The rays of the early morning sun reflected in the gushing waters of Kaveri in Thiruvaiyaru, a historic town in Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu. The lush greenery on either side of the river, was inviting and I took a deep breath of the cool, fresh air. I arrived in the town, just in time, for the final day of the week-long Tyagaraja Aradhana. The annual festival is held in the honour of legendary musician-saint Tyagaraja, who once lived in Thanjavur. Right by the memorial of Tyagaraja, on the river bank, the stage was set for Carnatic musicians from across the world to perform and pay their respects to the 19th-century composer.
Locals and visitors sat on the ground, waiting for hours, before the artistes were even scheduled to arrive, just to make sure they had a place to sit and enjoy the show. As the sun rose higher into the sky, I could see why. Hundreds of people thronged the venue to listen to the artistes perform. Artistes themselves, irrespective of their popularity, patiently navigated the sea of selfie-obsessed fans, as they awaited their turn on the stage. Thus began the musical homage to Tyagaraja.
When it comes to paying homage to a musician, none has been celebrated in such a consistent and reverent fashion for more than a century and a half since their passing. The genre of Carnatic music wouldn’t have been the same without the rich legacy of Tyagaraja’s compositions. Different musicians have different takes on the musician-saint, and yet there’s one point to which they all concur–his bhakti (devotion) for Lord Rama.
Be it the musicians who perform or the audience that enjoys the performance, every individual–irrespective of their status in life–feels humbled during the Aradhana, as Tyagaraja’s compositions charge the atmosphere with a kind of spiritual energy.