Sangeetha Rasika Sangam Chennai 92 conducted its 65th Music Programme at Sri Varasiddhi Vinayakar Temple, (Central Chinmaya Mission Trust), Chinmayanagar Stage I on the 1st May, 2005.

The concert was markedly different from others in that it was a discourse captioned 'SAINT THYAGRAJA ON SANGEETHA SHASTHRA'. Selected Thyagaraja krithis dealing with music were sung by Sri M.Subramanian and Sri M.Ganesan with the accompaniment of Smt. Kalyani Raman on the Violin and Sri Gowrishankar on the Mridhangam. In between the Krithis Sri Subramanian (who had conceived the program) talked on their meanings and Thyagaraja's concepts on Sangeetham that the songs revealed. Unlike a 'Harikatha' primary importance was given to singing the krithis.

Sri Subramanian (a retired PMG) is basically a Vainika (having learnt under late Dr.S.Ramanathan, late Sri A.Muthiah and Trivandrum Sri R.Venkataraman) and a musicologist (with articles in Sangit Natak and the Journal of Musicological Society) and is also the developer of "Rasika" - Carnatic Music Software. Sri Ganesan is a veteran concert vocalist also specialising in Bhajana Paddhathi. Srimathi Thillaisthaanam Kalyani Raman runs the organisation 'Sri Sthuthi Sangam' which conducts Thyagaraja and Purandharadhasa days every year. Sri Gowrishankar is a young mridangist already having prizes and awards to his credit.

The concert started with 'Sree Ganapathini' in Sowrashtram a janyam of Melam 17 Suryakantham. There was a high degree of synchronisation of voice between the vocalists. The accompaniments nicely integrated with he music. Sri Subramanian explained how out of 3 krithis on Ganesa, Thyagaraja described him as 'Narthana Ganapathi' in two. The traditional saying 'Geetham, Vadhyam, Nrithyam cha Sangeethamuchyathe' includes Nrithya as part of Sangeetha and so this krithi also comes within the ambit of the program! This was followed by 'Nada Loludai' in Kalyanavasantham, 'Raga Sudharasa' in Aandolika and 'Swara raga sudharasa' in Sankarabharanam. Sri Ganesan's overflowing melody in singing the last piece with rhythm and diction was commendable.

Sri Subramanian cited these krithis as examples of the 'Phala' or fruits of music which gives 'Brahmananda', or eternal bliss, 'yaga, yoga, thyaga, bhoga phala' and can be a route to Swarga and Moksha. Two charanams of 'Swararaga' were sung. The first charanam states that understanding and relishing the 'Nada' rising form the 'Mooladhara' is itself Moksha. The sapthaswara concept is embedded in various layers of the body and if one knows how to look inward and listen to the inner music he can attain salvation. The last charanam of this krithi mentions Thyagaraja's mastery of 'Swararnavam' a musical treatise said to have been given to him by Narada himself in the guise of a sadhu. 'Nadaloludai' also mentions that Hari, Hara, Brahma, Indra, Karthikeya and Ganapathi were Sangitha upasakas.

'Sangeetha Jnyanamu' in Dhanyasi was presented to emphasise that Sangeetha without devotion will not lead to emancipation. The need to conquer the 6 foes desire, anger, miserliness, attachment, ego and delusion is also stressed in this krithi.

Two songs were presented in which Thyagaraja suggests that music is essential for salvation. 'Mokshamu Galatha' (Saramathi) was rendered by the duo so well that it endeared the artists to them with their focussed attention to the music. In this krithi Thyagaraja asks whether a person devoid of 'Sangeetha Jnayna' can attain Moksha. The other song was 'AnandaSagara' (in Garudadhwani - a ragam which has the avarohanam of Bilahari for its Arohanam and vice versa.). Here Thyagaraja says that persons who do not 'float in the Ocean of Music' are only burden to the earth. The latter song also reiterates that Siva, Vishnu and Brahma and other sages nurtured music. Sri Subramanian mentioned that these 2 ragas were perhaps conceived by Thyagaraja himself, as they are not mentioned in treatises of that or earlier period.

As to what really is Sangeetha Jnyana, it was explained by the speaker that looking into other krithis of Thyagraja, jnyana would not mean technical mastery but an inner realisation and unison with music, considering it as a Yoga. He mentioned 'Vararaga laya' in this connection and the word 'swanthamanthu' in that krithi. (This krithi was sung later). The phrase 'prana anala samyogamu' is a reference to the well known concept of Nada being generated by the combination of the 2 of the 5 'elements ', Air and Agni and event the letters 'Na' and 'Da' refer to Air and Anala.

