Purandaradasa, who composed devotional songs in Kannada, is considered to be the father of carnatic music. Then comes Thyagaraja who composed in Telugu & some in Sanskrit. Musicians are more attracted to the songs of Thyagaraja then that of his contemporaries Shama Sastry & Muthuswamy Dikshitar who formed the trinity of Carnatic Music.
Thyagaraja was born in 1767 to Rama Brahma & Seethamma at Tiruvarur near Thanjavore, Tamilnadu. Rama Brahma was deeply devoted to Sri Rama. So this devout nature passed from father to son. Listening to devotional songs from his mother made Thyagaraja to compose “Namo Namo Raghavaya” in his young age. After teaching all that he could in music, his Guru Sonti Venkataramanayya who was attached to the court of the King of Thanjavore asked Thyagaraja to sing in the assemble of some pundits. He sang the song “Yendaro Mahanubhavulu” (Salutation to those great souls assembled). They very much appreciated. When some doubts began to worry him in musicology, a sanyasi came to him and presented doubt-clearing manuscript “Swararnamu” to Thyagaraja. It is believed that the sanyasi was Sage Narada.
The king, who heard the fame of Thyagaraja, invited him to the court by sending presentations along with the palanquin to take him. Then he asked his mind by singing “Nidhi chala sukhama Ramuni sannidhi seva sukhama O manasa”(Mind tell which indeed is pleasure these wealthy presentations or sanctuary of Rama) and refused to accept and returned the presentations. Hence King had to come in disguise to listen to his songs. Thyagaraja had no other means of earning expect going round the village for alms by singing the songs in praise of God. He was collecting the quantity that was sufficient for his family & disciples who were taught music lessons at free of cost. He was not collecting fee considering it to be sin to sell knowledge. People considered themselves blessed if Thyagaraja accepted from them. Once a woman insisted to offer more, in reply Thyagaraja sang, “All that you need is a fistful of rice, “O mind” in mad pursuit of wealth forget not Hari, the essence of universe. Knowing the poor conditions of Thyagaraja the king who wanted to help sent an official to drop some gold coins into the begging bowl of Thyagaraja. As advised the official dropped gold coins into the bowl as soon as Thyagaraja heard the metallic sound in his bowl he threw the coins along with the rice in the Cauvery River saying that the rice was contaminated and went on fast for the day. Observing the conduct of always refusing the wealth, Japyesa, the only elder brother of Thyagaraja, kept Thyagaraja separate by dividing their house. Even then he did not tolerate and to divert his attention from Rama, Japyesa threw the idols of Rama in to Cauvery River. When Thyagaraja noticed the idols missing he cried madly and had no proper food or sleep. At last in despair he came crying to the bank of Cauvery, to his surprise he found the idols of Rama floating on the river. He immediately rushed and grabbed & came home singing “Ra ra maa intidaka”(Come to our home).
It is said that Thyagaraja had the darshan of Rama along with his five-fold group after chanting Rama Nama for 96 crores of times as per the advise of his guru. Upanishad Brahma Swami of Kanchipuram wanted to see Thyagaraja but old age and weakness for bided his journey. Knowing this Thyagaraja, himself set out to see him. On the way at Srirangam he could not have the glimpse of Lord Ranganatha in the palanquin, as it was crowded, disappointed Thyagaraja appealed to Lord for darshan. The bearers could not lift the palanquin. Deciding that some great person has been denied the darshan of the deity, the organizers searched and found out Thyagaraja & requested him to come and have darshan of Lord. When Thyagaraja began to sing in praise of Lord, it was able to lift the palanquin and proceed. At Kanchipuram he met Upanishad Brahma Swami and the presiding deity Lord Varadaraja Swamy. He Sang “Varada ninne kore vachithira” (Varada Raja I have come seeking you). Then at Thirupati, it is said that the curtains, which were tied before the deity Venkateshwara, moved aside when he sang “Thera theeyagarada” (remove the curtains) and also the meaning of the song is to remove all the bad habits from self. At Kovur he was a guest of Sundaresh Mudaliar, a rich businessman. On the way after leaving Kovur, Thyagaraja who was in the palanquin heard some commotion outside. One of his disciple told that some robbers were throwing stones at them to snatch the valuables. Thyagaraja told his disciple not to worry, as they had no valuables with them. Then the disciple disclosed that there were some gold coins that Sundaresh Mudaliar had given them. Thyagaraja asked his disciple to give the robbers the coins. One of the disciples told that the coins were given to celebrate Ramanavami and no one had rights over it. Thyagaraja prayed to Lord Rama to protect His wealthy. Immediately the robbers fell at the feet of Thyagaraja to forgive them and wanted to know who those two brave men were who shot arrows at them. The two men were Rama & Lakshamana.
In his song “Chinthisthunnade Yamudu” Thyagaraja has said that Yama, the god of death is worried for the denial of his due as the people by chanting Rama Nama are escaping from Yamaloka. Though he composed thousands of songs majority is in praise of Rama. Thyagaraja by his sweet voice, excellent mood & fine musical sense please king of kings “Rama”. Thyagaraja took Snayasa (monk ship) and after that he decided to leave world on Bahula Panchami of Pusyamasa of 1847. On that day when all the villagers were engaged in bhajan Thyagaraja was chanting “Rama Tharaka Mantra” his head split on the top at mid day. The mortal remains were put in samadi at Thiruvayyaru. All the musicians & music lovers will assemble at the samadi on the aradhana day even today and sing the songs of Thyagaraja.