SRI TYAGARAJA-24, Differences between Divine Forms (Post No.8090)

WRITTEN BY R. NANJAPPA                        

Post No. 8090

Date uploaded in London – – – 2 June 2020   

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Differences between Divine Forms

Saguna upasana and Avatara

Popular Hindu religion is mainly based on Saguna upasana- devotion to a divine form. And such forms abound.

An allied aspect is the concept of Avatara, which has been authoritatively explained in the Gita. It is a peculiarity that only Vishnu is believed to take Avatars. Other divinities do assume human forms and sport in the world among men, but they are not considered Avatars.

Though Brahman is the One ultimate Truth, It is considered under various names and forms for devotional purposes, as Iswara.. Ekam Sat, vipra: bahuda vadanti- the Truth is One, Sages call it variously is one of the most famous statements of the Veda.

 The most fundamental division is of Trinity, though only Vishnu and Siva are regularly worshipped. Then there is the cult of the Mother Goddess- Shakti. With the rise of the Bhagavata tradition, worship of Vishnu as such has receded into insignificance; the worship of the Avataras of Rama and Krishna constitute the backbone of popular Hinduism.

Siva himself constitutes a Trinity, with Ganapati and Subrahmanya.
Then there is Surya- the famous Savitru or Savita of the Veda.

Siva, Vishnu & Shakti

These six- Surya, Shiva, Vishnu, Shakti, Ganapati, Subrahamanya constitute the six main Deities for regular worship. Interestingly, each one is a favourite in different parts of the country! The Smartas worship all under the Panchayatana system of worship. But there are cults around each, and they engage in constant quarrel and denigration of each other. Acharya Sankara showed the Vedic base of all these Deities, and formalised them as “shanmatas” but the quarrels have not abated. The ones between Saivites and Sri Vaishnavites are notorious in the South, while the ones among Saivites, Saktas and Vaishnavites are well-known in Bengal. These followers would not even sit and dine together! Such things are seen even today, as when you read the literature of ISKCON, or  of any sectarian Saivite or Vaishnava Mutt. Any serious reader of such literature is most likely to develop distaste for all the deities! Such hatred among the sects was very common in the 19th century and we read in the life of Sri Ramakrishna how he tried to reconcile the quarelling sects. In fact, it is in this context that he talked about the unity of ‘matams’, as clarified by Holy Mother. It is sad that such attitudes still prevail.

Integration of Vedic and Puranik elements

The Smartas however continue with the integral approach. They are the ones who stick to  the real, original Vedic way, following the ‘Smritis”.  They have many Grama devatas, family deities, many Ishatadevatas, many Upasana murtis, many mantras for dhyana and japa, etc. But when it comes to any ritual act or worship based on Veda, (Vedic karma) the sankalpa starts with recalling 15 names of Vishnu, is done for the sake  of pleasing Parameshwara, and at the conclusion the fruits are surrendered to Narayana and the whole dedicated to Brahman! The very names of Rama and Krishna are uttered to ensure internal and external purity, and to infuse correct tithi, vara, nakshatra, etc, with divine power, no matter what else is done. No acharya or philosopher or intellectual has invented a better or simpler method to ensure unity in practice. This neatly dovetails Vedic and Puranic elements in nice ritual form. This also unifies Siva-Vishnu aspects in a single neat stream of actual daily  practice. In the orthodox South Indian bhajans, they utter an important shloka: Hari Narayana Durita Nivarana Paramananda Sadashiva Shankara!

Sri Tyagaraja was a Smarta. His chosen Deity was Rama, his mantra  for japa was Ramashadakshari. But he chose to reside in Tiruvaiyaaru, the hallowed kshetra of Panchanadisa Siva- the Lord of the Five rivers of the Cauvery Delta, a fact of which he was proud. And he was equally proud of his name Tyagaraja, the name of the presiding Deity -Siva-of Tiruvarur, where he was born, and which he has immortalised through every one of his kritis! Just for curiosity, contrast this with the fact that the Vishnu Sahasranama starts with the name “Visvam”, which is the name of Siva at Kashi; but have you come across any South Indian Sri Vaishnava Visishtadvaitin with the name Visvanath- though it is the first name in the Vishnu Sahasranama?

Tyagaraja accepted “Apat Sanyas” one day before his samadhi, from Paramahamsa Parivrajaka

Sri Brahmananda Swami- obviously hailing in the Smarta tradition!

Tyagaraja above sectarian distinctions

Sri Tyagaraja was totally above all such cult divisions, or distinctions,which he decried strongly. When he talks of that blessed soul who enjoys the bliss of reciting the Taraka nama of Rama, he mentions as his mark:

Daiva bhedamu leka    (Sukhi evvaro)

Without making distinctions between the different forms of God! This along with “satyamu dappaga”- without swerving from Truth. 

That is, a true devotee of Rama will not denigrate other Deities. After all, does not the very name Rama incorporate the essence of the names of both Vishnu and Siva? ( as we saw earlier)

Eeduleni malayamarutamuche
goodina Cauvery tatamandu….
Sivuru goru yogyamaina
Sundaramagupuramu dorakenanuchu

Eemahilo sogasaina chola

seemaiyandu varamaina Panchanada pura
dhamuni chentanu vasiyuntakai
nee madi nenchaga

(Muripemu galige gada, Rama)

O Rama!

