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Appreciating Indian Classical Music & Dance
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 02, 2007 9:35 pm 
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My review of Harikatha by TNSeshagopalan on 11-2-2007 on Thyagaraja

TNS always starts with the sloka 'jnananandhamayam devam,' which is the first sloka of the Hayagriva sthothram of VedantaDesika. In a later sloka Desika says 'jihvAgrasimhAsanam abhyupEyah,' entreating the Lord Hayaghriva to come and occupy the throne of his tongue so that the words will flow with flourish. This is exacltly what happened on the day of Harikatha by TNS and it seemed as though from the moment he uttered the sloka 'jnannanandhamayam devam' the Lord Hayagriva has made His presence through his words. Such was the eloquence which could not be explained otherwise as TNS himself remarked that the Lord puts the words in his mouth as he prepares only the material for his discourse and not the exact text of it, which is spontaneous.This is why his harikathas are not only entertaining and musical but also educative and inspiring.

TNS extolling the greatness of namsankirthanam ,which is the most effective in kaliyuga quoted the sloka 'rAma rAmthi rAmEthi ramE rAmE manorame; sahsranAma thathulyam rAmanAma varAnane, which is the reply of Lord Siva to Parvathi who asked him the easiest means of chanting the thousand names of Hari. He was pleased with the question which gave him an opportunity to tell the world about the efficacy of Ramanama and hence he praised her as varAnanE,meaning one with beautiful face.

TNS said that the eyes are the main features which give beauty to the face, and the eyes of the Divine Mother were full of mercy for her children, which made her ask the question.The reply was, Ramanama is equal to the thousand names. Thyagaraja calls Siva as Ramanamarasika and hence he was happy to talk about the subject nearest to his heart.TNS further elaborated the merciful glance of the Divine Mother by mentioning the remark of Parasarabhata to Lord Ranganatha who used to appear in a festival dressed as Ranaganayaki thAyAr. Parasar bhatta who actually conversed with the Lord told him that He looked the spit image of the Mother except for one thing. The mercy always seen in the eyes of the Divine Mother was missing!

Kirthanam is the first and foremost means of bhakthi among the nine kinds of bhakthi mentioned in Srimadbhagavatham, said TNS, in Kaliyuga, because it is difficult to achieve integration of the mind necessary for the others like smaraNam, SrvaNam etc. He also quoted from kandharanubhoothi of AruNagirinAthar the words 'summA iru sol ara enralumE ammAporuLonrum arindhilanE,' and said that it is very difficult to do so. He gave a quaint explnation to .the words 'ammA poruL ' as 'that great truth' by splitting the words am+mA+poruL.

The namasankirthanam is twice blessed because it blesses the one who sings and the one who listens. Here TNS made a remark, (which applies to his music perfectly, thought this rasika) that the singer who sees the divinity through his music should show it to the listeners then and there.( of course the listener should have his sails open to catch the wind!) All the saint-devotees who sang about the Lord in all languages from all regions have shown the exemplary merit of namasankirthana, said TNS, and sang the dhoha of Kabir who says 'kahatha kabeera hariguNa gAna gAvatha nAchatha vaikuntajana , by singing and dancing about Hari one can easily go to Vaikunta or rather bring Vaikunta here itself. TNS added that even to do the namsankirthana one requires gurukrpa. Even Rama himself showed that one can achieve anything through the grace of guru by obeying the command of Visvamithra and serving Him.TNS said that the Ramavathara was for bhakthaparipalana and not for Ravanasamhara alone. Rama did that right from the time he started for the forest, by showering His grace on Guha, Sabari and the rshis of Danadaka forest and did even anthima samskara for a bird Jatayu etc. For this he needed the union with the Divine Mother and it started only after his marrying Sita. TNS quoted Kamban , 'karumkadal paLLiyin kalaviyin neengippoi---pirindhavar koodinAk pEsalum vendumo,'(this he had explained beautifully in his kamabaramayanaharikatha of which I have given a review earlier) Thyagaraja who has sung the whole Ramayana in a nutshell in many krthis, one of them being 'Sriraghukula' in Hamsadvani, has clearly shown in that krthi that Ramavathara was only for protection of the devotees (parithrANAya sadhoonAm) by the words 'parambhakthulanu palanamu sEyu.'

To say something is easier than doing as one says and Rama first set an example to what he was going to say in Krishnavathara in the Bhagavatgita. AnjanEya was the witness to this fact, according to Thyagaraja ,said TNS, and that is why he is placed at the top of the chariot in the flag when bhagavat gita was spoken and Thyagaraja also placed him at the top in the jeevaasvara nishadha, in his krthi 'geethArThamu' in suruti. by saying 'vAthAthmajunikibhaga thelusukora.'


Next came the delightful singing by TNS of the krthi 'ElaneedhayarAdhu, which of course he sang only in parts, as it should be, in a harikatha.But as TVSankaranarayanan remarked later in his speech praising TNS, even a short flash of his music gave rasikas the satisfaction of hearing a complete concert because it was a concert in a capsule, meted out by TNS in these musical interludes.

