elder brother became antagonistic, and the people who were giving him dakshina stopped giving due to fear of the king’s wrath. 
As noted above, Saint Thyagaraja was a pauper, and he also had a girl of marriageable age.  At this point of time, Lord Rama, Mother Sita and Hanuman disguise themselves as wealthy travellers and visited Saint Thyagaraja’s place telling that they have heard that he sings devotional kritis very well and they came over to enjoy the kritis in person.   Thyagaraja welcomed them inside the house.  Mother Sita and Lord Rama asked Saint Thyagaraja why the house seemed to be empty.  They enquired why he refused the king’s offer especially now that his daughter is of marriageable age-- how would he manage?  In my opinion, the words Saint Thyagaraja said then proved why our Lord loved him so much.   Saint Thyagaraja said with utter calmness and faith “Why should I worry when my Lord Rama is there.   He is my protector and He will provide, and hence my resources are abundant”.   After this the great Saint sang “Seethama mayamma…”.  I had always looked up to Saint Thyagaraja and felt If one has that kind of faith, then, that person has achieved the purpose of life.   In fact, when one of the devotees told Swami “Swami Thyagaraja’s kritis are outstanding”, our Lord quipped, “Who do you think inspired Thyagaraja to sing the songs..I did”.
Dearest Lord, I pray that you must strengthen our faith and we should give you joy through our devotion.  
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