Rama Bhakti Samrajyamu: The Path to Attain Ananda

On the historic day of the Bhoomi Puja of the Ayodhya Ram Mandir, CSP pays tribute to Sri Rama through the exquisite poetry, mellifluous music and indomitable devotion of Sri Thyagaraja Swamy, one of the greatest composers in the Karnatic firmament. Through the Ghana Raga Panca Ratnas of Sri Thyagaraja Swamy, we can gain a vision of Sri Rama.

The first one in Nata, Jagadananda karaka, deals with ananda the ultimate bliss. The steps to attain anada are annamaya, pranamaya, manomaya and vijnanamaya kosas. The second composition Dudukugala in Goula deals with annam, the greed and avarice of human beings and the need to purify the annamaya kosa.  The third in Arabhi, Sadhincene deals with prana of a devotee and how it subjects itself to tests. The fourth in Varali, Kanakana ruchiraa describes how when the manas is pure one can find the beauty of God. The fifth in Sri, Endaro mahanubhavulu depicts the vijnanam attained by the association of many great souls.

Tyagaraja does not deviate from his devotion to Rama in these five compositions; he describes him as janaki prana nayaka in Jagadananda karakaDorakoduku brocura in Duduku gala, anavendrudaina ramachandrudu in Sadhincene, Sri raghupate in kanakana ruchira and Raghuvara nee yeda sad bhaktiyu in the last.

Sketch by artist:  Nagaraj.C.S.Gargya

Nadaopsana

नकारः प्राणमित्याहुः दकारश्च अनलो भवेत्

आहत अनाहतत्त्वेन सद्वेधा गदितोबुधैः

nakāraḥ prāṇamityāhuḥ dakāraśca analō bhavēt

āhata anāhatattvēna sadvēdhā gaditōbudhaiḥ

‘na’  stands for breath and  ‘da’  stands for fire. Naada is thus a culmination of the breath and the fire. It is divided in to two types, aahata, nada which is created by an effort and anahata self manifest.

The soul initiates a process thru the intellect, the intellect touches the fire located at nabhi, the naval, it stimulates the wind and that produces the sound… naada.

The naada thus produced is expressed thru nabhi hrit kantha rasanaadulu..

The naval, the heart, the throat and then the tongue…

This is how naada is produced and expressed..

It is at micro level at the nabhi, a little more manifest at the heart region and full in the throat.

Nada is an ocean and nadopasana is a great yoga and a path of liberation practiced by saint composers like the trinity. Tyagaraja swamy is one such nadopasaka who realized the secrets of spiritualism thru saatvika sangitam.

Pancaratnas

With this back ground if we look at the pancaratnas of Tyagaraja, they reveal many nuances to us. Firstly we should ask why Ghana raga panca ratnams at all. The universe is created out of the 5 elements, the living beings live with 5 pranas, prana, apana, vyana, udana and samana. We are all enveloped in 5 senses, 5 jnanendriyas and 5 karmendriyas. The Upanishads speak of 5 kosas, annamaya, pranamaya, manomaya, vijnanamaya and anandamaya kosas. Though born at Tiruvarur, Tyagaraja spent most of his life at Tiruvayyaru, tiru, sri,  I,  five, and aru is rivers, a place of five rivers, also known as panca nada kshetram. The Siva here is known as Panca nadeeswara, with five faces,Sadyojata, Aghora,  easana, tatpurusha and Vamadeva from where the seven notes emanate. Even talas though numbered seven are classified into 5 categories. That is the secret of 5 number here. Tyagaraja himself attained samadhi on Pushya Bahula Pancami, 5th day in the lunar calendar.

The pancaratnas are in 5 ghana ragas, nata, goula, arabhi, varali and sri. Treatises on music enlist another five ragas also as Ghana ragas, they are; bouli, ritigoula, kedaram, narayana goula and salanga nata. Out of these 10, except in salanga nata Tyagaraja composed in the rest.