The krthi was composed by Thyagaraja when Rama appeared before him and the way he describes Rama in the krthi by 'bAlakanakamayachEla' etc. and the way he fondly called Rama by 'rAra devadideva' etc. creates a doubt ,said TNS, in the minds of all whether even Kousalya would have fondled Rama so.

TNS then remarked that Thyagaraja raises a plaintive cry by saying 'ElaneedhayarAdhu,' even after Rama gave His darsan . Why ? TNS himself supplied the answer that It is because he was a sathguru and a sathguru is the one who shows the God he has seen, to the others also,

Thyagaraja is to be considered as Rama himself, descended on earth to show the eminence of bhakthi, said TNS, and so was Muthuswami Dikshitar, the incarnation of Lord Subramanya and Shyama Sasthri was Godess Kamakshi herself, which was why he was referred to as Kamakshi by people in his days.Thyagaraja himself has hinted this in his mukhari raga krthi, 'sangitha sasthrajnanamu sAroopya soukya dhame manasa,' which means that the ardent devotee becomes the object of his worship.TNS also quoted an incident to show this from the life of the kavi Kalidasa. There was a contest to prove who, of the two, Dandin or Kalidasa, was greater poet and they asked the goddess Sarasvati herself to give judgement and she said 'kavirdandee kavirdandee kavirdandee na samSayah,' meaning dandee is 'the' poet, without doubt whereupon Kaldas asked her with anger and resentmentn'Then who am I?" Then the goddess replied, "thvamEvAham you are none other than myself."

TNS then mentioned briefly the throwing of the Rama idol into Kaveri by the brother of Thyagaraja who was enraged at his refusal of the offer to go to the court of the king. He said it was the leela of the Lord, who was comfortably resting on the riverbed, to get more kirtanas from Thyagaraja. TNS said that Thyagaraja did some introspection in asking himself in the krthi 'Nidhisala,' when he asked his mind,' nijamugapalgu manasa.' Not only that, but he was really pained at the very idea that they approached him thinking that he may accept the proposal and showed his mental agonty in the krthi .'padhavi ni sadbhathiyu,' in salagabhairavi where he says that no post is superior to that of being a devotee. TNS referred to the krthi 'Nadhaloludai' whereThyagaraja describes the joy of sankirthana of the Lord to be equal to brahmanandha.

Thyagaraja gave the essence os Svararnavam, the work on sangithasasthra given to him by Narada, to the whole world in the form of easy music, like the honey that mixes with the fruits to make them easily edible, said TNS, and there are compositions for .the beginners as well as for the skilled singers. There are immense varieties of raga variations in the krthis of Thyagarja, TNS pointed out, for instance, each of his thodi raga krthi begin in a different svaram.

Next TNS took some krthis and explained them. In 'kaddhanuvariki,' in thodi Thyagaraja gives the lakshana of devoted musician, as 'niddhura nirakarinchi,' giving up sleep, 'muddhuga thamburapetti,' wielding the thambur gracefully,'shuddhamaina mansuche' with pure mind ,which is the most important, said TNS, and 'susvaramutho,' correctness of svaras.Here TNS quipped that nowadays it is only thamburapetti, thambura box (electronic) instead of the real one!

Similarly Thyagaraja gives the requisites of good music also in the krthi 'sogasuga' as 'mrdhanga thalamu jathakoorchi,' etc. In fact the whole krthi is about how to sing. The music without bhakthi has been denounced by Thyagaraja in many krthis, said TNS, like dhunmaragachara and so on.

Lastly TNS mentioned the greatness of Ramanama as made out by Thyagaraja by referring to the krthi 'evarani,' The letter that gives the meaning to siva mantra"om Namasivaya' is the letter .'ma ' as without it the manthra becomes na sivaya, 'not for siva.' Similarly the letter 'ra' in the Narayanamantra,' namo narayanaya' when taken out, the word becomes 'na ayanayaa' which means 'to one who has no abode .' So the two letters which are the soul of the two mantras are joined to make the name Rama, says Thyagaraja and this shows that Rama is the combination of Sankara and Narayana , said TNS jocularly referring to TVSankaranarayanan, who was sitting in front. This propelled TVS from his seat and he got up and gave a very fine encomium to TNS to prove that 'vidvAn Eva vijAnAthi vidvajjana parisramam,' only one vidvan knows the worth of another. He extolled the work behind the performance and said 'uzaippukku marupeyar Seshagopalan and guru bhakthikku oru udharanam.'. He showed concern that TNS delivers his discourse standing for three hours continously not even stopping for his cup of tea! TVS also said that TNS is a perfectinist and a complete musician and remarked about his comments during the lecture demonstrations of the Music academy seesion for which he was the president, being awarded sangithakalnidhi and said that his preparation for the topics was even more elaborate than the lecture demonstrations themselves.He also said that TNS is known to work until the small hours ( niddhura nirakarinchi!) for his preparations, especially now that he is going to do Valmiki Ramayana next month in Hamsadvani.For every one of his remarks rasikas applauded vehemently to show their approval.

What I have written is only the tip of the iceberg because as TNS himself remarked he can talk about the music and devotion of Thyagaraja for five days whcih he had done earlier, and to talk about TNS, as TVS remarked, one can go on an on without satisfaction. To Quote Thyagaraja--'evari valla varNimpa dhagunE!.'


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