Saint Thyagaraja in Conversation with Rama

It is not unusual for saints to get into a conversation with God. Hindu scriptures, especially Tamil Azhwars, excelled in this. One can find many examples of such conversations in the rich musical compositions of the saint Thyagaraja. In this post, I will briefly discuss one such composition.

Last week, I happened to listen to a great composition sung by the all-time great musician Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer! The title of the song is MARUBALKA KUNNAVEMIRA……..set in the beautiful Raga Sriranjani.

What an experience it was! It is difficult to describe such an experience in a blog like this. If I still chose to write about it, it is only because I felt I should try to make a genuine effort to share the experience with others.

First of all, let me try to capture the mood of the composition as per my  understanding. The saint is demanding to know why the Lord is NOT responding to his pleas. Why is the saint demanding His grace? Obviously because he knows he has done all the right things to deserve His blessings. The saint in fact questions: Have I done anything wrong? Have I sung in praise of the dishonest & the mean people? I have been consistently worshipping you and you alone. I have also realized that you exist everywhere far & near including in my lotus heart.

And finally, in the last line the saint says: O, Rama, in fact, I am overjoyed by the fact that I have discovered THE RIGHT PATH! And yet, you are silent and not blessing me with Your grace!

This aggressive or demanding stance taken by the saint might make one wonder whether there is any place for anger in the context of Bhakti. However, this is perfectly in line with what is stated in NARADA BHAKTI SUTRAS. The Sutra#65 says: Tadarpitakhilaachaarah san kaama-krodha-abhimaana-adikam tasminneva karaneeyam.

Translation: Having  once surrendered all his acts to God, he should feel desire, anger, and pride only with regard to Him.

The musical composition has to be viewed in that perspective.

Now, listen to Semmangudi’s brilliant rendering of the song at this link. Do NOT miss the Part2 of the song at the second link. The kalpana swaras after the NERAVAL are one of the rarest gems of music I ever heard!

The vocal maestro brings out the saint’s agony and ecstasy quite effectively. The agony is expressed in the first line where the saint wants to know the reason for the Lord’s silence. The ecstasy is brought out in the last line where the saint shows  excitement, having discovered THE RIGHT PATH! The brilliant NERAVAL was done  at the most appropriate place where the saint expresses his EUREKA moment, that is, at DAARI NERIGI SANTASILLINATTI THYAGARAJANUTA…, meaning that  ‘I have found THE PATH and am thrilled about it’. The brisk pace in which the entire NERAVAL & KALPANA SWARAS were rendered aptly captures the saint’s excitement at having found THE PATH!

Both Lalgudi Jayaraman on the violin and Trichy Sankaran on the Mridangam gave equally stunning performances and it was indeed a triple treat! And if you add to that the beauty of the composition and its meaning, the delight gets mutiplied several fold.

Published in: on July 6, 2013 at 11:30 pm  Leave a Comment  
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