SRI TYAGARAJA-19, Tradition of Devotees (Post No.8060)

WRITTEN BY R. NANJAPPA                        

Post No. 8060

Date uploaded in London – – – 28 May 2020   

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SRI TYAGARAJA-19,  Tradition of Devotees

Devotees are a distinct community

Every saint in the bhakti tradition is unique, but together they all constitute a distinct category, different from those great souls who pursue other paths. In the end, all genuine paths should lead to God or Liberation and in that sense are equal but they are not the same.

In India, pundits have argued endlessly on the comparative merits or ease of the various paths, especially Bhakti, Jnana and Karma, each with  its own almost endless variety. Such debate is often sickening and absurd. Real jnanis down the ages have been great devotees, as devotees have been full of Jnana. The debates are indulged in mainly by those who lack either jnana or bhakti or both. The Gita gives us detailed characteristics of stitaprajna, jnani, bhakta, yogi and we can observe that they are all the same, viewed from different angles.

Sri Tyagaraja regarded Narada as his Guru. And Narada combines both jnana and bhakti to an extraordinary measure, much as Vyasa did later. But Narada is taken as the prime exemplar of the path of devotion, especially suited for this Kali age.This was proclaimed clearly by Sri Ramakrishna in the 19th century. Coming before him, Sri Tyagaraja claimed  his lineage from Narada, and is staking his claim to be regarded primarily as belonging to the parampara of Bhakta-Bhagavatas. With characteristic humility, such devotees consider themselves  the devotee of devotees! Says Tyagaraja:

Bhadrachala Ramadasu

Ramadasa dasa Tyagarajanuta…..(brindavana lola)
Tyagaraja who is the servant of Ramadasa.

The reference is to Kancherla Gopanna, affectionately called Bhadrachala Ramadasu, for his extraordinary devotion and exploits concerning the Rama temple at Bhadrachalam, also drawing in the Muslim ruler Tani Shah. He lived (1620-1680) just a hundred years before Tyagaraja (1767-1847) and his life must have assumed legendary proportions among the devout, especially during those turbulent times. He sang his heart out in devotion, if also in distress,and in a way his kirtanas can be regarded as models for Tyagaraja, as they combine intense personal call for protection, along with recalling incidents from the life of Rama the great Avatar, besides describing his gunas, Nama, etc. Tyagaraja had great admiration and fascination for Ramadas. He sings about him in at least 3 other places.

Bhagavadagresarulagu Narada
Prahlada Parashara Ramadasulu
baguga Sri Raghuramuni padamula
bhakti jesina reeti Tyagarajuniki ipudu
Kaligi yunte gada kalgunu……….(Kaligi yunte)

How can Tyagaraja obtain bhakti  for Sri Rama like the great bhagavatas Narada, Prahlada, Parashara and Ramadasa had, unless he has great merits? ( ie unless it is ordained by his previous punya, as written in his forehead).

Here, Tyagaraja ranks Ramadas along with legendary,canonical figures like Narada, Prahlada and Parashara, who constitute the very foundation of the bhakta-bhagavata tradition!

In the Devagaandhari kriti, Ksheerasagara sayana, Sri Tyagaraja recounts how Rama saved Gajendra, Draupadi, and built the bridge to Lanka to save Sita and in that context recalls how he saved Ramadas:

Dheerudau Rama dasuni bandhamu
deerchinadi vinnanura

I have heard about how you removed the chains binding the heroic Ramadas.

Here, Tyagaraja values the heroism of Ramadas and ranks him along with Gajendra, Draupadi and even Sita! No wonder, he calls himself a servant of Ramadas! 

In the kriti “Emi dova palkuma”, Sri Tyagaraja says:

Ramadasu vale naite Sita 
Bhama mandalinchunu

Had I been a devotee like Ramadasu, perhaps Sita Devi might have recommended my case.

