It was the year 1844. In Vaiyacheri, a small hamlet in Tanjore district of Tamizh Nadu, a family was blessed with their third son. Was it his good Karma that he was born to an accomplished musician? Or was the good Karma of the father that he was given a son of extraordinary musical talent? Perhaps both. The father had the knowledge to recognize talent and foster it. And so two of the four boys of the family became accomplished musicians at a tender age. This boy was only 7 and his brother 11 when they gave their first concert.
His fame grew quickly. From time to time this earth is blessed with young musicians who seem to know much more than it is possible to know at their age. Mozart composed at 5. Beethoven was 7 at the time of his first public performance. Lalgudi Jayaraman started his musical career at 12. Do you not think that their skills must have been honed in previous lives to achieve what they did at such young ages?
The hero of my story was blessed not only with vidwat (knowledge) but also a pleasing voice which ranged over three and a half octaves. In the year 1856, when he was 12 years old, he and his brother were staying with the pontif at Kalladurichi when a musical festival was held. He performed with other illustrious musicians of his times. But it was his solo performance of the composition of Tyagaraja, Sugunamule, in raga Chakravaham, which won most appreciation. The pontif bestowed the title ‘Maha’ (Great) to this young lad. The lad was henceforth called Maha Vaidyanatha Sivan.
He lived a life for music. He was only 49 when he passed away in 1893. He left behind a small body of compositions of which his magnum-opus was the 72 Mela Ragamalika.
To honour him today, I present Tyagaraja’s composition Sugunamule which earned him his title of greatness at so young an age. ‘Not knowing any other method, in the vain hope that this would make you come, I just keep talking of your virtues’ sings Tyagaraja to his ishta daivam, Lord Rama. I like the simplicity of the lyrics, it touches my heart. Are we not all in the same boat, we believers in whichever Gods we believe in? Do we not blindly pray, hoping, believing that He or She would be listening?
To know more about the raga Chakravaham, click here.
I have chosen a rendition by the inimitable Dr.Balamuralikrishna whose Chakravaham I like better than any other vocalist.
For an instrumental version, listen below to a lovely performance by Ganesh and Kumaresh on the violin.
Footnote (Lyrics) :
Language : Telugu
Transliteration in Devanagari
वत्तुवनुचु दुरासचे (सु)
श्री नायक क्षमियिञ्चुमु
श्री त्यागराज नुत (सु)
sundara raghu rAma
vattuvanuchu durAsachE (suguNa)
srI nAyaka kshmayinchumu
srI tyAgarAja nuta (suguNa)
O handsome Rama of the Raghu clan, I just keep talking of your virtues
Not knowing any other method, with the vain hope that at least by this way you would come (I just keep chanting your virtues)
I do not know to perform meritorious acts such as dips in holy rivers, recitation of the Vedas etc. Kindly forgive me, O consort of Lakshmi, O Lord praised by this Tyagaraja.