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Sri Tyagaraja


Monday, 4 May, 1767 to Wednesday, 6 January, 1847


Kakarla Tyagabrahmam, fondly known as ‘Tyagayya’ , ‘ Tyagaraja swami’ was one of the greatest composers of Carnatic music (classical South Indian music). He is one of the ‘Trinity of carnatic music’, along with his contemporaries Muthuswami Dikshitar and Shyama Shastry. He was a prolific composer and was highly influential in the development of the South Indian classical music tradition.

 Tyagaraja composed thousands of devotional compositions, most of them in praise of Lord Rama which is very popular even today. Of special mention are five of his compositions called the Pancharatna Krithis (i.e. 'five gems'), which are sung in the Tyagaraja Aaradhana, i.e. celebrated annually on his birthday.

Brief history: 

When the Vijayanagar empire fell towards the end of the 16th century, there was a migration of hindu families towards the southern areas because of the invasion from the north. Southern kingdoms especially under the Nayaks and Maratha kings were thought be safer. Among the migrant families were a number of telugu families including Sri Tyagaraja’s ancestors. They were believed to be descending from the kakarla family.

In the small town of Tiruvarur in Tanjore district of Tamil Nadu, there lived a poet called Girija Kavi. His daughter Seethamma was married to Kakarla Ramabrahmam. Seethamma gave birth to a boy on 27th soma, sukla saptami. He was named Tyagaraja (The presiding deity of Tiruvarur temple is Lord Tyagaraja). The king of Tanjavur had gifted a house to Ramabrahmam in Thiruvayyaru and Tyagaraja’s family moved there.

Tyagaraja was married at the age of eighteen to Parvatamma who died without leaving any children.  He then married Kamalamba and they had a daughter named Sitalakshmi.  Sitalakshmi was married to Kuppuswami. They had a boy who was named Tyagaraja (also called Panchapakesan) who died issueless. Hence, at present there is no direct lineage for the composer. Tyagaraja took sanyasa towards the end of his life. He attained samadhi on Pusya Bahula Panchami in Prabhava varsha.

Musical Journey: 

Continuing their culturally rich family legacy, Tyagaraja was a erudite scholar as well as a poet. He was well versed in many subjects including Sanskrit, astrology and telugu. He began his musical training at an early age under a well-known music scholar, Sonti Venkataramanayya. For Tyagaraja music was a spiritual experience and his focus was more on devotion than the technicalities of music. Being a poet and a good scholar even from his teens, Tyagaraja also had a flair for composing music and his first song was ‘Namo Namo Raghavayya’ set in the Desika Todi raga.


Being very impressed with Tyagaraja’s talent, his guru, Sonti Venkataramanayya, informed the King of Tanjore about the divine talent in Tyagaraja. The King immediately sent an invitation to Tyagaraja to join the royal court. However, Tyagaraja viewed music as his spiritual path and was not inclined to accept the invitation from the king. Tyagaraja’s elder brother, Japesan, was angry with this decision and threw the statue of Rama that Tyagaraja worshipped every day into the Kaveri river. For Tyagaraja, who considered that the very purpose of his mortal existence is  bakthi and devotion to Lord Rama, the loss of the statue of his Lord was unbearable. He composed many compositions and begged the Lord to come back. Tyagaraja’s extreme devotion led him back to his Lord and he had a dream as to the exact location of the statue.

Composer Reference in Composition

O Rangasayi

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