The idea that Sita has to recommend his case to Rama is in accord with the Sri Vaishnava tradition that the Mother has to recommend the case to the Lord. Sri Ramadasu himself sings in a kirtan: 

Sita to Recommend:

Nanu brovu mani cheppave, Sitamma talli

Nanu brovu mani cheppave

Nanu brovu mani cheppu narishiromani

Janakuni kuthura janai Janakamma

Prakkana jeruka chekkili nokkuchu

chakkaka marukeli chokki yundedi vela

Lokantharangudu Srikantha ninukooti

Ekanta muna neka chayyanuna vela

Atrija vinutudu bhadragirisudu

Nidramelkoluvela nelataro bodhinchi

Nanu brovu mani cheppave

O Mother Sita, please tell Rama to save me.

O jewel among women, Janaka’s daughter, Janaki, 

O mother, please tell Rama to save me.

Please tell his sweetly, when he is alone with you at a pleasant moment..

This shows the esteem Tyagaraja had for Ramadasu. He feels a kinship with all devotees everywhere.

Devotees are relatives

Dhara nijabhagavadagresaru levaro varellanu
vara Tyagarajuniki parama baandavulu

The genuine devotees all over the world constitute the dear relatives of Tyagaraja.

Devotees delight in the company of other devotees:
Rama bhakti samrajyam
 emaanavula gabbeno manasa
Aamanavula sandarsana
matyanta brahmanandame

 Getting devotion for Rama  is like attaining the samrajyam ie the post of Chakravarti. Only the darsan of such devotees can confer delight like the bliss of Brahman.

Inta kannananda memi O Rama Rama

Santa janula kolla sammatiyunte gani

Aaduchunadamuna baduchu eduda

raveduchu manasuna goodi yundedi chalu

O Rama! If the mind can feel at peace in the company of bhagavatas who are always engaged in Harikirtan, can there be a greater bliss?

It is enough to dance forgetting the self, to sing immersed in the flow of divine music, requesting Bhagavan to appear before us!

Devotees enjoy each other’s company

In fact Bhagavan tells us in the Gita that this is how the devotees enjoy themselves when they meet:
Satatam kirtayanto mam yatantascha drudavrata:

Namasyantascha mam bhaktya nityayukta upasate

Glorifying me always and striving with firm resolve, 
bowing down to Me in devotion, always steadfast, they worship Me.

Machchitta madgatapranaa bodhayanta: parasparam

Kathayanthascha mam nityam tushyanti cha ramanti cha                                                10.9 

With their minds wholly on Me, with their senses absorbed in Me, enlightening one another, and always speaking of Me, they are satisfied and delighted.

This is what the Gopis also sing about in the Gopika Gitam: (Srimad Bhagavatam)
Tava kathamrutam taptajivanam
kavi bhiriditam kalmashapaham
sravana mangalam srimadatatam
bhuvi grunanti te bhurida jana:         10.31.9

The nectar of your story saves people from the suffering due to the three kinds of taapas. It is sung by Kavis (Jnanis). It eradicates all our papas. It is sweet to listen to and confers auspiciousness. It confers prosperity and is widespread. Those who recite the story are the most blessed people in the world.

Viewed in this background, we realise how deeply soaked Tyagaraja is in the tradition of bhakta-bhagavata! At every step his kirtanas take us back to the very fountain  and source of devotion : Bhagavatam, Gita, Ramayana!  At various places Tyagaraja remembers and honours all the ancient bhaktas and bhagavatas.

Honour to ancient devotees

Parama bhagavata mauni vara sasi
Vibhakara Sanaka Sanandana
Digeecha sura kimpurusha kanaka-
kachipusuta Narada Tumburu
Pavanasunu balachandara dhara Suka
Sarojabhava bhusuravarulu
parama pavanulu ghanulu sasvatulu
Kamalabhava sukhamu sadanubhavulu gaka

Endaro Mahanubhavulu

Andariki vandanamu

I salute all the great souls:

The great Munis who are supreme bhagavatas,

Chandra and Surya, Sanaka and Sanandana,
Dikpalakas,Devas, Kimpurushas, Prahlada, Narada, Tumburu, Anjaneya, Lord Shiva, Suka, Brahma, the great among the Brahmanas. These are all pure souls, who have no end and always enjoy divine bliss. I salute all of them, and also all the other great souls.

