Happiness is a healthy juice we must extract not from the flowers of luxury but from the fruits of life.. Music is the healthiest among them all – Narrenaditya Komaragiri
Please Click Here to read the prologue of this story first.. Now, please continue reading this part..
“Seethamma maayamma Sri Raamudu maa Tandri.. Vaataatmaja Saumitri Vainateya Ripumardhana.. Dhaata Bharataadulu sodharulu maaku.. O Manasaa”
Meaning Of The Above Telugu Lines : “O’ manasaa.. Goddess Sita is Mother to me, Lord Rama is Father; and Vaatatmaja (Anjaneya), Saumitri (Lakshmana), Vainateya (Garuda), Ripumardhana (Satrughna), Dhaata (Jambavanth) and Bharatha are brothers to me”.
Sometime during 1947..
At about 8 P.M..
At a music concert held inside the premises of a Kodanda Rama Swamy Temple in the Governorpeta area of Bejawada (old name of Vijayawada city in Andhra Pradesh) as part of the annual Thyagaraja Aradhanotsavam,
A tender 17 – year old boy was rendering the above amazing Telugu Keerthana composed in Carnatic Raag Vasantha, in praise of Lord Srirama, by the 18th century Saint – Composer, Sri Thayagaraja Swamy.
As you may know, Thygaraja Aradhanotsavam is an annual ceremony of Adoration held every year on Pushya Bahula Panchami in Tiruvaiyaru in Tanjavur District of Tamil Nadu where the legendary ‘Vaggeyakar’ Sri Thyagaraja Swamy had attained his Samadhi in 1848, on the banks of River Kaveri.
Although, these Aradhanotsavams began in Tiruvaiyar in 1905 and were held only there for several years thereafter, they are now being held in many parts of the world by hundreds of South Indian Carnatic Music fans living everywhere today.
As part of this historic music ceremony of festival called the ‘Thygaraja Aradhanotsavam’, exponents and students of Carnatic Music gather at one sacred place like Ram Temples or banks of Rivers and pay homage to the great departed music soul of Sri Thyagaraja Swamy by rendering his Keerthanas.
As part of the great Aradhanotsava parampara, only Pancharatna Krithis of Saint Thyagaraja are rendered during this annual festival, mostly by a group of singers or in some cases by a popular lead singer accompanied by his group.. However, in some rare cases, these singers also render other popular Keerthanas of Sri Thyagaraja on the request of audience present in the concert that day.
On that day too, in 1947, in Bejawada, that 17 – year old singer was rendering “Seetamma maayamma” Keerthana of Sri Thyagaraja – although it’s not part of the Pancharatna Krithis – on the request of a person from the audience sitting on floor in front of the dais that evening.
In all, there were about three hundred people present as audience to that music concert that day.
At that time..
The Principal Deity of Sita Lakshmana Sametha Sri Kodanda Rama Swamy Varu in the Sanctum Sanctorum of that Kodanda Rama Swamy Temple was enjoying those renderings with a gentle smile dancing on His coral lips..
At that same time, as though they know the actual reason behind the gentle smile of Purushottama; Seetaamma varu and Lakshmana too were gently smiling getting ready to witness the amazing Cosmic drama that is going to unfold in front of their Divine eyes in a few minutes from thereon.
At that same time, a cool gentle breeze, unable to bear it’s curiosity, was emanating from the nearby holy Krishna River to gently whisper in the ears of everyone there in the Temple, “be prepared, shortly a Divine drama is going to commence here”.
At that same time, all the five elements of Nature too have slowly started gathering in the sky, around that Temple, preparing themselves to witness that amazing Divine drama to be played there in a few minutes by their Supreme Commander, Bhagawan Srirama Chandra Murthy.
At that same time, the small Bronze Bells hanging to the flagstaff in front of the Temple were gently ringing in Carnatic Raag Natai and rendering in a chorus the amazing Thyagaraja Pancharatna krithi “Jagadananda Kaarakaa” composed in the same Raag, in praise of his Srirama, by the all time great Carnatic Music Genius.