The other pancaratnas composed by him like the Kovvur, Tiruvottiyur, Lalgudi, Srirangam etc., are not classified by him as Pancarathanas. It is our classification, whereas the Ghanaraga Pancharatnas are result of a conscious effort by Tyagaraja Swamy. It appears there was a criticism about his scholarship that his lyrical structure was not as strong as his musical prowess. They are many times not competitive. The Ghana raga Pancaratna Kritis were written to counter this criticism. I believe these are classified by Tyagaraja himself as Pancaratnams and there are evidences to show that he was singing these compositions in his uncha vritti. These are the 5 kritis which established him during his times as a maha vaggeyakara adept in both lakshya and lakshana. Internal evidences also indicate that they were written over a period of time and hence the mudras are seen twice or thrice in some. Interestingly all the five are set in aditalam.

The first one in Nata, Jagadananda karaka, deals with ananda the ultimate bliss. The steps to attain anada are annamaya, pranamaya, manomaya and vijnanamaya kosas. The second composition Dudukugala in Goula deals with annam, the greed and avarice of human beings and the need to purify the annamaya kosa.  The third in Arabhi, Sadhincene deals with prana of a devotee and how it subjects itself to tests. The fourth in Varali, Kanakana ruchiraa describes how when the manas is pure one can find the beauty of God.

The fifth in Sri, Endaro mahanubhavulu depicts the vijnanam attained by the association of many great souls. The first one in Nata, Jagadananda karaka, deals with ananda the ultimate bliss. The steps to attain anada are annamaya, pranamaya, manomaya and vijnanamaya kosas. The second composition Dudukugala in Goula deals with annam, the greed and avarice of human beings and the need to purify the annamaya kosa.  The third in Arabhi, Sadhincene deals with prana of a devotee and how it subjects itself to tests. The fourth in Varali, Kanakana ruchiraa describes how when the manas is pure one can find the beauty of God.

The fifth in Sri, Endaro mahanubhavulu depicts the vijnanam attained by the association of many great souls.

Tyagaraja does not deviate from his devotion to Rama in these five compositions; he describes him as janaki prana nayaka in Jagadananda karaka,

Dorakoduku brocura in Duduku gala,

Manavendrudaina ramachandrudu in Sadhincene

Sri raghupate in kanakana ruchira and

Raghuvara nee yeda sad bhaktiyu in the last.

Let us look at Jagadananda karaka in Nata. Nata is an ancient raga much earlier even to the classification of mela karta system. It was gambhira nata at one time with the swara sthanas of Sankarabharanam as an oudava raga. Tyagaraja’s nata is sampoornam in arohanam and oudavam in avarohanam. From the point of view of swara structure Jagadananda karaka is an unparalleled composition. It is a composition written keeping the raga trayodasa lakshanas and tala dasa pranas in mind.

Look at the beauty and foresight in the very first line: It is divided into two equal halves with a fulcrum in between.

Jagadananda karaka depicts His divine personality,  Janaki Prana nayaka, his human character.

Jaya in between these two compounds acts like a fulcrum as if two balance his incarnation in human form. The entire composition revolves round these two aspects of Rama, the Divine and the Human.

The ettugada itself reflects as if to show the ananda at height. Likewise omkara panjara keera, the tara shadjamam shows how elevated and rich is omkara. The depths of ocean are shown in the structure of mandra swaras at  kalaśa nīranidhijā ramaṇa

Look at the compatibility and coherence between dhatu and matu here:

agaṇitaguṇa kanakacēla sāla vidaḷanā aruṇābha samāna caraṇa

apāra mahimādbhuta sukavijana hr̥t sadanā

suramuni gaṇa vihita kalaśa nīra nidhijā ramaṇā

pāpa gaja nr̥siṁha vara tyāgārājādhinuta

Observe the beauty of tara shadjamam at

gaganādhipa satkulaja rājarājēśvara

to show the Sun at a height…

There are any number of beauties and secrets embedded in the very first composition.

I think it was Prof. Sambamurthy who first advocated the concept of 108 names in this composition.  There are hardly about 90 adjectives and therefore I do not subscribe to the 108 concept in this Kriti. In fact there are some bijaksharas and mantras embedded in all these 5 compositions. The easiest to decipher among them of course is Om in Omkara panjara kira…

The first Kriti is classified as a description of the auspicious nature and virtues kalyana gunas of the Lord. With long compounds and alliteration this Kriti reflects Ojo guna.

