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TyagarajaTya-gara-ja 1847) was a composer of Carnatic music, who along with his contemporaries Muthuswami Dikshitar and Syama Sastri forms the trinity of Carnatic Music composers. He was a prolific artist and highly influential in the development of the South Indian classical music tradition. Tyagaraja composed hundreds of devotional songs, most of them in praise of the Hindu god Rama. His compositions are very popular even today. Five of his compositions called the 'five gems' (Pancharatna Krithis), are often sung in programs in honour of Tyagaraja.
Musical careerTyagaraja started his musical training under Sonti Venkataramanayya, a noted scholar of music, at an early age. Tyagaraja regarded music as a way to experience the love of God. His objective while performing music was purely devotional rather than to display his mastery over technicalities of music. When he was eight years old, Tyagaraja composed Namo Namo Raghavaya Anisham in raga Desikathodi.
A few years later Sonti Venkataramanayya, invited Tyagaraja to perform at his house in Thanjavur. On that occasion, Tyagaraja sang Endaro Mahaanubhavulu, the fifth of the Pancharatna Krithis. Pleased with Tyagaraja's song, Sonti Venkataramanayya told the king of Thanajavur about the genius of Tyagaraja. The king sent an invitation, accompanied with many rich gifts, inviting Tyagaraja to attend the royal court. Tyagaraja, however was not inclined for a career at the court. He rejected the invitation outright, composing another gem of a kriti, Nidhi Chala Sukhama (does wealth bring happiness?) on this occasion. Angered at his rejection of the royal offer, Tyagaraja's brother threw the statues of Rama Tyagaraja used in his prayers into the nearby river Kaveri. Tyagaraja, unable to bear the separation with his Lord, went on pilgrimages to all the major temples in south India and composed many songs in praise of the deities of those temples.
n addition to nearly 600 songs (kritis), Tyagaraja composed two musical plays (dramas) in Telugu, the Prahalada Bhakti Vijayam and the Nauca Charitam. Prahlada Bhakti Vijayam is in five acts with 45 kritis set in 28 ragas and 138 verses, in different metres in Telugu. Nauca Charitam is a shorter play in one act with 21 kritis set in 13 ragas and 43 verses. It is the most popular of Tyagaraja's operas, and is a creation of the composer's own imagination and has no basis in the Bhagavatam.
Often overlooked is the fact that Tyagaraja's works are some of the best and most beautiful literary expressions in Telugu language.
K.V. Ramachandran, a well-known Indian music critic of the 20th century, wrote: "Tyagaraja is an indefatigable interpreter of the past...but if with one eye he looks backward, with the other he looks forward as well. Like Prajapti he creates his own media and adores his Rama not alone with jewel-words newly fashioned, but also with jewel-music newly created. It is this facet of Tyagaraja that distinguishes him from his illustrious contemporaries." In other words, while Tyagaraja's contemporaries were primarily concerned with bringing audiences the music of the past, Tyagaraja did so while also pioneering new musical concepts.
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