At that same time, every inch and every bit of Nature was preparing itself to witness the beginning of a glorious chapter in the life of one of the greatest devotees of Bhagawan Srirama Chandra Murthy to have ever born on this planet.
Exactly, At That Same Time
As part of the beginning of that amazing cosmic drama, a fair and cute looking 12-year old Brahmin boy squatting on floor, in the first row in front of the dais along with his uncle, slowly got up from his place – to the surprise of everyone there – and looking straight at the singer on the dais, asked
“Anna, am your big fan and coming to your concert every year, along with my uncle, for the last three years and witnessing your amazing rendering of all the five Pancharatna Krithis of Thyagaraja Swamy varu.
However, Anna, every year I was expecting you to sing my favorite Krithi too and used to wait to hear that from your great voice.. But, to my utter disappointment Anna, you would never render it.
Later, I would go home disappointed Anna and my Mother would cajole me singing that Krithi for me thus making me happy.
Every year, like many here do, I too wanted to ask you to sing that Krithi for me, Anna, but I could not muster enough courage to ask you.. But, this year, Anna, I could not hold myself, so, asking you.. Can you please sing that Krithi for me, Anna”..
Impressed with the innocence in the voice of that cute looking boy, the 17 – year old singer on the dais asked him, “oh, tammudoo (younger brother in Telugu) you should have asked me, I would have rendered it for you long ago.. Even now you didn’t tell me what is that Krithi”..
Tendering apologies, that boy quickly replied, “Sorry Anna, it is ‘Pibare Rama Rama Rasam’ – a Sadasiva Brahmendra Krithi”.
Smiling slightly embarrassingly, the young singer on the dais said, “tammudoo, as you know this is Thyagaraja Aradhanotsavam and as a rule of this Utsavam am only supposed to sing his Pancharatna Krithis.
However, occasionally, I sing other Keerthanas of Thyagaraja as well, on the request of audience here, because I don’t want to disappoint them.. But, you are asking me to sing a Krithi composed not by Thyagaraja but by a completely different Vaggeyakar.. I can sing it for you now but the rules here may not permit me”.
Timely interrupting their conversation, Sri Gopi Appala Swamy – a noble Zamindar who had built that beautiful Temple in 1932 and who was also the brain behind that Aradhonatsavam every year – quietly walked up the dais and told the singer in a humble tone,
“Babu, agree there’s a rule here to sing only Thygaraja Keerthanas on this occasion, but, if singing another Vaggeyakar’s Krithi would make such a young devotee of Ram happy, then, I think there’s nothing wrong in doing that.
After all, music is a healer and ot is meant to give happiness to human mind.. If you have no problem, please sing that Krithi not only for our boy but also for all of us here.. We would be grateful to you”..
Encouraged by that elderly Zamindar’s words, the singer on the dais smiled gently and told the boy, “sit down tammudoo, am now going to sing Pibare Rama Rasam for you” and then slowly turned his head and looked at his music accompaniments to get ready.
Nodding his head in happiness,
That 12 – year old boy too quietly sat down in his place.. Later, enthralling the three hundred odd audience present there in the premises of that Kodanda Rama Swamy Temple, the young 17 – year old singer went about rendering the amazing “Pibare Rama Rasam” – a beautiful Sadasiva Brahmendra Krithi – for about five minutes.
On his completion, there was a thunderous applause from all the audience there that reverberated all over the Temple.. Looking with pride at the boy, the young singer asked, “are you happy now”..
But, to the utter shock of the singer more so to everyone there, the boy stood up and said, “not really Anna.. In fact, am disappointed”..
With his ego deeply hurt with that boy’s uncalled for reply, the shocked young singer asked the boy, “but, why”.. Shocking him furthermore, the boy, showing his mama sitting beside him to the singer, said,
“Anna, sorry to say, you have rendered the Krithi in Raag Chakravakam whereas the original Krithi, composed by Sadasiva Brahmendra, is in Raag Yamuna Kalyani.
