Tyagaraja query

David Magier magier at COLUMBIA.EDU
Wed Oct 26 15:11:18 UTC 2005

Many thanks to all those who generously helped resolve the query on date of 
composition of Tyagaraja's "O Rangasayi". Here is a synopsis of what we 

a) From Prof. Harold Powers (Princeton):

"According to Professor Sambamurthy's biography, Tyagaraja was invited to 
Kanchipuram in 1834, and as a consequence of urging by disciples and other 
admirers, he extended the visit into a pilgrimage to a number of other 
places (including Madras).  It  may be (now according to  M.S. Ramaswamy 
Aiyar's biography) that on his eventual return to Tiruvaiyar he veered a 
bit westward to have darshan of the deity at Srirangam.  In any case, "O 
Rangasayi" is sung to the deity there.   If the pilgramage to Srirangam was 
part of that Grand Tour he made starting in 1834 in Kanchi, one might 
suppose that "O Rangasayi" was first sung in 1834-1835.  But  there are 
many stories about Tyagaraja's compositions, and only a few compositions 
can be satisfactorily ascribed even to a particular period of his life -- 
and that almost entirely on the basis of suppositions regarding a 
hypothetical progression from one particular attitude towards devotion to 
another.  One is therefore mightily tempted to use the invitation from 
Kanchipuram, for which there is a dated letter of invitation, as a linchpin 
date for compositions sung to deities outside of Tanjor district."

| The biographies Prof. Powers refers to are:
| Sambamoorthy, P.
|   Great musicians. Madras: Indian Music Pub. House. 1985 [2nd ed.]
| and
| Ramaswami Aiyar, M.S.
|   Thiagaraja, a great musician saint, 1759-1847: with Sargam notation.
|   New Delhi: Asian Educational Services. 2003 Reprint.

b) From Prof. Indira Viswanathan Peterson (Mt. Holyoke College):

"Dear Harry,
You beat me to the reply. I completely agree with you. I would dismiss all
the stories about "stages of bhakti" guiding his compositions, and I would
indeed think of the Kanchipuram invitation and the grand pilgrimage as the
possible occasion for the composition of O Rangashayee, which is indeed
dedicated to Ranganatha at Srirangam, near Trichy. If we go with this
possibility, we could also place "raju vedale jutaamu raare kasturi ranga" 
in Todi raga (a krti that very clearly invites the listener to view 
Rangaraja on the banks of the Kaveri in Srirangam -- kaveri tiramu
nanu..rangapurini..srivelayu..etc). during the same pilgrimage."

c) From Prof. William Jackson (Indiana University):

"I would agree with P. Sambamoorthy that O Rangasayi shows
signs of being a composition from the later period of Tyagaraja's
life. Sambamoorthy says these later compositions "are characterized by
mature music and mature ideas in the sahitya. These are highly polished and
delicately chiselled pieces." He write this on p. 258 of his book
Great Composers, Book II Tyagaraja, seconf edition, Madras: The Indian Music
Publishing House, 1970."


Thanks all. Great example of efficient scholarly communication to answer 
research questions!

David Magier
Director of Area Studies

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