Tyagaraajeeyam - a homage to Saint Tyagaraja
- A Boothalingam
e-mail: blingam1940@yahoo.com 

January 12, 2017

Divya Kasturi, a senior disciple of Guru Udupi Laxminarayanan gave a serene presentation in Chennai of some of the popular krithis of Tyagaraja under the able guidance of T.V. Gopalakrishnan - who is known as Ashtaavadaani, noted for his scholarship and popularity as a performing artist- in a dance form devoid of the normal margam presentation and the elaborate sollukattus / jathis uttered emphatically by the nattuvanar who wields the cymbals. The presentation was extremely heart warming.

It was a combined effort by Divya Kasturi and Devi Neithiyar who both belong to the TVG clan of music. Divya commenced the recital with “Giriraja  sutha  thanaya  sadaya..” in raga Bangala meaning “the son of Malaimagal, full of compassion, worshipped by Indra and others; elephant faced god, head of Sivaganas; in the ocean of Vedas shining like the moon, wearing a serpent bracelet, remover of obstacles – son of Shiva, who is worshipped by Tyagaraja.” Divya literally brought Ganesha as envisaged by Tyagaraja before our eyes.

She then took up "Bhaagaayanaiyya” in raga Chandrajothi which expressed that “You, Oh Lord, the maya you indulge in, even Lord Brahma cannot comprehend and after all these, you pretend as if you have done nothing.” For the lines “Alanaadu  kauravula....” which meant Krishna advising Arjuna that annihilating Kauravas  is not a sin and the result of the act will not affect you or even Lord Krishna, the abhinaya was splendid. Then Divya took up one of the most popular Pancharatna krithis “Saadinchane oh manasa...” in Aarabhi, which along with “Endaro mahanubavulu...” in Sree ragam used to be sung by stalwarts of yester years and are equally popular in present day concerts also.  The line “Bodinchina  sanmargava  chana  mula  bongu  jesi  thaabaatina  pattu...” meaning “what you taught as your Upadesas were all belied and you held your ground” was aptly portrayed.

The first line of the charanam meant “You are very skilful in your utterances” – Samayaaniki  thaku  maatalaadene -  and addressing Krishna, the saint says, “You created sorrow for Devaki and Vasudeva” and in the next line he says, “You are the nayaka for the world, it is like a playground where all of us, are to act as per our designated roles.” In this context, one remembers the famous krithi of Papanasam Sivan in Kalyani, “Unnaiallaal  vere  gathi illaiamma..” In the sahityam, “Gopi  jana  manoratha  sangalekane...” where Tyagaraja says, “For all the love exhibited by the Gopis and their coquettish behaviour , you, Krishna were so indifferent and even mocked at them. You made them get infatuated over you and eventually made the Gopis bow before you,” Divya brought these lines to life in her abhinaya. It is noteworthy that this piece was interspersed with jathis, delightfully executed by the artist.

Divya then went on to perform “Nagumomu...” in Abheri, where Tyagaraja says, “I am unable to see your beautiful smiling countenance...” referring to the episode where he did pooja for the lord and subsequently the next morning he did not find the statue in its place.  This krithi was in the sawal-jawab fashion wherein for Devi Neithyar’s alapana, Divya gave the jawab narrating the episode mentioned above.  Tyagaraja addresses the god as one who lifted the Govardanagiri and also refers to Garuda, the Pakshiraja who in obeying his command, travels between the sky and the earth with great speed. Divya in the sanchari delineated Gajendra Moksham. Tyagaraja tells Krishna, “You are so compassionate to Gajendra but why are you hesitating to come to my succour?” The fitting finale to this composition was the abhinaya of Divya for the kalapanaswara of Devi in her lilting bhava laden melodious voice, where the dancer referred to the saint retrieving the Rama idol.  Incidentally, this incident is also referred to by Tyagaraja in his Bilahari krithi “Kanukontini...

Divya rounded off the recital with a beautiful thillana of T.V. Gopalakrishnan in raga Shankara and the audience left with the impression of having attended a top-ranking musical performance, as well as a dance recital, simultaneously.  As TVG mentioned in his concluding remarks, music and dance are complimentary to each other and one cannot shine without the other.

The orchestral support was ably rendered by two teams of artists. Devi Neithiyar, the foster daughter and disciple of TVG along with keyboard by Vigneshwar and mridangam by Ambur Padmanabhan, all disciples of TVG comprised one team. The other team had N. Ramakrishnan on mridangam and violin by Sivaraman. L. Subhashri wielded the cymbals ably. All of them were great assets to the entire recital.

A. Boothalingam is former columnist of ‘The Hindu’, musician, art critic and promoter.