And it is in Yamuna Kalyani my Carnatic Music Guru and my mama Sri Meduri Sita Ramanjaneya Swamy had taught me and that’s also what I have been learning to sing for years.
Now, naturally so, am disappointed Anna when you have rendered this Krithi in Chakravakam whereas am waiting to hear it from you in Yamuna Kalyani”.. The boy paused
For a minute, there was a shocking silence there in the Temple.. And for a minute more, no one there could even understand what the boy was talking.
And the 17 – year old singer – a highly lauded and well appreciated trained young classical singer known for his authority on Carnatic music – who could clearly understand what the boy was talking was stunned with his in depth knowledge of Carnatic music.. Looking sharply at him, he said,
“Tammudoo, am really impressed with your knowledge of Carnatic Music.. As you rightly said, Pibare Rama Rasam was originally composed by Sadasiva Brahmendra in Carnatic Raag Yamuna Kalyani and it was also in this Raag that he had always rendered this Krithi all his lifetime.
However, tammudoo, in the Vaggeyakara Parampara, this Krithi had taken many turns and twists and is now being rendered in other Raagas as well.. For example in Chakravakam – as am singing it – and in Shanmukha Priya and Ananda Bhairavi as some other modern day singers are rendering it.
Now, you say you are taught to sing it in the original Yamuna Kalyani.. That’s really good.. However, tammudoo, there’s one important point here..
It’s not the Raag that matters to the listener but the artistry in the tone of the singer, the command he has over the pitch of the Raag, the control he exercises over the note and the beauty in the style of his rendering are the qualities that really impresses any listener.. That way, I think I have done justice to your favorite Krithi”.
Saying so, the singer kept looking at the boy for his response..
Freezing the great singer,
The boy said, “Anna, a purist doesn’t learn music to impress a listener but learns it to praise the Creator; to appreciate the beauty of Nature; and to describe the Divine glory of the Mother of music, Goddess Saraswathi..
However Anna, am learning Music only to impress my biological Mother, to praise the Holy Lord Kodanda Ram, my Mother had introduced to me, and to sing His glory all through my life.
As a learner of music, I have attained artistry in my tone, command over the pitch of the Raag, control over the note and beauty in my rendering not to impress any listener, Anna, but to praise my Ram, Who is my world, my life and my everything.
Anna, for me music is Mother, Music is Life, Music is Divine, Music is God, Music is Devotion and Music is Prayer.. I shall never in my life use music to impress a listener, Anna, except to please my Ram.. Sorry Anna, I just said my opinion”.
Stunned.. Shocked.. Mesmerized and frozen were some of the expressions on the faces of all the audience there..
The young singer on the dais was full of sweat and speechlessness..
Slowly composing himself, he said,
“Tammudoo, you made me speechless not only with your knowledge of music but also with your views about Carnatic music which is my life.. Please accept my salutations.. Now, am more curious to listen to you singing ‘Pibare Rama Rasam’ which is also my favorite Krithi.
I now request you with folded hands on behalf of everyone here to please come on to the dais and sing it for me.. Not alone for me but also for all the fellow citizens of your Bejawada present here.
On behalf of you I would also pray to your Kodanda Rama to please allow you once to render this Krithi for us”.. Saying so, the singer paused and looked at the boy for his response.
Silently nodding his head, the boy in turn hesitantly looked at his mama.. The mama too, asking the boy to “go ahead”, silently nodded his head.
In response, the boy had bent down; touched his mama’s feet; and slowly walked up the dais amidst a thunderous applause from all the fellow citizens of his Bejawada there.
Firstly, on walking up the dais, he prostrated before the Celebration Deities of Lord Rama, Sita and Lakshamana on the dais, secondly, came slowly walking to the singer; offered him his Pranams; and, lastly, took the place in front of the Mic that the singer had just vacated.
