Carnatic Music Trinity

The contemporaries Tyagaraja (1759 - 1847), Muthuswami Dikshitar, (1776 - 1827) and Syama Sastri, (1762 - 1827) are regarded as the Trinity of Carnatic music (or Mummoorthigal) due to the quality of Syama Sastri's compositions, the varieties of compositions of Muthuswami Dikshitar and Tyagaraja's prolific output in composing kritis.

<B>Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar</B>

I have learnt a few Dikshitar Krithis ... but never delved the person behind those beautiful compositions. So I guess today is the day ...

There is this story about him that as per his guru's orders, Dikshitar went to Tiruttani (a temple town near Chennai). There, while he was immersed deep in meditation, an old man appeared and asked him to open his mouth. He dropped sugar candy into his mouth and disappeared. As he opened his mouth, he had a vision of the deity Muruga and Dikshitar burst forth into his first composition "Shri Nathadi Guruguho" in the raga Mayamalavagowla.

I know the above composition and I can tell you that it such a beautiful composition that it sound so simple while you hear it and is so difficult while actually singing it. It is also symbolic that his first composition was in Raga Mayamalavagowla which is also the raga in which all the first lessons (swara exercises - Sarali, Jantai, Daattu, etc.) in Carnatic music are set in. Guess it is why he may have choosen it for his first composition.

Muttuswami Dikshitar also undertook the project of composing in all the 72 Melakartha ragas, thereby providing a musical example for many rare and lost ragas. Dikshitar was a master of tala and is the only composer to have kritis in all the seven basic talas of the Carnatic scheme.

<B>Sri Thyagaraja</B>

Tyagaraja has composed hundreds of devotional compositions, most of them in praise of Lord Ram. If I look at the krithis that I know of the Mummoorthigal, I know larger number of krithis of Tyagaraja than krithis of the other two masters. My favourites include 'O Rama ni naa mam yemi ruchi ra' and 'RaRa Raajivalochana Rama' among others.

It is said that in 1839 during the month of April, he visited Tirupati, but when he went to the temple, it was closed. In sadness, he sang "Teratiyagaraadaa" and the temple officials gathered round in admiration when they saw the door opening by itself and the screen falling aside. He sang "VenkaTEsha ninu sEvimpa" in his happiness at seeing the Lord.

It is also said that Lord Rama appeared before him in his dream and offered him Moksha after 10 days. Lot has been written about his Rama Bhakti. I saw this interesting article here which details <a href="">Tyagaraja's Rama Bhakti</a>. I quote "Thyagaraja lived the life of a Ramabhaktha. From early dawn to late night, his daily routine which was full of service and rituals to the Lord, made him live with Rama every moment he was awake. He saw Rama as a child, as a virtuous adult, as a saviour of mankind, as a Lord of the whole cosmos. He cajoled him, taunted him, cried for him, served him, and did various other things which a person in ecstasy of devotion does."

The `Thygaraja aradhana' is celebrated every year on Pushya Bagula Panchami day when the saint attained samadhi under the auspices of Sri Thyagabrahma Mahotsava Sabha at the saint's samadhi at Thiruvaiyaru. Five of his compositions called the Pancharatna Krithis are sung in his honour at the Tyagaraja Aaraadhana in chorus by the great musicians of today as a tribute to his contribution to Carnatic Music.

<B>Sri Shyama Shastri</B>

Although Shyama Shastri did not compose as many kritis as his two prolific contemporaries, Syama Sastri's compositions are equally well known.

There is a very interesting story about him. In all his compositions Shyama Shastri addresses Goddess Kamakshi as his sister. The word SHYAMA KRISHNA SODHARI (sister of Shyama Krishna) appears in all his songs. This is why it is. Those were the days when the temple for Goddess Kamakshi was being built in Thanjavur by its Maratha ruler Thulajaji. Young ShyamaKrishna would practise the songs in his wonderful voice to the delight of the passers-by, sitting on the tower meant for the temple bell. His aunt who was fond of him used to send him milk through her little daughter. One day the girl came calling him 'ANNA' (Brother), placed the milk by his side and disappeared. Shyama noticed her angelic charm that day with the necklace of the deity adorning her neck. He at once ran home to reprimand his mother for having sent her decked with the deity's jewel. When he learnt that she had not sent her that day as she was not available he knew that Goddess Kamakshi had come to enslave him. The first song that flowed from his lips praising HER grace was "Oh, Jagadamba" in the raga Ananda Bhairavi later followed by about 300 songs all addressed to Goddess Kamakshi as Shyama Krishna Sodhari. (Notice that the goddess addressed him as ANNA!).

Himatri Sute Paahimaam is one of the beautiful Shyama Shastri krithis that I have learnt.


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