Saints of India 3 – Saint Tyagaraja

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The subcontinent of India is known and treasured for many beautiful things. Among the many things is Indian classical music. With different scales and tunes for mood, weather and much more, it is one of the most diverse genres of music known. Indian classical music generally consists of Carnatic music and Hindustani music, where Carnatic originates from the south and Hindustani from the north of India. One of the most well-known composers of Carnatic classical music is Thyagaraja.

Along with Shyama Shastri and Muthuswami Dikshitar, Tyagaraja is considered a part of the holy trinity of Carnatic music. He composed innumerable devotional krithis, many of which are still sung and taught today. He mainly composed about Lord Rama and many of them were written in Telugu. From his many compositions, 5 stand out as the Pancharathna Krithis, which are his most prized compositions.

Early Life

Tyagaraja was on the 4th of May of 1767, in the present-day Tiruvarur to Telugu brahmin family. Tyagaraja was the third son and youngest siblings and had 2 older brothers. Tyagaraja learnt the veena early in life from his maternal grandfather, who was a noted veena musician. Tyagaraja properly began his musical training under Sonti Venkata Ramanayya though, who was a music scholar. Tyagaraja was considered a child prodigy and regarded music to be the ideal way to experience the love of God. He learnt impressively quick and spared no time to start composing devotional songs. He mainly focused on expression and feeling, and not on technical expertise in his compositions. All his compositions were deeply philosophical and devotional. Mainly being devoted to Lord Rama, he mainly wrote about the Lord, but he has also composed krithis in many other Deities of Hindu religion.

Being the genius, he was at such a young age; it didn’t take much time before the king of Thanjavur noticed Thyagaraja genius. the king sent a beautiful garland and many other rich gifts inviting Thyagaraja to join his Royal Court Raja however was never inclined to a career at a king’s court and rejected the invitation. After the grandfather passed away, Tyagaraja started hero-worshipping the sage Narada. Legend has it that a hermit taught him how to invoke saint Narada himself. After reciting the mantra, Tyagaraja is said to have been approached by sage Narada, who gave Tyagaraja the Svaranavam.

Thyagaraja mostly spent his in Tiruvaiyuru, but he did undertake many pilgrimages to Thirumalai and Kancheepuram. Tyagaraja was completely immersed in his devotion for Lord Rama and spent almost all his life writing songs about the Lord. Thyagaraja did not systematically register his music. moreover, he used to sit in front of a deity of Lord Rama and his students used to note down what he sang so there is no definitive version of Thyagaraja himself of many of his songs. It is said today that there are about 700 songs remaining of the 24,000 songs that have been said to have been composed by him. many compositions were lost in natural and man-made calamities. Along with this many compositions, Thyagaraja also composed two musical plays in Telugu the Prahlada bhakti vijayam, and the Nauka Charithram.   

Pancharathna Krithis

From his supposed collection of 24000 krithis, 5 main ones stand out as the Pancharathna Krithis. This collection of songs is the five gems of Carnatic music, dedicated to Lord Rama. Although there is no official Thyagaraja edition of these 5 gems, the versions that have been handed down haven’t changed much, imposing that they are close to the original which Thyagaraja composed. All of the 5 krithis are set to Adhi talam, the most common beat in Carnatic music.

The first Pancharatna is Jagadaanandakaaraka, in the raga Nata . It is composed in poetic Sanskrit. It praises Lord Rama as the source of joy in the universe. Originally there were only six Charanams for the song and when the disciples examined the song it contained ninety names of Lord Rama in mellifluous Sanskrit. The disciples requested Tyagaraja to slightly expand the song by adding two Charanams containing eighteen more names of Lord Rama. The saint acceded to the request of the disciples and that is the reason why the song Jagadaanandakaaraka contains three mudras containing the name of Tyagaraja while the other four songs contain only one mudra each.

The next is Duduku gala in the raga Gowla set to Aadi Taalam. It is composed in Telugu. In this song, Tyagaraja takes the blame upon himself for all the misdeeds of men and ruminates on who would come and save him from this deplorable situation.

The third is Saadhinchene in the raga Aarabhi, set to Aadi Taalam. It is composed in Telugu. In this song, Tyagaraja lovingly criticizes Lord Krishna for his cleverness in getting what he wants to be done. Saadhinchene is a breathtaking lullaby.

The fourth song, Kana Kana Ruchiraa is in the raga Varaali set to Aadi Taalam. It is composed in Telugu. In this song, Tyagaraja describes the infinite beauty of Lord Rama.

The fifth Pancharatna is Endaro Mahaanubhaavulu in Sri Raaga. It is composed in Telugu. It is said that a great musician from Kerala, Shatkala Govinda Maaraar, visited Tygaraja and performed before him. Tyagaraja was enchanted with his performance and then was born Endaro Mahanubhavulu, the composition of unparalleled rhythmic beauty in Carnatic music.

Other notable compositions by Tyagaraja include Saamajavaragamana in Hindolam raagam, Aadamodigaladhe in Chaarukesi raagam, Raaju vedale in Hanumatodi raagam, Ninne nammi naanura in Todi raagam, Kamalapthakula in Brindavana saranga raagam, Ksheera saagara shayana in Devagaandhaari raagam, Maarubalka kunna vemira ma manoramana in Sriranjani raagam, Sobhillu Saptaswara in Jaganmohini raagam and Nagumomu kanaleni in Aabheri raagam.


Tyagaraja lived a long and austere life, like a saint, and passed away on January 6, 1847. Tyagaraja´s legacy is bright lived to this day, with his compositions counting as part of the essence of Carnatic music. His songs were full of devotion to Lord Rama. He wrote and composed many songs about miracles that happened in his life and deep philosophical questions. The Thyagaraja Aradhana is the world’s largest gathering of musicians and music practitioners of one genre at any point in time. In no other genre is a composer deified and worshipped as a saint-like Tyagaraja is in Carnatic music. For as long as Carnatic music is sung, Tyagaraja and his Rama Bhakti will be immortalized. 


Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article belong to the author. is neither responsible nor liable for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in the article.



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