At that exhilarating moment, there was a drop dead silence in the entire premises of that large Kodanda Rama Swamy Temple.
Even the Bronze bells hanging to the flagstaff of the Temple, that were thus far rendering ‘Jagadananda Kaaraka’, have paused their rendering and have started looking at that boy waiting to listen to his rendering.
Confidently sitting in front of the Mic,
That 12 – year old fair and cute looking boy, as though he was aware that not only his beloved Rama, Sita and Lakshmana but also the entire Nature around him was observing him that moment, offered his prayers to all of Them through the following sloka from Sundara Kanda.
“Namosthu Ramaya salakshmanaya.. Devyai cha thasyai Janakathmajayai.. Namosthu rudrendra yamanilebhyo.. Namosthu chandrarka marud ganebhyah” (4th Sloka in Srimad Ramayana Sundara Kanda Shodasi)
Which means,” my salutations to Lord Sri Rama who is with Lakshmana.. My salutations to that daughter of Janaka who is with His wife.. My salutations to Rudra, Indra, Yama and the wind.. And also my salutations to Moon, Sun and Marud Ganas”.
The smile in the Divine faces of Lord Kodanda Rama, Sita and Lakshmana inside the Sanctum Sanctorum of the Temple, broadened.
Then, slowly closing his eyes and gradually going into a Divine trance and taking everyone around him, including the singer, into a different world, the boy started rendering in Raag Yamuna Kalyani,
“Piabare Rama Rasam.. Rasane Pibare Rama Rasam.. Janana Marana Bhaya Soka Vidooram.. Sakala Sastra Nigamagama Saaram.. Pibare Rama Rasam.. Rasane Pibare Rama Rasam”
After about five minutes, he completed his rendering; slowly opened his eyes; and looked first at the singer on the dais and then at everyone in front of him in the audience.
For a moment, there was a stunned silence in the entire premises of the Temple.. Even the air that was thus far freely circulating all over there was frozen.
And the next moment, the entire premises of the Temple danced to a roaring applause from each and everyone there in praise of the spellbinding singing of the boy.. That roaring continued for a good 90 seconds.
But, the young 17 – year old prodigal singer on the dais was still in a solid state of deep shock.. He just couldn’t believe that such a cute kid, who is unknown even to his own town neighbors, could actually sing so amazingly.
Slowly coming out of that shocked state, the singer told the boy, “Wow tammudoo.. Marvellous.. You are an outstanding singer of a rare class.. A true blessing of Goddess Saraswathi.. Am amazed.. It’s a feast watching you singing.
Thanks a ton, tammudoo.. You have a bright future.. You go a long way.. May our beloved Kodanada Rama’s blessings be with you always.
By the way, tammudoo, may I ask you a question.. Do you really know the meaning of ‘Janana marana bhaya soka vidhooram’ which means, “the chanting of Rama nama removes the fears of grief caused by birth and death”
Sorry for asking you so, tammudoo, but why am asking is, I noticed a deep pain in your voice while you were rendering those particular lines.. Why that pain.. Any specific reason??.. If you have no problem, please share it with me.. Am curious”
For a moment..
The boy didn’t utter a word..
Didn’t even move..
With his head bent down..
He kept silently looking at both his vacant palms..
Then with pearl drops like tears encircling in his cute eyes..
Kept palely looking at the singer..
Kept looking so for almost a minute..
At that moment, there was a frozen silence everywhere in the Temple..
Everyone there was looking at the boy..
Lord Kodanda Rama was still smiling..
After looking so palely, at the singer, for more than a minute..
The boy slowly turned his head towards the audience..
First looked at his mama there..
Slowly composing himself..
He started talking..
Breaking the silence there..
Melting the hearts there..
Touching the lives there..
Wetting the eyes there..
Triggering tears there..
The boy started talking..
Continued in the next part of this story that I would be posting after a week.