|Dates||January / February|
|Location(s)||Thiruvaiyaru, Tamil Nadu, India|
|Years active||1846 - Present|
|Music of India|
A Lady Playing the Tanpura, ca. 1735 (Rajasthan)
|Media and performance|
|Nationalistic and patriotic songs|
|National anthem||Jana Gana Mana|
Tyagaraja Aradhana is an annual Carnatic music festival held in January and February. Many exponents of Carnatic music come to perform and are watched by thousands of ardent fans of Indian classical music.
The Aradhana in its present format is not even a hundred years old. Thyagaraja died in 1847. A few days before his death, he had renounced everything and had become a sanyasi. When he passed on, his mortal remains were buried on the banks of the river Kaveri and a small memorial was built at the spot. His disciples returned to their respective villages and observed his death anniversary at their own homes. The memorial was soon forgotten and it was not until around 1903 that Tyagaraja's last surviving disciples, Umayalpuram Krishna Bhagavatar and Sundara Bhagavatar returned to Tiruvayyaru, identified the place and had it renovated.
From the next year, efforts were made by musical stalwarts to observe the anniversary at Tiruvayyaru itself. In 1905 they conducted the ceremony in style complete with feeding of the poor and worship at the memorial as per Vedic tenets. By next year, the Tillaisthanam brothers (who were the motivating force) fell out of favour with each other and each began conducting a parallel Aradhana. Musicians aligned themselves with one or the other brother and soon two rival factions came into being. Narasimha Bhagavatar, being the elder, his group came to be called the Periya Katchi and Panju Bhagavatar's was called the Chinna Katchi. With the passing of the Tillaisthanam brothers, the Periya Katchi came under the control of the ace violinist Malaikottai Govindasami Pillai, while the Chinna Katchi had as its moving spirit, Soolamangalam Vaidyanatha Bhagavatar, noted Harikatha exponent. The Chinna Katchi's celebrations began five days before the Aradhana and concluded on the Aradhana day. The Periya Katchi's began on Aradhana day and continued for four days after that. Both groups organised music performances and feeding of the poor and so the public was the real beneficiary during the nine days. On one count, both groups were united. They did not allow women to perform during the Aradhana. They also did not permit nadaswaram performances.
In 1921, Bangalore Nagarathnamma, a rich temple dancer, who was then residing in Madras, decided to dedicate her life's earnings to perpetuating Tyagaraja's memory. Seeing the rampant factionalism and discrimination against women, she decided to take action. In 1925, she bought the land on which the memorial stood and soon began the construction of a temple over the memorial. She also had an idol of Tyagaraja sculpted and installed in front of the memorial. The consecration of the temple took place in early 1926. But the two rival groups while not interfering with all this, refused to let her perform her Harikatha in front of the deity she herself had installed. They cited several instances from Tyagaraja's songs where he had complained about women in general. Undeterred, Nagarathnammal began a third front which conducted its own music programs at the rear of the shrine.
This featured many women artistes and soon began eating into the popularity of the events hosted by the two Katchis. The doughty lady also filed suits in the local courts demanding the prevention of the Katchis from entering the temple as it belonged to her by right. She lost the case, but the hours of worship were laid down by the courts, dividing the Aradhana day equally between the two Katchis and her own group. Matters continued this way till 1940, when SY Krishnaswami, ICS convinced the groups to unite and it was in 1941 that the Aradhana as we know of it was first conducted. Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavatar selected the five pancharatnas as being best suited for group rendering so that a common homage by all musicians became possible. This idea was adopted and the choral rendition of the five songs was made an integral feature of the Aradhana.
Bangalore Nagarathnammal spent the rest of her days in Tiruvayyaru and bequeathed all her wealth to the Tyagaraja memorial, with the stipulation that women be allowed to pay their homage without any hindrance. When she died in 1952, she was buried close to Tyagaraja's memorial and a statue was erected on the spot. The statue directly gazes on Tyagaraja's memorial.
The 167th festival was held in the year 2014. For the present season (168th Aaradhana), the pancharatna keerthanas will be sung on 10th January 2015, Saturday.
A huge complex is now under construction at Thiruvaiyaru at this site to accommodate the large audience that come to the concert in ever-increasing numbers every year.
Festivals celebrated globally
In the small pearl of the Indian Ocean, Mauritius Island, Tyagaraja Aradhana is celebrated with great devotion by the Vyasha Dhalia Ashram. Abhishekam is done for shri Rama in the morning and followed by the Kritis of Tyagaraja Swami accompanied by instruments such as mridangam, morsing, ghatam, khanjira, veena, violin and the flute.
In Lagos, Nigeria, from the year 2007 every February month, Thyagaraja Aradhana is being celebrated devotionally by Chinmaya Mission. Children trained by experienced Gurus along with music instruments rendering sampradhya kirthanas of the compositions of Saint Thyagaraja in this function.