The concept in these 5 compositions is to create a positive vibration and that is precisely the reason why they are sung in samishti ganam or congregational singing.

Let us move on to the second composition in Goula, Dudukugala nanne dora koduku brocura…

The very first line of the Kriti is a spiritually charged statement. Tyagaraja is asking ‘is there a prince who can rescue a vicious person like me…He does not ask is there a dora, he asks is there a dora koduku…why?

Let us search for the answer after a glimpse at the gist of the Kriti.

I am vicious with many vices, sensuality, in youth I went from bad to worse not realizing you, flattering others for money and material prosperity, thinking that the mundane comforts are the purpose of life, I taught dancers and womanizers, I was glad and gloated, I misplaced my trust in materialism, wife, women, children retinue of servants, never turning to your lotus feet, a vicious man I am who can rescue me..

dr̥ṣṭiki sāraṁbagu lalanā sadanārbhaka sēvāmita dhanādulanu

dēvādidēva neranammiti gākanu nī padābja bhajanaṁbu maracina

dudukugala nanne dorakoduku brocuraa

This is not, as many think, an autobiographical composition. This does not reflect his personality. He takes these vices and follies on him on our behalf and whoever reads or sings this song it applies to them and each one of us.

Now why dora koduku not dora?

Tyagaraja swamy always meditated upon the prince Rama and not the emperor. Rama as prince established dharma, and ramo vigrahavan dharamah says Valmiki, Rama is a personification and embodiment of Dharma. Tyagaraja is attached to him, the dora koduku.

The second Kriti thus reflects repentance of the devotee, known as naichyaanu sandhaanam in philosophical terminology, considered as a step towards realization.

The third Kriti is in Arabhi Sadhincene.  A devotee aspires for liberation and if it is delayed he resorts to blame the God. It looks like that on the surface but there is an under current of stead fast devotion in such blame.  This is known as vyaaja ninda in poetics. This seemingly blaming nature of the lyric is ultimately aimed at praising the God.

Lets us understand the nature of the lyric by throwing a glimpse on its content.

He accomplished what he wanted, Oh mind..

Making a mockery of his own persuasive words

Of righteousness, he made his will prevail

sādhiṁcenē ō manasā

bōdhiṁcina sanmārga vacanamula boṁku jēsi tā paṭṭina paṭṭu

sadhincene

He spoke nice words to fit each occasion

Samayaniki tagu mataladene

He left devaki and vasudeva to their ordeal

The lord of the world as stage, source of the holy Ganges

A traditionalist in music,

raṁgēśuḍu sadgaṁgā janakuḍu saṁgīta saṁpradāyakuḍu

Never did he fulfill the desires of the cowherdesses

The one who is praised by me as Sri Venkatesa, suprakasa, sarvonnata, sajjana manasa niketana, that superior Lord Ramachandra ..

śrī vēṁkaṭēśa suprakāśa sarvōnnata sajjana mānasa nikētana

kanakāṁbaradhara lasanmakuṭa kuṁḍala virājita harē yanucu nē pogaḍaga

tyāgarāja gēyuḍu mānavēṁdru ḍaina rāmacaṁdruḍu

This is the gist of the song.

This state of mind of the devotee is termed as ‘aarta prapatti’ reflecting the indomitable devotion and closeness of the devotee to the lord to the extent that he finds fault with God himself.

In this composition we find a wonderful full flow of arabhi, the ettugada beginning with pancamam and madhyamam, anupallavi ranging between Madhya shadjama to tara madhyama and the carana with an equilateral flow of srotovaha yati enlarging further as it grows from line to line. The swara and sahitya combination at places like Hare Ramachandra and Sri Venkatesa is an astounding experience of bliss to connoisseurs.

The amalgamation of satire and praise in the third composition enabled Tyagaraja to see Sri Rama, an experience he describes in the fourth Kriti in varali, kana kana ruchi ra kanaka vasana ninnu..