Tushtudai barega sadbhakta
(Manasa Sri Ramachandra)

Real bhaktas are always full of happiness.

With such a disposition, what can a real bhakta need or ask from God?

Devotee doesn’t ask for anything

Srimantulau nee sodarulu seyu reeti
Paada seva koritini
Chirakalamaina maata yokatira
Vemaru balgajalara   ……..(Sri maaninee)

I only desire to render service to you such as your blessed brothers perform. This is what I have been requesting you for a long time. Should I repeat it a thousand times?

Such devotees feel their job is over with surrender; it is for the Lord to dispense things in His own way:

Entarani tanakentaponi ni
chenta viduvajala

Whatever comes, whatever goes, I will never leave your presence. (Because that itself is the greatest treasure or fortune)

Antakari nee chenta jeri
Hanumantudai koluvaleda

Shiva who conquered Yama- did He not assume the form of Hanuman and serve you?
Seshudu Shivuniki bhushudu Lakshmana

veshiyai koluvaleda
Adisesha, who is the ornament of Shiva- did he not incarnate as Lakshmana and serve you?
Sishtudu mauni varishtudu gobba

Vasishtudu hitudu gaaleda
That great Jnani, the great Vasishta- did he not become your purohit (Acharya) to teach you the beneficial (correct ) way?
Naravara neekai suraganamulu

Vanarulai koluvaleda

Did not the Devas assume the form of monkeys in order to serve you as Rama,  the best of men?
The idea is that all these great Ones merely desired to serve Rama in different ways. How can Tyagaraja wish for anything else? Everything is left to Him.

Manasu telisi 

brochinanu marachinanu neeve Rama
                                   ……(Itara daivamu)
f you know my heart and save me, or forget me, you are my only refuge.

Nee krupa vittamanusu jaala  ….(Kori vachchiti)
I take it that your blessings are the greatest wealth.

Such devotees delight in the company and even at the mere sight of other devotees.

Bliss of Haridasas

Haridasulu vedale muchchata kani

Anadamaye dayalo

O the merciful, generous One! The sight of Haridasas
walking the streets with Tyagaraja gives such great pleasure!
Hari Govinda Narahari Rama Krishna yani

Varusaga namamu karunato jeysusu
They are singing names like “Hari, Govinda, Narahari, Rama, Krishna,” with great feeling.
Sangatiganu mrudanga ghoshamulache

Bongusu veethula kegusu merayuchu
They are taking rounds of the streets with Sankirtan, blending with the sounds of mrudanga, full of overflowing happiness and delight
Chakkani hariche jikkitimani madi

jokkuchu namame dikkani pogaduchu

They feel so completely united with Bhagavan that they have lost their head , and take Him as the sole refuge and offer praise

Dittamuga nadu kattuto nadugulu
Bettuchu talamu batti gal galla naga
Tying the uttariyam firmly at the waist, keeping steps softly one by one, marking ‘gal, gal’ sound with karatalam,
Jnamuto Rama dhyanamuto manchi

Ganamuto menu dana mosanguchu
With full awareness, complete dhyana on Rama, with sweet music , dedicating the body completely for Rama seva,
Rajarajunipai jajulu challuchu

Rajilluchu Tyagarajunito goodi
haridasululu vedale
They shower jaji flowers on Rama, the king of kings. Such a sight of the Haridasas together gives such great pleasure!

 Such is the tradition of Bhakta-Bhagavata that Sri Tyagaraja represents , upholds and celebrates! We may say he has demonstrated that the way of true devotion is still possible and practicable. Here, Tyagaraja is not only the Sadguru, but Acharya who lived  his life  in the light of what he said.  

TO BE CONTINUED ………………………..

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