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From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Tyāgarāja lived in A. D. 1767-1848. He is one of the all-time great musician saints of India. The Carnatic music, classical music of South Indian tradition, has been immensely benefited and enriched by his soulful compositions. Side by side, he also contributed greatly to the sect of devotion to Rāma.

Tyāgarāja was born in A. D. 1767 at Tiruvārur in the Tañjāvur[1] district of Tamil Nadu in a Telugu-speaking brāhmaṇa family. His parents were Rāmabrahma and Sītāmbā. Since Tiruvārur was famous for its temple of Lord Śiva, known as Tyāgarājasvāmin, the boy was named Tyāgarājabrahma. Later on, the family shifted to Tiruvayyār, also called Pañcanadakṣetra.

Tyāgarāja was given a good education especially in Sanskrit and Telugu. He also became proficient in some other fields of knowledge like the Vedas, purāṇas, jyautiṣa[2] and gaṇita.[3] He was initiated by Rāmakṛṣṇā-nandasvāmin with a special mantra of Rāma.

Endowed with a good voice and memory, Tyāgarāja had a flair for music. The devotional songs of Puraṇdaradāsa,[4] Bhadrācalam Rāmadāsa[5] and others, which his mother used to sing, deeply influenced him. He started composing songs right from the young-age. Recognizing his talents, his father arranged for his music-training under Soṇṭhi Veṅkaṭaramaṇayya, the topmost musician of his times. Very soon, he excelled in it. He is said to have been blessed by the sage Nārada who came disguised as a sanyāsin and left an ancient treatise on music, the Svarārnava, with him. Tyāgarāja mastered it very soon. He was married to Pārvatī, at the age of eighteen. After her early demise, he married her younger sister Kamalā.

Tyāgarāja was once blessed by a sage who advised him to repeat Rāmanāma[6] 96 crore times, which he did faithfully. It took him about twenty-one years to complete it. He succeeded in getting a vision of Śrī Rāma several times. He is supposed to have composed 2410 songs though only 800 are available now.

He lived by uñchavṛtti.[7] The people of the town who respected him greatly also supported him. Though kings and noblemen invited him to their courts, he flatly refused their invitations. Only once, he went on a pilgrimage to a few places in South India, like Tirupati, Kāñcipuram, Madurai and Srīraṅgam.

Though a few miracles, like bringing back a dead person to life, have been attributed to him, he considered them as having happened by the grace of Rāma. He took sanyāsa during the last days and passed away peacefully while his disciples were chanting the name of Rāma. His songs, most of which are in Telugu and a few in Sanskrit, though imbued with intense devotional fervor, are classics from the standpoint of literary merits.

His other compositions are:

  1. Prahlāda- bhaktivijayam
  2. Naukācaritram
  3. Sitā- rāmavijayam

These are called geya-nāṭakas, which can be enacted as dramas with plenty of music. His gurukula[8] produced a good number of great musicians who continued his tradition of music. His samādhi[9] has been well-preserved even today. The day of his passing away which is called as puṇyārādhana is observed with special worship and singing of his songs by great musicians.


  1. It is also known as Tanjore.
  2. Jyautiṣa means astrology.
  3. Gaṇita means mathematics.
  4. He lived in A. D. 1484-1564.
  5. He lived in A. D. 1630-1687.
  6. Rāmanāma means mantra of Rāma
  7. Uñchavṛtti means gathering corn left in agricultural fields.
  8. Gurukula means traditional academy for teaching.
  9. Samādhi is the place where his body has been interred.
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore