Saturday, January 8, 2011

Festival! The Thyagaraja Aradhana Carnatic festival - January 24 2011

The Thyagaraja Aradhana 2011 (Thiruvaiyaru Thyagaraja Aradhanai) date is January 24 (The 164th festival).  Carnatic music festival at Thiruvaiyaru (near Thanjavur) in Tamil Nadu.
Many exponents of Carnatic music come to perform and are watched by thousands of ardent fans of Indian classical music. It is associated with the world famous singer and saint Thyagaraja. It is celebrated worldwide but Thiruvaiyaru Thyagaraja Aradhana is the most famous celebration.

Thyagaraja is the greatest saint composer of Carnatic music, a South Indian composer and musician, who lived during the 1800s. He has an almost saint-like status amongst Carnatic musicians, not just for his incredibly melodious and innovative compositions (which number over 600 – not including two operas, composed of hundreds more songs) but for the sincere and heartfelt devotion that pervades every aspect of his music. He was a completely dedicated devotee of Lord Rama, and his music was always intended as an offering to him, and never a way of displaying musical ability.

Thyagaraja Aradhana Thiruvaiyaru Jagadaananda Karaka - January 2006

The festival is observed on the fifth day every year during the Krishna paksha or Pushya Bahula Panchami day (or the fifth day after full moon) in Paush masam when the saint attained samadhi under the auspices of Sri Thyagabrahma Mahotsava Sabha at the saint’s samadhi at Thiruvaiyaru. He is believed Thyagaraja to have reached the abode of Lord Rama in the year 1847. A few days before his death, he had renounced everything and had become a sanyasi.

When he passed on, his mortal remains were buried on the banks of the river Kaveri and a small memorial was built at the spot. His disciples returned to their respective villages and observed his death anniversary at their own homes. The memorial was soon forgotten and it was not until around 1903 that Tyagaraja's last surviving disciples, Umayalpuram Krishna Bhagavatar and Sundara Bhagavatar returned to Tiruvayyaru, identified the place and had it renovated.
From the next year, efforts were made by musical stalwarts to observe the anniversary at Tiruvayyaru itself. In 1905 they conducted the ceremony in style complete with feeding of the poor and worship at the memorial as per Vedic tenets.

Thyagaraja Aradhana (Part 2) - January 5 2010

By next year, the Tillaisthanam brothers (who were the motivating force) fell out of favour with each other and each began conducting a parallel Aradhana. Musicians aligned themselves with one or the other brother and soon two rival factions came into being. Narasimha Bhagavatar, being the elder, his group came to be called the Periya Katchi and Panju Bhagavatar's was called the Chinna Katchi. With the passing of the Tillaisthanam brothers, the Periya Katchi came under the control of the ace violinist Malaikottai Govindasami Pillai, while the Chinna Katchi had as its moving spirit, Soolamangalam Vaidyanatha Bhagavatar, noted Harikatha exponent. The Chinna Katchi's celebrations began five days before the Aradhana and concluded on the Aradhana day. The Periya Katchi's began on Aradhana day and continued for four days after that. Both groups organised music performances and feeding of the poor and so the public was the real beneficiary during the nine days. On one count, both groups were united. They did not allow women to perform during the Aradhana. They also did not permit nadaswaram performances.

In 1921, Bangalore Nagarathnammal (1878-1952), a rich temple dancer, who was then residing in Madras, decided to dedicate her life's earnings to perpetuating Tyagaraja's memory. Seeing the rampant factionalism and discrimination against women, she decided to take action. Bangalore Nagarathnamma could trace her musical lineage back to Saint Thyagaraja through her guru Bangalore (Fiddle) Munuswamy Appa, who was a student of Walajapet Krishnaswamy Bhagavatar - a direct disciple of the Saint composer. His father Walajapet Venkataramana Bhagavatar had also learnt music from Thyagaraja earlier.
Bangalore Nagarathnamma, the daughter of a very successful lawyer, had a comfortable childhood. Her musical training began under Giribhattara Thammaya who was a poet at the Mysore court. She also learnt Sanskrit from him. She was taught the violin by her uncle Venkataswamy Appa who was a famed musician at the Mysore court. The well known musician and composer, Bidaram Krishnappa took a special interest in Nagarathnamma and was to a great extent responsible for her becoming a renowned vidushi. Her pleasant voice and strong musical background created a great demand for her concerts. She usually rendered Thyagaraja kritis. Nagarathnamma was especially fond of the raga -Yadukulakambodi and she rendered this raga in almost all her concerts. Those fortunate to have listened to her rendition of Thyagaraja's "Sri Rama Jayarama" in Yadukulakambodi claim it was an unforgettable experience.
Nagarathnamma was a versatile artiste having learnt Bharatanatyam under Bangalore Kittanna and Abhinaya from Tiruvenkatachari. Her talent in singing, dancing coupled with her attractiveness drew support from the Mysore Palace. She was bestowed with honors and accolades. Being a multi-linguist, Nagarathnamma published works and gave discourses in Telugu, Tamil, Sanskrit in addition to Kannada, which was her mother tongue. (Source: by Ashok Madhav).

In 1925, she bought the land on which the memorial stood and soon began the construction of a temple over the memorial. She also had an idol of Tyagaraja sculpted and installed in front of the memorial. The consecration of the temple took place in early 1926. But the two rival groups while not interfering with all this, refused to let her perform her Harikatha in front of the deity she herself had installed. They cited several instances from Tyagaraja's songs where he had complained about women in general. Undeterred, Nagarathnammal began a third front which conducted its own music programs at the rear of the shrine.

Vocal: Sudha Raghunathan - Thiruvaiyaru Aradhana - January 1994
Violin: Melakaveri Thyagarajan - Mridangam: Thirvayoor Vaidyanathan

This featured many women artistes and soon began eating into the popularity of the events hosted by the two Katchis. The doughty lady also filed suits in the local courts demanding the prevention of the Katchis from entering the temple as it belonged to her by right. She lost the case, but the hours of worship were laid down by the courts, dividing the Aradhana day equally between the two Katchis and her own group. Matters continued this way till 1940, when SY Krishnaswami, ICS convinced the groups to unite and it was in 1941 that the Aradhana as we know of it was first conducted. Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavatar selected the five pancharatnas as being best suited for group rendering so that a common homage by all musicians became possible. This idea was adopted and the choral rendition of the five songs was made an integral feature of the Aradhana. Bangalore Nagarath-nammal spent the rest of her days in Tiruvayyaru and bequeathed all her wealth to the Tyagaraja memorial, with the stipulation that women be allowed to pay their homage without any hindrance. When she died in 1952, she was buried close to Tyagaraja's memorial and a statue was erected on the spot. The statue directly gazes on Tyagaraja's memorial.

To this day, thousands of musicians throng the sanctum sanctorum of Thyagaraja at Tiruvaiyaru on the banks of the river Kaveri to offer their musical tributes to the great composer; organizing huge concerts in which hundreds sing and play his compositions together, as one giant orchestra.
A huge complex is now under construction at Thiruvaiyaru at this site to accommodate the large audience that come to the concert in ever-increasing numbers every year. 

For more information regarding the Aradhana you can contact:
The Secretary, 
Sri Thyagabrahma Mahotsava Sabha, 31
Thirumanjana Veedhi, Thiruvaiyaru 613204 - India

161st Satguru Sri Thyagaraja Aradhana festival - January 2008

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