Tyagaraja describes here the insatiable desire to see him more and more…

The beauty of God is beyond our capacity to describe. Tyagaraja describes here many of his devotees who were able to receive his compassion..Sita, Dhruva, Jatayu, Hanuman, Siva, Narada, Parasara, Saunaka and other sages are listed in this composition. He enlists witnesses to different componential results of devotion to him, Hanuma for serving his lotus feet, Siva for the pleasure in chanting his name, The gods and saints for the bliss of being able to see him..

kāmiṁci prēmamīra karamula nīdu padakamalamula baṭṭukonu vāḍu sākṣi

rāmanāma rasikuḍu kailāsa sadanuḍu sākṣi

mariyu nārada parāśara śuka śaunaka puraṁdara nagajādharaja

mukhyulu sākṣi gāda sukha kalaśāṁbudhi vāsāśritulakē

kanakana ruchira

The most important component of this Kriti is that it is seldom taught and is often self learnt. This superstition has no rationale whatsoever.

In fact out of the five Kritis only Jagadananda karaka and Endaro mahanubhavulu exist even independently and rarely Sadhincene also, the other two Duduku gala and Kana kana ruchira find place only in group singing on Tyagaraja Aradhana days!

The last composition Endaro mahaanubhaavulu is by far the most superior from many angles, it is a reflection of Nada siddhi of Tyagaraja, that he salutes each and every devotee as if by name… The Sri ragam is very aptly chosen for the respect that he shows to all those who have enriched the spiritual path..the Kriti begins with a shadjamam…

In the anupallavi itself we find a pleasing alliteration and praise of Ramachandra:

caṁduru varṇuni aṁdacaṁdamunu hr̥dayāra

viṁdamuna jūci brahmānaṁda manubhaviṁcu vā

He salutes those great souls who were able to see his beauty.

Then he describes Rama as saamagaana lola and manasija lavanya, one who enjoys celestial music and who is as handsome as manmatha…and those who can control the monkey like mind and are able to see him, he salutes them..

Salutes those who offer their mind at his feet

saraguna pādamulaku svāṁtamanu sarōjamunu samarpaṇamu sēyuvā

From here the flow of the song goes wider, faster and deeper with salutations to those who know him thru their devotion, those who know the secrets of music, swara raga layas, those whose throats are decorated with the singing of the virtues of hari, and who have compassion to others .

hariguṇa maṇimaya saramulu gaḷamuna śōbhillu bhakta kōṭulilalō

telivitō celimitō karuṇa galgi jagamellanu sudhādr̥ṣṭi ce brōcuvā

He then salutes those who can see Rama all the time the sages and saints the celestial beings and gods..

paramabhāgavata maunivara śaśi vibhākara sanaka sanaṁdana

digīśa surakiṁpuruṣa kanakakaśipu suta nārada tuṁburu

pavanasūnu bālacaṁdra dhara śuka sarōjabhava bhūsura varulu

paramapāvanulu ghanulu śāśvatulu kamalabhava sukhamu ...

He goes on to salute the Bhagavatas who know the secrets in scriptures, puranas and the six religious paths and who realize the essence of all these and enjoy music

bhāgavata rāmāyaṇa gītādi śrutiśāstra purāṇapu marmamulan

śivādi ṣaṇmatamula gūḍhamulan  muppadi mukkōṭi

surāṁtaraṁgamula bhāvaṁbula nerigi bhāva rāga layādi saukhyamucē

cirāyuvul galigi niravadhi sukhātmulai tyāgārājāptulainavā

Thus we see compliment in the first Kriti, confession in the second, complaint in the third, composure in the fourth and complete surrender in the fifth.

These five are the greatest creations of Tyagaraja. The swaras in these compositions are sometimes listed as caranams. I feel they should be called as chitta swarams or swara sahityams. The specialty of these compositions lies in the swara sahityam.

I also feel that the arabhi Kriti should be sung with sadhincene as pallavi and refrain instead of samayaniki tagumataladi…

We inherit three great treasures from Tyagaraja:

  1. An empire of devotion to Sri Rama ; Rama Bhakti Samrajyamu
  2. unparalleled rich music Saramaina Sangeetamu and
  3. great nectar of  lyrical beauty sudha maadhurya bhashana sukavitvamu

All these three treasures are found in abundance in these five Kritis.

These five when sung in goshti ganam or congregational singing, create a highly positive vibration charged with spiritualism.  They should not be sung as a ritual exercise, they should be sung as a spiritual exercise to achieve the bliss embedded in them.