Have you become proud that you got this beautiful place,on the shores of Cauvery, where the matchless (fragrant and cool) Southwind blows, which Lord Siva has of His own accord chosen for his sojourn? 

You made up your mind to reside in this Chola Desa, the most beautiful part of the world, in this excellent kshetra Tiruvaiyaaru, the abode of Lord Panchanadisa, to be just near to Him!  

We can easily see how gracefully Tyagaraja connects Rama and Siva! This is the ancient abode of Lord Siva, who is the presiding Deity of this place but Rama chooses the place to be near Him!

Sriman manasa kanaka peetamuna
chelaga jesi konivara Siva Rama
Nama kusuma mulache pujinche 
narajanmame janmamamu manasa

(Nama kusuma)

O mind! Establishing Rama in the beautiful pedestal of the heart, to worship Him with the flowers of the names of Siva and Rama- only such a birth is the real human birth!

We have already seen how in another kriti he talks of doing puja with both Tulasi and Bilva!

Siva Madhava bhedamujeyaka radu

Tyagaraja sakhuni marava radane Hari

(bhaktuni Charitramu)

The devotee should not make distinction between Siva and Vishnu.
He should not forget Hari, the friend of Siva!

How do the devotees of one Form reconcile to other forms and avoid any hatred or dislike for them? The secret is the knowledge that all Forms are His- the One; they have chosen one for their convenience or  inclination. Whatever forms they see, they only think of their own chosen form!

Paradaivamula juchinantane 
bhavamandu neevai barageda

(Nee chittamu)

When I have darshan of other Deities, it is You who is appearing before my mind!

Puranapurushadagu Ramuniki ya-
purari kini neeku, rajadhari!
machcharana verencha radu
anu Tyagaraju

(karuna juda vamma-Todi)

This Tyagaraja declares that one should not make any distinction between Rama, the ancient one, Siva, the one who burnt the three puras, and you. (You, Rama and Siva are not different)

 This is a kriti Tyagaraja sang on Dharmasamvardhini, the consort of Panchanadisa at Tiruvaiyaaru! So, he takes the Siva-Vishnu abhedam a step higher, to include Shakti also. This whole kriti is very moving, for its devotional fervour.

Bhagavatulu Harinama kirtanamu
Baguga susvaramulato vinta
Ragamulanu yalapamu cheyuvai 
bhoga mulanu juchi
Nagabhushunudu  karunanidhiyai
Vegamu sakala sujana rakshanamuna
Jaka mukudai gorggala nosagu

(Muchchata Brahmadulaku)

Bhagavatas are singing Harinama Sankirtan , with correct swaras and elaborate alapana of the various Ragas. Observing this grandeur, the Lord wearing the serpents , the Ocean of Mercy, has become vigilant (eager) to bless all the good people quickly, and comes out grandly on His procession, declaring that he is the One who is going to fulfill the requests of the devotees.

This is a kriti on Panchanadisa (Lord Siva), describing the grandeur of the procession of the Deity through the streets of the town. The Bhagavatas are singing Harinama Sankirtan. Lord Siva is coming out eagerly to extend quick blessings! Can the non-difference between Siva and Vishnu be described more grandly or clearly?
In a kriti, “Nammakane mosa bodu”, Tyagaraja mentions Nataraja as worshipping Rama. But in another kriti, he talks of the two as one!

Deva Rama Rama Mahadeva Raghava!

Bhaavajarari rupa gelabhava paavanaava
Maha Sankara Karunakara
Nisamkaradruta sara
Bhaktavasankara danujaahava

Nissanka rasika Tyagaraja                    (Deva Rama)

O Rama! Mahadeva! Raghava! O of the form of Siva who burnt down Manmatha! One who explains everything through his dance! O the pure one! Save me.
O the Beneficial One! The fund of compassion! O the one bearing arrows in hand! O the one who has no doubt about subduing the enemies! O Rasika! Tyagaraja Deva!

This is a remarkable kriti. It celebrates Rama and Mahadeva as of one form!
We do not know to which Kshetra this kriti refers.

People have wondered that though Tyagaraja was born in Tiruvarur, and named after the Deity of that temple, not a single kriti on that kshetra or Deity has come down to us ( though he remembers Tyagaraja in every one). This kriti employs the phrase “Tyagaraja Deva” instead of the usual “Tyagaraja vinuta” . Taking this and other clues in this, Sri T.S Parthasarathy has  held that this is about Tiruvarur. 

As followers of the Vedic tradition, Hindus should eschew distinctions among different forms of Deities. Ishwara is one, his form for worship is chosen by people according to their taste. Why should they quarrel? Sri Tyagaraja has shown the way to enjoy the Form we adore, but also to find the unity.


Hindu sects quarrel about the forms of their Deities, which are many. But such quarrels are also common among both Christians and Muslims, even though they speak of one BooK, one Prophet and Only Begotten Son of God!  .There are more than 100 denominations among Christians,( based on organization and belief) and those belonging to one will not enter the Church of another. Non-Catholics will not use the Catholic Bible or accept their interpretation of dogma.There are more than 70 divisions among Muslims and they are always quarreling among themselves.There are divisions among Buddhists too. So, it seems to be a fact of our world that people easily find ways to differ from one another! ‘On the earth, the broken arcs”, declared Robert Browning! But our Tyagaraja is urging us to rise above narrow sectarian divisions. Devotion to our chosen deity should not involve dislike for other Forms.


tag – Sri Tyagaraja-24

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