Carnatic Postage Stamp1

This is first of the Carnatic Postage Stamp Series. This was issued on January 6th, 1961, under a 15 naya paise denomination.

The following writeup was released in the Information Folder issued by Indian Posts & Telegraph Department, Government of India

In the South, where music has a strong hold, Tyagaraja is a household name. Neither at home nor in the concerts can there be any music without his immortal compositions. Perhaps, there has not been, in the whole field of Indian music tone-poet who envisaged musical compositions of the type he created; certainly none to equal the intensity, volume and ceaseless output of his genius.

Every year in January, in the village where he lived, Tiruvaiyyuru, on the banks of the Cauvery, in the Tanjore District of Tamilnad, the festival is celebrated of his passing away. The festival on 6th January, 1961 will be the 114th Anniversary of this Saint – composer, who died on 6th January, 1847. There will hardly be in the South a musician worth his name who does not perform his pilgrimage to the samadhi of this composer who, in his last years, had taken to orange robes and lived as a Sannyasin. All his life he had adored Lord Ramachandra as his deity and poured forth all his music, as an oblation to this incarnation of Divinity who, according of two of his last songs, had vouchsafed to him that He would reveal Himself and bless him with salvation.At the appointed time the Saint left his mortal body and became one with the Supreme Lord. Tyagaraja is, therefore, worshipped both as a saint-teacher and as a great creative musician.

Tyagaraja was born at Tiruvarur in Tanjore District in 1767, but in 1759, according to another tradition. He was given the name of the presiding deity of his birth-place. Later, he came to Tiruvaiyyaru, about seven miles from Tanjore, then the seat of a ruling Maharatta dynasty. Tyagaraja’s father was Rama Brahmam, and his family, called Kakarla, was one of the many Telugu families settled in the Cauvery Delta. Of Tiruvaiyyaru, where his father lived and which was a place of pilgrimage and of the Cauvery flowing there and her holy and nourshing waters, the composer has sung in some beautiful songs of his.

Tyagaraja came in the line of devotees believing in the cult of reciting the Lord’s Name (NAMA-JAPA) and had his spiritual initiation from teachers of his time like Ramakrishnananda. He took the vow of voluntary poverty, spurned patronage, collected alms daily by going about singing the glory of the Lord, and spent his time worshipping and composing songs of Lord Rama. He had detractors and critics, even at home, who hardly appreciated his philosophy and harassed him, persons whom he bemoans or castigates in several of his songs. His own brother, the story says, put him to a great deal of suffering. But all these trials, like fire, made the gold of his heart glow brighter and drew from him more and more of his masterpieces of moving music. Later, when his compositions had become known, when pupils had gathered round him, and admirers had begun inviting him, he went on pilgrimage to different shrines singing of the deities there; his itinerary extended from Tirupati Hills at the Northern boundary of Tamilnad to Lalgudi near Tiruchi in the South. During his travels, he came into contact with several great souls; he was also supremely gratified to see for himself that his music had won the hearts of discerning persons at far off places and he expressed his gratitude for this to Lord Rama in one of his songs.

In music, Tyagaraja was a pupil of Sonthi Venkataramanayya, one of the greatest masters of his time. His chief contribution to Carnatic music is the perfection of the composition-form called KRITI or KIRTANA which comprised in itself all the aspects of music and displayed earlier ways of rendering or preserving the RAGAS in unbound or bound forms. He had distingiushed contemporaries specialising in the same line – Muthuswami Dikshitar and Syama Sastri, but he excelled them all by the all-round excellence of his creations. As literary and devotional pieces, Tyagaraja’s compositions are marked by felicity of expression and poetic thought, ethical teaching and devotional fervour and above all, the mystic experience of God-love. As musical masterpieces, they are all the more remarkable for, among other things, embodying for the first time ‘Variations’ or SANGATIS, which synthesised, as it were, the closed and unclosed forms, by providing for improvisations within the framework of a fixed tune and setting in such a unique manner that these ‘variations’ brought out not only the tonal possibilities of the RAGA but also the possibilities of the emotion and idea in the piece.

According to tradition, it is believed that Tyagaraja composed several thousands of compositions and even those that we can take stock of today would be in the neighbourhood of a thousand. And among these are compositions of diverse types and varying degrees of artistic complexity. There are simple, lilting pieces, pieces full of words and teachings, and pieces sparse in words but saturated with the most elaborate music. Two special classes of his compositions, called DIVYANAMA-KIRTANS and UTSAVA-SAMPRADAYA-KIRTANS, are more pronouncedly religious and affiliated to worship. He composed, also, two devotional dramatic song-poems, the NAUKA-CHARITA and the PRAHLADA-BHAKTI-VIJAYA. His songs are mostly in Telugu, but an appreciable number of them is in Sanskrit.

Through his direct disciples, three schools, traditions or styles of rendering his KRITIS became established, the UMAYALPURAM SCHOOL WHICH IS THE ONE BEST AND MOST WIDELY REPRESENTED, the Tillaisthanam school and the Walajapet school.

Today, among composers whose songs are in vogue in concerts, Tyagaraja enjoys the pride of place as the composer PAR EXCELLENCE. Of no other single composer were ever sung songs in such large numbers and in such constant appreciation.

But for the emergence of Tyagaraja, and along with him, of his two contemporaries, Carnatic musical heritage might not have been consolidated in the recent past and handed down to us. Taking their stand on the tradition, these men of genius saw into the future, and therefore, though two centuries have rolled by since Tyagaraja appeared, he continues to be, to this day, the mainstay of Carnatic music; and the “DURA-DESA” or “distant parts of the country” where, according to his own song, his music had been made famous, is today a continuously expanding region. As the Prime Minister observed “the works of this Saint and Writer should be translated into other Indian languages”; the process of countrywide appreciation of Tyagaraja’s contribution to Indian music and literature should be greatly stimulated by this.

In honouring Tyagaraja by issuing a special commemoration stamp, the Posts and Telegraphs Department offers its homage to this great Saint – composer of India.