'Nadopasana' in Begada a vakra bhashanga raga was taken up and was joyously received, with Sri Ganesan's mellifluous voice adding to the beauty of the song. This krithi goes to the extent of claiming that Sankara, Narayana and Brahma shine because of 'Nadopasana'! The speaker called attention to Thyagaraja's handling of the madhyamam in this ragam which is so beautiful that in this generation sangathis with this madhyama are added to other krihis also (examples of which were sung by him)..

The charanam of 'Intha soukhya' in kapi was sung by Sri Subramanian giving a pleasing effect on the listners. In this the composer mentions that Sankara knows how to mix the nectar of music with the sugar candy of Rama nama and drink it.

The Hindu tradition identifies Nada with Siva. This was illustrated with the krithi 'Nada Thanumanisam' in Chittharanjani (a nishadantha raga) which is shown under Melam 19 in old books, but now sung in Melam 22. The speaker suggested that perhaps the composer wanted to sing the notes close to the Sama tradition and sung them a bit lower than in melam 22. The speaker also drew attention to the phrase 'Sadasivamayamaku nadonkara swara' in the Andolika krithi sung earlier.

The krithi 'Nada Sudharasam' in Aarabhi was then sung by the duo in perfect harmony and rhythm (including some sangathis which are normally played only on the Veena). Thyagaraja's 'ishta daivam' being Rama, here the composer exclaims that Rama is human incarnation of 'Nada Sudha' which is the basis for Vedas, Puranas, Agamas and Shastras. The 7 notes are the bells in Rama's bow and the Kothandam itself the Raga. The strings on the bow are the three qualities of Dura, Naya and Desiya. Even Rama's talk is like the apt 'Sangathis' for songs.

The next theme was obeisance to great musicians and authors of musical treatises. The speaker pointed out that even in the well-known pancharathna krithi 'Entharo Mahanubhavulu' there are 2 places where the composer pays homage to musicians. The krithi Vidulaku in Mayamalavagowlam is all about homage to musicians and musicologists. The long list starts with the celestials Lakshmi, Parvathi and Saraswathi and ends with Someswara, Sargadeva and Nandi who were musicologists who wrote their works between 800 and 1200 years ago. The speaker wondered why the composer stopped with Sarngadeva (13th century A.D.) though the Melam based system he followed was perhaps initiated by Vidhyaranya. (15th century) and further developed by musicologists like Ramamatya, Somadeva and Venkatamakhi. This krithi aptly bows to all those who know the secret of the ocean of nectar of 'Sangeetha'. The krithi in slow tempo created a profound appeal with the audience.

The speaker pointed out that Thyagaraja had a special place for Narada (as his Guru) and composed many krithis on him. As a sample 'Sri Narada' in Kanada was sung with sweet diction. The speaker drew attention to the words 'Veda janitha vara veena' and the importance given in musical texts to Veena. He also quoted from Yajnyavalkya smrithi which says that one who knows the principles of veena playing and is an expert in sruthi, jathis and knows thaalam will attain Moksha effortlessly.

It was then pointed out that during his own lifetime Thyagaraja's fame was wide spread but perhaps there was also criticism. This is seen in his differing moods in the 3 krithis, 'Swararaga sudha' where he claims mastery of 'Swararnavam', the krithi 'Vararaga laya' (in Chenchukambodhi) where he deplores persons who claim to be experts in music without themselves realising the beauty of 'Nada' emanating from the body while in 'Sogasukhamridanga' he expresses doubt whether he (Thyagaraja) can ever compose and mesmerise Rama with krithis full of navarasas, purity of notes. Bhakthi and truthful words!

'Vararaga Laya' was executed with skill and devotion and 'Sogauskhamridanga' was sung with moving melody by the duo.

The concert concluded with 'Swamiki Sari Evvaranna' in Devagandhari by Manambuchavadi Venkatasubbier, Thyagaraja's cousin and prime disciple. This is perhaps the oldest krithi in praise of Thyagaraja. At the end 3 slokams of 'Guru Mangalashtakam' were sung in Madhyamaavathi.

The vocalists sang in total harmony throughout the concert although they had not learnt from the same Guru. The great importance laid on the krithis and their bhava brought a new experience to the audience. Smt. Kalyani Raman (a descendent of Thillaisthanam Rama Iyengar, one of Thyagaraja's disciples) gave excellent support and showed her skill in the short Begada alapana. Gowrishankar, disiciple of Thanjavur Smt. Padma gave good support throughout the program and showed how to embellish the krithi with percussion.

This program deserves a wider audience. We expect more such programs on other themes from this team.

By R Sivasubramanian
Joint Secretary